People in this metropolis move on a schedule, they listen to a melting clock that keeps on ticking, and they ride a subway that’s so brand new it hasn’t even developed it’s own unique stench. It just smells like freshly printed plastic. I’ve been sucked into the toxic bloodstream of South America’s largest city. I wake up, put one foot out the door, and am swept away in a river of new cars, old people, middle aged office buildings, and aging infrastructure.
I have overcome the language barrier by becoming a very good actor. Basically everyone I have spoken to in the last month is convinced that I understood them very well; in fact so am I and that’s really all that matters. I should get an Oscar for my performance in “Paying for Dinner” and “Asking for Directions to the Night Club:Part 4″.It’s really amazing how much you can say by not saying anything at all. A smile convinces someone that you agree with even the most ridiculous notion, a head nod here and there will encourage someone to go on, even a grunt does wonders for making your partner go into detail about some experience years ago under a moon you will never see.
Even though I don’t understand a damn word these Paulistas* speak, I play my part perfectly. Laughing when a joke is implied, and frowning when a question is asked. Every now and then I pretend to think really hard about the answer. I’ll mutter things like “tuna sandwich” and “gasoline monkey” until they figure it out themselves, then everyone laughs, smokes a cigarette and has a fantastic evening dancing to whatever is playing. A Brazilian likes someone who will listen, and trust me, I can listen. I’ve made a lot of buddies down here, all with only a handful of words, and some choice herbs.
In between beers and bars where classic rock lives on, I have started teaching English in downtown São Paulo, right off of Paulista Avenue, the Broadway of Brazil. I’ve got experience teaching people how to speak English from my last job, although, this time, I’m not helping a drunk guy pronounce his girlfriends name properly after closing the bill with her card. I’m helping a Brazilian say the day of the week, and I like things much more this way.
The days that I work are irregular, I cover the teachers that are sick, or on vacation for the weekend. I have heard great things from my students. They seem to like our videos of protests and my lame jokes about American politicians who get caught in scandals. I’m doing my best to make sure when they travel to the USA, they can make fun of the right people, and hey, who doesn’t love a foreigner who can laugh with you about corruption? The next generation of Brazilian students are going to speak great English, refer to everyone and their grandmother as dude, and will know why the air smells so funny when the clock strikes 20 minutes past 4 in California.
São Paulo is a city where you can find anything you want, for half the price; unless your lazy and you went somewhere expensive. Break that comfort zone, or break the bank; whichever your more comfortable with. Go to places with lots of ethnic diversity, venture down those dirty alleys that are leading you downhill where the shadows are drinking and laughing at you. If you want to really experience this city, you’ve got to chase everyones demons, and try everyones vices. Who knows, maybe you’ll pick up a few new ones.
Liberdade, Republica, Centro; these are all neighborhoods where Asians, Italians, Jewish, and Lebanese people have settled and mixed so beautifully with Brazilian culture. Have you ever seen a Japanese person whip up some fantastic Ramen, and then cuss profusely in Portuguese because he’s so damn busy? I have, and now I want to live in Japan, make Ramen and cuss in Portuguese. Traveling makes you want to do weird things like that. Every time I go to a new neighborhood in this city, I want to trip somewhere else in the world.
There are many kinds of trips we take in life. The trip to the store, the trip that leaves a mark on your face, the trip with your friends to south america, the trip to cabo with the girls, and, if you’re lucky, the trip from a potent portion of something someone made in a lab (you hope it was a lab at least).
I didn’t realize this until I lived in São Paulo for a month, but there is a new kind of trip that we’re all on. If you’re living in a big city, you’re hooked on a drug, and you’re tripping as we speak. If you’re laying in bed and you can hear rubber tires squeaking on asphalt, if you see grime clogging up the gears of trains on their way to work, if you have an appointment at 5 and you leave by 3:30 because of traffic, if you see graffiti on nearly every empty surface, if homeless people sleeping in front of banks is a normal fixture of your neighborhood, if concrete is comfortable; you, my fortuitous friend are on a sneaky little psychedelic named after whatever metropolis you are currently dosing yourself with.
That’s what your rent is. It’s a bill for that trip you take when you put one foot out your door, and your swept around from 9 to 5, then shuttled back home in a little machine with wheels. Welcome to the modern day my friends, where drugs are legal, and cities are psychedelics.