Simultaneously ignorant in 2 different languages

Trip Start ??? ??, 2001
1
16
26
Trip End ??? ??, 2003


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Flag of Brazil  ,
Saturday, June 28, 2003

Vying for attention that morning were food (I'd slept through breakfast), coffee (that had been the first sleep of the flight) and having no clue where in the world's 3rd largest city I would sleep. Tourist information were as frustrated as me with not being able to help, and my eleven year old guide book was no better. So I decided to solve the other two problems with a local fry-up of rolled ham, fried egg, crackers and half an unknown fruit. All washed down with sweet coffee.

But even with a full belly I was still in no rush to leave the relative sanctuary of the airport, as my language skills ended with a well-meaning please and thank you. The brakes were on and I was feeing very awkward. Two hours later I was also in danger of being arrested for loitering.

After my final 'last deep breath', I bought a bus ticket with some well placed pointing, smiling and random currency waiving. I was on my way again, heading for Sao Paulo, passing houses, roofs and bridges littered with graffiti. And as we dribbled over the hill (the traffic was another lasting memory), I could see why Sao Paulo is described as the New York of Brazil, with tower blocks filling the distance in all directions.
The bus threw everyone out at Republica, which had a Piccadilly Circus meets Soho atmosphere. And with an apparent stroke of luck, the information booth directed me to "the cheapest hotel in Sao Paulo" just across the road. The receptionist was very understanding, insisting I take two keys and choose which room I wanted (I opted for luxury, getting a television and bathroom for 10). Now I'm not suggesting the price was a clue, but on hindsight I am surprised he didn't also confirm that I wanted it for the whole night.

Passing on the opportunity to watch ALF dubbed in Portuguese or listen to George Jetson advertise Visa Electron, I started exploring. And random turns along the black and white mosaic pavements led me to a strange record shop. I counted forty eight combinations of coloured dots and numbers (and hence prices) just for the current albums, while in the bargain section I discovered what happens to the albums left over from Virgin's sale. Pride of place in the window went to Neil Sedaka and Bill Haley. Surely an unheeded warning.

In the subway (I was getting confident now), rush hour was in full swing with trains clean, frequent and awash with conversation. The platforms were even noisier, as just the escalator approach offered up a huge din of conversations echoing around the tunnels.
Back near Republica, I discovered a market style shopping centre where everyone had been to the same Japanese wholesaler, who had sold them lots of radio's, MP3 players and watches. They had also imported the Japanese shop assistants and price stickers too, which after only one day in Sao Paulo left me simultaneously ignorant in two different languages.
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