This photo of Wolverine represents one of the best things of Sao Paulo : graffiti. While a university student on Victoria I managed to swing a clerical job at the Esquimalt Graving Dock. The job itself was a nightmare but it meant I got to ride my bike there every morning. My favourite part of the route from James Bay was riding across a trestle in an older neighbourhood in Esquimalt, as the backs of the buildings there were covered in graffiti. Every few days the graffiti would be refreshed/renewed/reinvented, meaning the ride to work sometimes held new sights in familiar terrain. The moral to the story here is that creativity is not always appreciated as the wonderful graphics were one day painted over to a blank, beige wall. All the joy left Mudville that day and since then it’s been my mission in life to seek out new cityscapes where people have their mark in the most brilliant and inventive ways.
A first time visitor to Sao Paulo, I went there strictly to visit an acquaintance I’d met at an SEG convention in Denver the year before. Mauricio and I were introduced at a crazy party that was thrown by the delegates from South America. He was drunk, I was getting very drunk, latin rhythms were playing, everyone was going crazy with drink and dance. Mauricio turned out to be a very good dancer but more importantly, a good dance teacher to this very very anglo from North America. So when I found myself working a 4-weeks in, 2-weeks out rotation as an exploration geologist in Guyana, it seemed the ideal time to do a bit more of what I love the most : explore.
In spite of the fact that BraSil and Guyana are neighbours, they’re not exactly close. Flights in and out are ~ once per week, and as a Canadian citizen working in Guyana in a remote camp with intermittent and unreliable phone service and internet, traveling to BraSil from Georgetown was not nearly as easy as I’d anticipated. First hurdle: arranging a visa. Apparently all North American citizens require a tourist visa to visit BraSil. Second, third, and fourth hurdles: obtaining the information require by the clerk at the BraSilian embassy. On a long weekend. This involved getting statements from the bank, my employer, copies of my birth certificate, my blood type and the promise of a first born. None of the paperwork met the clerk’s approval, but I finally managed to convince her to process the application … so she could tell me it was a 5 business day processing time, and since it was a 4 day long weekend the visa would be ready the day before I had to return to work. Yay!! Fortunately the CEO of the company got wind of my predicament and had his people call me. They made a few calls, did a little name dropping, and voila! The visa was in my passport the next morning. All it took was the implication that I was bff with the Major-General of the Guyanese army to get my passport along with many humble apologizes for any inconvenience. Crazy!!
Since direct flights were only once a week, in the end I caught a flight to Lethem, on eastern edge of Guyana, taxied across the border, whipped through customs – an interesting experience since none of the BraSilian border agents spoke English and my portuguese is almost as limited – bussed to Boa Vista where I spent the night before catching an early flight to Sao Paulo the next day. Efforts at communication were helped along by the superb use of technology and an app on my iPhone called Translate. But I’m pretty sure I overtipped the cab driver…
Next stop: Sao Paulo and the Vila Madalena experience!