30 January 2009

In Country: Sao Paulo

Considered to be the third largest city in the world, Sao Paulo is a teeming metropolis and the economic powerhouse of Brasil. Its population stands at about 18 million, although I have read several other figures from a variety of sources. The following is a link to an interactive map of the city. http://travel.yahoo.com/p-map-481751-map_of_sao_paulo_sp-i . At present we are staying at Dona Zilah's Pousada in the Jardim District of the city. To get a sense of the scale of this place, consider that it took us about an hour to get from the outskirts of the city to the bus station last night. My travel guide book suggests it takes 2 hours to get from one side of the city to another.

One of the factors that causes this slowness of travel is the traffic. It is bumper to bumper most of the time. There is, however, a very good subway system which operates mostly underground, shuttling the masses of humanity about their daily lives.

As for its geography, Sao Paulo sits at about 2500 feet above sea level on a plateau overlooking the South Atlantic Ocean. The weather today calls for showers and temperatures at about 22 Celsius (73 Fahrenheit).

Early this morning David and Fernando caught a bus headed to Campinas; David had a dental appointment to keep. So Hope and I stayed in bed a few hours longer and will stay close to the pousada until they return.

Probably in large part because of its size, Sao Paulo can be a fairly dangerous city. People are kidnapped for ransom quite frequently; petty theft of cameras and purses is also common for tourists; and car jackings are on the rise. As a security measure to address the car jacking problem the city government recently passed a red light law. Essentially drivers are no longer required to stop at red lights after dark. Rather the driver is encouraged to slow to ensure there is no cross traffic and then proceed through the intersection. Needless to say, when driving in Sao Paulo one is taking one's life in one's hands.

As a consequence, Hope and I will not be driving anywhere today. Nor will we wander too far from the pousada until David and Fernando return. There is comfort in having a body guard for a husband!

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