Friday, November 4, 2011

A Post Post

Since I'm back in São Paulo, I figured it was fitting to write a little post(-move) post.

I arrived yesterday and made a quick stop at Polícia Federal at Guarulhos airport on the off chance they could stamp my protocolo (temporary identification) with a six-month extension--the reason for this quick trip. No dice.

Thanks to my thoughtful landlord, Dona Maria, I settled in to my beloved Pinheiros apartment (which brought about a simultaneous surge of pleasure and melancholy). I crashed mid-afternoon for about four hours, which means my schedule was out-of-whack and my daily espresso was taken too late. When I eventually fell asleep again, this caused a surreal and vivid dream that, as a result of my recent string of nose bleeeds, I was going to require an ear transplant. It was very upsetting in my sleep but I was able to laugh about it in the morning.

A few hours later I ate my habitual mango followed by a tall, fresh-squeezed orange juice and a double espresso at Quitanda, and set out for the Federal Police headquarters in Lapa. Watching the sights from the bus window during the 45-minute ride, I was reminded of my first days in Brazil, when, having nothing but time, the trappings of bureaucracy didn't trouble me. In fact, they were kinda entertaining.

I was only at the DPF for 30 minutes, all told. The good news is that, contrary to the response to my recent status inquiry, my new Cédula de Identidade de Estrangeiro card has been printed. The bad news is that it is at the Polícia Federal in Curitiba, Paraná--255 miles away. That is weird since I'm registered as a São Paulo resident, completed all of my paperwork here, and have, in fact, never been to Paraná (unless you count the time I used the bathroom at the rest stop on an all-night bus trip from Porto Alegre to São Paulo).

I didn't really care though, in fact I found it humorous on account of the sunshine. And since I've lived in Brazil long enough to have the jeitinho (a little detour around a problem) down pat, I had two strategies to obtain the card in place before I walked out the door of the DPF.

Time for a siesta, then a couple beers with Dona Maria and Eduardo. I have a 3:30 taxi, a 4am bus to Campinas, and a 7am flight to Porto Alegre.

But before I go, for old times sake...

Remember "Fight Fitness"? Here's another one:

On the basement floor of Shopping Eldorado, there's a tiny shop that sells shoelaces and polish. The name seems a bit over the top:

"Shoe Shop of The Future!"

Tchau, São Paulo. I still totally love you, but our relationship... it's complicated.


Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Live the life you want to live. (Part 2)

I had hoped I'd have some words of wisdom to wrap up the blog before I depart. I don't. Partly because I've been too busy with the preparations, and partly because there are so many divergent thoughts whirring in my head that I don't know yet, myself, what to make of them.

One of my favorite sights on Avenida Paulista.
I was reflecting on my first post, a little over 3 years and 4 months ago, and considering which of the goals I had set forth I have since achieved, and which I have not. Basically, I achieved them all, here and there, in bursts--though some of them, I have discovered, are goals that will be a lifetime in addressing, while others just ceased to be ambitions. The things I said I would miss about my Stateside life were missed, and will soon be regained: things I said I wouldn't miss will soon be a part of my life again--which now seems okay, for the time being. Things I declared I would cherish--the long and aimless rambles, the fruits and a la minuta, agua de coco, and futebol--well, I've satiated myself, again, for the time being. I did adapt--to crime, to "the system," and to machismo--at least, as much as I ever will. My wacky plan of waiting for amnesty worked, and now I have gained permanent residency. Among many other gains in my time here are a command of the language, and a solid understanding of the national history and cultural nuance, including the various sub-cultures that create Brasil.
But what is missing from that initial post, and indeed was greatly underestimated in my vision, became the most provocative element of all: the enrichment of my life and profound impact on my being through the amazing the friendships I made.

Victoria, Shelley & Rafael, Ivan, Lisa, Fifi, Maureen & Rudimar, Gina, Clair, Natália, Leila, Joanna, Roberto & Marianna, Adri, Eliana, Roxanne & Rudy, Kristin, Allison, Scott & Eliana, Anthony, Ahmet & Anelise, Juliana, Fernando, Danilo, Tanya, Vanessa & Rafael, Carolina & Mariana, my friends at Casa Club, and many others--you've been signposts, shining stars, and lighthouses along the way. I am fortunate and grateful to have shared this path with you.
In response to my own command "Live the life you want to live," I would, today, offer a resilient, experienced, positive, and optimistic, "I'm working on it."
As Adri wisely counseled a year ago: you're not starting a new chapter, you're starting a new book. I've enjoyed having this space to share my thoughts, reactions, anecdotes, and experiences. Though I was writing for myself (as my dear, late Uncle Greg reminded me), it was really uplifting to get feedback and encouragement from friends (and from strangers who became friends), and to know that, throughout this book, people quite literally all over the world were laughing with me and rooting for me. Thank you for that, and thanks for reading.

Louquinha Gauchinha Paulistinha no coração 

Monday, August 8, 2011

Street Art

Time is short. Nevertheless, I have a few more pics of wonderful street art to share.

Across from Theatro Municipal-

In the tunnel from Paulista to Rebouças-

"You are a slave to transit."

Coming out of the same tunnel-

In this post, my favorite is the Saci painting graffiti, hot on the trail of a wind-up-doll city work, working to cover it up.


I finally discovered the name of my favorite graffiti artists, Os Gêmeos, and learned that (unsurprisingly) these Paulista twins are world famous, and their art has far exceeded the limits of São Paulo, with pieces throughout the U.S. and Europe. Look 'em up. They're cool.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Theatro Municipal

During most of my time in São Paulo, Theatro Municipal was closed for renovations. I admired the building, though, which graces Praça Ramos in Centro. It reminded me of, a fond memory indeed, my last experience in such an elegant old theatre, when cousin Leslie and I saw a gorgeous ballet in Budapest in 2001. So when it opened again in June, I went in to buy a ticket for...anything... just so I could get a glimpse of the interior. I bought a ticket for a late July performance of Cisne Negro, or Black Swan.
The building did not disappoint...

...which is more than I can say for the performance. I had expected the ballet. I got a modern, too modern for my tastes, rendition of... something un-swan-like. At one point, a female dancer was writhing on the floor to bizarre music, communicating some sort of disastrous pain. (Yeah, I feel ya sistah.) I didn't care though. Being inside that stunning palace of art and music was plenty rewarding for me.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Oh yeah, It's Ladies Nights

I had planned to spend a week in Porto Alegre before leaving Brazil, to have a proper despedida, or going away party(z), but changed my mind because I (rightly) decided that saying 30 goodbyes would just be too depressing.

Instead, last Friday I met Victoria and Lisa at the airport. They had come to me. (Bless them.) What followed was a week of girl fun: restaurants, bars, nightclubs, shopping malls, late breakfasts and in-depth chats.
Friday was our nutty night. We went to my staple: Casa Club Hostel Bar to visit friends, meet strangers, and listen to my friend Leo's band. Carol got up to sing with the band--her on-the-spot rendition of the Cranberries' "Zombie"--was a real treat, especially as I'd never heard her sing live before. Good times.

Mari, Carol, e eu
Suddenly we (and the group had multiplied, as they tend to do on the best of nights) found ourselves drinking Belgian beers at Miró. The next thing I know, we're jamming to Interpol, Bowie, and Rage Against the Machine at Matrix. (I grilled my friend Felipe on who's oversight led to me never knowing, over the past year, about this dream-dive-nightspot?! Que loucura cara!) Ok, maybe the beer helped, but I was singing and dancing like the angst-ridden teenager that I sometimes am, in secret, and it was the best! Luckily, me and my antics were in great company.

eu, Victoria, e Lisa

Victoria rocking out to God-knows-what and Lisa, reacting

Mari, eu e Felipe

Don't ask me. At this point, I could not be held accountable.

Eu, Victoria e Mari
I (we) went to bed at 7am. (Yep, still got it.)
Mas, bah!, nota dez, aquela noite!
Except, for the next two days, Victoria and I suffered a stiff neck from our special dancing. (Maybe we don't still have it!)
A couple other highlights from the week:
1) when a friend from Casa Club, whom I shall call Spooney, made the most hilarious remark in regards to the hosteling crowd, dressed in their alpaca jacket-ponchos and hats: "We've all been to Bolivia, and we're going to wear it for three months."
2) eating a delicious-but-$40 cheeseburger at Lanchonete da Cidade at Shopping Cidade Jardim (which, admittedly, was a very neat mall, architecturally speaking), before checking out the million-dollar boats in Tools & Toys. Que chique, gente!
But aside from the fun, I confess there were a few tears when Victoria and I hugged goodbye yesterday. It was silly because we'll see each other soon in Chicago, but there's just this thing: we were really in this together. I share that feeling with everyone in my POA clan. We were totally in it together. Tightly bonded (like whoa). And as necessary as it sometimes is, it hurts to release it, so that it may grow into a different friendship, as we give space for our lives to also grow. Yin and Yang I suppose.
I saw my acupuncturist yesterday afternoon and, noticing that I was less chatty, he asked (simply), "triste?" And I started to cry again. Yes.
Nevertheless, my life is moving forward.
Tonight I had a meeting of the United Nations (of Ladies): a cocktail conference with Nika (Poland/US), Glaucy (Brazil), Gaby (Venezuela), and Sandi (France). After the soup buffet (yes, you read that correctly) at Bella Paulista, we ended up at Drosophyla--another very cool haunt that I wished I'd known before, and our gaúcho waiter only added to our fun.

eu, Glaucy, Nika, Gaby e Sandi
E aí? (And now?) I have arranged some lunches and dinners and beers with some Paulista friends, but I'm packed and ready. And on Tuesday, I'm out.
I have no idea what to expect from my re-acclimation to Chicago life. Well, that's not entirely true: I have some expectations, but I don't know where I'll be living or working a month from now. That fact is both intimidating and brilliant, because it evidences the presence of natural fear and how far I have pushed myself in confronting it.
There will be a proper festa with my Porto Alegre peeps, but it's a few months off yet. I'm looking forward to it, as a celebration of the progress in each of our lives--because, among us, there are new homes to visit and new babies to kiss.

Thursday, July 28, 2011


Remember that scene in The Goonies where Sloth is screaming for chocolate? Yeah, this post is for my cousin Beth and her passion for "CAKE!!!!"

This is Maya.

This is Les Delices de Maya, and she's not exaggerating.

The place has fantastic charm and excellent service. Bright and cheerful but still cozy, this converted two-story home feels like and indoor garden hideaway. Even the bathrooms are cool: the walls are covered in decoupage featuring old MAD magazines and italian newspaper clippings.

Marcelo runs the front-of-house operations. He remembers my name, and everyone else's, every time, no matter how long it's been between visits. He pauses for a bit of small chat, engagingly and sincerely, with every table, despite having much to do during the lunchtime rush.

Oh, Lord, and the food....

My dilemma is that I want to try everything on the surprisingly diverse menu (and there's a specialty du jour), but I always get the same dish: spaghetti com lula e limão, spaghetti with calamari and a delicately creamy lime sauce. I can't help myself.

And then there's the CAKE!!!!
Heavens to Beth-sy! I adore the Brigadeiro (a chocolate cake with layers of brigadeiro in between), and the Brigadeiro de Pistache (a white cake with layers of a similar mixture to the classic brigadeiro, except instead of chocolate, the condensed milk and butter are cooked with powdered pistachios, apparently)...mercy! Last time I sampled the Bolo de Cerveja Preta (black beer cake) and Pavê de Figo (a cup of crème brûlée with a layer of fig spread in the middle). Falta de palavras.

Coming from a long line of entrepreneurs, dining at Les Delices de Maya is even more attractive to me because it's a small, family-run kinda place. However, that means they're only open on business days for lunch and afternoon tea, because, well, everybody deserves a life! I'm not sure if this is a good thing or a bad thing for me personally: on one hand I would love to go there more often, though on the other hand I thank them for their limited hours of operation, given my deficiency in self-control amidst these sorts of delectables.

Ahh, the stuff dreams are made of.

If you find yourself lunching in Vila Madalena, you simply cannot go wrong as Les Delices de Maya.

Bon appetit!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Maranhão Outtakes

I wish I had theme music for these outtakes posts. Something circus-y.

Before the first picture, let me recount something I wanted to document on my last visit to Porto Alegre, but was sans camera. When I returned a few days later, the entertaining sign was gone. First, it is important to say that Brazil passed Lei Seca in 2008, which is a zero-tolerance law for drinking and driving--a topic so complicated that it could be it's own post (but won't). I thought it ironic, a few months back, to see a sign in front of Garcia's Bar that advertised free parking during Happy Hour.

Relatedly, on the drive back to São Luís, we stopped at this gas station...

...with signage provided by Brahma Beer. (I know it's just advertising, but still, really?)

On the subject of beer, here's the Saturday night hangout in the community surrounding the lighthouse at Mandacarú. ("Fatty's Chopperia," a chopperia is a bar that specializes in draught beer.)

Perhaps alcohol could explain this creepy thing, just around the corner.

You know you're in a small town, especially in Brazil, when this suffices for the local courthouse.

You might have to click on the image to see, but this palm tree (conveniently located in the middle of the "road") has a 20 km/hour speed limit sign posted. However, in the direction of travel, I would advise less. The "road" ends in about 25 feet.

"Vende-se." Boat for sale. Inquiries within.

I saw two fun-with-English t-shirts on the trip but couldn't photograph them--that would have been rude. One said, simply, "Get Shape." (Yeah, I know. It's on the To-Do List. Thanks for noticing.) The other, Paraguayan apparently, said "Occy Surfboar" on the front and the back. By the way, what is with the massively popular Brazilian surfer-wear and apparel line "Fatal Surf"? Do they know what fatal means? They must. It's the same in Portuguese. Isn't that the equivalent, then, of a pedestrian in Porto Alegre wearing a shirt with this type of emblem?

I digress. A frog smoking the the bathroom, for a change.

Ok, I embellished. He's not smoking. Just ditching class.

Keeping the animal theme, this will be on my list of all-time favorite photos: a steer grazing in the middle of Barreirinhas. There is no fencing around--there aren't even any farms around--just homes, sandy roads, and the cross.


Monday, July 25, 2011

São Luís Sunday

For the sake of brevity (ha ha!), in yesterday's post I skipped the part about the harrowing bus ride from Barreirinhas to São Luís.

You know, there's a big difference between injury in the pursuit of adventure (say, in one of those mad jeeps in Lençóis) and injury in the pursuit of a good night's sleep. I admit that sometimes I can be a bit of a back-seat-driver. Mind you, I rarely verbalize my concern, but I do tense up when I feel a driver is overly aggressive. Knowing this, I tried to just chill out and stay lost in my thoughts on said bus ride, thinking I was just over-reacting to the driver's, um, style. That is, until I saw his young kid, who was riding shotgun, gripping his armrest in fear. Of course I remained silent, but at least I knew I wasn't the only one panicking. The icing, though, was when we caught up to another bus we had been trailing on the highway about ten minutes after we stopped for gas. Man, it's a minibus, not a Porsche!

All's well that ends well.

The Rio Poty Hotel has an unusual design, but all the rooms have large balconies and lovely views.

Despite my arrival shock, I must say I acclimated nicely.
So, too, did the rather large iguana that appeared, to the guests' delight.

He was totally eye-ing my Subway. No chance, lizard.

A quick, after-dip shower amidst the flowers, anyone?

I can't say that I understand the Brazilian obsession with lawn ornaments, but the frogs amused me.

I was equally amused by the Lochness-like sculpture in Lagoa da Jansen.

I spent the majority of the appropriately sunny Sunday poolside, or rather, poolbarside.

That is, until the Women's World Cup Final. What a game! A disappointing end for the U.S. team, but I couldn't begrudge Japan their deserved title and celebration. It was funny listening to the announcers struggle with the names too. For example, on the Japanese side, Miyama became "me ama" (an accusatory "you love me!") and Ohno sounded like an emphatically alarmed "Oh No!"; while on the USA side, O'Reilly was pronounced "Oh, Really???" That last one killed me every time.

On a serious note, during this trip I had intended to dedicated time to putting all of my reflections on My Life in Havaianas in order. In the end though, I was simply too relaxed and too distracted by all of the natural beauty and entertaining activities to be pensive--and what a delightful thing! With far less effort than I had expected to invest in becoming "all in" on the next book of my life, I realized, on the journey back to São Paulo, that I feel ready. I'm free to move forward from this (massive, pivotal, truly engaging) period of my life and discover what other adventures are waiting for me downstream. I suppose that at least one piece of that acceptance came from Raimundo and Gilson, on the day I was starkly reminded that sometimes stunning positives come from scary or seemingly negative starts.

Leap and the net will appear.