Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Don't Let This Be Me

tee hee!

Monday, July 25, 2005

Cover Bands and Caipirinhas

My first weekend in São Paulo was... insane. On many levels. Let me give you a rundown of what went on....


After work, I went with the Brits (Matthew, Vicky, Martin) and a Brazilian (Paola) to this Irish pub near our office to hear this band that Paola had been raving about. She said it was her favorite band, they were SO great, they practically brought tears to her eyes, etc. Long story short, they were horrifically, scarily bad. I don´t think they meant to be ironic when they stood up there in tight white jeans and did Spice Girls and Cher ballads. We all pretended to like them for Paola´s sake, and sung along with their uplifting rendition of Whitney Houston´s "it´s not right, but it´s okay," but holy shit.


The highlight of the day was seeing Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (NOT DUBBED thank the Lord), which was great. I was skeptical going into it, wasn´t sure how I felt about remaking a modern American classic, ya know, but I loved it. Afterwards we went to this pizza place in Jardins (a really cool area of town), and ate tons of delicious pizza for practically nothing. After dessert and coffee, Vicky suggested we go somewhere for a glass of wine. We ended up at the place next door, which appeared at first glance to be a furniture store, but was actually a bar. What a happy discovery -- this place was a hidden gem! Five bottles of (excellent Chilean) wine later, we were having a GREAT time, as the other patrons of the bar looked on in horror. I think there were several things going on -- first, we were a good 20 years younger than the average patron of this establishment, which was surprising, since it was such a cool bar and played such great music. (They even had a DJ upstairs who took requests!!! I requested Destiny´s Child, obviously...) Second, it was some lady´s birthday, and we were inadvertently crashing the party, even though we had been there since 9 pm, before the party started. At least I had the good sense to turn down the piece of cake that was reluctantly offered to me, but to be honest, it was because I was too busy dancing and not out of any sort of courtesy to the poor woman whose birthday it was. Oh man...it was an epic night, to say the least. We left at 3, which was ridiculous in itself since we had walked in at 9 intending to have a glass of wine each and then go home to bed.


I had to force myself out of bed at 12:15, just because I knew if I didn´t get up then, I´d languish in bed all day. Yes, languish. I met up with V, and later M, in the Parque Iberapuera, which is full of bikers, runners, walkers, dogs, children, couples making out, middle schoolers, soccer players, and doofy foreigners like us.

It reminded me a bit of Stanford, what with the reckless, free-for-all biking going on.
The three of us felt like death warmed over and it was good to be out in the air. We did a couple laps of the park and took in the scene. It´s a pretty cool place -- really huge, with a lake, a gym, a museum, etc. Kinda like a dirtier version of Golden Gate park, if you can imagine such a thing, with fried food vendors and women in Spandex everywhere. Speaking of which, Brazilian women are like Chilean women in that they insist on wearing really unflattering, tight-ass Spandex pants instead of shorts, no matter how hot it is or how bad they look. I refuse to buy into the Pants-to-work-out philosophy and wear shorts, even though I am the only female probably on this side of the equator who does, but whatever. Brazilians also wear these itsy-bitsy sports bras that look like bikini tops -- NO support whatsoever. But I digress. So, after walking around, we went to lunch at this place where everyone checks everyone else out while eating lunch. I guess people dress to impress to come to this place, even though it´s just a regular café, but MAN, I saw some weird outfits. Just plain odd. After gawking at all the fashion disasters, I walked back to Jaime´s house and was delighted to find my boyfriend, Alexandre Pires (see photo), performing on a show called Domingo Legal. I LOVE HIM. So that was good.


I went to my FABULOUS gym, Reebok, which is so nice I don´t even feel like I deserve to belong there. Besides having awesome facilities, it has a L´Occitane de provençe (or however it´s spelled), a Redken salon, a dry cleaner, a gourmet restaurant, a spa, and free internet access. It's ridiculous! Apparently there are only 5 of these, one in NYC, one in London, Paris, Madrid, etc. Anyway it´s amazing, quite an upgrade from the Page Mill YMCA.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Getting Lost

I knew it would happen sooner or later... I guess I just didn´t expect to get lost on my 3rd day here. This morning I decided to try to save on cab fare by walking to work -- it seemed like a simple enough journey in the car ride home last night. I knew that I had to look for a street called (Someone) Cardoso and follow it all the way till it intersected with the street the office is on, Rua Helena. However, what I didn´t realize was that there are TWO ruas named Cardoso (Someone Cardoso and Someone Else Cardoso), and they run in opposite directions. I was wandering around looking for the right Cardoso, and I asked two women if they knew where it was, and they told me that they had never heard of it. Not a good sign. Then I asked a taxi driver who also didn´t know, but tried to explain to me how to get to Rua Helena another way. I knew that if I tried to walk, not only would I probably get lost again, I´d show up late for work, so I decided to throw in the towel and take the cab. Dang! Anyway, I got to work and everything was gravy, but that was frustrating.

In other news, I had my first São Paulo sushi experience last night and was not disappointed. After work around 7:30 or so, some people from the office went to a restaurant called Hazan sushi. The outside of the building was reddish-pink stone, and the inside was dramatically lit with purple stone walls. Classy. We ordered the all-you-can-eat option, which for us was a huge boat of sushi that took up the entire table. All the fish was really fresh and delicious, plus the dinner included ice cream, so that´s a bonus. I found it interesting (but not surprising) that when we left at 9:15 or so, the restaurant was just starting to fill up. How I love being an unfashionably early, gringo eater.

Another side note --- all the Brazilian couples in the restaurant were making out like there was no tomorrow. I hate gross PDAs, especially around food, ESPECIALLY around raw fish. Ugh, welcome back to Latin America, Stephanie.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

In Brazil for real

Well, here I am in my office -- that´s right, I have my own little escritorinho, if that´s a word -- after my second day of work at Clifford Chance, São Paulo. So far, so good.

First things first -- the city. SP, as promised, is gigantic and sprawling. Driving from the airport to Jaime´s apartment, the city reminded me a bit of a wintry version of Havana, but I think that´s just because it has roundabouts and ugly public artwork. There are a lot of skyscrapers, tinted glass windows, and halfhearted palm trees throughout. The neighborhoods, as I predicted, range from gritty and depressing to carefully manicured and cutesie. I happen to be staying in one of the tony neighborhoods, Vila Nova Conceição, which is chock full of ritzy boutiques, hair salons, restaurants, and apartment complexes. For the time being, I´m staying in Jaime´s apartment, until he gets back on Monday and I get a flat of my own. It´s a really quiet and safe area, although last night when the wind was howling and banging things around outside my window, I was positive someone was breaking into the apartment and was going to come murder me. I tend to think in worst-case scenarios when in an unfamiliar situation.

The work environment is quite nice -- the office is in Vila Olimpia, another nice area that is populated mostly by big, foreign businesses. The office building that houses Clifford Chance is big and modern, with a marbled lobby and electronic codes for all the doors. The office itself is clean and tastefully decorated, and there are ladies in blue who come around and offer coffee, tea, and cookies all the time. Everyone who works here, with the exceptions of the coffee ladies and janitorial staff, speaks English and Portuguese -- it´s pretty impressive. Portuguese has been going surprisingly well for me, especially in the realm of comprehension. I understand almost everything that is said to me, and can pick up most of what is said in general. For some reason, I don´t have the mental hangups about speaking Portuguese like I do with Spanish. I think it´s because I imagine that no one really expects me to speak Portuguese, while I have this weird notion that everyone expects me to speak flawless Spanish because my mom´s half Mexican or something. Don´t ask.

The food so far is great. Jaime´s housekeeper made me a Brazilian almoço (lunch) when I first got to SP, with rice and soup and a chicken/potato dish (plus gross fruit juice that probably took hours of hard labor to make). Today we went to lunch at one of the wonderful Brazilian buffets where you fill up a big plate with food and then pay based on the weight. They had an awesome and beautiful selection of food -- kebobs with salmon and pineapple, all types of salads, moqueque, cheese, desserts, you name it -- and it was pretty cheap, which is definitely a plus. Tonight I am going to grab some Japanese food with people from the office, which I am looking forward to. SP has the largest Japanese population outside of Japan and the cuisine here is rumored to be outstanding. By the way, I´m famished.

I guess that´s about all for now. I can´t wait to explore the city and get acclimated.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Moving day

I just got an email from my contact person at the office in Brazil telling me to go straight to the office when I get to the airport in Sao Paulo. The taxi costs $80 reais, which is a nice chunk out of the $300 reais/month budget I have. Oh well, what can ya do.

I am starting to get butterflies in my stomach (barriga) already! I just hope those butterflies won't transform into a cold knot of dread (like the way I felt when I flew into Havana sans visa last summer, I nearly gave myself an ulcer). I think everything's gonna be okay. I have my passport, visa, luggage, sensible business clothes, and Portuguese/English dictionary. I am so ready.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

A Palavra on Portuguese

Here are some things I've done to prepare myself for being immersed in a Portuguese speaking country:

1. Read half of a novel (Dois Irmãos) by a Brazilian author... IN PORTUGUESE
2. Made flashcards of words such as "enxoval" (trousseau) and "manga" (sleeve) that I think will really help me when I get down there.
3. Found a Portuguse-language radio station (96.1) that is pretty much all commercials for furniture stores interspersed with accordion music. Actually, for half the day, the station is in Mandarin, so it's about half furniture store/accordion, half Beijing opera.
4. Took one quarter of accelerated Portuguese (1a) at Stanford.
5. Went to a Brazilian restaurant in San Fransicso and ordered the "salada de berinjela" (eggplant salad). It was good.

That's about it.

T-Minus 2 Days

It's Friday night, July 15, 2005. I leave for Sao Paulo on Monday. I get there on Wednesday. It's a long flight.

Right now I am at my grandparents' quiet house in San Francisco; it's foggy, I am drinking Irish tea with milk, and my grandfather is watching crime shows in the other room. Sitting here, it's hard to imagine that in a few days I'll be in the middle of a city of 18 million people, on the opposite side of the globe, in my own apartment, with a Real Job in a Big Global Law Firm. I gave up trying to make the whole thing feel real, because it still seems like something I made up.

Here are some of my expectations for what I will encounter in Brazil:

1. Initial shyness about speaking Portuguese, followed (HOPEFULLY) by competency and finally, fluency, if such a thing exists.
2. Hot guys. (Please God don't let Brazilian men be
as into mullets/rat-tails/hair gel as Chileans/Argentines are. Please.)
3. Mangoes
4. Hot guys.
5. Hot shoes and handbags which I will NOT allow myself to buy because I have a budget of like negative $800 a month.
6. Smog and uncleanliness.
7. Smoke.
8. Traffic and horrendous drivers.
9. Hot guys.
Good Lebanese food and sushi.
11. Intimidating webs of public transportation that I will undoubtedly get lost on and end up crying in the bus depot in the middle of a favela.
12. Shocking disparities between the rich and the poor. What else is new in Latin America.
13. Disappointing gum options. Not that I have the money to spend on gum.

Some of these predictions/expectations may sound a bit dour but actually, I am incredibly excited and, dare I say, PSYCHED to go to SP and have a great time. I can't wait!