Arrival in Sao Paulo
I have currently been in Brazil for a total of 5 and a bit days, and WOW, there is much to talk about. There have been many cultural differences I could easily say I was, or wasn’t expecting, and both in equally negative and positive ways.
I’d like to specifically cover my first impressions in this blog post as they are my primary experiences so far. I’ll learn more and more as the time continues in regards to the cultural visits to the indigenous communities, and the knowledge we’ll acquire through the lectures and conversations with people.
Departure and Journey
I have been very lucky to have experienced a long-haul flight before. However, this didn’t take away from the fact that there is nothing like leaving home with some major flight anxiety…being in a tin vessel way up above land does not bode well with my overactive imagination. Overall, I think my anxieties around the plane and leaving NZ were trumped with excitement and my desire to learn, grow and explore!
I have tendencies to overpack, but I must say I was very happy when my suitcase was 11 kg under the max weight limit and my 7 kg carry-on limit for Air NZ was meet snug with my 8 kg carry-on….shhhhh!
No sleep for the entire 38-hour journey wasn’t all bad….it meant I got to chat to a lovely Brazilian man, heading home, who gave me some basic Portuguese lessons, which I could practice on the one Portuguese-speaking air hostess. Also on the bright side, no sleep meant I had very minimal jet lag.
Just a brief shout out to the one and only US dollar purchase that made my most expensive day on this entire trip being in the Houston airport. My very special small bag of Reece’s pieces bites and a small chocolate bar came to $25.00NZ.
My honest thoughts about Brazil, before setting foot in the country, were pretty basic for the most part. I didn’t want to know too much, and wanted my understanding to develop once there.
Arrival in the city of Sao Paulo
My passport got stamped and my baggage arrived.
I completely underestimated the amount of homeless people there are, not even 10 minutes into Brazil, after leaving the airport in a bus to our hotel. We drove past 2 naked kids on the side of the highway, crouched outside a box fort, eating something out of a small plastic container, with their hands. Seeing this was humblingly difficult.
Poverty is taxing to witness and unfortunately a harsh reality here. The set up of tents and boxes on the sides of highways, footpaths and other public spaces is hard to miss. It is very shocking to watch and walk past people as they light their fires and get ready to settle for their night. It is eye-opening to witness these conditions and spaces in which some people call home. It is eye-opening to the privilege a lot of us have back home.
Poverty goes hand in hand with the next unfortunate reality here. Plastic. It is terrible but must be said…the amount of rubbish is astronomical and absolutely disgusting, and I thought NZ was bad.
A lot of litter is linked to poverty, but also everything is plastic, wrapped in plastic, made from plastic, soft, hard, and microplastic. Plastic containers, accessories, bags, and unfortunately, the majority are single-use plastics which become a large percentage of the litter. Garbage is scattered across the pavement to grass, overflowing the bins while plastic bottles float down the greatly contaminated curb streams.
I don’t think e-cigarettes are a thing here in Brazil, not like they are back home. Nope, everyone here smokes and there is a constant smell of tobacco that lingers on the streets long after the smoker has vacated.
However, speaking purely from a sense of observation, looking past the outdated high-rise blocks of concrete, the stenches and tagging, there is an absolute and obscene amount of beauty here. The stories that are told and kept within and buried deep under the city of Sao Paulo is something I wasn’t expecting.
Some of the beauty lies in powerful works of art and occupies entire sides of buildings, as well as galleries and museums. Among the street tagging, there is graffiti that adds to the underlying personality of the city, speaking to its people in extravagant colours, shapes and lines, messages and protests.
I liked our visit to Beco do Batman, also known as Batman Alley in Vila Madalena, a place where street artists are commissioned to contribute their artistic skills to the alley of graffiti.
Well!!! I had one goal to myself before I left NZ and that was to welcome all and any forms of food! I wanted to try new and exciting foods that I would have otherwise never had the chance to eat back home, along with foods that are available back home that I haven’t eaten. Some of these foods have been duck, ox heart, cashew fruit and other wonderful Amazonian fruits and plant roots, just to name a few. It would be very easy to fill this blog by simply listing all the new and amazing foods and meals I’ve eaten!
A common way of grabbing lunch in Brazil (which is a dinner-sized meal) is going to a “pay by kilo” place, where you walk in, grab a plate and fill it from a very VERY wide selection of Brazilian and in some places, Japanese foods. After you have selected the amount you want to eat, you then get your plate weighed. This is a fabulous alternative to simply ordering a meal in a restaurant and you get to choose the amount and pay accordingly. People are very generous with their serving sizes here and quite often you are left pleading to take home the leftovers. Everything is less sugar and less salt in general and I didn’t quite realise how much salt I was consuming back home until I came here and learned that things taste just as amazing with less salt.
I will say I definitely took drinking water from a tap for granted. I didn’t realise some of the privileged we have in NZ until I found that water is not free, and you have to buy it everywhere you go!! Not every place has a filter and water in restaurants is not exactly cheap either!
I’m not vegan, but oh, boy, I can definitely recommend the best milkshake I’ve ever had. It didn’t make my stomach go ‘blaaaah’ by the end of it and instead it made it go ‘yaaaah’, so definitely a 10/10 for that!
The little things
Extreme potholes, and I mean EXTREME potholes. The ones that make you pray for the cars driving over them (into them…) and make you wince and go “oooooOOOooooooOo’ “aaAAAAAaaaaAAAAAAAAAaaaAaaAaAAA’.
Laundry is amazing. Pay a bit more for it to be picked up from the hotel, and pay by weight. It is washed, dried and ironed and delivered back to you.
Who would have thought you’d take wiping your bum and flushing your dirty paper down the toilet for granted….Well, you can’t, even in fancy hotels, restaurants or anywhere. The piping systems are shit… literally….so instead we wipe and put the toilet paper in the bin next to the toilet.
No one speaks English…..no one. This is always fun, though.