Monday, April 26, 2010
Welcome to Brazil
Sao Paulo is a vast city, organized on the chaos theory of urban planning. At least that is how it seems to me. Maybe I've just been spending too much time in small Melanesian villages... Yet not being able to read or speak Portuguese, getting lost is a nagging anxiety. But the Resurrection message is not to be defined by our
fears, so I am exploring the city. Fortunately the brothers here, Brother James and Brother Elton, have the same fear for me and they always accompany me. And I am getting the insider's perspective.
Sao Paulo was founded by the Portuguese, and has a decidedly Non-Brit mentality of how to be, at least that is how I understand Br. James when he tells me: you must remember Sao Paulo is not an English city. "We like it this way!" he said
with a laugh. "It is our culture." Everywhere it seems to be "downtown" and at the same time on the fringe. How can both be true? I don't know. Major buildings and teeming avenues don't all cluster in one place. You just come upon them after
traveling on narrow winding streets.
Discovering a city of tremendous history (founded in 16th Century) and vitality is pretty exciting.
The brothers live in a tiny apartment that they also share with Br. James sister. Here Elton is in the tiny kitchen. Fortunately everybody is fanatically neat. The team from "Queer Eye" television show would approve. We pray at the table which you can see Br James must use as his computer room and dining table in turn, the brothers have doubled up to give me a room of my own, which makes me feel very awkward and grateful. My jetlag has been worse this time than I remember from recent trips, and I have been awake all night, tossing and turning. Thank goodness I haven't had to worry about bothering somebody else.
The brothers have made some good connections in the city over the years, and last night we ate dinner with the OFM Friars.
There are other meetings planned with other people during the week ahead.
But mostly we are getting to know each other. I've only spent time with James at Chapter meetings, I've never met Elton before. Sitting next to each other at a Chapter meeting has a degree of intimacy (maybe 10 degrees). Nothing like sharing a
tiny apartment for 10 days.
My favorite tourist activity so far has been to visit the Central Market. One vendor let us taste six or seven kinds of fruit I've never seen before. I have no idea what they were, but it was truly amazing.