It’s my second day in Brazil and I’m whipping through the streets at breakneck speeds with a driver who seems to know what he’s doing but I’m afraid we’re going to die. It’s cold… so cold that I wish I had my winter jacket instead of flip-flops and a t-shirt.
The driver is asking me questions in Portuguese and I’m talking in broken Spanish. He seems to understand what I am saying but he needs to say everything twice for me to understand the general gist of his questions.
This is Sao Paulo… not exactly the most user-friendly of cities.
The day before I wandered around the airport in a daze trying to figure out how to get money, a SIM card and find a bus that would take me to my hotel in Paulista. The money part was easy, the SIM part impossible, and the bus thing was enduring.
As a result, I’ve now learned more about Latin based languages in two days of complete immersion than I have in my whole life. Much to my delight, I discover that when I throw a babbling, broken Spanish/French franken-language over the fence, people in Brazil seem to understand… and are remarkably patient.
Sao Paulo is also one of the largest cities I’ve ever been to. It rivals Bangalore in size and chaos. Immediately outside the airport are miles and miles of shanties surrounded by a wall of traffic. This coupled with the language barrier push me into the nebulous realm of culture shock.
It takes me by surprise and I have to force myself into a baby step checklist of things to do to get comfortable: find my hotel, ditch my bags, leave the hotel (very important), figure out how to find food and water, figure out how to order coffee, and use the Sao Paulo underground so I don’t feel trapped in one area.
And, try to accomplish all of this without looking like I’m a lost tourist…