All things Brazilian
Trip Start Aug 23, 2010
25Trip End Aug 01, 2011
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Sep took us to the rooftop of his old building, where we took in a panoramic view of the bustling city. The sight from atop was pure anarchy. The busy streets and swath of skyscrapers reminded me of New York City, minus the charm. We were up there just as dusk was falling, and had a good vantage point to see Sao Paulo's infamous traffic congestion. Even with a well-serviced subway, the traffic is intolerable. So much so, that many CEO's and high-executives have helicopters that transports them to and from work. You know you've made it when your taxi is a helicopter!
Aside from designer shopping, fine dining, and drinking, there is not a whole lot to do in Sao Paulo...especially for the budget weary traveller. Many people say there is no point visiting, unless you know someone. However, what Sao Paulo lacks in attraction, is made up by the warmth and friendliness of its people (well, minus the kidnappers and muggers...but they represent only a minority of the population). Luckily for us, Sep had done a legal internship in Sao Paulo the summer before, and had a lot of friends. As a result, we were able to enjoy a very traditional Brazilian day. Here's the Cole's Notes version:
1. Futebol. It should be no shocker that Brazilians are soccer crazy. While we there, the Copa American Tournament (a tourney between south american teams) was going on, so we met up with some of Seps buddies to catch Brazil vs. Paraguay.
2. Feijoada. We went to this bar, and as a precursor to the match, they were serving Brazil's national dish 'feijoada'. It consists of a stew of pork, beans, and beef that simmers in clay pots, and then covered by this dark purplish broth. The dish is served on a heaping plate of rice, chopped greens (usually kale), and lightly roasted cassava flour (looks and tastes like Parmesan)
After the meal, we got a few buckets of Heineken and sat down to watch the match. The beer came in handy, as the Brazilian side had a sub-par performance (sign of things to come) and the game ended in a draw...much to the dismay of everyone there.
3. BBQ. Following the match, we decided to forego the bar, and headed to Seps friends (Rafa) for a Brazilian BBQ. The BBQ was different from the typical North American experience. Instead of everyone having their own individual steak or other meat, everything was shared. The BBQ burned into the early hours of the morning, as Rafa would put a mouth-watering steak or two on at a time, and then cut it into thinly sliced pieces which we would all gobble up. This pattern of eating small portions, followed by a drink lasted for hours. By the end of it (4 a.m.), I had drank and eaten a lot! I was actually worried that my body would be unable to digest everything when I went to bed.
4. Caipirinha. This is Brazil's national drink, and made from cachaca ( a sugar-cane derived alcohol..kind of like rum), lime, and sugar. Given the abundance of fruit in Brazil, the lime can be substited for a plethora of options - including pineapple, passion fruit, kiwi fruit, mango, etc
5. Samba. Brazlians love their music, and it is deeply embedded in their culture. While the bbq was roaring, samba music was blasting. Samba is a lively, rhythmical dance that originated in Brazil. Everyone sings along and dances, and Rafa even brought out a few instruments which people started playing. It was quite the spectacle! Rafas mom tried to teach us the samba steps, but we were pretty hopeless. Much to the amusement of our friends, we were awkwardly swaying about instead of sambaing, but it was still enjoyable.
Between the heavy feijoada and the meat-fest that followed, my digestion system had taken a Brazilian-sized beating! But it was a really cool and fun experience to participate in a typical Brazilian bbq. Sep's friends were really chill, and we had a great time hanging out and sharing stories with them. It was more of a social event than a meal. Sep even commented that despite the busy schedules (typical work day lasts until 8 p.m.), the people make a concerted effort to relax and unwind by going out for drinks, dinner and other social activities. I think this attitude differs somewhat from the rat-race mentality we have up in North America. Perhaps this is a lesson to bring back!