Saudades de Sao Paulo

Tuesday the 22 Nov was my last night in Sao Paulo. I’d had intentions to go run with Quark on Monday or Tuesday for the last time and say goodbye to the coaches who may not have been eloquent in explaining things to me in English but understood very well the language of running. To me, the three months I trained with them was worth more than my half marathon training for 16 weeks earlier this year, where I ran many miles but gained nothing on speed. Right now I am completely sold on the run less, run more strategy.

Tuesday was a hugely stressful day as the US consulate decided to mail back my passport after visa renewal at the last minute possible. I tried running but I was too pre0ccupied with the passport to zone out of the initial discomfort when you begin running. So once I got my passport back on Tuesday at 3pm, I went back to the hotel. As I walked in to my room, I let the nostalgia engulf me. I walked around my room, flicked on the Telecine channel and began finishing packing. After that, I decided to go run one last time around my beloved neighborhoods of Vila Olimpia and Itaim.

I started off by turning right on the corner of Rua Alvorada (where our hotel was, a street packed with enormous number of memories) onto R. Cardoso Melo and ran east. As I ran, every street corner, every block was crammed with some memory of life in SP. I thought back to my first run on my first weekend. I’d mapped out a route on the map but was afraid to run with the map in hand lest I get mugged (haha, seems so naive now). So I’d written the directions but without any idea of distance I of course got completely lost. I was amazed at how I knew that very same route by heart now. The streets that seemed so alien and crossed each other in weird ways that was only possible in SP now felt like home.

I turned left on Baluarte (the street that I had been looking for and never found on that first run) and ran up to Pellegrino. Countless taxi rides were taken to Parque Ibirapuera on Monday and Wed nights, after work to go run with Quarke. The taxis would often take that route, which was packed on weekday evenings and I ruminated on the uselessness of being stuck in traffic for 20 minutes to go run inside a park. This was back in the day that people warned me that the area around the park was dangerous and I should only cross it in a taxi. Since then I’ve run to and walked to the park at least 4-5 times and it’s been perfectly safe because actually, the area around the park is where all the millionaires live.

From Baluarte I turned left on Pellegrino instead of the right towards the park. I ran on the tree-covered median walkway until Pellegrino became Faria Lima. On Faria Lima, I thought about the first walk to the Extra grocery store with Amanda on a lazy Sunday. We walked about 30 minutes from the hotel to the Extra, always cautious about not trying to seem like we’re foreigners, sneaking glances at a small map. At Extra I bought too many things to eat in my room (needless to say, I tried it a few times but it reminded me too much of my first year in grad dorm, trying to heat up instant noodles in the microwave. I decided I was not going to be that pathetic and went out to eat every time). Amanda and I took a cab back and hailing a cab on the street that day was in my opinion, a huge risk we took. The cab was unmarked and I was so nervous until we reached back to the hotel.

From Faria Lima, I turned left onto Juscelino Kubitschek. Ah, JK! The busy thoroughfare, always packed during busy hours (read 6 am until 11 pm) is the street where the EY building is located. Thought about my first cab ride on the day I landed to the office. The cab driver didn’t know where it was and I was worried he was taking me for a ride. Anyway, it took 20 minutes to find the building but the cab ride was about R$16 (or roughly $11-12) which is still cheap for a cab ride for 20 minutes. And then the sequence of events that followed ran through my head like a movie in fast forward – going to the office, meeting my team, meeting Marina who became one of my greatest friends in Brazil, meeting my expat group for dinner that night and wondering how they knew so much about Brazil and whether I would ever catch up with all that information on what to do where, how to pay, how to ask for food, how to talk to a cab driver etc. etc., all the memories with all of the friends I had made in SP, the weekends by the pool, the nights out in clubs and bars, the lunches at work, the dinners in the neighborhood, the shopping trips with the girls – everything clear like it happened yesterday!

I thought about how  my portuguese was pretty much at zero and today as I vacation my last few days in Brazil in Rio with my husband, I find that I can help us navigate pretty well through the maze of restaurant menus and cab rides. I’m still lost at words more than the 100 in my vocabulary but it’s way better than not knowing anything.

I finally turned on JK onto Funchal and was on my daily walk home from work. This street was FULL of memories of the countless walks I took with my friends either to or from work or to the numerous bars and restaurants. Passed by the mall where I got my cell phone plan with vivo, Hooters (where we used to go to watch American sports and eat awful American food, the worst chicken wings I have ever eaten), Seo Gomez boteco where we sometimes met to watch the Corinthians play or just drink choppe (where Christine and Rob argued endlessly about the stupid flip cam while Big Rob and I watched), turned right on Lourcenco and ran up Cardoso Melo again – passed Shoestock where I went shopping with Christine a few times and we had some great conversations in between shoes and belts.

And finally, turned the corner onto Alvorada again. I was hot and sweaty now and it was going to begin raining. I walked into the hotel and it began pouring immediately almost on cue. I wish I’d been out running in the rain because it would be the city’s beijao to me. I went up to my room, stood on the balcony for what felt like hours and let the rain soak me. I watched the SP skyline turn color from pink to grey in the twilight rain and I knew I would miss this city very, very deeply.

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