Current date: Feb. 3, 2002 2:30 p.m. (Sao Paulo hostel)

Current Itinerary: Today is my last day in SP. Tomorrow I will go to Parati, or a village close to there that Christina/SP told me about...then to Rio and on to Buzios (YES!!) for the weekend.

Subject: The first two nights in Sao Paulo

Friday, January 31, 2003 (con't)

I left the airport and headed towards the hostel...a bus ride and a train ride later I made it. It was a strange feeling to know that I knew exactly where I was going. I mean, it really made that first day very easy b/c I already knew where everything was. Nice way for things to start off.

I checked into the hostel and it was cool b/c EVERYTHING was exactly as I remembered it. I am staying in the same room even...which has about 10 beds. I was absolutely exhausted at that point but I wanted to get the "business" things out of the way. I sat and shot a quick e-mail to folks letting them know I made it and then I headed to the bank to get cash. Once again, it was VERY nice to know where I was Tony can tell you and as I mentioned in my journals from last year...getting cash is never less than a 1 hour experience...but not THIS time. I knew exactly where the Citibank was so I was able to go straight to it. sweet.

The bank is on Avenida Paulista...a pretty major road here in SP. I decided to sit and have a beer at an outside cafe and just watch the people go by. It was great. It was the first moment of being here where I actually thought to myself "I'm in Brazil" (Sunny is very familiar with this phrase...only a different country inserted at the end). Perfect. Not to mention I had a half liter beer AND a cost: One US dollar. What a great country.

After sitting and watching people for awhile, I decided to head back toward the hostel so I could catch some Z's. On the way to the subway, I passed a little tourist info booth so I went in to grab a map. This would prove integral later b/c the guy told me about a TON of stuff to do/places to go in SP, including a soccer game that was being played on Sunday...something that is definitely on my "todo" list.

After that I gave a call to these girls I know in SP that I met here last year. I had absolutely NO contact with them since last year so they were VERY surprised to hear from me. I talked to Christina for awhile and it was great to hear her voice again.

(Background: Last year in SP, Holly/Isreal had introduced me to a local girl, Quangi (sp?) and her of which was Christina. They were VERY nice to us and drove us to some places around the city. I remember that I was so overwhelmed by their kindness...during that week, one night it was Holly's B-day. The girls actually baked her a cake and brought it to the hostel for us to enjoy!! I still had their phone #'s on a piece of paper from last year so I decided I would get ahold of them when I got here)

Anyway, we made a plan to meet up later that night. I had planned to hook up with Luciana's brother also that evening but I didn't have his phone # yet. I figured I would just get ahold of him later. I also gave a call to the brother of another friend from Houston that is from SP and left a message. I remember thinking that it was pretty weird that I had just gotten to SP and I already had all these calls to make.

Since I arrived so early in SP, by the time I did all that it was only about 2:00. I came back to the hostel and slept for about 4 hours. I woke up feeling like a new man and I was ready to attack. After quick shower (low-flow...DAMMIT) I gave Christina a call but she said she couldn't meet and we decided we would do something on Sat. I called the others but nobody was around. The hostel was pretty empty at the time too...I did some e-mail for a bit and then decided I would just go out and create my own problem when you are in Brazil.

So off I went on my own...I remembered a good restaurant from last year that was near a subway stop on Avenida Paulista so I figured I would just start there...then I would go to this area that I knew, Itaim Bibi, that the guy at the info both had told me had a lot of bars. When I got to the restaurant, it was kind of empty so I decided to keep walking. I few blocks later, there was this little corner place that had a lot of people and music playing so I went in. I had a beer and a the way, they really don't kid around with the cheese down here. You have to watch out. If you get a cheeseburger...there is TWICE as much cheese as burger. I was a little annoyed. Luckily I had an ice cold beer to wash down that block of cheese.

I sort of talked to a guy for a bit while I was in there but it wasn't going to good...some people I meet it is impossible for me to understand their portuguese but others I can follow pretty well. Depends on how strong the accent is. Of course, I was talking to the guy in Spanish so that is tough for him too. Anyway, I decided that I would just walk the streets in that area and find another bar.

Well, I walked for awhile but it didn't seem like any place had very many was about 10:00 at the time so it was to early for me to go to Itaim Bibi where the clubs were. Eventually I came arcoss this Irish Pub, so I thought..."that's right up my alley...I think I will check it out."

There were a couple guys sitting at the bar and a few people eating in there. I sat at the bar and ordered a beer in Spanish...prompting the "where are you from question". Well, it turned out, the bartender, Rafael, spoke english. He had studied for a year in Alaska. (yes, I know, why the hell would a Brazilian guy go ALL the way to that frozen tundra? Turns out, he just wanted something different...pretty adventurous if you ask me). We talked for a bit but since the place was pretty empty, I was really able to interact with everyone in there. Well, it also happened to turn out that the guy I sat next to at the bar was the owner...he only spoke portuguese but we were able to communicate pretty well. He told me that he had been working in the bar circuit for many years and knew the owners of several pubs...he told me about a few and gave me some cards with his name so I could show the people at the other places to get a little "preferential treatment". Very cool. The guys who worked there were so AWESOME!!!! I ended up staying there in chatting for HOURS. Everyone was super friendly and it reminded me why I love the Brazilian culture so much. By 2:00a.m. I had become friends with ALL the workers in that place. I was having such a great time, I decided to just stay there for the rest of the night (plus I had mistakenly not brought enough money to go to a disco) We laughed and joked around the whole night. The bar closed at 3 and they let me stay there. We all ended up there drinking...for free...until about 5:30 in the morning...just me, Rafael, and the other waiters and cooks who worked there!!! It was GREAT!! They showed me how to play this dice game...which I beat them all at twice:) It was hilarious...we just had the greatest time...just me and these locals in this little pub in freakin' Sao Paulo...only one of which even spoke english. Talk about perfect...the night had started out so weak and ended up being phenomenal...I had tons of fun and met some great people...the trip certainly got started off on the right foot!!

After we left the bar, Rafael and I went to anther little bar on the corner...which, by the way, was PACKED at 5:30 in the morning. We had a beer but I was hitting the wall then. The metro was back open again so I had successfully pulled off another subway layover. I got back to the subway stop of the hostel and decided to stop in this little corner store that Tony and I went to last year a couple times (with the funniest bathroom on the planet, remember Tony?) and have a little bite. I got back to the hostel at about 7:30...just in time for a little breakfast. I had some papaya (ahhhhh....brazil!!) and hit the sack...I fell asleep pretty quickly...with a HUGE smile spread acoss my face. What a great country.

Saturday, February 1, 2003

Woke up around 2:30. Where has the day gone? Probably the funniest moment of the trip until that point happened right then. This guy comes in the room as I was coming out of the bathroom and he's like, "Oh, the snorer." I don't know what he was talking about...I didn't hear anything:)

I decided I would spend the day doing some e-mail and getting the website back up. I worked on that for about 5 hours. During that time, I was chatting a lot with other people in the hostel. Somehow, the topic of conversation ended up being salsa music...ahhh...right up my alley again. I let this girl, Lorna/London listen to one of my CD's. She was with two other people, Deborah/Australia and Brad/Zimbabwe. We talked for a long time. I told them that I had heard about a Salsa club here in Sao Paulo (from the girls in Buzios last year) called Azucar, that was supposed to be great. We decided we would all go there for the night. My friend Christina/SP (from last year) stopped by the hostel and it was great to see her!!! She had a rough day at the hospital (she is a medical student) but was still willing to go out with us! Now that is the true Brazilian spirit!!!
Right around then we found out that it is $R60 (about 18 bucks...VERY expensive for down here) to get into Azucar so we decided on a new plan. We told Chris that she could just decide on a place and we would all go there...but first I wanted to return to the Oxford pub (the place from the night before) to see Rafael and my other friends. The others were interested in going to a pub before hitting a disco so that was the final plan. We all got showered up and then I ran to this little corner place to grab a beer and a little bit of food.
It just dawned on me that I have made many references to these "little corner" bars so maybe I should explain...these places are not bars in the sense of what you think of in the US. It is more like a neighboorhood eatery that happens to serve beer too...but it is also sort of like a seven can by snacks and everyday items there too. They are always very loud and there are always older guys in there hanging out drinking...looking like they have been sitting in the same place for the last 40 years. I guess the closest image I could paint would be to say it's like a stereotypical corner pizza joint somewhere in Brooklyn...very similar atmosphere. The kind of place where you could go in without a shirt, the food is greasy, and nobody cares. Not exactly the place that any tourist would venture into...but hey, I like to be with the people. There are MANY places like this here in Sao Paulo.
Anyway, off I went to this corner spot for some grub. I sat next to this old guy and we chatted the whole time...he could speak Spanish a little bit. He was hilarious...and everyone in the place had a good laugh at my expense. I have always been of the school that I will try anything once. No kidding. A common problem when you don't speak the language in a country is that you can't read any menus. That's part of the reason I go to these little spots. They always have a bunch of food there ready that you can actually see. So you see something that looks appetizing and then you just point to it. Keeps it simple.
Well, I ended up eating something that I think might have been intestines...not quite sure. It might have well have been a plate of fat...that is what the consistency of the meat was. Wasn't too good...but hey, you win some, you lose some. What's funny is that after he gave me the plate, he gives me this plastic container with some sort of substance inside that appears to be salt or some type of seasoning...he calls it "fosfuro" (or something like that) but there is not a close Spanish equivalent so I have NO CLUE what the stuff is, or what he wants me to do with it. I figure out that I am supposed to put some of this stuff on my food...which is very oily by the way. So I sprinkled a bit on...kind of like you would put salt on something in the US. I mean, I have no clue what this crap is...well, while I was putting it on, everyone in the place is looking at me like, "what the hell is he doing". I just tried to play it cool and started "chewing the fat" if you will.
Well, about 5 minutes later, this guy comes in and sits next to me and orders the same stuff I did. Ha ha, I thought, this guy doesn't know he just ordered a plate of fat. So he gets the food and the guy gives him the "fosfuro". The guy then proceeds to dump half the damn container on to his plate and then mixes it all around and actually makes the fat look pretty good. So at the same time I am realizing that I was supposed to dump a lot of this stuff on my food, everyone else in the place is looking at me, realizing that I am realizing how much of a dumb ass I looked like sprinkling this stuff on my food. So then I just started laughing my ass off b/c it was so funny and I'm like, "Why didn't somebody just tell me!!" These damn Brazilian's really know how to make a guy learn the hard way. Anyway, now I know, you have to put plenty of "fosfuro" on your fat. Let that be a lesson to you folks. The whole thing was pretty cool in the end though b/c then I kind of became friends with all those guys in there. They were pretty nice.
Anyway, after THAT incident. I headed back the hostel and we were ready to head to the Oxford pub. It was myself, Brad/Zimbabwe, Lorna/London, and Deborah/Australia...Chris said that she would come and pick us all up which was VERY cool of her. We went up to another little corner bar to have a few beers while we waited. There were some guys in there playing dominoes and they let us use them. They all beat the pants off of me in dominoes...I think it was b/c we were playing London rules:)
Chris picked us up and we headed to the Oxford pub. All the same guys were working and we were all very happy to see each other!! We got a table and had a few drinks and some grub. While there, one of the waiters, Cosme was talking to us about where we were going to go that night. We didn't really know for sure so he suggested a place that I can't remember the name of...but we decided to go for it. It was a great club and we had a great night dancing. My only regret was that I had forgotten my damn camera. I met some more cool local girls, including a girl, Carolina, that said she would meet up with us the next day. We left the club around 6:00. Chris was a serious trooper...she had been awake for more than 24 hours at the point. I can't say enough about how much I appreciate what she did for us. Picking us up and taking us around like that...thank you so much Chris...people like you make the world a better place to be in.
On the way home, I had Chris drop me off at the corner store that Tony and I love so much (mostly b/c of the bathroom) and had a beer and grabbed a bite. I got back to the hostel at about 7:30...just in time for breakfast yet again. I had some papaya (a pattern is developing here) and hit the sack...once again with a smile on my face. Another GREAT night in SP! Have I metioned that this is a great country?



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