My story begins at 12:30AM when, waiting for my plane to take off from Guarulhos International Airport in Sao Paulo, when they announced that due to the electrical malfunction in the right engine, the flight would be cancelled. Of course, I had suspected as much, but everyone else was dismayed. I, however remained optimistic. Other than Iguazu Falls and going in the actual airport, I had not really travelled Brazil. This would be fun, to see the largest city of Brazil of 23 million inhabitants for a day. And all for free. So I took my glass half-full and got off my plane to grab my bags.
The funniest thing was that I didn’t go through immigration. I wondered whether this would not allow me to actually go in the city. Anyway, I grabbed my bags, and got in line. I befriended two other Washingtonians as I waited in line for an hour to tell me where I would be headed for my hotel. After getting my hotel voucher, I made my way to the bus, I got on and got to the hotel 30 minutes later. Finally, I got in the long line for rooms. After what seemed like an endless hour, I got my room at 3AM and made my way to my room, emailed my parents, and crashed on my bed, eager for my adventure tomorrow.
I guess that eagerness, along with the fact I took my meds that make me drowsy (and allow me to sleep) at 11, so at 830 I woke up. I showered, got dressed, and began my adventure after a quick breakfast.
My adventure started crazy when the person at the front desk only spoke Portuguese. I asked how to get to the Banespa Skyscraper, apparently Sao Paulo’s version of the Empire State Building with a great view for free, in Spanish. She replied, but in Portuguese, and all I got out of it was, “…go left, right… omnibus… metro stop… Arcadia… Sao Bento… Spanish will help you.” I didn’t realize it, but in a country where I didn’t speak a word of the language, that wasn’t much to go on.
So I went left, and right, and stood by a sign that looked like a bus sign. Except 5ish minutes later, I realized that it was actually a street sign. So I sighed and went to a nearby gas station to figure out where to go. They told me go this way, and when I got there they told me, no go that way (and of course, they told me other stuff, but god knows what they actually said). I was about to give up and go back to the hotel when I saw the bus stop. Moments later, I was on a minibus towards Arcadia.
The bus ride wasn’t as peaceful as I hoped. There was standing room only, and I had to figure out how to ask people how to get to the metro. When I finally got there, I thanked them (learning the word, “obrigado”, or thank you, along the way). I got to the metro station “Portuguesa - Tieté”, and bought a ticket while signing and speaking Spanish to the ticketperson signing and speaking Portuguese back to me. Before long I was on a metro train towards a stop called “Sao Bento”.
When I got off and got outside, I could see no skyscraper. Exhausted and frustrated, I asked several people, all giving me varying accounts (or what seemed like varying accounts) of how to get there. Finally, a security officer pointed me up these stairs, and it was there. A cathedral (Sao Bento, apparently what the stop was named after) was there with a service going on inside, so I stopped in and listened for a bit. I followed the walkways to the Banespa Skyscraper only to find out in big letters that the Banespa Skyscraper was the name of the building where the National Bank of Sao Paolo was housed. And like all banks, it was closed on Sunday.
I couldn’t believe my bad luck. I figured I’d make lemonade out of these lemons, and took a couple pictures in front of it. I asked people around there what else there was to see, but no one understood, and finally, just braindead, I decided to go back. I hopped on the metro back to Portuguesa - Tieté, and got off.
Only when I got off, though, did I realize I didn’t know what bus to take to get back. I asked all over, and I got one resounding answer: Guarulhos. However, no one agreed on which side of the divided highway, with no way across except a giant walkway above it, it was on. Finally, I just gave up and decided to take a taxi. It cost me $50, but it was worth finally being back in my hotel. I had gone into a city where I didn’t speak any of the language, taken a bus, metrorail, and taxi, seen some sights (not as much as I wanted though), made it back in one piece, and had managed to keep the costs reasonable. I felt good, but brain dead. My brain had been working in overdrive translating English -> Spanish (well, half the time, other times I just speak Spanish naturally), and then listening to Portuguese -> Spanish -> English. I went back to my room and called my parents, and then penned this “(Not So) Triumphant Conquering of Sao Paulo” / My craziest adventure.