Category Archives: sao-paulo

Over the rooftops


The ripple earthy-red of clay-tiled rooftops is a visual that will always take me back to Sao Paulo. Yes, it’s found in other cities, towns and villages of Brazil and in many other countries, but Sao Paulo was such a huge part of my personal journey, that my thoughts go there.

What you’re looking at here are two houses. The tall house on the one side and it’s neighbour, glued to its side. It’s typical of housing layouts in much of Brazil. There is no space between the houses, which are long and narrow, often a series of rooms stacked one behind the other with connecting doors. It’s rare to find a passage.

I love skies and clouds and cloudy skies. I have far too many photos scattered through my albums of clouds, but what I’ve noticed is that many of them are where I’m in a confined area gazing out. It’s a pattern that’s repeated itself over and over from childhood. I was the child who had “… would do far better if she didn’t spend her days gazing out the window” or “…daydreams too much” in almost every school report, particularly the early years. I think much of that dreamer still exists. There’s many a time I find myself gazing at the horizon, thankfully, usually not from a confined space.


Posted by on December 16, 2013 in challenge, memories, photography, sao-paulo


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Dogs! Argh! We’re into day 2 of our regional water cut. The pleasant enough,but extreeeeemly slow chap at the water department said it was due to a burst water mains and water would be restored the same day. That was yesterday.

The air is dry. There are pollution warnings out. This photo is from our local news. The airport is on a ‘fly only if necessary’ due to the pollution.

Uma faixa de poluição está sobre a cidade de São Paulo.
Foto: Luiz Guarnieri / Futura Press
This photo is from a different news agency. Apparently admissions to hospital have increased by 70% today due to respiratory issues.

Sao Paulo smog 2
Our water system is here complicated. We run off a cistern on the roof. This is because of the city’s frequent water cuts. A storage box of water means that, during a cut, we still have water for a while. That’s all good and well, but…. unless we go outside to the yard wash tank, which is fed directly from the street, we have no idea the water has been cut or if it’s been restored.

Enter dog.

The son of a second-hand sea sausage used the standing space in front of the water tank as his personal WC! Let it be known that I leave home by torch light – It was dark when I checked the status of our water supply!

Apparently, I will have plenty of luck today, especially since I couldn’t wash it off.

romany on duvet
Does this look like the face of evil terrorism??


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Posted by on June 15, 2010 in dogs, sao-paulo, weather


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Ten… or so…. muddled thoughts

grafitti eye

My thoughts are trapped in my head. No wonder I have communication ‘issues’. I think I think too much. Case in point… I started this post 6 hours ago *sigh*

Someone will say something or ask a question and I’ll get so wrapped up in my response, that they never get to hear it and end up thinking I’m ignoring them or don’t know the answer. The same thing happens to blogs and e-mails. I’ll often have a string of blog posts open waiting for answers…. and they wait… and while I’m thinking of all the things I want say in reply, I get distracted with other bits of infringing ‘life’.

Many times, I will have my response to someone so well thought out, that I honestly believe that I have verbalised it (or written it down)… only to wonder later why they had no idea what was going on in my head.
My distractions for the day…. I’m once again searching for people. I have found that the people I look for either have names that are far too complicated or are far too common. I seem to be getting nowhere… a bit like swimming through a forest of seaweed. Now that was definitely a random thought association!

Oh and the photo? A huge graffiti wall in the center of the city. See the black and white pattern? That is São Paulo’s trademark paving. No other state is allowed to use that pattern on their sidewalks. Each city has it’s own pattern. I think it is so that if you end up in a city accidentally, you can identify where you are by the pattern on the sidewalk…. assuming you know all the patterns and not your location. Weird…

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Posted by on September 9, 2008 in sao-paulo, thought


Town again

Republica Sê Liberdade - 24 August 2008  - 016a

The weather is fairly fresh here today. Jorge and I went into town this morning to collect the leather item we were meant to get last week. What should have been a 1 hour bus ride into town (before taking the metro to our destination) turned out way more.

Every year, around this time, they have a day where ALL university student hopefuls go to allocated schools and universities to do a test to see if they qualify. One of those locations was on our route. The traffic was backed up for miles! Many of the students on the bus got off way before their destination to walk, as it would be faster. They had to check in by 1pm or lose out on their chance to go to university until the following year. Once through that traffic mess, we ‘sped’ along to the metro station for the next leg of the journey. We took a different route to last week to eliminate a lot of the walking.

The leather guy came through for us this time. I’m fairly pleased with the work. We decided to go home the same way we went there last week to avoid the university issues, which turned out to be a mistake…. after a fashion. We walked from Republica to Liberdade (the Japanese quarter), where we stopped off at one of their little supermarkets. This place is incredible to walk through… narrow and cramped with absolutely everything written in Japanese… with tiny translations to either Portuguese or English below the Japanese. We got some of our favourite Japanese biscuits and I suggested we go through to the spice section. I struggle to get decent spices here. We went this whole winter with No curry! Much to my delight, curry is just what I found there! A whole big bag of it! : ) And mushrooms, for which I would gladly exchange a limb. We love mushrooms here, but struggle to find them and when we do, they’re horrendously expensive. They’re reasonably easy to find in pickled form, but who wants pickled mushrooms. I want them fresh!

We went off to get the bus. Liberdade is one huge construction site right now, so we pretty much end up having to stand in the road waiting for the bus. We waited for around 45 minutes (we should have taken the hint). Finally the bus came and people crawled out from the woodwork to pile on. Who knows where the others were waiting.

I think, for the home trip, we should have done the route we went out on. The favela I blogged about was being filmed. Funny, the last time we went through, I was saying to Jorge that I wished we could get that place on film and wondered if anyone would be brave enough to try. A massive detour and an idiot who felt the need to stand behind my seat and lean over my head (I seem to attract them) later, we got home just before Tat left to go to her dance meeting. Now I need to finish up those photos I took. Yes, I’m still muddling my way through them.

Hope you’re all having a good weekend.

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Posted by on August 31, 2008 in brazil, sao-paulo


The streets of São Paulo

SP streets

I went in this morning to collect my sewing machine. When Jorge called for the quote, he was told that the bobbin was cracked (it is plastic). I said… no way. I’m going in myself to check. Turns out the guy he spoke to though tit was cracked, but what he was seeing was the slot for securing the thread. My machine is purring like a well-oiled engine. Music to my ears! The guy who worked on it has probably been working on those machines since the the old treadle machines.

The bus we took was one of those that take you on a ‘tour’ of the city before you get to your destination. Talk about a long drawn-out route. We arrived close to our destination with just a few blocks to walk. I was in for a surprise.

One thing I continually find fascinating about São Paulo is the sectorised shopping. If you’re looking for jeans, there will be an entire street, often a few streets, that only sell jeans. The same goes for wedding dresses, kitchen implements, shoes, trainers (yes, trainers have their own ‘section’). Whatever you’re looking for, there is bound to be a sector selling just varieties of that item. Today, we were in the fabrics, needlework, and sewing machine sectors.

Walking to the street with the sewing machines was a treat… fabric stores both sides of the road with tons of variety! The area was surprisingly clean and well kept considering it was close to the center of town. What a pleasure. Apparently, it used to be the old Jewish quarter. We passed a fairly run-down synagogue on our way out, which was still in use. Today, the area has more Koreans in, apparently. Now I know where the fabrics are, I replenish my stock when I’m done sewing up what I’ve got. I saw the tracksuiting was only R$13/meter… a pretty good price. Hm… that is about US$8/yard. I don’t know how that compares to overseas prices.

When we’d done there, we went to see if we could get a new seal for my pressure cooker. That was trickier. They don’t work with serial numbers, but want to see the parts, so we’ll have to go back. Jorge can do that another day. The walk back was long. We left the Jewish quarter and went home via Estação da Luz, through the center of the city, past Sê Cathedral, and on to Liberdade, the Japanese quarter. We arrived just in time to get the bus going home.

On our way home, there was a bit of a fracas over some street kids who were riding holding onto the back of a bus ahead of us. Just a slip and those kids would fall under the car or bus behind. Very dangerous. Later, an old lady got on the bus. I think she must have been quite a beauty in her heyday. She greeted everyone, then looked over our way and commented on my, to put it euphemistically, rosy cheeks. The reality was that I was toasting and I always look like a broiled lobster when hot. Without a word from me (I had given her a rather embarrassed smile), she went on about how her grandparents on one side were German and Italian and on the other side were Spanish and Arab. She then looked at me again and said, "You don’t speak Portuguese, do you?" in Portuguese, of course. I said ‘no’ and she went on, slower, with hand signals, that underneath all our blood is red and how she wishes me well from her heart to mine. She was so sweet. I spoke about two words the whole time. She just chattered away : ) I love chatting to the old folk. I get frustrated here when I don’t understand them. I think this lady had a wealth of stories to tell. Our trip home then took us through the favela where I learned something interesting. I’ll post on that later.
In short, it was a fairly successful morning. The skies are clear, the air fresh, the sun shining… a great day for getting out. 

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Posted by on August 11, 2008 in brazil, sao-paulo




Yesterday, I mentioned that I had learned something interesting about the Favela. ‘Favelas’ are what Brazilian slums are called. Interestingly, they have an origin besides simple rank poverty.

The slum I have photographed here is not very far from where we live. I photographed this long ago when we were driving by in a hired car. It is not the kind of place where you go to do a photo shoot. It was this favela that brought on the discussion and learning curve.

Jorge and I came home and looked up the entymology of the word ‘favela’ to confirm the story he heard. We enjoy digging into the history of language. It turns out that the word ‘favela’ originated on a hill in Rio de Janeiro. This hill had many ‘fava’ trees. After the war of the ‘Canudo’ (Don’t ask about that… I have no clue), many soldiers returned home and were left destitute by the country they had just fought for. No longer earning a living fighting, they had no income. They built up this collective housing settlement on this hill and called it "Favela". The word has since become the generic word for slums here. Another curious thing about favelas here is that they can be found in any area, be it a wealthy, upmarket area, or a downtown ‘poor’ area. The city center has a few upright ‘favelas’, tall buildings that have been turned into slums.

Researching the ‘fava’ tree led me to this site where I discovered that it is either a mimosa or family of the mimosa. Very interesting!

Back to our favela….


Our bus regularly takes us past this favela. It intrigues me. The homes, as you can see in this photo, are skew, ramshackled, tiny, and not quite the kind of dwelling any of us can see ourselves being happy in. The people, for the most part, do appear to be content. I strongly suspect that this dwelling also houses the ‘pub’, judging by the quantity of bottles of ’51’, a well known ‘cachaça’. Cachaça, incidentally, is a locally-made cane spirit.

What makes these people content? They have so little. Their homes are rudimentary at best.  Some have pot plants balancing precariously on ledges outside their windows. Some are brightly painted, but, for the most part, delapidation is the order of the day. Few of the people I know are totally content, not wanting more.

This provoked a long discussion between Jorge and I as we trundled on our way home. What makes us want more? What is it that makes us not settle for ‘less’? Jorge speculated over the whole ‘ruler class’ and ‘slave class’. Class aside… what is it that makes us want to better ourselves? What is it that makes people like this content to stay where they are? What is the difference? Is it because they know what is important in life or is it because they have given up? Are we shallow for wanting more… for wanting better? I have learned a new set of priorities over the years. What ‘things’ are truly important and what aren’t. I still think that if I found myself living in a place like this, I would slowly die. When I am being honest with myself, I know this to be true. I have often said that if I had my family around me, I’d be happy in a tin shack, but would I? I doubt it.

Having said all that, I have a great deal of admiration for the people who live in the favelas and really make a go of it, prettying up their homes with whatever they can find… living in dignity… making the best of their lot. I bet they whine a lot less than I do too!

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Posted by on August 11, 2008 in brazil, sao-paulo, thought


When the center goes…



São Paulo is the economic center of Brazil. When São Paulo goes down, the whole country feels it. Last night, on the dot at midnight, our internet died. I cursed and went to bed, as the internet has been dicey for a few weeks now with super slow speeds at times.

We woke this morning to the news that the whole of São Paolo was down. News later came in that the downtime was statewide. Our internet downtime meant that everything was down. Think banks, police, airports, the works. On tv (great crime-prevention move there), they announced that no one was able to make official complaints at the police (what happened to paper and pen?) and the cops weren’t able to release bodies from the morgue without internet (we needed to know that). Our news tonight tells us that Annatel, the governing ‘body’ for telecommunications in Brazil, is considering a R$50 million fine against Telkom if they can prove negligence. This should get interesting. Take a guess who’ll eventually foot that bill… the users. Speaking of footing the bill. We just got the delightful news, too, that our electricity is going up by 8.26% next month. That should go down well.

Yesterday, we were out the whole day. We only got home at 9pm. Tat had a job in. I was really proud of her. She worked hard and performed well. The director, a crazy British guy, asked her why she hasn’t considered going into acting. Born and raised South African, she has spoken Brazilian Portuguese fluently from shortly after we arrived here… without any hint of a foreign accent. For yesterday’s work, she had to do a huge section in an American accent, then follow up with a section using a British accent. According to the director, she is authentic. Not bad for a kid who’s never been to either the USA or Britain. She just listens to the accent and replicates it. That is some talent.

This photo was taken of Tat in the studio a couple of years back. I don’t take the camera in there anymore.

Now I need to catch up with some mail. ‘Someone’ apparently put the internet on hold for us, but forgot to stop mail while I was down ; )

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Posted by on July 3, 2008 in sao-paulo, tat, tatiana, work

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