Two things strike me the most about São Paulo upon arrival–
One, this mega-city of eight million or so people–not counting the burbs–suffers from a horrid international reputation of being ugly in aesthetics and in character. While I can’t honestly say this is the most beautiful city I ever lay eyes upon, it’s far from unpleasant, and on the contrary, it moves to a fairly pleasant vibe of conviviality.
That is not to say that this city isn’t without it’s very apparent problems, homeless seeking shelter in every dry corner, heads deep in garbage bags with the undying hope of finding the hidden treasure, slums visible along the bus routes.
But, overall, I find it approachable, human, this southern megatropolis, a dash of in-your-face roughness with a whole lot of people from every corner of the globe, every walk of life, living together in colorful blend of cross- and multi-culturalism, a richness of racial diversity I wish we could appreciate everywhere, for truth be told, there’s something beautiful in seeing the features of the all the world’s continents marked on a child’s face.
Two, the pay phone–here, it is everywhere, on every street corner, housed in unique, artfully designed shells of a bygone 70s, relics from another era, and while I fail to test one out, their celebrated presence splashes a wide grin on my face every time I see one, for, to me, it signals a desire to maintain contact, favoring the essential to the technological, making sure lines of communication remain established, even for the basest of Luddites.
Elsewhere in the world the pay phone loses out to the cell phone, understandably enough, sure, but for the lo-tech traveler, the pay phone is a beacon, a world of possibilities, and for this, São Paulo, I am pleased.