São Paulo: First Impressions

Day 1: Learning is (not always) fun!

Following an overnight flight, I arrived in São Paulo a bit weary and regretting my decision to forgo sleep for the culturally iconic movies of Hotel Transylvania 2, The Scorch Trials and Pan. Oh who am I kidding…my inner little boy and teenage girl were thrilled – animation, cute boys AND ferries – who could ask for anything more?! 

Needless to say, I passed out shortly after I arrived at the Mama Brazil hostel in Bela Vista neighborhood. After a quick nap, I decided to explore the area and – you guessed it – find something to eat!

The first thing I realized is that the entire city is covered in graffiti – and when I say entire city, I mean EVERYWHERE! While some of it is cool street art, most of it is a form of unintelligible writing called Pichação (see below). While some people argue that this should be a recognized form of art, I thought it made the city feel unkempt and really disliked when it covered other artists’ really cool pieces of street art!


The second thing I realized is that it was very hard to find English anywhere. Street and city signs were only in Portuguese, few people spoke English (especially in service industry jobs, like waiters) and menus didn’t have English translations for food. So everything took a lot of trial and error with the little bit of Spanish I knew and a whole lot of charades…

However, everyone was generally very friendly and I managed to have a great meal of steak, rice, beans and fries. After which, I headed back to the hostel where I met Michael Wallace, my roommate from LA who was just out of school and working on starting his own business so that in five years he could have a staff to run it and he could go travel as much as he wanted.

Michael was a really friendly guy who, on a whim, had come down to visit some Brazilian buddies he had met in school. So while he didn’t have much to offer me in the way of travel recommendations, he definitely kept me entertained with his loud rap music, constant chatter about girls (particularly the difference between American and Brazilian ladies) and interesting assumption that I had been in the military!

Day 2: Getting my culture on!

The next day, I set out for a little sightseeing. First stop: the Museum of Art Sao Paulo (MASP), which was only a short walk from my hostel and had some interesting painting, photography and fashion exhibitions. Most interesting was an exhibit exploring the feminist movement to focus attention on women’s voting rights by destroying pieces of art displayed in galleries and museums. It involved a listening tour describing the circumstances around 29 separate attacks on pieces of artwork.

Then a nice walk through downtown São Paulo to Ibirapuera Park, which is not only very big, but beautifully incorporates lush greenery, ponds, monuments and cultural centers.

I strolled through the park filled with visitors (making for fun people watching!) and stopped into the Museum of Art Modern (MAM). At MAM, I quickly realized just how spoiled I am to have the MoMA in NYC. It was very small and the only exhibit was about an ancient tribe of people who built massive piles of shells and had a few artist installations inspired by this tribe.

At that point, I headed back to the hostel for bed since I had an early flight to Rio de Janeiro the next morning.

Overall Assessment: I felt like a party crasher

The best way I can describe my experience in São Paulo is to compare it to going to a party where you don’t know anyone, but decide to go to anyway. You feel like it will be good to branch out and are proud of yourself for being courageous. You hope to meet some great people and have some fun experiences. But in the end, you just feel like the rando at the party and that your time would have been better spent somewhere else. In my case, the somewhere else would have been Rio…

For your geographic enlightenment: São Paulo, Brazil

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