filapalooza

This weekend, I checked out all São Paulo has to offer in the way of music festivals, and as it turns out, they don’t have all that much to offer.

As an avid music fan (and festivalgoer) I’m not one to hesitate when I find out there’s a Lollapalooza happening up the street from me. Especially when I find out that there’s an electronic stage featuring some of my favorite DJs in the world, including my go-to for surviving the hellish transit here, combined with the Brazilian rapper who changed my life, as well as awesome bands like the Black Keys and Cake (both of whom are surprisingly popular here).

I’ll admit I’m a bit of a hippie and I have to say that I love music festivals. I don’t mind getting a little dirty, pushing my way through crowds, or waiting in ridiculous lines to buy overpriced beer. It’s part of the experience, and at a good festival, it’s what bonds everyone together in the moment.

This comic pretty much sums it up.

This comic pretty much sums it up.

First of all, tickets to Lollapalooza were obscenely priced, even if you’re taking into account the exchange rate (which I can’t really do anymore after 8 months of living in reais). R$350 per day (that’s $1050 if you go all three), unless you can wrangle yourself a student ID card, and you can pay for meia entrada, half price. Needless to say, I had to choose my days wisely, and made a deal with my boyfriend that we’d do a more electronically-themed day on Friday (including Porter Robinson and Knife Party), with a bit of Cake in the mix (who we both love), and then meet up with the rest of our rock-loving friends on Saturday for Queens of the Stone Age, Black Keys, and of course, Criolo. I decided to forego my favorite DJ of all time, Kaskade, on Sunday (as well as a few other favorite electronic artists) in an effort to save money and not force my boyfriend to spend Monday at work hungover as hell. To be fair, I think I’ve seen Kaskade somewhere around 25 times in my life, so I shrugged it off as a small loss.

So the big day came, and we embarked on our journey to the Jockey Club of São Paulo, which unsurprisingly consisted of us walking 20 min to the train, only to discover it was not running for the weekend. So we waited in our first line of the day for the bus.

Of course, I should have known as it started to pour that this wouldn’t bode well for a festival at a racetrack (you know, where horses poop all day), but I can’t really blame Brazil for raining. This is a tropical country after all.

Besides, I heard plastic is in this season.

Besides, I heard plastic is in this season.

Upon entering, should you decide you want to consume anything at the festival, you are forced to buy pillas, which represent R$4 each. Beer costs 2 pillas, Red Bull is 3 pillas, etc.

I considered calling this post Pillapalooza, but I thought it might give my American readers the wrong idea.

I considered calling this post Pillapalooza, but I thought it might give my American readers the wrong idea.

I have no idea if they are doing this at Lolla in Chicago, or any other festival (it was a first for me), but in theory, this could be a pretty good idea. Reduce wait times in line for beer (where bartenders won’t have to worry about giving change, etc) as well as add to that festival-esque experience of being in a different world (similar to how Burning Man doesn’t allow people to bring money, but simply barter their possessions for other possessions.)

I understand it too from a business perspective: get people to give you all the money they are willing to spend upfront, and then if they end up spending less, you already have their money. Because of course, pillas were not refundable and could only be used on the same day as they were purchased. 

So okay, we understood upfront we were being ripped off. But then again, we came to a music festival, not 25 de março.

Although it was just as crowded.

Although it was just as crowded.

But the lines for these pillas were longer than I ever could have imagined. My boyfriend and I arrived early, and were lucky enough to get the short wait time of 20 minutes. Of course, we just had to wait again when we ran into several of our friends waiting in these lines later.

The people not standing in the barricades may look like they're having fun, but no, I assure you, they were in line too.

And in this magnificent way, filapalooza began.

So after escaping the fila for pillas, you’d think it would all just be beer and sunshine. Unfortunately, all that beer gets to you, and the bathroom lines were just as long. On Saturday I literally (and yes, I’m using the correct use of the word literally) think I spent more time in line for the bathroom than doing anything else at the festival.

Normally, I expect an annoying bathroom line, but this was ridiculous. Someone told me there were around 700 bathrooms for 200.000 people. I’m not an expert in port-a-potties, but that seems like it’s probably not enough. And when you’re wading through puddles of mud and horseshit, a 30 min average wait time for an overly used portable bathroom is pretty painful.

Alright, so we don’t come to music festivals to stay clean or drink cheap beer, we come for the music. My first set of the day was Porter Robinson in the “Perry” tent, which I will say I was more than satisfied with. Being in a tent (rather than a main stage) means less mud, good sound and less of a crowd.

And of course, cool lights.

And of course, cool lights.

But as soon as we moved on to see Cake at the Butantã stage, it was back to being a production disaster. The sound was horrible, and they had to stop for several minutes due to technical difficulties.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying this NEVER happens at ANY festival. Actually, to the contrary, when my Brazilian friend wrote a post on facebook complaining about the infrastructure of Lollapalooza, I stood up for them (and festivals everywhere), saying these things happen at every festival, and a lot of concerts, even in that well-oiled machine called America. But by Saturday, when I had to double back to the end of a bathroom line that was tangled into a pilla line and I all but slipped in a mud/horseshit puddle between chants of “aumente o som” (turn up the sound), I conceded that this was not exactly the most fun music festival of my life.

Still, the worst day at a music festival is still better than a good day at work.

Still, the worst day at a music festival is still better than a good day of manual labor.

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a alma gorda

While some people view it as a nutritional substance used to create energy needed to sustain life, I see food as something much more important. Quite frankly, I love to eat. I love eating like a fat kid loves… well, eating.

I should say upfront that all of the photos in this post will be borrowed from Google, because I’m not one of those instagrammers that takes photos of every meal. In truth, this is only because, typically, by the time my meal arrives, I’m too excited to stop and take a photo, add a filter, and wrestle with Brazil’s somewhat lacking 3G service. No, usually I dive right in, and by the time instagram comes to mind, my meal isn’t quite as pretty. Luckily for me, there are plenty of people photographing food, so I’ll likely be able to make your mouth water with someone else’s photos.

The food in Brazil differs depending on the region, but there are definitely country-wide staples such as rice, beans, and meat.

Oh my god, the meat.

Oh my god, the meat.

Growing up, my family didn’t eat red meat. I don’t think that would have lasted very long if I had grown up in Brazil. The meat here is so good that they usually don’t need to season it with anything but salt.

Restaurants here mainly use 2 ways to buy food beyond the typical American style of ordering per plate off a menu. The first is rodizio, which means eat-until-you-explode, and depending on the restaurant is usually around R$35-50. They have rodizios for everything from barbecue to sushi, and are usually (but not always) set up like a buffet. The second type of restaurant, where food is sold per kilo, is more common around lunchtime. These are also set up like a buffet, but your plate is weighed at the end, and you pay (obviously) per kilo. If you love trying new foods and have to have a bite of everything like me, both are equally dangerous.

Here’s a few of my favorite Brazilian staples:

1. Churrasco

The best typical Brazilian meal you can get is churrasco. It’s barbecue, but not exactly the same way we imagine barbecue in America. You won’t find hot dog buns or hamburger patties here. And you definitely don’t eat churrasco with potato salad, collard greens and mac & cheese.

Also, nobody dresses like this.

Also, nobody dresses like this.

Barbecue here is typically served with rice, sometimes beans, vinagrete (which is basically a delicious salsa made with vinegar and olive oil) and farofa.

The first time I heard about farofa was long before I visited Brazil, in a bar in the Lower East Side with my at-the-time Brazilian roommate, Rodrigo. We had come to the bar to meet an American friend of his who had spent some time in the north of Brazil, where both farofa and Rodrigo come from. He described it to me as something that “looks like sand, and tastes like sand.” Rodrigo seemed offended, but when I finally had a chance to see it for myself… Well, I can’t lie…

It kiiiiind of does look like sand.

It kiiiiind of does look like sand.

But trust me when I tell you, it’s much better than sand. It’s made from a plant called mandioca, and the process seems to be incredibly arduous. But in the end it’s basically a flour-like substance that is fried with butter, and then bacon and other deliciously fattening things are added. I caught a glimpse of the process when I was in Belem.

This is the step of the process that smells really bad.

This is what happens to the rest of the mandioca plant after the yummy part is used for farofa. The leaves become something called maniçoba, which as I mentioned before, is not delicious.

Unfortunately, being so far from its origin means that the farofa in São Paulo doesn’t quite measure up to the farofa of the north, but that doesn’t stop my paraense friends from dumping bowlfuls onto their plates. And of course, paraenses have a tendency to request food from anyone visiting SP, or bring back coolers full of food every time they go home for a holiday, so there tends to be enough good farofa to go around when hanging out with my friends.

You just have to pay attention if you're ever eating it near the beach.

You just have to pay attention if you’re ever eating it near the beach.

2. Feijoada

You can’t write a blog post about Brazilian food and not include feijoada. It’s not necessarily my favorite, but it’s such a big part of the culture that it simply cannot be overlooked. On Saturdays and Wednesdays here in São Paulo (or Sundays in Rio de Janeiro), everybody eats feijoada.

Rodizio-style feijoada. Not exactly Hometown Buffet.

Rodizio-style feijoada. Not exactly Hometown Buffet.

Feijoada is made up of beans and pork and served with rice, farofa, and sometimes cute little smiling potatoes. When I say pork, though, I mean the entire pig. Anything and everything that can be considered edible is tossed in there.

All of the above.

All of the above.

Some places have multiple feijoada dishes labeled with each type of pork, and one pot of regular beans in case that’s all you’re into. If not, I usually stick with the farofa and batata smiles.

You think it would be difficult to eat something so cute, but it's not.

You think it would be difficult to eat something so cute, but it’s not.

3. Pão de Queijo

The first time I came to Brazil, I landed in Guarulhos at 6am and was immediately lost. My friends hadn’t arrived at the airport yet, and I was frantically trying to discover how to use the pay phones to call them, with 0 knowledge of Portuguese. With a stroke of luck, I ran into the guy I had been sitting next to on my flight and his sister, who immediately rushed to my assistance. Not only did they let me borrow their cell phone, but when they heard it was my first time in Brazil, they brought me something called pão de queijo and made me taste it immediately. Pretty much anything would taste good to a girl lost and alone in a new country, but this was more than that. It was love at first bite.

Directly translated, it means “bread of cheese,” but it’s not exactly bread with cheese on top, or cheese melted inside. It’s bread whose batter is actually mixed with a special cheese from Minas Gerais and baked into a blob of deliciousness that I can hardly explain.

Little balls of cheesy heaven.

Little balls of cheesy heaven.

You can’t go a block in São Paulo without finding a place that sells it, and thank god for that because it’s ridiculously addicting. They even sell them at Starbucks and McDonald’s.

4. Suco

I always thought juice was a somewhat boring concept before coming to Brazil. I mean, I love juice boxes (who doesn’t?) but with all the added sugars and “concentrates,” juice in America probably isn’t even that good for you.

I always assumed the main function of grape juice was to pretend you were drinking wine.

I always assumed the main function of grape juice was to pretend you were drinking wine.

But here, the opportunities for fresh squeezed juice are countless. Nearly every lanchonete or padaria has a menu with a dozen different types of fresh juice. Including fruits that I wasn’t aware could be juiced. You can’t chock it up to the abundance of fruits here either, because most of the fruits consumed in Brazil are not native to South America at all. 

Personally, I’m in love with suco de melão, or honeydew juice, which is even better than it sounds. Most of these places offer crazy mixes of fruit juices, such as abacaxi com hortelã (pineapple with mint) or all kinds of different fruits mixed with ginger or coconut water.

I love the word abacaxi so much I am thinking about buying a cat just to name it this.

Not only a delicious drink, but “abacaxi” is also fun to say!

Since salads are not exactly a strong suit of Brazilian cuisine, I love drinking fresh juice to pretend that I’m still eating healthy. Fruits might be everywhere in Brazil, but people here seem to avoid vegetables as much as possible. I must say, despite all the delicious food here, I do miss a good salad!

Até mais!

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