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!