Monday, February 28, 2005


a good day in são paulo

To be honest, I've been down a bit the last couple days. São Paulo is dreary, I have no friends, and nobody seems to want a volunteer messing up their microfinance operation. But today marked something of a change. I've been on a truly awful schedule ever since Carnaval (which I will blog about some day) wherein I go to sleep between 4 and 5:30 and wake up between noon and 1. Today I wanted a change so I set my alarm for 9:30, and though I fell asleep at 5:30 like usual, I woke up on my own at 8:30. I tried to go back to sleep (I didn't want to be a total wreck) but I couldn't -- I was jittery and ready to go.

My friend Rachel wrote to me to say she thought it was good I left Salvador, that it was: one of those fairy tales where the hero stops to rest in a beautiful garden,
but then begins to lose days and days there because it's so relaxed and all the
attractive people want him to stay. You can check out any time you like,
but you can never leave. But then finally he rouses himself because he
really believes in the Holy Grail, or the damsel, or the microfinance

To which I responded:
Your enchanted garden metaphor was quite apt. I finally shook off the fairy
dust, picked up my now rusted sword, used it to hack off my immense beard (now
gray with age), and barreled off into the forest.

It feels like that. I'm really sad to be gone (and listening to tons of nostalgia-inducing baiana music) but I'm also kind of buzzed, and ready to get a move on. So this morning I shot out of bed after three hours sleep, took a shower, and headed to my favorite internet café to write all the emails I could possibly think of to everyone who ever had anything to do with microfinance. If I don't get a job after this, I'm not getting one.

My favorite internet café is in Liberdade, the Japanese part of town, and it is perpetually filled with Japanese-Brazilian youth yelling and playing networked wargames. Strangely, my favorite internet café in Vancouver was almost exactly the same, but with Korean-Canadians. But back up, Japanese-Brazilians? you might be asking. Yep, a whole lot of them. For reasons I don't quite understand, there has been a massive immigration of Japanese people to Brazil in the last hundred years, centered around the São Paulo area. A fun factoid is that SP has the largest Japanese population of any city outside Japan. Some day soon I plan to go to the Museum of Japanese-Brazilian history, around the corner from the internet, and then perhaps I'll tell you more. Or maybe Jamie knows about this.

So anyway, I sat for four and a half hours trying to compose formal-sounding emails in Portuguese, while all around me people squawked that so-and-so had killed their half-elf. It was weird. But I got a lot done. Then I went out into the sunlight (first sunny day!) and wandered around a bit, finally finding myself in front of a real estate agency. I had decided to wait for a job before committing to an apartment, but I was already here so why not take a look. Inside an extremely nice Japanese woman named Keiko showed me listings while serving me green tea. It was wonderful. She spoke Portuguese in that slow immigrant's way, which for me is easier to understand than a native speaker. Then we went out together to see apartments in the neighborhood. She became concerned about my cough (I've got a lingering cough from my Carnaval cold) and insisted on buying me a cup of acerola juice.

The upshot is that I really liked one of the apartments. It's cheap enough, nice view, big windows and terrace, and has a great location two blocks from the Metro and on one of the main streets of Liberdade, near lots of cheap noodle shops. There's wireless internet in the lobby of the building, and the landlord is really nice. Best of all it's month-to-month, so I don't need to pay a large fee for breaking my lease in August. I want desperately to move in but... I have no job. And if I get one, there's no guarantee it'll be in São Paulo. I want to put down roots here but I don't think I can yet.


hello! i realized today that though i've been reading your blog for a while, i've never told you how entertaining it is. "entertaining" = not quite the right word, but . . . but! a friend of mine was having an italian futurist party in cambridge (everybody's going right, i suppose) and i brought her a bottle of cynar, everybody's favorite repulsive artichoke-based liquor, as that seemed to be the most appropriate drink for a futurist party. it turns out that grad students are dumb: by the end of the night, half of the bottle had been drunk, which astounded me. but: a young italian man finally explained cynar to me. it turns out that in the 1970s and 1980s in italy, cynar was the cool drink to be holding on to in the italian clubs. so now i finally understand cynar, and i thought you should too.

i am working for a very confusing operation named the institute for the future of the book, which is a fine place to work, except that nobody gets paid very regularly.

i do hope things work out in são paulo . . .

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