- Just another zombie soldier of Sick City (a.k.a. Sao Paulo)
One of these days, I read an article that quoted a very interesting though about Sao Paulo’s city. “God made Sao Paulo ugly so that its people would go to work each morning”.
Well, I don’t totally agree on the city’s ugliness, but I can definitely understand why someone would make a joke like that.
Brazil’s biggest and most chaotic city, a.k.a. the Temple of Labor, can be huge metal monster that swallows its habitant’s spirit gradually – and intensely – until there’s nothing left.
Or until you become an old retired zombie, walking through awful health centers all over the town. That is, if you’re lucky enough to retire and win less than 1000 reais in honor for your many years of soul selling to the Sick City. Good job, sick soldier!
In order to keep living in Sao Paulo (or at least not wanting to kill themselves in the process), many paulistas lie to themselves, in a really self-centered way, believing that all this soul selling is worthwhile, since all that really matters in the world must be happening or will somehow happen in Sao Paulo.
But that’s ok: you can still be happy with the best – and excruciatingly expensive – nightlife in Brazil. You’re going to need a lot of booze to keep living here anyway.
No matter if you are a low paid worker filling your liver with cachaça on a dirty bar in the city center, or if your parents are sponsoring your wild and preppy adventures along with Jack Daniels on nightclubs of Vila Olimpia.
Just admit it: you’re doing it for the same reason.
I can’t complain. Just like most people I know in Sao Paulo, this huge and lovely pimp, I lie say to myself that I truly love this city, despite of its vampiristic ways. C’mon! Being blood sucked this huge monster is the only life I’ve ever known!
Despite of my paulista spirit, I once promised myself that I would never be one of those people I see during the rush hour at the subway: those pitiful looks of dead cows walking on their way to the slaughterhouse while transfering between lines.
Now, I look to the mirror and I sadly come to a conclusion: I’m becoming one of those people.
And I need to do something about it.
- Paraty: a slight breath of fresh air
When I was invited to post here, it was said to me that it would be a blog about the best things in life, something that I still didn’t capture in the last paragraphs, right? As the dramatic person I am, I needed to give you a brief introduction of what I think is hell – the incapacity of living life to fullest for whatever reason – to actually give you a glimpse of what I believe to be the best things in life.
So, ‘to do something about it’ on that particular moment meant to travel to a place I knew would help me to regain my tesao about living (the word ‘tesao’ in Brazil is usually associated with sex drive, something like ‘horny’ but it is actually much more profound than that: is about yearning to live, is about the sparkle you feel about things in general, not only sex. You can read more about this concept in the awesome book ‘Sem Tesao Nao Ha Soluçao’, something like ‘Without Tesao There’s No Sollution’, of the anarchist Roberto Freire).
As I had 3 days off from my job, I decided to go with my friends Rafaela and Amina to a trip to Paraty and Trindade, two beautiful cities on Rio de Janeiro’s coast I’ve already been in the last year.
Some quick notes before I continue:
- Paraty is a preserved city known for its cultural festivals and colonial architecture.
- Mimo, in which we attended, is an instrumental music festival that happens every year in Olinda, Tiradentes and Ouro Preto, other historical cities.
- One of the best things in Paraty is its amazing variety of cachaças. The most famous is Gabriela, homage to Jorge Amado’s classic book, that is also featured on this post title. It’s so good that you don’t want to swallow it; you just want to keep it in your mouth – forever.
- Trindade is known to be a village of fishers close to Paraty. It’s the best place for people who want to start life again as a foreigner or something like that. Not our case: we had to get back to work on Tuesday, plus, there were just too many people there for us to really feel like mysterious travelers.
- If you’re into esoteric decoration, wool caps, dream catchers and henna tattoos, you will probably feel more than happy to help the village’s economy.
- According to my friend Amina, it’s the perfect place for those who like easy trails, although she doesn’t recommend people to explore them alone. In the end of some trails, you can end up in beautiful waterfalls and natural swimming pools.
As soon as we got to Paraty, I couldn’t stop thinking about how people who live far from big cities have a better relation to their bodies and soul. They walk gracefully as if they don’t have a single care in the world.
Not one bit similar to the zombies I am used to see in Sao Paulo.
My body also started to get smoother there. No social pants, only shorts and skirts. No sneakers, high heels or any shoes that hurt my flat feet: only the traditional Havaianas.
On the bus to Paraty, I met a a lonely traveler called Marcia. She was wearing a stylish pair of jeans in which she painted some delicate flowers. Coincidentally, I discovered she was staying in a hostel next to mine. I though it was really beautiful the way she couldn’t stop looking to the window, amazed with everything she was putting her eyes into, something I also do when I travel by bus. Just like many people that traveled to Paraty on that day, she didn’t even know there was going to be a festival in there.
On the first night, we went to a bar in front of our hostel to get a little warmed up for the festival. There, we had an amazing portion of fried manioc (mandioca, aipim or macaxeira, you name it) with rosee sauce.
In Sao Paulo, you would probably pay 40 reais for it, but as we were in Paraty, we only paid 20 reais for the dish. The manioc was really tasty and fantastically fried, since you couldn’t feel the oil in it. (I don’t have any picture of it, cause I was so concentrated in eating that I didn’t remember to photograph it and put a filter on it on Instagram, just like everybody else)
After eating, we met two Germans and an Argentinian guy that became our companions in our 2 days of festival in Paraty. Like me, they all had complains about their native cities, but we couldn’t think much about that on that moment, because we were just too busy living.
- “The perfect people to hang out with”
One of the German guys named Amar (which stands for the verb ‘to love’ in Portuguese, by the way), reminded me a lot of Sao Paulo’s spirit, but in a good way. His personality was familiar to me. Just like many people I know, he was always looking at his watch, planning and programming everything to make sure we were on time to every activity. We could talk to him about anything: from Angela Merkel to beer brands.
My friends and I agreed that he looked like a mixture of Jonny Bravo and Buzz Lightyear. “A combination of two losers”, he said. An observation that made us like him even more.
The other German guy, Joseph, friend of Amar for only 10 days, was also very charismatic, probably because of his funny Borat accent and his vibrant spirit. He was always very happy and eager to be around us, making fun of everything and dancing in a very eccentric way. He was already one of us! A true Brazilian folk.
Lucas, who works as a train driver in Buenos Aires, is probably more of an outsider than Joseph and Amar. He always had nice observations to make and was definitely a really nice person to be around. I really liked reading his trip diary in which he was writing fierce texts about his vacation in Brazil. He not only inspired me to write this post, but also encouraged me to use the manual mode of my camera, instead of shooting everything automatically. “Explore your camera, this is the only way to do that”, he told me.
When we said goobye to them on our last day on Paraty, Amar told us: “we found the best people to hang out with” and we felt just the same way!
- Seun Kuti & Egypt 80
Seun Kuti, son of legendary Nigerian singer, musician and politic leader Fela Kuti, was the major appearance of Mimo Festival in Paraty. Kuti’s toned body, defiant eyes and incendiary energy made everyone fall in love with him and Egypt 80 music on that Saturday night. He danced, singed, clapped and, when you thought he should be tired, he would just start playing his saxophone like there was no tomorrow.
My favorite part of the show was probably when he criticized IMF while introducing the amazing song “Black Woman”, an anthem to “remind women all over the world that they are supposed to change the world too”:
IMF (FMI) has a new meaning – it stands for International MotherFuckers.
They make profits out of everything. They got to sell everything, including beauty. So now they want to tell us how to be beautiful, in a way that they can make more money. But beauty comes before profits. This reminds me of my next song, ‘Black Woman’. This song is supposed to remind women all over the round that they are supposed to change the world too. (…) Men have sold you the distraction of sexual equality, when feminism’s actual struggle is about intellectual equality.
I don’t think women are supposed to change the world: we already do it. But I was blown away to see a man talking about feminism movement so passionately like he did.
- The best parties start on the street
After Seun Kuti’s amazing show, we heard some beats and wind instruments across the river. We decided to follow that sound and ended up discovering a sort of street carnival happening, with many people like us walking, dancing and singing with beer cans in their hands. I truly felt like I was on the middle of the musical Hair, but with no war to fight against.
We followed that group of people and ended up on a party on the beach, in which we could hear a set list full of 80’s classics interpolated with modern singers, like Amy Winehouse.
I looked to other people’s faces and they were just like me: amazed by that all that magical atmosphere. Then, ‘Thriller’ started playing and you must imagine what happened: people went nuts, like we usually do when a Michael Jackson classic starts pumping.
There was a bonfire in the sand. We sit nearby and started looking at the sea, waiting for a beautiful sunrise to come. It never happened. The sky was silvery and clouded in a very raw and poetic way, which might have made some people frustrated, but I think I kind of preferred it.
Everyone was so chilled and looked so beautiful, that we felt like we were on one of those mind blowing music videos we used to watch on MTV on the 90’s, full of parties on the beach and drinks we’ll never have.
We were thrilled.
- Food delights
Among with the fried manioc, we’ve had other gastronomy delights. One of them was provided by my friend Rafaela, a very sensitive person that loves cooking for people she likes. When we arrived to Trindade, she took over Trindades Hostel’s kitchen and did some pasta with white sauce. I helped with a simple salad recipe I learned from my grandmother that consists in cabbage, tomatoes and onions.
In Paraty, I felt blessed to find Istanbul, an awesome Turkish restaurant full of vegetarian dishes that made me feel at home. I ordered Tapete Voador (Flying Carpet), a dish with many of the things I most enjoy eating in life: tabouli salad, hommus, Sirius bread, falafel and babagannush. I wish I could run a food business like that one day.
- A few words about Trindade
After writing so much about Sao Paulo and Paraty, I really feel like I should write as much about Trindade, but I don’t have many words to talk about it. It’s a place so small and hidden, that it’s impossible not to feel peaceful or at least calmer than you would in any other place.
It’s a really gentle place for dogs, mainly. So gentle that me and my friends started calling it Dogville, since we were interrupted by them at every moment. They are so well treated there, that they even expel you from where you’re sitting every now and then. And they look at you as you are really a tourist. And they are right.
Although I think we are tourists in this world, we were able to really feel at home at Trindade’s Hostel. The owner, Carmen, has the same personality of the small village: simple and careless. Although Carmen doesn’t like taking pictures, she truly liked my camera and the picture I took of her. She said that the camera had a Photoshop in it: a modest way of admitting that she is camera friendly.
- Pack light
It’s impossible to go to Rio de Janeiro’s coast and not wanting to bring that magic atmosphere in your baggage to Sao Paulo. After leaving, I brought with me:
A red dream catcher;
A bottle of Gabriela;
A pair of golden earrings;
A wool cap;
The commitment to bring a little bit of what I’ve lived there to my everyday life.
See you, hopefully soon, Rio de Janeiro!