Friday, May 27, 2011

First Impressions -- Sampa

It doesn't seem fair to judge one of the biggest cities on the planet from a mere three hours walking its streets.  Tired and jet lagged, at that.  But first impressions are about impressions, not fairness.
     Sao Paulo, familiarly known (although I've been here less than a day), as Sampa:
First, it's tough to breathe, and I don't think it's only because I'm asthmatic.  Gray air from the moving rivers of cars and trucks.  At least today.
     Second, I don't think I'll have to go to the favelas to see the rich-poor divide, again one of the biggest on the planet, and growing as Brazil itself grows in wealth.  Near streets with shop windows sparkling with clothing and lingerie, for instance, by global designers at jaw-dropping prices, are other streets where life looks very tough.  On those you don't walk at night, even at dusk, I am advised, for fear of being mugged.  Having forgotten it's approaching mid-winter here, caught by the short day, I found myself on a couple of those very no-go streets briefly, suddenly almost alone.  Sampenos know where to walk, when.


     Which brings me to the Third first impression: Residents of this town may be among the kindest, most outgoing and patient I've met.  Busy as everyone is, from airport arrival to now, I never had to lift my own suitcase, never lost someone's attention with my truly rotten Portuguese.  Every one of the several individuals I asked for directions insisted on walking part or all the way with me to make sure I understood.
      Oh, and the streets are peppered with art movie houses and live theatre.
     Can't wait for tomorrow.