One Year Later: Ten Things That Have Surprised Me In Sampa

 

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Break out the brigadeiro — Tropical Smog turns one year old today! In honor of this milestone, I’m reflecting on the things that have surprised me about São Paulo.

I’ll be honest, when I moved here I wasn’t expecting a huge culture shock, mainly because I had been to Brazil before for study and volunteer work (although it was Salvador and Minas Gerais) and my whole life I have regularly visited Mexico City, another Latin American megalopolis. I was a bit smug and thought, I already know the deal here. I know to throw toilet paper in the trash and to never rely on the pedestrian’s right of way. I know that novelas are a big deal here and that arriving half an hour late is practically arriving early. I don’t have to adjust so much like the other Americans here. And it’s true, I haven’t experienced a huge culture shock. But I’ve found there are little things that strike me every now and then. After all, I may be experienced, but I’m still a foreigner.

1. People are not patriotic. In fact, people tend to put Brazil down and assume elsewhere is better. This took me by surprise because I’ve never met a Brazilian in the U.S. who wasn’t the proud owner of at least several yellow and green shirts. But those are Brazilians in the U.S. Here, the only time I’ve witnessed overwhelming pride is during the World Cup when Brazil plays. But once they lose, Brazilians are back to what’s called their complexo de vira-lata, or mutt complex.

Right before the Germany vs Brazil game, while Brazilian patriotism could still be felt.

Right before the Germany vs Brazil game, while Brazilian patriotism could still be felt.

2. There are so many holidays. I used to think the holiday season was from Christmas to Carnaval. Nope, there are holidays all year long. Often times people barely remember what they’re for, they just know it’s an excuse to skip town and go to the beach. And unlike the U.S., where public holidays will fall on a Monday so there’ll be a three day weekend, holidays will be any day of the week. If that day is say, a Wednesday, there’s a good chance public offices won’t be open on Thursday or Friday either. And yes, days Brazil plays in the World Cup count as holidays.

3. Things are so expensive. I’ve wondered how stores like the Apple store here stays in business because anyone who has enough money to pay the exorbitant Brazilian price for an iPhone has enough money to fly to the U.S. and get one cheaper. Even domestic made products are expensive and they seem to not last that long. It makes sense why just about everything can be paid in installments.

4. There doesn’t seem to be a set time for TV shows. Globo always advertises its programming as “after the novela” or “after the news.” I get they want you to sit and watch the whole block of shows, but I find it weird that sometimes the news will be on at 11:30 one night and 1 AM the next.

5. Cleaning products confuse and overwhelm me. I took for granted the knowledge I had in the U.S., like knowing that Tide is the best for clothes just because it’s what I grew up with. Here I have no idea how to distinguish between the good products and the crappy ones. Yes, that spray smells like flowers, but what does it do to your house? Cleaning has never been my strong suit, but I’ve found myself researching more natural methods of cleaning. At least vinegar is the same in both the U.S. and Brazil.

6. There are green spaces here. São Paulo is characterized as a gray, concrete jungle, but there are many pockets of green spaces, and not just in places like Ibirapuera or Parque Villalobos. I’m still in awe that there’s a banana tree across the street from me.

Outside of MASP

Outside of MASP

7. Dogs are extremely popular here. I thought the U.S. had the monopoly on being dog-crazy, but Brazil is as well. I’ve seen 24-hour pet shops or grooming services that pick up and return your dog. The best thing I’ve seen so far is a free veterinarian clinic for low-income residents with pets.

8. I’ve developed a deeper appreciation for Japanese food. I tend to do a lot of grocery shopping in Liberdade since it tends to be cheaper, and it’s opened me up to a whole new world. Foreigners tend to wax poetic over the fruit in Brazil, but I’m more amazed at how many different things you can pickle, or the immense difference between real and fake wasabi. I never thought I’d have a preference for a particular brand of soy sauce, but there you go.

My regulars: fresh tofu, sesame seed oil, loose leaf assam tea. soy sauce, wasabi dressing, shimeji mushrooms, fresh udon noodles and green onions

My Liberdade staples, including the best soy sauce I’ve tasted.

9. There are English schools everywhere but very few English speakers. Like fast food restaurants, there are various English school franchises with what seems to be at least one location per block, but the number of English speakers are far and few between. This reflects more on the schools than the people. Interestingly, many of these schools are sponsors of professional soccer teams.

10. Paulistanos are friendly. São Paulo has the stereotype of being full of people who are only focused on working hard and are a bit cold, and maybe that’s true by Brazilian standards, but judging as an American, I find that people here tend to always have time to chat over a beer, even if they just met you. The other day at a bar, it was someone’s birthday and I was offered cake by a perfect stranger. Why not?

 

The World Cup in Everyday São Paulo – Part Two

Whether it’s modest and subtle or glaringly obvious, the city has different ways of commemorating the World Cup.

Vila Madalena

Vila Madalena

Vila Madalena

Vila Madalena

Vila Madalena

Vila Madalena

Vila Madalena

Vila Madalena

Spot the mascot. Vila Madalena

Spot the mascot. Vila Madalena

Aclimação

Aclimação

Trading cards. Aclimação

Trading stickers. Aclimação

Liberdade

Liberdade

Liberdade

Liberdade

Avenida Paulista

Avenida Paulista

Avenida Paulista

Avenida Paulista

Avenida Paulista

Avenida Paulista

Avenida Paulista

Avenida Paulista

Avenida Paulista

Avenida Paulista

Avenida Paulista

Avenida Paulista

Vila Mariana

Vila Mariana

 

See Part One here.

 

 

The World Cup in Everyday São Paulo – Part One

For months now, I had been planning to do a post on how the city decorates for the World Cup. I was in Salvador for the 2006 Cup, and it was basically like Christmas. I couldn’t wait to see how it would be this year in a host city. The results are…rather underwhelming. There are plenty of flags and decorations to be seen, but it seems rather modest compared to what I saw in 2006. Still, I wanted to show what World Cup season looks like here, in both its grandiose and small ways. No matter where you are in the city, the World Cup’s presence is somehow there. More to come.

Republica

Republica 

Cambuci

Cambuci

Cambuci - Coca Cola has special edition cans that have its name written in different languages.

Cambuci – Coca Cola has special edition cans that have its name written in different languages.

Cambuci

Cambuci

Vila Mariana

Vila Mariana

Liberdade

Liberdade

Liberdade

Liberdade

Liberdade

Liberdade

Sé

So I Rooted Against Brazil

To be more accurate, I rooted for Mexico in Tuesday’s game, which happened to be against Brazil.

I knew I’d probably be a lone fan, but I was still excited to watch the game in a public setting. I arrive at the restaurant/bar in Aclimação, my modest red-white-and-green striped rebozo around my neck, and sure enough, it’s a sea of yellow and green. I’m a tiny bit self-conscious, and I catch two women at a nearby table looking at me, but maybe I’m just imagining. Why would they care, they have home advantage. The Belgium vs Algeria game is finishing up, with people mildly interested, and a live band starts to play samba for the next hour. Zazueira, zazueira…

I’m a loyal Mexico fan, but I’m realistic. The team’s unofficial slogan is Jugando como nunca, perdiendo como siempre, or Playing like never before, losing like always. The team went through three coaches in a month and earned a spot in the World Cup by the skin of its teeth. It’s the little engine that just barely can.

The game starts, which is approximately the last time I take a breath. The ball swiftly travels from one side of the field to the other, neither team really overpowering the other. Mexico is actually holding its own against Brazil. I think I’m becoming cautiously optimistic. I let out cheers, but it’s a bit awkward when you’re met by the opposite reaction by everyone around you. Puta que pariu flies around the room.

Halftime. The band plays samba again and rallies support for Brazil. Me traz outro choppe?

Second half. Again, I don’t breathe. The samba band literally drums up anticipation. Thump. Thump. Thump. Thump. Like the first half, there are some extremely close calls with near goals by Brazil only to be stopped by Meme Ochoa. Everyone around me lets out a huge yell of disappointment. I let out a cheer of excitement. One man near me lifts up a chair. I find myself getting louder and louder, yelling directions at the players. Yes, everyone, I’m telling Chicharito to attack. No one manages to score, and Ochoa remains a brick wall. And then, just like that, it’s over. Mexico ties Brazil in Brazil.

The band starts to play again to ease the disappointment for everyone and celebrate the tie for me. Despite the outcome, people dance and soon enough it becomes a regular party. On to the next game. É a vida! É bonita e é bonita!

Catedral da Sé

tropicalsmog:

I’ve passed by this Cathedral a million times but I’ve never stopped to notice it had sculptures of frogs and other animals.
Also, Tibiriçá, leader of the Guaianás and first to convert to Christianity and create an alliance with the Jesuits, is buried there.

Originally posted on :

Sé copy

Su nombre oficial es el de Catedral Metropolitana de São Paulo, pero la mayoría de los paulistanos se refiere a ella como Catedral da Sé. Su altura, sus bóvedas, sus arcos apuntados y sus vidrieras recuerdan a las catedrales góticas europeas. Al estar construida siglos más tarde que aquellas (comenzó a ser levantada a principios del siglo XX) su estilo se denomina neogótico. Pero la diferencia no está sólo en la época de construcción. Si se observa con atención, es fácil reconocer elementos típicamente brasileños, como capiteles adornados por plantas locales o figuras de animales como el tatu, el sapo boi o el tucán, desconocidos al otro lado del océano.

Sé-5 copySé-3 copySé-4 copyOtra curiosidad de la Catedral de São Paulo es que en su cripta subterránea se encuentra enterrado Tibiriçá, jefe de la tribu de los guaianases. Cuando los jesuitas comenzaron a evangelizar por esta región y fundaron la villa de São Paulo de Piratininga…

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the book is on the table: the documentary

tropicalsmog:

TV Brasil prepares to show a documentary featuring immigrants from the 32 nations represented in the World Cup.

Originally posted on the book is on the table:

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BR14: A Rota dos Imigrantes is a series of documentaries airing on TV Brasil in June during the World Cup, with the idea being that an immigrant in Brazil from each country competing in the World Cup will be shown whilst visiting places with links to their homeland or fellow exiles who have made a life in Brazil. The series begins tonight and the first show features Japan and Costa Rica.

The reason I am plugging the show here is because I am excited to say that earlier this year I was invited to be the focus of the programme on England. My episode airs on 16th June at 7.30pm and whilst I don’t want to give too much away, all I’ll say is that I had the honour of meeting someone whose grandfather every Brazilian will thank for what he brought to their country.

Here is  link to the page with more…

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cacau cacao

My Failed Cacao Experiment

So I bought a cacao fruit. Why? Because I’m in Brazil and I can. For the past month outside of the Santa Cruz Shopping, I’ve spotted a man selling this red and orange wonder along with jaca and cupuaçu. I’ve seen jaca (jackfruit) grow on trees here at Parque da Luz, but cupuaçu and cacao are pretty much northern Brazilian fruits. When I finally stopped to get one, I found they were absurdly priced. But I had been scoping them out for weeks now, so dammit, I was getting my cacao. I bought the small one, about the size of an acorn squash, and carried it around in my purse for the rest of the day.

cacau cacao

I’ve had cacao juice blended with milk years ago when I was in Salvador. (Note: It is not chocolatey in the least, but rather citric and tart.) I wanted to figure out how to get the juice and of course use the precious cacao beans. Surprisingly (or maybe not), it was rather difficult to find information on how to handle the cacao fruit, whether I searched in Portuguese, English or Spanish. I found videos on how to slice it, which was easy enough, and there was some information on how to use the beans, but it was extremely hard to find anything on how to extract the juice.

I sliced it open and to my delight, it looked like a monster out of a science fiction film from the fifties.

cacau2

It Came From The Deep Tropics

It had about two dozen beans covered in a slightly sticky pulp. The fruit also had a white fleshy matter inside. From what I had read, the beans needed to be dried, and the process of “sweating,” or pulp evaporating from the beans, helps to reduce the beans’ bitterness. As for the juice, I tried scooping out the flesh of the cacao and blending it with water and sugar but it tasted a bit strange. Oh well.

While it’s currently cacao season in Brazil, São Paulo does not care. It started to pour (and hail) the same day I set the beans out to dry, after weeks of no rain. This did not bode well for the beans. Sure enough, after a few days I spotted mold on a few. I took them away from the window and tried to salvage the rest. I wasn’t convinced the beans were fully dried, especially since they didn’t look exactly like the photos I saw online, but with the weather, they weren’t going to get any drier.

My beans grasp whatever precious sunlight Sampa would allow.

My poor beans grasp whatever precious sunlight Sampa would allow.

The next step, according to The Internet, is to toast them, which makes them easier to peel. Peeling them was tedious but exciting, like unwrapping nature’s chocolate Easter eggs.

cacao, cacau

Most of the beans were an espresso brown, nearly black, but I got a few that were a more chestnut color, like a cockroach. Again, the Internet failed to tell me whether this was okay or not. (All I could find was “Discard any bad ones” without any indication of what a bad one looked like.) The chestnut ones did not smell as intensely as the darker ones, but they didn’t smell bad either, so after much deliberation I decided it would be okay to blend the two. Maybe the chestnut ones would balance the flavor out, I figured. I stored the beans in a glass container until I could figure out what to do with them. After all, it was my first experience with raw cacao – I needed to make something good.

Mixing the cockroaches with the espresso beans.

Mixing the cockroaches with the espresso beans.

This is where my story comes to an anti-climactic, bitter end. Despite the beans being stored in a sealed container, they were no match for São Paulo’s weather. I opened the container later to find mold growing on them.

Still, it’s not a complete loss. I was the enthusiastic owner of a cacao fruit for a few days and had a ridiculous time trying to figure it out.

Jesus Cristo Superstar

Jesus Cristo Superstar

Source: Guia UOL

I was lucky enough to see Jesus Cristo Superstar, a Brazilian adaptation of the Andrew Lloyd Weber classic. I’ve seen a Spanish language version of Phantom of the Opera in Mexico City before, and both then and now I’m amazed at the ability to adapt the musical into another language and not make it seem like a translated version — in other words, make it seem like it was originally written in the language performed.  I admit I struggled a bit to understand the lyrics – I guess being fluent in real world Portuguese is not the same as being fluent in musical theater Portuguese — but nevertheless I enjoyed the live music and performances. (Nine years of Catholic school also help make the story easy enough to follow.) 

Playing at the Teatro do Complexo Ohtake Cultural in Pinheiros, it features Igor Rickli and his piercing eyes as Jesus, dynamic singer/actress Negra Li as Mary Magdalene and rocker Alírio Netto (the best part of the show, in my opinion) as Judas.

The Favela Fire Phenomenon

Fire in favela in Zona Sul in Sept 2012. Credit: Evelson de Freitas/AE

Fire in favela in Zona Sul in Sept 2012. Credit: Evelson de Freitas/AE

One afternoon in August 2012, when I was living in Campo Belo, I witnessed the sky quickly being invaded by thick black smoke. I ran inside as I could barely breathe. It turned out a favela nearby had caught on fire. This was not a unique event. For the next couple of months, the news would report a favela catching on fire at least once a week. Many people claimed these fires were occurring deliberately, that favela residents were taking advantage of the liberal aid provided by the government eager to secure votes in the upcoming elections. While this seemed to be hearsay, the fires stopped after the October elections.

A new documentary reveals that there have been over 1200 favela fires in the past 20 years, with about half occurring between 2008 and 2012. Limpam com Fogo (They Clean With Fire) interviews favela residents, urban planning experts, journalists and Mayor Fernando Haddad to figure out the root of this phenomenon. One interesting trend revealed is that the fires tend to occur in “valued” areas of the city, such as places where World Cup events are scheduled to occur. The more valuable the area, the higher number of favela fires were recorded.

The directors, who shot Limpam com Fogo as part of their final journalism project at PUC-SP (Pontifical Catholic University of São Paulo), are trying to raise funds to finalize and release the film. Their Catarse page (similar to Kickstarter) outlines their project in detail and includes stunning photography by Rogerio Fernandes shot in Favela do Moinho. They also have a Facebook page with news and snippets of the film. I really hope this gets released.