Dispatch from Brazil

I was not too embarrassed to take a picture of my caipirinha Saturday night
I was not too embarrassed to take a picture of my caipirinha Saturday night

I’m in São Paulo right now, for a trade show. I’m only here for four days, so I haven’t had much time to sightsee. And I catch a redeye tonight back to the U.S. But I have had the opportunity to learn a few new things.

Here are some things I learned after I arrived:

June 12 is Dia dos Namorados in Brazil. June 12 was Sunday, and it was my first full day in São Paulo. Dia dos Namorados is Valentine’s day. When I grabbed dinner in the hotel on Saturday night, after the eight and half hour flight, I noticed a few place settings with heart decorations. My suspicions grew after launching Google Sunday morning, and the doodle was for “Dia dos Namorados” and had something to do with hearts and flowers. When I met my Brazilian colleagues later that morning, I just flat out asked: “Is today Valentine’s day?” They confirmed.

Figueira Rubaiyat
Figueira Rubaiyat

There was no longer any question by later in the day. After we finished up at the Anhembi Expo Center, they took me to lunch at a restaurant in the Jardins district. It was called Figueira, and it had this beautiful, huge, fig tree growing up in the center of it. And heart-shaped balloons tied to the tables everywhere.

That’s where I learned that you can make heart of palm look like a bone. I ordered Osso Bucco in a “palm marrow,” not quite knowing what I’d get. Sure enough, there was this delicious meaty stew in a hollowed-out heart of palm shaft. It looked like bone marrow, but it tasted amazing. Sorry, I didn’t take a picture, it felt a bit obnoxious to do that in front of my colleagues.

Here are a few things I learned before arriving:

São Paulo was named after Saint Paul of Tarsus. I wish I could say I have mixed feelings about Saint Paul, but I really can’t. But this is honest to say: he’s not my favorite saint. Occasionally, I hear some nice things in all those readings, his letters to the Corinthians, or the Romans. But it’s something in his letters to the Ephesians that always trips me up. “Wives, be subordinate to your husbands as to the Lord.” Yeah… not a big fan of that reading.

Monumento às Bandeiras, as seen from a car
Monumento às Bandeiras, as seen from a car

Also in the realm of questionable affiliations… I saw some pictures of the Monument to the Bandeiras before I left, and was curious to see it in person. It’s this mammoth stone sculpture, in Ibirapuera Park, of men on horseback and men marching. Apparently, the Bandeiras were private expeditions of explorers, prospectors and slavers. So, yeah… they were credited with expanding the borders of the Brazilian colony.

My colleagues, who really couldn’t have been any nicer or more obliging, drove me past it after lunch. It is pretty impressive-looking. There is some comparison to be drawn to the controversy over confederate memorials, I think, but I’m not quite ready for that yet.

So I’ll conclude with a few of my bizarro observations:

Every time I have to deplane onto the tarmac, as I did on Saturday evening, I feel transported back in time. It was dark and the air was chilly, and I thought of Casablanca. I had to stand on the stairs awhile, waiting for the next shuttle to the terminal, and I was directly next to one of the plane’s turbines. It was winding down, and its massive hypnotic swirl threatened to draw me in. I found it hard to look away.

And finally, I wondered if I’d get that same “inverted” feeling I had in Australia fourteen years ago—the last time I was in the Southern Hemisphere. I was also anticipating a Sydney-similar feeling, because I’d read that São Paulo’s climate was similar to Los Angeles and Sydney.

I didn’t get the inverted, or upside-down feeling. And the weather was cold, although everyone who lived in São Paulo said it was abnormally so. No, what came to mind was Arizona in winter. It was a cool, crisp feeling, not bone chilling like the winter fronts that blow through humid climates.

São Paulo felt thoroughly unique, though at different turns I was reminded of San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, Houston, Tijuana, and perhaps most strangely, of Bisbee, Arizona. São Paulo is GINORMOUS; it feels bigger to me than New York or Los Angeles, maybe because of the wide horizons. I can see a line of skyscrapers in one direction and think it’s downtown, but then see an equal line of skyscrapers in the opposite direction. Bisbee is about as far from that as you can get. It’s barely a spot on the map, although it was apparently a runner-up as one of the “quirkiest towns in America.”

So I can’t tell you what made me think of Bisbee my first morning here. Maybe it was the Arizona winter chill. Maybe it’s because Bisbee was once a boomtown. Maybe if it had the Bandeiras at its service way back when, it might have expanded like São Paulo did. Or maybe it was just some random, remnant echo of explorers and mining corporations and the inevitable push of civilization that settled upon me like a subliminal whisper from a jet engine. 🙂

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