não existe amor em SP

Last night I went to see Brazilian rapper Criolo at Cine Joia. This was a momentous occasion for me, not just because I happen to be quite a fan of his, but because it signified 2 special moments for me. First, it was my 3 month anniversary here in Brazil (woohoo!) Second, I pretty much credit Criolo (in part) with changing my life. At the very least, I have to give him props for starting the chain of events that put me here in the first place.

Here’s the whole story.

Let’s go back to December of last year, when I was freezing my ass off in New York with my Brazilian roommate, Rodrigo. I was toying with the idea of visiting Brazil for Carnaval, but was still very much on the fence. One night, Rodrigo suggests to me that we go to a concert of a Brazilian rapper he’s into at a bar in the Lower East Side. I never really say no to anything, so of course despite torrential, frozen downpour, I grabbed my broken umbrella and headed out into winter.

I had about 12 umbrellas that looked something like this.

I had about 12 umbrellas that looked something like this.

When we arrived at the bar (whose name I don’t even remember, that’s actually how small it was), I realized that, of the 50 or so people there, I was the only American. Portuguese surrounded me and I felt a little bit out of place. We found more of our Brazilian friends, who were talking to a guy I didn’t recognize. Rodrigo leaned over to me and whispered, “That’s Criolo, the rapper we are here to see.” And there he was, just chatting with my friends, handing out free CDs. We talked to him for awhile (and by we, I mean, my Brazilian friends, as I knew less than “hello” in Portuguese at the time).

Criolo (blue shirt) hanging out with my Brazilian friends. (As the only one with a camera, I missed the opportunity to be IN the photo.)

Criolo (blue shirt) hanging out with my Brazilian friends. (As the only one with a camera, I missed the opportunity to be IN the photo.)

Around the time I was beginning to feel genuinely uncomfortable, Criolo left us to move toward the “stage” (a slightly raised platform in the middle of the room) and began his show. And then something happened I can barely put into words. If you listen to a Criolo song on tape (err… on mp3?), you can somewhat get a sense of the emotion he puts into his music. But this is absolutely nothing compared to the power and passion that comes through when he performs in front of you.

Screen shot 2013-04-02 at 12.44.28 PM

And suddenly, I swear, I felt like I had been transported to Brazil. Everyone around me knew every word. I was completely mesmerized. I was surrounded by Brazilian girls dancing with their hips in a way that I simply will never be able to accomplish.

Unlike Shakira, my hips do lie.

Unlike Shakira, my hips do lie.

And right then and there, I whipped out my iPhone and booked a flight to Brazil. Thus, of course, putting into action the decision that would change the rest of my life, make me fall in love with Brazil, and bring me here permanently.

So seeing him perform on a proper stage and really put on an incredible show was really the best possible to way to ring in my 3 month anniversary in Brazil. But of course the best part was being surrounded by my amazing friends (whom I know can sort of understand) and feeling exactly in place. And I can say, without a doubt, that he is wrong about one thing. Existe amor em SP, sim.

And that is a real stage.

And that is a real stage.

metro medo

So far everyone’s only heard the good things about my life here. Every day is an adventure, I have amazing friends, my job is going well (post on that to come, I promise), but every city has its flaws. Just like Londoners love to hate the weather and New Yorkers love to hate tourists, Paulistas love to hate the metro. (Traffic also, but as I don’t drive, I can’t comment too much on that).

Alright, any New Yorker who has been in the Bedford L station at rush hour knows what it’s like to wait for 3 trains to pass you by before you can even board. And by board, I mean, push your entire body into a train while a bunch of angry commuters glare at you for trying to get to work on time.

In Tokyo, so many people take public transit, they actually hire a guy to physically pack people in like sardines on each train.

But neither NYC or Tokyo has anything on São Paulo when it comes to metro rage. (If this isn’t already a term, I’m coining it right now.)

Even while being shoved like my clothes when Molly packs my suitcases, Japanese people wait in a single file line to get on the train.

I’m not going to comment on which cities have more crowded subways, because (a) I’m too lazy to look it up and (b) that’s not my point. My point is, São Paulo metros are fucking crowded. But it’s not the crowds that make it so unbearable. It’s the people’s attitudes. Brazilians might be the nicest people on earth when you’re chatting at a bar or making out during Carnaval, but put them on a metro and the claws come out.

When someone first explained this to me, I shrugged it off. My experiences in the São Paulo metro had been at non-peak hours, and the only thing I’d noticed was how much cleaner it was. (It almost looks like a mall down there!) As a former New Yorker, I was sure there was no “crowd” situation I couldn’t handle. I thought of the many experiences I’ve had with rude people on the subways in New York who refused to wait until people exit the train to board, the people who stand on the wrong side of the escalator, and the people who refuse to move in to the center of the train once boarded. It sucks, and it pisses you off, and you arrive at your destination in a bad mood. Tapping back into the “I can handle anything, I’m a New Yorker” mentality I had left behind, I figured this would be a walk in the park.

I was wrong.

To understand what I mean, first take those “many experiences” and apply them to every single person on the train, then multiply it by rush hour. Think about that.

Every single person in this photo hates you.

Nobody cares if this is your stop, or if you say com licença. Nobody is going to wait until you exit before pushing their way in to the train. And definitely, nobody cares if they are breathing on you or even standing on top of you. My first day taking the train at rush hour, I needed a police officer to push a man to the side so I could make my way out of the mosh pit without missing my stop.

Good luck, bitch.

So how does one deal with a commute that feels more like a punk rock concert than a ride on a train? Personally, I cope exactly the same way I cope in Los Angeles when I’m stuck on the parking lot that is the 405 freeway: Heavy bass.

[ Knife Party – ‘Sleaze’ by Knife Party ]

Anyway, I still love you SP. It’s gonna take a bit more than some metro rage to kick me out.

Beijos xxx