Today was our last day in SÃ£o Paulo (sad!). We were supposed to leave this morning, but last night… Well, actually, I should begin at the beginning.
Yesterday, Saturday, was our last day of school, which was really sad, because the school is *so* great. Seriously. Part of me just wishes we were just living in one city, studying during the week, and travelling on the weekends. But, the Amazon is a long way from SÃ£o Paulo!
Instead of the normal four hour break for eating lunch, doing homework, and running errands, we only had 30 minutes. The school closes early on Saturdays. Our last lesson was really fun. We got to listen to some popular Brazilian music, translate the lyrics, and then we had a sing-a-long! If you are ever in Brazil and want to learn Portuguese, Spanish, or English, go to this school!
Anyway, after we said our goodbyes, we hiked up to the main avenue where a giant parade was taking place. Basically these huge floats built on a multi-level fire-engine-esque vehicle roll very slowly down the streets blaring loud crazy dance music. People crowd around the floats and dance their hearts out for miles! It was a sexual diversity parade, which meant, aside from all the average folk, there were also plenty of elaborately dressed drag queens. Lots of vendors selling beer rolled along with the crowds as two million people danced up the avenue. After watching the fun for half-an-hour, we joined the throng for a mile or so. The street was ridiculously packed; wall to wall people. It was NUTS! But really fun. We danced and laughed and took pictures of the most elaborate floats until we got to the main intersection.
Next we happened upon an internet place. Blog time! It was pricey, and, for the first time ever, the guy asked for our I.D.s I thought he wanted to keep them, so we were awfully hesitant to hand over our passports (US passports are a hot commodity on the black market). After much muddled conversation, a patron approached and said, “I speak English. Go ahead. What is the problem?” We explained that we ´d never been asked for I.D. in an internet shop before. The man behind the counter kept saying it was the law, which was fine by us, but we just wondered why the law only applied in that shop. Apparently, because of internet crime, internet shops are supposed to record the identification of all users. If the police come into the shop and someone is using the computer without having their I.D. logged, it ´s a big fine, much like bars carding for underage drinking in the U.S.
After we ran out of time on the net, we tried to find this vegetarian buffett we saw advertised in the shop, but it was closed. So instead, we went to a bar our teacher had recommended to us. It was an Irish pub called O ´Malleys, frequented by foreigners. We decided to treat ourselves to an evening of good food and good beer in celebration of finishing our crash course in Portuguese. It was our first bar experience in Brasil, and quite interesting. First of all, it was weird to go to a mostly-English-speaking establishment to celebrate learning Portuguese. However, it was the only recommendation we had, so better that than some random, weird hang-out we might otherwise stumble into. Second of all, the payment system for bars is very different than in the U.S. Instead of handing over cash to your waiter/waitress everytime they bring you food, you are issued a card at the door. It ´s like a hotel-room key card. When you order, they put the beer/food/drink on your card. When you ´re ready to leave, you cash out at the door. So, it would be really easy to spend way more than you would if you brought $20 and stopped drinking when the money was gone. If you lose your card, there is a huge fine. Even if you only drank five or six beers, you have to pay $100-$200 if you can ´t present you card at the door. Once you pay, they give you a new card… different colored. The bouncer won ´t let you leave unless you give him one of these cards. Now that I ´ve seen the system in action, I think it ´s a really great way to do things. If you ´re a waiter/waitress, you don ´t have to worry about making change, and having to run a credit card, etc. If you ´re the bar owner, you don ´t have to worry about your employees stealing from you. The only cultural issue as far as doing this in the U.S. is the tipping factor. I don ´t know exactly how you ´d work that out.
Anyway, as we were checking out, a young guy in a group of three others asked us in accented English, “Where are you from?” This is a fun question for us, because we like to find out what judgements other people make based on our appearance. We made him guess, and he offered up England and Scotland. While Pat was answering his questions, I dug in my back pocket for my bar card. IT WAS GONE! NO WAY! Pat paid for almost everything, so I don ´t know how on earth I lost my card. I walked back to where we had been sitting, and there was a card on the floor, but I wasn ´t so sure it was mine. It was #1601, a number I am overly familiar with, so I think I ´d remember it. I started questioning the three guys about what would happen if I lost my card. They got really excited, saying things like, “Oh no! This is very bad! You can ´t lose it!” I explained about the other card, and decided that even if it wasn ´t mine, I ´d rather pay for $40 worth of someone else ´s beer than pay the $100 fine. Fortunately, the items on the card matched the things we had ordered and all was well.
We bumped into the three guys outside again, and started talking some more. We talked about everything from how to swear in Portuguese to the upcoming soccer match the next day. We found out they were all chemistry students at a university in SÃ£o Paulo. They invited us to come to a soccer barbecue the following afternoon, so we decided to push back our departure in order to attend.
The barbecue was AWESOME. I ´m so glad we went. We had SO much fun. It was such an awesome experience. The guys came and picked us up at our hotel, so we didn ´t have to stress out about finding yet another new place in the HUGE city. We packed into a Geo-Metro-sized car crammed full with our luggage, giant Pat, and all the party goods (a couple cases of beer, a few bags of charcoal, mixers galore, and a big bag of buns). It was a riot! 1/2 an hour later, we showed up at a patio outside a big apartment building. Things were just getting started. The barbecue was a different style than the U.S. way. We didn ´t cook all at once and then eat all at once. Everytime a piece of meat or a skewer of pork, chicken, beef, and veggies was ready, it would get divided up among two or three people. The food was DELICIOUS! Really, to die for. We had the option of dipping our meat in farofa, a substance that looks like corn meal, but tastes wonderful. It ´s manioca flour mixed with vegetable oil, onion powder, garlic, and some other spices. It was awesome. I hope we can find some in the states! We also got to try caipirinha (kah-ee-peer-een-yah), a really strong typical Brazilian drink. I guess it ´s usually made with rum, but ours was with vodka, fresh lime juice, and sugar. Also wonderful. One of the girls at the party is going to culinary school, so she treated us to an amazing dessert of… chocolate mousse, I guess. We got cups, took a few spoonfuls of warm, thick chocolate, and then a few scoops of heavy whipped cream and stirred it together. This was definitely my favorite eat.
The game itself was pretty intense, and it was really fun to watch the game with people who are so passionate about the sport. I couldn ´t help but get excited, and soccer is a really amazing sport. The moves these guys pull in the games are out-of-control. I ´ve watched at least four or five matches since I ´ve been here, and the injuries and goals are out-of-this world incredible. I love the replays. Who needs reality T.V.?
The people we met had to be the best part of the barbecue. It was a really young crowd, and we spent hours talking about everything from school to food to music. I wish I would have brought more photos. I only brought two pictures, both of the coal mine, because it ´s so hard to explain when people ask me what I do. But I really wish we would have brought photos of our houses and families and schools, etc.
Anyway, now we ´re in a (cheap! finally!) internet cafe burning some time before the midnight bus. We ´re headed to Curitiba (a colonial city farther south). We decided to take the latest bus possible for the six hour ride so we wouldn ´t have to pay for a hotel tonight. We really need to make up for some lost wiggle-room in our budget. The city is NOT cheap! Twelve minutes and counting!