Sunday, February 27, 2005


i'm in sampa, yo

Hey everyone, I just wanted to do a little explaining of my up-til-now inexplicable absence from the blogosphere. There are two reasons for it, actually.

Reason one is that I got a little sick of blogging. After enthusiatically pouring out reams about the WSF et al., I got a bit burnt out. I think it needs to go like that for me: a while on, a while off. I have no clue how the bigtime bloggers manage. (Though now even Andrew Sullivan has decided to take a rest after 4 1/2 years of steady blogging. However, his idea of a rest has so far included far more blogging than I've ever done.)

Reason two is that I just moved to São Paulo. I did this because I really want to find a job/volunteer microfinance thing, get to work, and fulfill the terms of my fellowship. I think there are opportunities to do this here in SP than in Bahia. Up until now I've been living an excruciatingly lazy life in Salvador, only occasionally making very weak attempts at moving forward with this plan. It's very easy to put things off when people are contantly inviting you to the beach. I think I really internalized some of the Bahian attitudes during my time there -- and not in a good way.

After a while it became clear that nothing would ever change if I stayed in Bahia. I loved Márcia dearly, and the city was an orgy of delights, but, well, I just wasn't getting anything done. So I packed up my shit, made my goodbyes, and left.

Now I'm in São Paulo. Whereas all of Brazil adores Salvador (today I bought mangos from a man extolling their Bahian origin, as if it mattered: "Bahian mangos! Land of Caetano! Land of Gil!") all of Brazil loves to heap scorn on São Paulo. Ever other popular song is about the wonders of Bahia, but the one song in the cannon about São Paulo, "Sampa" by Caetano Veloso, scrapes the bottom of the barrel by praising the "hard concrete poetry of [its] streets" and then just totally loses it and describes the "ugly smoke that rises, blotting out the stars."

In short, Sampa is not a pretty town. So far it has rained every day. There is no ocean. It's huge: the fourth, third, or second largest city in the world, depending on who's counting. And it's ugly, no doubt about it. And yet somehow... I dunno, I'm enchanted.

Everyone thinks I'm crazy to leave Salvador for Sampa, and maybe I am. But there's something about this place -- I have the feeling things are actually getting done. It's Brazil, but totally different. It's far more international. I don't stick out as a tourist, and indeed there aren't many tourists at all (unlike Rio or Salvador, for reasons that should be now be obvious). It makes me excited, I can't explain it.

Also, I'm now getting stuff done because I'm in a sort of social exile. I'm staying with a 60-something-year-old friend of a friend, who is an extremely nice man, but I don't know anyone my age and indeed have nearly nothing to do every day but set up this job. I pursued some seemingly unpromising leads, and now they seem far more promising. I won't go into details, but I hope I'll have something soon. Then I'll get an apartment, which should be easy -- according to my host there are currently 16,000 empty apartment units in the city, perhaps testament to how everyone seems to hate the place. But not me. At least not yet. Time will tell.

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