My flight into São Paulo was easy. TAM has direct flights from MCO to GRU, so no connecting flights. When we landed we spent an unusual amount of time on the tarmac. GRU is huge. The largest I’ve seen… Once the Airbus was parked it took a good 20-30 minutes for the shuttles to arrive at the plane and then bring the stairs up to the plane. After descending the stairs we boarded the shuttle busses which took us to international arrivals. This bus ride showcased the size of GRU. A quick wait in the immigration line, and an even quicker stop at the immigration counter to have my passport and visa glanced at I moved on to baggage claim. Both bags made it. Then it was off to the duty free shop. Which was nicer than any high end department store I’ve seen. A shiny gem in the midst of a tired terminal - it was not what I expected. I made my purchases and gave Eder a quick call via my Skype app.
(Above image: Somewhere over Central Brazil)
Thankfully there was free wifi in the terminal which allowed the Skype call. Outside of coming back into the US from the Bahamas this is my first time with immigration/customs. I asked which line at customs I should go through - the “nothing to declare” or “something to declare” line. Eder said because I didn’t have $500+ worth of new electronics I should go through the “nothing to declare” line. So, I took his direction… there was no one to confirm I had nothing to declare - which I found interesting. And as I turned a corner or two I was officially in Brazil.
Aline was gracious enough to pick us up from the airport. She borrowed her fiance’s car to fit all my luggage (thank you Junior). It was dark as we made way to the hotel Eder and I would spend just one night - I checked into my rented flat the next day. My first impression was that the highway wasn’t so different from those going through a large city in the US. There were many more semi trucks and they drive even more recklessly than those in the US. Eder asked me yesterday if I thought the air seemed different. Having spent time in San Francisco, Los Angeles and a brief appearance in New York I know what a city smells like, what the air feels like - and Sao Paulo matches up pretty closely. Mainly I am happy it is winter here, and the humidity in this region is much less at the moment than it is in Orlando. Its not cold, at least not yet. I remain hopeful.
The next day Eder and I did some errands - purchased my cell phone plan, exchanged dollars for reals, stopped by his place to drop off some items. Then we made it back to the hotel where we had a late check out of 2pm. The lobby boy hailed a taxi and we were on our way to my flat - across town. During crazy traffic. Because Brazil was to play Mexico at 16:00 for Brazil’s second World Cup game the entire city was let out of work early to go home, or to wherever they could get to fast enough to watch the game. Our taxi driver, with the assistance of Eder, navigated us through the concrete jungle that is São Paulo.
(Above picture: Eder and I on Avenue Paulista during our errands on my first full day in the city.)
In California we really don’t care much about sports - sure, I witnessed the rise of the Sacramento Kings in the early 2000s. Then again the rise of the Thunder in Oklahoma City too. I have also observed empty streets on a weekend day when OSU or OU is playing. Nothing… at all… compares to this country’s passion of futbol. These fans… and “fan” is not the ride word… more like - this population - because EVERYONE here loves futbol… anyway, this country blows any group of sport fans in the US out of the water. In the US we do not take over our cities in the way Brazilians do theirs in the name of a sport. The US never comes together is such a way that I’ve seen here - at least not for something positive.
After I unpacked and checked out the flat (which is very nice), Eder and I headed out to see the end of the game at a club. As we stepped out the city was much different - there were far less cars in my neighborhood. The city seemed empty. The only noise came from horns and screams at the millions of televisions all tuned to the game.
(Above picture: View from my flat, taken this morning.)
The below video was taken in São Paulo during the opening game last week. What you hear is true and what the city sounds like. Though, not as powerful yesterday because no one scored (which I don’t understand - how can no one score - why do they not play until someone makes a score… what is the point, if no one wins… whatever).
I definitely admire this country’s passion for soccer and its ability to bring people together. Yes. There were riots/protests here before I arrived. Yes the metro system was down due to a strike just before I arrived. But this is not the current situation - and not what I witnessed yesterday.
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