I was finally able to pull myself from the beautiful beaches of Brazil and head inland to what is the largest city in the Southern Hemisphere with 20 million people – Sao Paulo, Brazil. The six hour bus ride from Paraty was uneventful but arriving at the transport terminal in this giant metropolis was a little overwhelming. Luckily I had a map so I was able to get onto the subway, change trains a few times, and eventually make it to the neighborhood where my hostal was at. I thought to myself “I’m getting pretty good at this”. Getting out of the subway and walking the streets to get to the address of the hostal was when the excitement really began.
As I was walking on some random street trying to orientate myself I suddenly heard screeching tires and looked in front of me to see a large SUV labeled Forca Tactica Policia Militaria. Out jump four very large officers in full combat fatigues; two with handguns and two with assault rifles all pointed directly at my head. Naturally I just drop my bags and put my hands in the air. They are screaming at me in Portuguese to which I can only reply “no entienda Portuguese”. One officer then proceeds to push me against a wall and jam his handgun directly into the back of my head. Full pat down and search commences. He demands my passport, to which I produce as the other officers take everything out of my bag searching for what I assume to be drugs or weapons. A few minutes later, still with a gun at my head, the supervisor comes back gives me my passport and tells me all is OK and have a nice day. Thanks dude. Just as fast as they came they all left hopping into the SUV and screeching off. With all of my stuff strewn out on the sidewalk I repack and continue on my way, a little shaken but no worse for the wear. Now in America this is what you would call illegal detention and search. In Brazil it is what you call all part of the experience, although looking at the barrel of a gun in my face and having one shoved into the back of my head is an experience I hope to never have again.
After all of this excitement I eventually found my hostal where my real warm welcome was awaiting when Maria, my friend from the Amazon, came to meet me and take me out for the night. She works for MTV Brazil and had arranged for us to go to the sold out Legiao Urbana concert where we were able to raise a toast at the stroke of midnight on my 32nd birthday. The concert and energy of the crowd were incredible, even if I did not understand the words or know any of the songs.
The next day still being my birthday Maria picked me up and we headed to the metro to ride the trains to different parts of the city. All of the neighborhoods here are very diverse and you can find just about anything. A city this size their is always somewhere to go, something to do, and places to see. Maria is very in tune with the artistic side of the city. She knows several artists, actors, and musicians. Being with her I was able to go to several art studios and meet several artists. Really a fun day seeing the side of the city that normally a tourist would not experience. For my birthday dinner we had an amazing sushi meal in the Japanese district of Sao Paulo. For the b-day party Maria, Kevin (a guy from my hostel), and I went to Rua Augusta which is a district full of bars, restaurants, clubs, etc. Drinks and even some dancing were in order and it was a great celebration.
Whilst having pints at the pub for my birthday a girl (the beautiful punk rocker Roberta) made a comment about my Social Distortion shirt. We began to talk about music and turns out we like all of the same bands. Go figure. Roberta then mentioned that Face to Face was playing a show in Sao Paulo and she wanted to know if I would like to go to the show with her. I do not need to tell you my answer and I could not believe my luck at this timing. Going to the punk rock show in Brazil was awesome. Roberta introduced me to some of her friends Gabriel, Big Tuna (never got his real name), and Danielo. These people are just me me and my friends back home. I could have been and I felt like I was back in Denver with my crew. It was a wonderful feeling and well needed even if only for one night. I love that punk rock can bring people together and I had so much in common with my new friends half a world away all due to music. The show rocked and the crowd was intense. Just the way I like it.
Once again I came to a city and it welcomed me with open arms. The people, the good times, the music, and the party are things I will never forget about this place. Having Maria as a local guide with all of the places and people she knows off of the beaten path certainly fuel my perception of this city. If I came here not knowing anyone things may have been different, but you never can tell. Many of the “travelers” I have met asked why I would want to come to Sao Paulo as it is just a big city. I always answered just that: it is a big city. They have no idea of what they are missing. I have had a blast here and it was a great place to celebrate my birthday. I will never forget my 32nd. Tomorrow I continue South to Iguazu Falls on a fifteen hour bus ride. Should be fun.