90 Days in São Paulo

Brazil was not on my list. And I never intended to have a reason to auto-correct: Brasil. But here I am in the Barra Funda neighborhood of São Paulo resisting the urge to roll R’s and instead trying to think H sounds, and to verbally transpose G’s for D’s. The president is Dilma. I’ve been here cinco dias. Five is the same, but ‘days’ feels like I’m speaking Italian.

I found my way to São Paulo because my boyfriend Nate (Nache or Nachee), another geographer studying at Kentucky, is researching water in SP. While Nate has been connected to Brasil for much of his PhD, until I arrived on Thursday, Brasil and SP had been in the background. Two summers ago I was in Chicago conducting research for my MA project when Nate went to SP for the first time. Last summer Nate’s Portuguese language training took us to Vermont where I interned at VWW and stayed with friends in Burlington and Montpelier while he was at Middlebury.


Nate poses in front of a clothing ad on our architectural tour of Macy’s. Chicago, 2012 

More recently, Nate spent some of September, October and January in Lexington, but otherwise we’ve been apart. We missed each others’ 30th birthdays. He celebrated Carnival without me and I went to the AAG and Semple Day without him.  After a very cold winter and delayed spring in the bluegrass without Nate, I am thrilled to finally be in São Paulo.


Photo booth that my housemates Marita and Malene set up for my birthday

Since I arrived on May 14th, the city that was always in the background of our Skype dates has become a reality. We’ve walked a lot. On my first night, we watched skateboarders in Praça Roosevelt, saw the early parts of a World Cup protest, shared beer and some fried yuca, then walked home on the Minhacão, a short mid-city highway that closes to traffic and becomes a pedestrian walkway at 9:30PM each night and on Sundays.

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The World Cup protest


A view of the Minhacão from our apartment

We’ve walked through some of Nate’s common spots, including the neighborhood of Higienópolis, nearby Agua Branca park, and on the Minhacão on Sunday, including through a food truck festival (yes, I can’t escape!). We also walked to Nate’s old neighborhood and ate lunch at Sesc-Pomepia, a neighborhood cultural center, before wandering through the halls of PUC-SP, where Nate took classes in 2012. I met a group of Nate’s friends on Friday night for samba music in Santa Cecelia, and then met Nate’s former housemate Clueza, who had us and other friends over for a delicious leisurely lunch on Saturday. My arrival was also perfectly timed for the 24 hour music festival Virada Cultural, which we enjoyed on Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon. The Virada ended with a decent rain storm (the first in awhile in a city currently encouraging water rationing), and we took shelter in the Pinacoteca, a nearby museum.

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Food truck festival on the Minhacão

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A small stage at the Virada Cultural immediately before the rain

This week has been spent catching up on all things email, pondering the syllabus and reading for the course I’ll be teaching in the fall, and doing some Portuguese language training on Duolingo. I also just turned back to a paper I needed to ignore for awhile…perhaps being on another continent will help.


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