10 September 2016

Eu Gosto De Bolo

Alright, I’m back! After about six weeks in Brazil. “For the Olympics?” Hell no! I wouldn’t have gone to Rio if you’d paid me as I hate crowds, have little to no national pride, and can’t be bothered to pay attention to the Olympics, even if I was Stateside. I mean, aside from listening to podcasts about Team USA basketball. So yeah, I missed all the brouhaha about the two Simones and unfortunately couldn’t help but know too much about Lochte. I was simply in South America because I was done with New York and I had friends to host me in Brazil. Thanks friends!

Brazil is not that far away actually. From New York it’s just a ten hour flight down to Sao Paulo. (On the flight over I did meet someone who goes to every Olympics with her friends, all dressed up and everything, and it was fun to talk to her about her experiences in Athens, Beijing, Sochi, etc.) Also, I wasn’t near the beaches or anything, as I started from Sao Paulo and then went inland, near the border of Paraguay and Brazil.

Things I knew about Brazil before I went down there: not much. Especially the geography. Basically any Brazilian cities I was familiar with was a direct result of playing lots of Pocket Planes, which introduced me to important hubs such as Salvador or Recife, the latter of which is the closest South American city for creating an efficient route to Western Africa. Actually, Pocket Planes was also helpful in that each city on the map was accompanied by a population number, which was very useful.

I hate that my only metric for comparison is basically the United States. I was constantly Googling for city sizes (Ex: Ponta Pora is the equivalent of Alhambra, CA), prices of things, and just generally always in compare and contrast mode. I guess that’s how it is when you travel anywhere, but it just felt kind of gross. Without any American frame of reference though, I was often lost. At least the Stranger Things hype hit everywhere all the same time. Binge watching is universal.

Quick facts: Sao Paulo is a megapolis, with two more million people in it than New York. Although to my limited experience, it felt more like San Francisco. But with a better subway system. Also it’s supposedly very dangerous, but I hesitate to make any generalizations, as I wasn’t in Sao Paulo that long.

This was the first time in awhile I was in a setting where I couldn’t really understand anything. Sure, I had been playing with Duolingo for awhile to learn some Portuguese but I couldn’t pick up anything verbally. Usually I’m in an English or Mandarin speaking environment so I can get the gist of stuff, but I was mostly helpless there. The good news is that I wasn’t ever left to my own devices and my hand was held every step of the way. Safety first!

Things I did do in Brazil: Tok a sixteen hour bus ride, rode in an armored car, flossed a lot due to many meals involving meat, drank coffee in little cups that made me yearn badly for Starbucks-sized cups, talked a lot with people about how Brazilians perceive/view race, learned some history and local economy, got introduced to the works of architect Oscar Niemeyer, saw hordes of Pokemon chasers, watched an entire (animated) movie in Portuguese. Thought an insect laid an egg in my palm — “ovo” means egg — but after some friend-based needle surgery, turned out my panic was just over some clotted blood...

Also, the Museu Afro Brasil turned out to be our favorite museum in Sao Paolo’s Parque Ibirapuera. And I was stunned by the size and scope of Livraria Cultura, a chain bookstore whose Avenida Paulista branch was oh so beautiful. Another highlight was just happening to be at the local mall when Brazil beat Germany in the gold medal match. #witness

So yeah, that’s where I’ve been and now I’m back in the U.S. again. For how long? Let’s seeeee!