Week 1 in Brasil: São Paulo

Fun fact about myself: I get extreme travel anxiety. Not that it stops me from traveling. The month before, the week before, and especially the day of my flight out to my destination (especially when it’s international), I am in no way excited. Mostly I am unhappy I decided to partake in such an expensive and inconvenient adventure. Once I land, the story changes. It’s such a fabulous learning experience, and I love broadening my horizons, acclimating to an unfamiliar culture, and participating in local activities.

To be fair, Brasil isn’t all too unfamiliar. I visited 8 years ago around the same time (summer for home, winter for here). That time I went to São Paulo, Campos dos Goytacazes, and Bahia, a great mixture of places where I got to enjoy the city, the mountains, and the beach, respectively. I am lucky to have a Brazilian best friend since third grade, Renata, who also happens to have an amazing family, including both her nuclear family in Virginia and her extended family in São Paulo. Another fun fact: her grandfather was a famous politician in Campos, and we celebrated a festival in his honor when we visited before. Give me five minutes and I can easily draw her family free. Definitely cannot say the same for my own family.

Well here I am – back in Brasil again! Like 8 years ago, the World Cup games are the talk of the town. Unlike 8 years ago, I get to experience the games happen around me. Unfortunately, soccer game tickets fell through for my friends and me (we were 2 tickets short and decided to duck out as a group instead of leave anybody out), but Renata’s sister and her friend will go to the Spain v. Chile game while we’re in Rio. So jealous! But I will try to get over it…someday.

Finishing up week 1 in São Paulo. I left to Brasil later than the rest of the group so I could celebrate Andrew’s birthday last Sunday (the poor guy spent most of his birthday weekend working on a proposal project due the next day). I took a red eye Monday to Tuesday, watching movies galore instead of sleeping as per usual, and after successfully navigating out of the duty-free shops to arrivals, I was welcomed by Renata, Olindi, Morgan (childhood/high school friends), and Michael (Renata’s grandmother’s awesome driver slash former security guard). Her grandmother and one of her aunts are gracious enough to house us during the São Paulo portion of the trip. We are leaving to Rio de Janeiro on a flight tomorrow afternoon.

This past week is beginning to seem like a blur. Because my phone pictures aren’t importing properly and it’s 3:30am here, I will simply share highlights.

1) Opening game: Brasil vs. Croatia. The first Croatia goal startled us all, and Olindi came up with an escape plan in case a riot broke out: climb to the roof if possible or leave to the bar atrium near our table and then climb to the roof towards refuge. The plan proved to be unnecessary, as Brasil scored three more times and won the game. Wish I could upload the awesome video I have of the crowds cheering in the streets of São Paulo when Brasil won; I have never experienced anything like it. No matter what jersey you were sporting, no matter what country you were representing, you were just another World Cup fan excited for the games. Everybody got along fabulously, and the caparinhas kept the crowds alive. I also had a headband that day with the Iranian and United States flags to support my motherland and my homeland. Gotta represent.

From left to right, Morgan, Renata, Olindi, and I in our opening game attire

From left to right, Morgan, Renata, Olindi, and I in our opening game attire

2) Food and drinks galore. All natural fruit juices. Cheeses like catupiry and requeijão. Bread and cheese varieties like pão de queijo, quatro queijos pizza, and breaded cheese on a stick. Coxinha chicken dumplings that melt in your mouth. Pastel deliciousness of Brazilian-type hot pockets. Desserts of the condensed milk variety: brigadeiro, beijinho, and doce de leite, as well as many other flavors.

Caipirinhas: passion fruit, lime, and strawberry

Caipirinhas: passion fruit, lime, and strawberry

3) Zoo Safari, formerly named Simba Safari, featured emus that stare viciously into your soul, these hog-type animals, ostriches that bite your fingers, pigeons, flamingos, peacocks, lazy alligators, a hippo, monkeys who attack cars, adorable South American deer who slobber all over your hands for food, tigers, a lion and lioness, albino peacocks, camels, and llamas.

Everyone's favorite: the camel, who's loving up on Morgan

Everyone’s favorite: the camel, who’s loving up on Morgan

4) Sight-seeing: a gorgeous cathedral, the city-center of São Paulo, Paulista Avenue (where we witnessed metro riots over the World Cup), and more! Statues, architecture, and streets in different parts of the city all tell a story. Renata, her sister, and her cousins constantly share information about São Paulo’s history and culture with infinite pride.

Beautiful day in the park of the zoo

Beautiful day in the park of the zoo

Favelas with the best view of São Paulo

A few favelas with the best view of São Paulo

São Paulo skyline

São Paulo skyline

That’s all I have for now. It’s been a memorable week, and I definitely appreciate what São Paulo had for us. Next up, Rio de Janeiro!

Eid Norouz

I woke up this morning just like any other day, complained to Andrew that there was too much light creeping through the sheer curtains, complained that I didn’t want to get out of our oh-too-comfortable bed, complained that it was too cold outside for spring. I wanted to eat eggs and watch Desperate Housewives like our Monday snow day, maybe stay in bed and wear pajama pants while reading about the hippocampus and writing an outline for work. Yes, I thought this was going to be like just another day.

I did not pick up on the little things though. Like how I forgot to lay out my clothes the night before, but I picked them out effortlessly in the morning. Like how I didn’t have leftovers to bring for lunch, but I had time to put together the classic PB&J, Persian yogurt, carrots, a banana, and an orange. My tumbler – already clean, a rarity for my kitchen – got to sample the likes of a new chai I purchased on Saturday. No pimples today. My hair required little effort. It felt routine.

I shoved toast in my mouth and rushed out the door. Hitting traffic early on the toll road, I decided to escape to the back roads. At a three-way stop sign, I had wondered why no car was moving. I set out to turn right. Then stopped. In front of me was a turkey strolling along the street. You know how they say, “Why did the chicken cross the road?”…well, maybe it was never a chicken after all. This was definitely a turkey, and I still don’t have the answer for you.

This turkey encounter threw my morning off. I got caught behind a bus stopping every other street, something I had never experienced the dozens of times I have taken this route at the same time of rush hour. At each waiting moment, I was telling myself, “I did not actually see a turkey. That is odd. This is weird.” Eventually I made it to work fully convinced I did not know what turkeys actually looked like anymore. I Googled turkeys on my phone – and alas, there was the culprit. Google also reminded me: it was the first day of spring, and so, the Persian New Year! My winter coat was convincing me otherwise.

Work felt different today. I heard more laughs and saw more smiles. People exchanged pleasantries, and the day passed smoothly. The bagels my coworker brought in helped too (those asiago bagels with salmon schmear…mhmm). I left a few minutes before 5pm with an air of accomplishment. What I thought would be just another ordinary day was quite different. It was the first day of Spring. It was Norouz. The suffocating weight of life stresses had been lifted.

Norouz dinner was spent with family. Lots of snacking from the extravagant haft seen and making fun of the absence of goldfish (nobody could successfully keep the fish alive in the last few years, so my parents decided against them this time around). The food was great, money was given, and we were all merry. Tea and pastries helped calm our stomachs after the meal, and I thought – yes, this was quite the day. Norouz is time to shed the past, welcome the new, and reinvigorate life to the fullest. It’s about love and happiness in all aspects of living.

Cleansed. Renewed. Healed. Makes me ready to wake up for just another day.