People of Character: Nowhere Man

DSC_1853Let me give it to you straight: Nowhere Man is a no-nonsense kinda guy. Not in a cruel, brutal way (although if you’re trying out a new haircut, or think who might have put on some weight, let me tell you now that his opinion is not the one you want to hear), but in a direct way.

Don’t get me wrong, he’s a kind man, but he’s a rare breed: the kind who assumes that, if you’re asking a question, it’s because you want a straight answer. And a straight answer is what he gives you every time, without disappointing.

Which means (quelle surprise) he’s not always great with people. But before you write him off as a heartless sociopath (which I assume is what you’ll do if you ask what he thinks of your new haircut or if you’ve been putting on weight), give him a chance and read on. Continue reading

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People of Character: This Charming Man

DSC_1879Everybody knows This Charming Man.

Unlike Her, who’s mostly a literary version of someone’s alter ego (please don’t tell Her that – she’d kill me), This Charming Man is far more elusive. He is different things to different people, part prince charming, part regular guy. He’s stylish knowledgeable, attentive – but at times impossible to pin down (understandable, seeing as he didn’t have a mobile phone when I first imagined him circa 20 years ago). He comes from a good family (which isn’t always free of complication), and he’s sure of himself – which means he doesn’t have everything figured out all the time, and that’s still ok. Continue reading

… And then we were five.

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I wake up to the whirring of machines and blinking little lights. This, I declare to myself in my internal Alan Rickman voice, is becoming too frequent.

The smell lets it be known to me before I even open my eyes that I am, yet again, on a hospital bed. Unlike last time, I’m waking up knowing where and who I am. I also know I am in pain (this fact hits me hard immediately after I open my eyes). But that is entirely secondary. Continue reading

Home is where the traffic is.

Av. Dr. Arnaldo

Every time I go back home to Brazil, I’m amazed at how much of my awareness of the city has been erased by a decade of living in little, organised, law-abiding Switzerland.

Take the insane amount of distance between things, for example. Sao Paulo is a massive city! I’m instantly gobsmacked by the amount of time you spend in traffic – and I’m only here on vacation! This was an exchange I had with my mother during my last trip home:

Me: I have an appointment at ten AM in Vila Mariana tomorrow. What time should I get a cab to take me there?

Mum: Yesterday.

As it turns out, to travel the 11 km from our place to Vila Mariana could take anywhere between 25 minutes and an hour and a half. With a spread like this, no wonder people are so stressed in traffic! I dug deep into my heart to find any vestige of road rage, but it wasn’t there anymore. A little part of what once made me a typical Paulist had become dormant. Continue reading

The fun of time travel – part 2

The Desk travels

The desk travels: my temporary desk in Rio Preto

I mentioned to one of my (many) cousins in Rio Preto that I was amazed at how much the town has grown, and pointed out the development of office towers and residential skyscrapers all over town. In true “I’m-getting-old-and-don’t-want-to-face-the-facts” fashion, I reminisced how when we were kids, we joyfully celebrated the fact that the town’s first McDonald’s was opening; we also had to play outside all day (or go to the movies) because there was no cable TV.

Now, there’s a massive Walmart, and smart little boutiques, and even a Hilton hotel opening in a few months. My cousin indulged me and listened patiently to my rant, before making an interesting comment; she called Rio Preto a “gentle giant”. Meaning: yes, the town may have grown over the past decade, but it maintained an endearing small-town mentality.

Within about 20 minutes of arriving in Sao Jose do Rio Preto, you start appreciating the fact that the town is nowhere near as stressful as Sao Paulo. While Rio Preto and Sao Paulo have some things in common (why does everybody here drive like they’re the only ones on the road?), others are a welcome change, for instance:

There is still a strong link with the town’s agricultural traditions. People still have fruit trees in their backyard. People still make home-made jam. People still know how to get a cow to get out of the middle of the road (step one: open your vehicle’s window; step two: proceed to tap your hand loudly on the outside of your car door). And, of course, people still have that easy-to-spot, delicious countryside accent.

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The distances are shorter, and it takes you a fraction of the time to travel them. Unless, of course, you’re stuck behind a tractor. Or there’s a cow in the middle of the road (in which case: see above). Although to be fair, the latter doesn’t happen very often anymore.

People walk places, and seem happy to do so. There are actual sidewalks! And walkways! How did I not notice this as a kid? People go about their business on foot and don’t seem as neurotic about security and crime as we unfortunately have to be in Sao Paulo.