Saturday, May 29, 2010

Last Fridays on Paulista Blvd.

I had been looking forward to this event for sometime. Each last Friday of the month holds the largest known critical mass bicycle (Huge Bike Parade celebrating Bicycle respect) event in the largest city in the Southern Hemisphere. 100's came out supporting bike love in droves. When I met up with my new friends- I thought that we would join in the ride- but instead of joining the masses- I realized the FIXA SAMPA crew had other plans- and that's how I joined my first alleycat race in a city I barely knew.

It was fast and the traffic here doesn't let up. An alleycat is basically a bicycle race where riders, as quickly as possible, pedal to different points within the city, take a photo with your phone, go to the next check point, and try to finish in good time. Think scavenger hunt on bicycles.

The manifest: Go to a certain square in Vila Madelena- take the picture- go to another part of town -Roosevelt square- and locate the "theater"- take a picture- and then find the critical bike mass that is floating around the city- and find Alini- in the middle of all of that and take a photo with her. The first two: CHECK- only with the grace of being able to keep up- but could not for the life of me find where the bike parade had headed. After a few wrong turns on one-way streets, I headed back up to the main drag hoping to find a hint of a parade- I was met with cars and my first flat. Repaired the flat, regrouped, and was greeted with a loud, "Hey the Gringo made it" or something to that affect and a nice glass of cold beer. The night was good and kept going. Pictures will be posted hopefully by tomorrow night. Much love to my family and friends old and new. Video by André Seitsugo

Friday, May 28, 2010

Day 27

The city is full of people, full of cars, full of food. After riding the other night we all went to a pizza place. We had about 15 people in tow half in bike cleats and we needed a place to put our bikes, rest our bodies, and get to talking. This was at 11 at night and the restaurant might have well been closed but after a bit of debate as to where to put our bikes; the matre'd pulled five tables together, grabbed our drinks and we toasted. Most of the group I have been riding with for the last three weeks and have slowly grown closer to. Before my arrival I read and heard that Paulistas take a bit of time to warm up to you. At the restaurant, I noticed that the few who had previously kept to themselves were now introducIng themselves, offering advice, and friendship. The pizzas rolled out and the night kept going.

There is a certain part of the city surrounding Pacaembu stadium and hosts the soccer team Corinthians (Inside there is also a nice soccer museum dedicated to the culture of football). Coming down past the stadium on our rides there is a barely lit downhill plunge that curves left and right and back and forth following the natural form of the foothill that supports it. This hill is a dream- ignoring the shared cars, potholes, and bumps as is everyone all the way down. It is dark and fast and another taste of what's good.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Day 22

Like many older folks who had grown up in the Great Depression; she held onto her possessions no matter how trivial for fear that she might lose it all again. I have noticed this with some of my other relatives that many hold onto old blouses, trophies, mugs, or sports equipment justifying it through "having a collection". No one needs 1,753 golf balls but you do if you know how hard you had to work to own them.

Sometimes one needs to get out and stretch, yesterday we could see why. We moved CH's grandma out of the apartment apartment she had been living in for nearly 40 years. Experiences like this are hard to come by. There couldn't have been a better way to learn about the family I am marrying into. We packed up all of her belongings, heirlooms from Korea-before they immigrated to Sao Paulo, and a thousand books or so. Each layer, shelf, drawer, was like an onion, peeling up her past and reminding the family of the beautiful days spent together in this beautiful home they had created.

Each drawer contained a multitude of memories: a pin, a brooch, a handkerchief, cassette tapes holding "their song". Each treasure with a story- Some without- like a receipt that could not be read. One surprise was a box full of letters. This box was busting at the seems as it was too full to hold each individually stamped, addressed, and hand written ink letter. These letters were some of the oldest memories discovered as they were the letters she had received when she first arrived to Brazil. Every I miss you, good luck with your new life, I hope nothing but success for you; is still documented, still saved, kept cherished. Many of the authors of those hand written messages of good will are no longer living. Many of those friends and family were never seen again and came back when found in a box under box of golf balls that hadn't been touched in 40 plus years.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Night Ride with the Total Bike crew: fast paced

Our ride was only 26 km but the hill climbs, people, and sights made it worthy of a few hours of riding. Last night's São Paulo bike ride was a breath of fresh air, if not a bit randomly disorganized. We followed the leader Luis who fits the bicycle rider profile: a little crazy.

A tour is what it felt most like as we passed many cozy older neighborhoods with cobble stoned streets that haven't been worked on in decades reminding me of the history the city really holds. We toured mostly "Centro", the center of the city, although I couldn't figure out where we were a quarter of the time.

Halfway through, many were getting frustrated with what felt like a mixed up, mess of an unplanned course- we found our destination- an alleyway that was completely saturated with graffiti art. Up and down the cobblestones it was our very own private museum. Lit by only the white and flashing red lights of our bicycles and the occasional yellow dim glow of the streets surrounding; we saw incredible uncontaminated art by São Paulos street artists. It was a sanctuary that gave us another deeper more personal look into the passion and talent that the Paulistanos hold. One of my new bike friends said, Ï've lived my whole life here and I have never seen this before- it is a very good day". And it was.

New bike update: The new Surly Steamroller is just what it was described as - a no frills workhorse- and I like it that way.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Day 13, 14, or 15

Today was something else. We went to an English speaking mass today and it was tiny with a rag tag group of ex pats and Brazilians held at a local international school's multi purpose room. It was funny to see the various families and think of what brought them all there. It was familiar as I saw the teenagers sit next to their parents with their ipods in their ears and arms crossed wishing they were elsewhere. The priest was from Massachusetts, of all places, and the small group hadn't a clue what he was referring to when he mentioned the ancient greek word for witness; "MAH Dah" or martyr. Turns out he is from a town not too far from where my Mom grew up. I hope I make some contacts from this group to teach, tutor, or find some work. Fingers crossed.

Later on we met the family for Sunday lunch and then headed across the street to a Japanese Feira (street fair) in Liberdade and I got to sample some of CH's "childhood" and it was delicious; eating a shaved iced, currant, condensed milk combination that was so sweet that I considered next Sunday bringing dental floss. We walked on and ate bean paste Japanese pastries and I spoke to one of the cutest and probably the oldest Japanese man living in South America. He was ancient but completely charming and told us in Japanese and perfect Portuguese that he has lived in Sao Paulo for nearly 72 years and that he had been back to Japan just a few times. He was selling bamboo tongue scrapers which I hope helps me battle all of the tasty kimchi I am consuming.

We headed down and we recognized some the work of Otavio and Gustavo Pandolfo the twin street artists "Os Gemeos" (The twins). We are huge fans.

Here is a video link for you put up by scribemedia:

photo credit: CH

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Night 12

Put on the television and found that all sorts of shows from the states are on here. Just great. The difference is yep, just like Japan many of the shows are dubbed. Seinfeld however is not.

Well every night Brazil stops to watch their novelas. In the states these shows are on in the early afternoon, to compete with those reruns of MASH, but here in Brazil most people, well those who watch t.v., tune into Globo (the NBC of Brazil) nightly and watch whatever the new series is.

The latest series, "Viver a Vida", although not that interesting, was useful to familiarize myself with the language back in Japan. Last night was the season finale where the main character who had spent the entire season in a wheel chair gave birth to twins among other things and then resumed her modeling career in the final scenes. It seems like they are desperately trying to become more politically conscious. I like the effort, but it is laughable because they are falling short.

Its important to point out that the three major networks Globo, Record TV, and that other one, sign actors, and under contract cannot work for any other network. So the same actors are recycled and spread out through their entire weekly lineup. This practice feels stale after a while. The casts are often racially diverse with the exception of Asians, in a country where there are nearly 1.5 million Japanese, the highest population outside of Japan, and nearly 30,000 Koreans it is surprising these three networks are not trying to sign more asian talent.

Globo's,"Viver a Vida" is one of the very few novelas to feature an asian actress, Daniella Suzuki, in their lineup. In television journalism there are even fewer Asians featured. With the exception of Record TV who for the past five years has had Catarina Hong as their daily correspondent in Tokyo; there are few others. I hope this new move featuring models facing adversity indicates a new face for Globo: where actors and journalists eventually represent all of Brazil's demographics proportionately.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Day 11

CH and I went around Bom Retiro where the flat is and took in some sights. We first went to Parque da Luz (Light Park) which I'm told in it's beginning in the early twentieth century was very luxurious and over time had lost it's luster. Over the last few years Luz has found new life as it had become a den for crackheads. It is now an outdoor museum where homeless people, couples, men without work, retired men, and anyone else can sit and enjoy the beautiful greenery, towering goliath Banyan Trees, and rejuvenated space that has become once again a retreat from the city. A very Bom Retiro indeed. The park holds one of São Paulo's many incredible museums: Pinacoteca do Estado is a true jem holding many of Brazil's more prominent and not so prominent works from modern and contemporary artists such as Tarsila do Amaral, Anita Malfatti, and Candido Portinari. Much of the art on display is truly brazilian in that the works convey life in brazil and the mestizo people who live here. The curator for the museum has significant style that maximizes the space through almost crowded juxtaposition. Photos will be up tomorrow.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Day 10

Day 10- More crazy bureaucracy. CH and I head over to the good ol' Banco do Brazil and see about getting me the equivalent of a social security number. The woman with the smoker's deep voice ask lots of questions looks like she had been sad all of the last decade and gives us some sort of paper with a number that represents me. We have been trying to get various forms of paper work so I get the driver's license, legal wedding, and eventually a bank account and business. All of these things take a lot of paperwork a lot of stamping, various dead ends, and sometimes end like today where we showed up with a days worth of paperwork to the brazilian DMV (DETRAN)and are so kindly informed that as of March ALL foreigners can legally drive with a foreign driver's license for up to 6 months! So you will never guess who got behind the wheel on the way home! That's right- I did. I got my drive on in Sao Paulo for the first time and it wasn't as bad as I thought although I did get cut off two or three times within ten minutes.

A few hours later I give myself a haircut and offer CH's dad one too and he accepts.

Later that night.. it is Wednesday jam out and eat awesome Korean food night at the loft and Simon (See mo'n) and I jam like our guitars are reproducing and making little baby gibson and squire stratocaster babies of their very own. But seriously, twas awesome as it was another one of those can-do-no-wrong guitar sessions that just lift you. After our guest prepared an amazing meal of spicy korean style spaghetti and Korean soup, we chat a bit, and I head to bed. go day 10!

love to my family and friends.

Sao Paulo: A very sweet day 9

Day 9 has been coming all week and I was excited for it. When I met Fernando at Total Bike a week ago I realized that the bike community here is supportive..I never thought it would be this great.

We started at 9 and met in front of Total Bike, which is about 4 blocks from CH's house and I unloaded my bike put the pedals on, adjusted the brakes, pumped up the tires, and had a lot of anxiety based on the insane drivers I had seen all week and coming close to a few fender benders as a passenger. I had some reservations. I met some of Fernando's mechanics and these guys are athletes with full on bike gear. They were the designated leaders of the ride and I realized i was in good hands. They were so cool in fact that one of them noticing CH's worry about me in this traffic took down one of their numbers. Well as more arrived I realized it would be a good size group and as more people showed our group became stronger.

As the group grew I realized a few things, I was the only person wearing non-bike attire and the ONLY one without a mountain bike or front suspension and on top of that the only one without gears. I thought I was in for a bumpy ride and turns out this was only partly true.

We traversed the entire city on one big loop, the smells, the road underneath, the occasional buraco (pothole) the size of a kitchen sink, the cars who didn't honk angrily (unlike LA), and loads of hills, park paths, and all sorts of people waving, smiling, looking confusedly at our group getting closer with this elegant, loving, and vast city. I fell in love last night. The city and the various terrain really held me.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Day 8

Being driven around a massive city has its advantages and disadvantages. Disadvantages- I have a hard time remembering where things are, I don't know where we are headed, and I'm not in control. Advantages are that I don't have control, can people watch like crazy, can watch people in broad daylight smoke crack, see all the amazing green trees without worrying about rear-ending someone, can take a nap, or can pay close attention to all the amazing varieties, colors, graffitti, and placement of the street art that this city holds. It is completely mind blowing how much talent or effort, in those cases with less talent come from this city.

One such artist who may fit into either category as I have not yet put out my verdict is FINOK. I would put up a video of his but I feel that he already has too much self promotion as is. So I would say google him: finok sao paulo video and judge for yourself. Please leave your comments when you are finished.

The guy is up EVERYWHERE and in some cases like along certain parts of the main highway every 15 feet. All day today i was spotting his stuff. I have a feeling I will see him around some day. Photo credit: CH. Subject: FINOK tag run over by a car

days 6 and 7

yesterday was a mall type of a day. We woke up and it was raining malteses and greyhounds. We went to "the shopping" This was different from the malls I am used to in the states this was a mutli floored, lower ceiling, and exceedingly expensive as anything from the states had a 50% mark up. The staff were friendly and helpful as we went from here to there stopping to look at all sorts of things. I have never seen women shop like this. Well back to the mall, there were many people of al shapes and sizes with a large amount of them mostly the guys wearing clothes that were too tight, too polo'd, too silkscreened, and too young for them. It was pretty hilarious. Photos will come eventually. next time I will be with camera. I went into many of the shops and noticed that a lot of the brazlian desinged stuff was well made but the men's clothing was just a little off where nothing was exactly right. I won't be buying clothes here it looks like- mostly due to the price and the fact that i just can't do polo shirts with numbers on them. The women's clothing options were impressive where the designs varied dramatically from young ladies, to evening wear, to casual. The brazilian designs were edgier than expected and I notice that just like in Tokyo many of the women went with it.

Highlights: Ping Pong dim sum
lowlights: none

Day 7

Today started out great, woke up about 9 got ready in a hurry and had homemade sandwiches again with orange juice and green tea that gets better the second glass so I'm told.

We went to mass in the oldest building in Sao Paulo. It is the oldest structure in South America- this might be contested. Although parts had been rebuilt it was a perfect blend of old and new where none of the new elements took away from the high wooden arched ceiling, steel organ, choir singing, and the priest's song. It was so nice that I will probably come back again. A refreshing, modestly designed, classic architecture paired white tiles with blue images of saints, with dark wood pews that we functional and not elaborate. The simplicity of the structure really makes it feel good and the parishoners there were equally welcoming. peace be with you.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

São Paulo:day 5

Day 5 we woke up at her parent's place and went outside to the feira (street market) it was her sister's birthday so we needed to buy avocado (abacaxi) and tomato for Cata's guacamole -and eat a little something for ourselves. Literally outside of her building lined up and down the street were the fruit and food stalls and the vendors yelling loudly, smiling sincerely, and earning their living. This feira was smaller than the other one previously mentioned, but, there were avocados the size of a toddler's head. and they were being sold each for the equivalent of 60 cents. The funny thing is the guy selling them is probably used to them only in this size. I will never get sick of the sheer impressiveness of the produce here. It must be in the way they farm. They aren't going for perfect uniform size or looks but flavor and quality. I value this. We ate pastel (a fried filled pastry- mine: cheese and her: palm heart)-and drank sugar cane, spearmint, and pineapple blended juice as we walked. I saw the same blind man from the other street market. He is a dead ringer for ray charles and not because he doesn't see. He just has that smile and warmth. I hope I keep seeing him. I'd like to know him.

Later that night we went to where I usually sleep- to the flat and they started preparing for Andréa's birthday party. Cata made the guacamole-not a brazilian dish- as her father joked that it looked like "vomito" but tasted like the smooth creamy, chunky, perfectly seasoned dip I am used to. It was a hit with the guests as it was gone by the end of the night. We had a huge dinner with multiple barbecued fish, seafood soup, kimchi, rice, brazilian broccoli, the corn from the other day, and at the end fruit- then the chocolate mousse cake that we picked up earlier. It was a nice dinner and it was a pleasure to see Andréia's wonderful fiance and meet her friends.

Later we went to a bar that reminded me of the patio from HOME a restaurant in Los Feliz, Los Angeles but twice the size. I'm told I would really like the area as it is a center for underground art, music, and food. I agree I will have to explore it soon in the coming days. It might be the place I am looking for to build our business and call home.

love to my friends and family,


Friday, May 7, 2010

São Paulo:day 2

Sao Paulo day 2: Today we went to the Akihabara(Electronics and blackmarket area) of Sao Paulo, which consisted of lots and lots of shops selling various forms of audio and computer technologies. Most of which range from current to a few years old- to -in the case of a few IBM machines- decades old. I also saw two fairly decrepid- yet functional bicycle shops, crackheads, some street walkers, and a lot of amazing people who work really hard. I am impressed with this city, my very caring in-laws, the amazing food, and the woman who brought me here.

São Paulo:day 3

It was again a great day. We woke up and went and ate some breakfast and had a coffee at a nearby place, and went to pick up some groceries. The coffee shop was relaxing. Cata's dad is good company. While sitting there I saw a bicyclist commuting to work on his road bike. So it isn't unheard of. I would say these are easily the most dangerous streets I have seen to ride a bicycle in. I have been warned numerous times thus far, but I need to get riding again.

Later i joined Cata to go have Feijoada with her aunt and grandmother. It was nice, we talked about all sorts of things and the wedding. I noticed that my Japanese ability is phasing out, I hope it doesn't disappear altogether, because I would really like to communicate with my friend in Japan. At the moment I need to concentrate on portuguese. her grandmother and I before communicated solely in Japanese and she was able to do so because the Japanese had invaded the Korean penninsula when she was in school and was forced to speak the language.

later on I met some of Cata's father's friends and we played guitar. They taught me some Otis Redding songs and I taught them Cortez the Killer. I went to bed to the sounds of celebration as the local futbol team won and fireworks went off throughout the night.

lots of love to my family and friends,


S. Paulo: Day 4

Today I got out a bit more. We woke up early as usual and had breakfast further down the street at the cafeteria- breakfast/ coffee shop/ market. We passed up the closest one to the shop to avoid the gossip train of the Korean Brazilian men and women. I was told that the topics that come from their mouths are "bosta!"or in english, animal shit. Once we arrived, we grabbed a square hard plastic tablet with a number on it.  A few minutes after ordering I had a delicious "American"sandwiche which has similar ingredients to a ham sandwhich only this one has egg, the cheese is grilled on the grill first and then layed into the sandwiche and flattened. My father in law ordered the same along with freshly squeezed orange juice, and a carioca (Rio de Janiero) style coffee. I notice he uses a napkin to pick up the sandwiche and I can see why. After three days of eating this amazing cheesy meal you will need a napkin or you will be wearing the grease like gloves. Truly delicious. There were police officers outside and inside. One watching the car and one using the toilet, the police officers are rumored to be similar to the Rampart division police officers of Los Angeles, but I saw none of that today just three brazilians enjoying their meal to strenthen themselves for a hard day's work. Another man a portly local guy was chatting it up from outside through the open air tiled window with workers inside and motorcycle delivery workers. He is that friendly token large young guy that everyone knows- with a lisp. 

After the coffees we bring the tablet up to the register where we entered and pay for our meal. Successfully avoiding the gossip market and having another good breakfast. 

We walked down the street and walked down to the feira, or street market selling fruit, vegetables, and fish of all sizes, flavor, color, and variety. We first headed through the fruit where I saw five varieties of banana with all different sizes and got to sample a fruit I had only had once before. It looks slightly like a monkey's butt only because the edible fruit protruded from the casing of the fruit the same way that the pink flesh comes from monkey's fur. When the vendor cut into it he delicately passed the fruit so we could grab the tender part that goes into our mouths. A soft, white, sweet, and watery flavor similar in texture to a softer more manageable coconut but entirely different in flavor.  We continued because we were on a mission for fish, but stopped to grab four bags of husked corn for a dollar a bag! The cost of eating here is one of the biggest values. We went on to the fish and if I didn't have eyes I would have known just the same as those fish let you know they were there. The extremely fresh fish were not stiff or overly iced, but, reflected the light hitting their silver bodies and bend with ease as the women and men selling them moved them to the scale. The sellers were not persistent and very patient as my father-in law ordered the equivalent of sea world for his daughter's birthday party. Realizing we didn't have enough hands to carry this all back to his place, he asked them to deliver the fish which they gladly accepted as he wrote out a check from a checkbook 1.5 times larger than ours in the states. I love this type of commerce. 

Later I joined my lady and we went to find some socks- all of mine had been winter socks until today and then  ran some errands. Later on we went to a local bike shop, Total Bike, where I spent close to an hour discussing topics ranging from bikes, importation taxes, which companies are readily available, and the 1987 Los Angeles Lakers in broken portuguese and exhausted english. My new friend Fernando is a blue eyed honest brazilian. he invited me to a night ride next tuesday and informed me that São Paulo is gently moving towards a more friendly stance on sharing the road with bicyclists. Ate-mais!

love to my friends and family.