Thursday, 20 May 2010

Revitalisation of Centro

I mentioned this in my Mercado Municipal post and I had said 'it's such a shame that there has been no effort to maintain the historic, old buildings in this area'. I'd like to take back my remark as it was made with pre-conceived / misguided assumptions with regards to the local government. Apologies.

I've just been forwarded the link for a an NGO called ITDP and one of the projects they are working on is exactly this, the Sao Paulo City Center Revitilization. Will be very interested in how this project progresses.

Taxistas em Sao Paulo

One of the best sources of Portuguese for me are the taxi drivers. Like most taxi drivers around the world they can entertain you on your journey with stories of their lives and families, their opinions on the economy, their favourite restaurant or football team.

There is a Ponto de Taxi just around the corner from where we live and every morning when I walk by they shout out their 'Bom Dia's' and 'Tudo Bom's' as I've probably caught a ride with almost all of them, if not once then at least a couple of times. I know some of them by name and some of them go to Cesar's barquinho too. My taxi rides double up as portuguese lessons too (that's how I justify it to my husband!).

I have a list of questions that I use to initiate a conversation:

'Você e Paulistano?'
'Você tem crianças?'
'Onde você mora?'

Some of them take into account that I'm just learning and speak slowly, stay on topic and we can have a reasonable conversation. Others lose me on the second sentence and even though I can catch a word or two, I just take a wild guess at what he's talking about. I'll then answer completely off topic which just allows him to either ignore me and continue or start on this new topic. I'll never know!

- One taxi driver told me I spoke really good Portuguese and that he could understand about 50%...
- Another told me about his three ex-wives and how 'loca' they were
- I've discussed the pros and cons of bringing up children in the country vs the city with another
- Tim can get them really going about last night's football game
- I thought one 68 year old driver knew the way until he got out at a traffic stop to walk over to another taxi 2 lanes over to ask directions

The one thing you can't avoid here in Sao Paulo is traffic (well unless you have a helicopter) but instead of getting really stressed about being late (everyone is late here anyhow), take it in your stride and use the time to practice a little more Portuguese!

Sunday, 16 May 2010

Embu das Artes

Today we were taken out to a little town called Embu das Artes, about a 40 minute drive SW of Sao Paulo. It was a nice little surprise as I thought we were being taken to see an art exhibition in Centro (the center of the city) and ended up in in the centre of Sao Paulo state instead.

There is a market of food, toys, clothes and all sorts of handicrafts every weekend. There were a few other tourists but mainly local 'tourists'. The streets are covered in paralelepípedos (still one of my favourite words) but they were much more manageable than the roads in Paritay and were able to push Sophie around in a buggy. First stop off was food. They had a range of things - pastels, sandwiches, yakisoba noodles, hot dogs... i had acarajé which is a fried ball of mashed beans and filled with shrimps and onion. It's very popular in Salvador, Bahia and I hadn't had one since our trip there 5 years ago. Our friends were saying how much they dislike the palm oil which is used in most of Bahia cooking which I had forgotten I didn't like either. Funny how hunger can distort a memory!

The market runs over 5-6 blocks and there were lots of different shops. Both shops and stalls sold home made toys, clothes, leather bags, carpets, mirrors, art, furniture and more. We were very controlled and got away with a few wooden toys for Sophie and a couple of beers for us. Apparently there is another road nearby which is famous for beautiful wooden furniture so we might have to go back when we move into a bigger apartment.

I saw some restaurants that were serving food that really reminded me of Fernando's* in Macao. It then it occurred to me that both Brasil and Macao were both portuguese colonies, duh! 

The real reason for this blog is really to describe my introduction to churros. WHY have I never seen or tasted one before!??!?!? They are a spanish doughnut that is fried, covered in cinnamon and then dulce de creme (caramel) or chocolate is piped through the middle. I usually find most of the deserts here too sweet but I think I might have to introduce churros into my daily diet...

* If you are ever in Macao and need a break from losing all your money at the blackjack table you have to go to Fernando's - can't go wrong with chicken and chips! I've made the trip to Macao especially.


We found a curry-house which is pretty authentic (well certainly better than the US). So if you are in desperate need of a vindaloo, check out Tandoor.

Sunday, 9 May 2010

Soup or Salad?

Você e Brasileira?

I was asked if I was a Brazilian yesterday. I love that I can blend into this city and be considered by the locals to be a local. Being a country of immigrants means that you can be blond and blue eyed, brown hair with olive skin, or have black hair and brown skin and you can all call yourselves Brazilian. Being of chinese descent I've noticed this ease of (or lack of) assimilation in some of the other cities / countries I've lived in. I've had some people ask me if I speak English, where I'm from (even when I say New Zealand, they ask me whereabouts that is in Japan!) or been given directions to the airport - all based on the colour of my skin.

Yes, I know I hold the same stereotypes and have made exactly the same assumptions before. Being exposed to so many different people in Sao Paulo has already made me so much more open minded. People here have a strong connection to their history but at the same time they consider themselves Brazilian first. Ask a New Yorker where they're from and you're likely to hear Irish-American, Italian-American, Chinese-American, Japanese-American etc.

I have always remembered this analogy I read once. Some cities are like a salad. All the 'vegetables' live next to each other, tossed together, but still separate from each other.  In a soup the ingredients are not only in the same pot but they are blended together, their lives are intertwined. Sao Paulo is a soup. Despite where people (or the vegetables) have come from they are they all eventually become one and the same.