Letter Four, From São Paulo, Brazil

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Feb 6 – Mar 25 2015 Brazil and Chile

It is Monday, segunda feira;  I want to stay on in the same hotel, so ask to extend. But I’m told the room rate now is 45 % higher; the clerk explains that when the hotel is full that happens. And even though I have been here now for a week they cannot allow me a  three hour late check out when I leave three days later; not without another hefty charge. The people are very pleasant, and proper, but the rules are set somewhere in non-personal space; since I don’t want to  move, or devote my time to arguing, I  accept this abuse as inherent in a non-consumer sensitive society.

Food dystopia is  rather new here.The food that Brazilians eat now  is more  likely than before to be fast, sweet, starchy and fat; but it hasn’t affected most bodies yet as they are active per force, and walk a lot.  The old gastronomy requires the work of many to grow, deliver,  and prepare fresh tasty food. Perhaps people, partly as a result of changing economics, will learn  to eat cheaply and also well everywhere; I hope so. It is evening.  I suppose I will go out again into the noise and crush of bodies, to someplace where I can enjoy being lost; and eat a nice lunch.

I spent yesterday with two of Sandi’s friends who are typical millennials.  He was at San Francisco University, studied biology, later graduated in Brazil.Then decided he  prefers graphic arts, so studied that, and is working for an ad agency.  She became a lawyer and practiced in São Paulo, but now wants to become a chef; does pastry in a local bakery and will go to Italy for a 6 month course at a well known school. They live in Liberador, a section of São Paulo that is an Asia town.  They plan to get married next year and travel to the United States hoping to visit New York then drive to New Orléans and on to San Francisco. They enjoy Country Western so I suggested they stop in Nashville… They will certainly visit Sandi and I hope they will visit us so I can take them to Yosemite and Lake Tahoe.

They do not feel a need to marry; they hope to live with few limits, and very limited restrictions  of profession or vocation.  Ironically, that freedom requires limiting  a subset of needs or wants to the basics, the essentials:   They like to do things but don’t seem to care much about having or acquiring things, even though they appreciate them. Their  interests are transnational and supranational.  They prefer to buy dreams rather than acquisitions. I like that; maybe it is, curiously, almost old-fashioned conservatism, or what a century ago was called liberal.

I was born into a time when life and well-being were what one ate, and how one behaved;  the Good Life was created by Family, maintained by individual right and healthy behavior. It still can be; but we seem to believe it is  equally well created and maintained by the state, by industry, and  in accord with  government given rights.  Take the significance of food for example: In Brazil people spend a lot of time eating. Food dystopia is  still new here.The food that Brazilians eat now  is more  fast, sweet, starchy and fat, than it used to be; but it hasn’t affected most bodies here yet as they are active per force, and walk a lot.  The old gastronomy requires the work of many to grow, deliver,  and prepare fresh tasty food. Perhaps people, partly as a result of changing economics, will learn  to eat cheaply and also well; I hope so. It is evening.  I suppose I will go out again into the noise and crush of bodies, and places where I can enjoy being lost; and eat again.

I have spent the last 15 years reading– mainly dead people’s words– feeling that anything that lasts so long is worth my ever diminishing time.  That was reading I didn’t do  enough of in med school or as a real working doc. It has been  very rewarding to listen to the dead. But I now find the world in the midst of another techno-cultural quake, as significant as the invention and development of speech, language, agriculture, writing, or  printing.   ‘The End of Power’ is a recent  book by Moisés Naím that addresses this change. Clearly there is something happening today in the world that is significant even if it’s only a few years old. I believe the millenial young reflect that fact.

We went to the museu do futebol– the soccer museum. Brazil is, at least nominally,  samba, song, and futbol. The museum is much more than a huge monument to maleness, or the sport. It is a cultural resume of history and peoples– because Brazil is a melting  pot as is the USA.  see  http://museudofutebol.org.br/

2015-02-22 11.41.02
The 1970 world cup display at the  museo de futebol (or futbol).
2015-02-22 11.21.14
Photos, museu do futebol, and the Estádio do Pacaembu – Praça Charles Miller ( 1874 – 1953 – Miller was Scotch-English Brazilian sportsman, who is considered the father of soccer-futebol there)

2015-02-22 11.20.56 2015-02-22 11.57.58

Brazil has won the world football cup five times. They failed in 2014, such a national disaster that it is not yet included in the displays devoted to each world cup.   I doubt it will be there before the next world cup in  or three years!

Feb 21, 2015:  São Paulo is a huge and labyrinthine  metropolis. I travel by metro ( Santiago metro to the fourth power), bus and taxi when necessary. I am often lost. When going with Sandi’s friends from place  it is  a pleasant surprise that both these paulistanos also must  ask directions. They. like I, often get directions from other lost souls, only partly or relatively right, or simply wrong!  Ha Ha Ha! Or maybe  Ra Ra Ra. Which is,  practically, Frog Frog Frog.

There is always the question of safety with respect to foreign travel, In the USA our media is salted with reports of assault,  theft, extortion etc. Yet at home we know where and how those things are most likely to happen. On the other hand  in a foreign environment that is not  so clear. However, I have found the rest of the world  little different from my own country in that regard. One can easily be aware of what and where to avoid.

My trip from the airport to downtown  São Paulo is an example of what to do and not to do. I live in the mind of a child of the great depression of the thirties: Waste not want not.  So after asking at the airport, instead of a cab or transfer van I took a bus directly to the  upscale Paulista Section of the city. During the half hour drive the bus attendant asked each passenger what stop they wanted. When asked about hotels, he explained that they are overly  expensive near my stop, the last.    He suggested a  cab to a different nearby sector.

A well dressed woman overheard, and  commented: ” Why go someplace else when you are at a good spot already?” Again my retarded  inner child from the thirties spoke up in my mind; the attendant seemed credible and attentive; so I followed his advice. He hailed a cab and scribbled a name and address on a card.(Ooops! I noticed he took a commission! My second mistake was to ignore that.)  The driver  had trouble finding the hotel;  when he did, we were in one of the most filthy, run down and fearsome drug toxic  inner area of any city I had ever been in before.

When I make that sort of stupid mistake I try to  react immediately. Without getting out, or paying the fare, I  told the embarrassed  driver I’d give him an extra half fare to take me immediately  back to where we started; this time, directly. I think we were both  pleased to get there; he with his undeserved  fares and me with my immediate future.


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