A Weekend In Sao Paulo

I am always one for itchy feet. I crave new environments, new people, new experiences. So when my boyfriend invited me along on a seven week backpacking trip across South America with his friends, I couldn't resist. Being only 19 and female, I had my concerns but thought I would feel safe with three imposing blokes taking care of me. But, not even three days after touching down in Sao Paulo, due to a combination of a bad breakup and complex social politics, the situation demanded that I return home.

After gathering my thoughts and my possessions I immediately organised a lift to the airport. Realising the next half hour was the last I would see of Brazil, my eyes were opened wide to my surroundings. Sitting in the courtyard of the hostel waiting for the car, my mind became drowned by birdsong and the distant hum of traffic. Tiny, brightly coloured Tanagers were going about their breakfast routine below the soaring black vultures catching thermals overhead.

The driver, George, broke the silence with the radio and Andrea Bocelli's “Time to Say Goodbye”. It seemed so perfectly fitting, it was all I could do not to cry in the company of the dry-humoured Argentinian. I continued to absorb my surroundings as we made it onto the highway. Suddenly the skyscrapers disappeared behind us and the road opened out onto what seemed to be a vast expanse of scrubland. The perimeter appeared to be lined with miles and miles of shanty houses with their little makeshift washing lines clutching garments against the breeze. Passing close by the favelas we caught the attention of a group of boys flying homemade kites and kicking an old football by the side of the highway. George grunted, muttering something about “idiot kids...great idea...playing by the highway...get themselves killed...” I thought it was wonderful.

Ten minutes outside the city we began passing signs for the airport, and pulled round the slip road towards Guarulhos International. We drove for a minute alongside the Tiete Ecological Park. Beyond the fence a pair of capybara sat in the sun drinking from the river, apparently oblivious to the looming metropolis only a few miles away. Stunned, I considered how lucky I was to catch a glimpse of these (to me) alien animals, offering themselves in a vision from behind the glass of George's beat up old Honda.

It felt like it was all for me. It was as if the whole city was saying a grand farewell, knowingly revealing its treasures to my appreciative eyes. I knew then that I had formed a short but special relationship with this magical place - a source of so much pain yet so much wonder.

G Seppings

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