A few weeks ago, my friend Karen’s host mom, Junia, invited me and Brooklyn to go to São Paulo for a few days for a family event. Within a few days, everything was set. My incredible host family bought my ticket. Our inbound counselor with Rotary, Valeria, agreed to host us in her apartment in the city. On April 12, we were on our way to the biggest city in South America!
We left around 10 am and arrived at 12: just in time for lunch. We ate at wonderful self-serve lunch at Junia’s hotel, dropped off our stuff at Valeria’s apartment, and within an hour, we were on our way to sight-see. We spent our first day at the Municipal Market of São Paulo, where they sell incredible fruit from all over Brazil. We got to have a tasting experience, where we tried everything from pineapple and oranges to grapes and dragon fruit. Honestly, it was some of the best fruit of my life.
Because we’d been up since 6 am, we went to rest for a while at Valeria’s apartment before heading out to eat dinner around 8. We went to a restaurant called “Me Gusta,” which was Mexican cuisine. (If you know me, you know my love for Mexican food. I was all about this.) We had some really good tacos at a really beautiful restaurant.
After, we went back to Valeria’s house and went to bed, ready for the next day.
The following day, we slept in and took our time getting ready. Around 12, we walked to a self-service restaurant and ate (once again) really good food, which included salad, rice and beans, meat, pasta, just about everything you could imagine. We then met Junia and got started with our day.
Because we were primarily in town for Junia’s family event, things were kind of chaotic. Junia had to help the family get ready for the party and Valeria had to work (it was a Friday) so we were basically on our own. Junia gave us a ride to a HUGE mall (six or so stories), so we were set for a few hours. Karen, Brooklyn, and I walked around and enjoyed some of the stores we hadn’t seen since we started our exchange, primarily Starbucks. (Fun Fact: it is now nine months into my exchange, and I would rather eat açaí than drink Starbucks).
After a few hours at that mall, we switched to another mall, which happened to be the nicest mall in the city. We looked pathetic walking around Gucci and Versace shops in jean shorts with our Forever 21 bags. At the time, we were quite upset about how ridiculous we looked, but it is something we will never forget. A true bonding experience. We even went to the movie theater just to buy popcorn. It was truly a ridiculous (hilarious) experience. Around 8, we met Valeria and Junia and were on our way out for the night!
I think it’s important to note the traffic in São Paulo. No matter how far we were going (which usually wasn’t too far), we’d spend about thirty minutes to an hour in the car each time. Living in the biggest city in South America definitely has its disadvantages. Luckily, I was with some of the most fun people in the city, so we would just jam out to Bruno Mars, Aretha Franklin, and the Beatles in the car.
We went to a place called Peppino to spend the night. We got really delicious, fancy food. I can’t even tell you what it was. That’s how you know it’s fancy. It was kind of cheese-like fried pasta that you dip in marinara sauce and other finger foods like that.
The following day, Valeria took us out. We went walking close to her apartment. We explored some markets and galleries close to her house. After, we went to lunch at a restaurant, where I had the best pasta I’ve had in my life. We also had Reese’s cheesecake, which was a beautiful thing since both Reese’s and cheesecake don’t really exist where we live in Brazil. After lunch, we went home for a quick nap before heading to Junia’s family party: the main reason we’d come to São Paulo.
Saturday afternoon, Junia’s nephew had his third birthday party, which was unlike anything I’d seen before. They had a beautiful display of desserts, which is common at Brazilian parties. They had a photo booth and catered crepes, hamburgers, hot dogs, too many things to name. They had a piñata. They had colorful powder and t-shirt making and so many activities. It was really incredible, beautiful, and fun. I spent most of the party with Karen, Brooklyn, and Junia’s daughter Pauline. A few months ago, Brooklyn and I went to an engagement party for Junia’s brother and we met most of the family, so it was nice to see them again and celebrate another great occasion.
After the party, all of us were covered in colored powder. It was in our hair, our ears, our noses, on our shoes and dresses, engrained in every crack and crevice of our bodies. We all got into an uber, under the impression we’d go home to shower before going out. Wrong. We pull up at a five-star restaurant, with dimmed lighting and candles, exotic wine from all over the world and the number of utensils for royalty (which I don’t even know how to use properly). We helped each other get as clean as possible before walking in and eating incredible steak, potatoes, and spinach. After, we got to dance to everything from Guns N Roses to 1Kilo to Bruno Mars. It was a really great night.
The following day, we were all pretty exhausted. We slept pretty late then ate a quick brunch at home before Valeria dropped us to the airport.
While we didn’t get to do too much of the touristy stuff, I think our trip meant so much more. It was a great experience and I’m really glad I got to know São Paulo!!
Thank you so much to my host family for arranging this trip, to Junia and her family for inviting us, and to Valeria for hosting us. Your actions make a world of difference to us!!