Thursday, May 16, 2013

Saint Paul

The next morning in Curitiba, we had a brief guitar and music workshop at a cultural foundation that interestingly mixed modern building into an old structure.  I had to miss most of the workshop as I swam through the details of the band’s health plan.  Moana had been sick for a while, and she wasn’t getting better.  She had been coughing heavily through the evening’s show prior, so we made a decision that she needed to see a doctor.  And thus I had to figure out how their insurance all worked.  The website was no help, and its instruction manual was 45 pages on how to enroll people into the health plan but nothing on the actual process.  Fun.

After the morning workshop, we took our last flight into Sao Paulo, arriving the late afternoon.  The Consulate’s Cultural Affairs Specialist Maria Estela, a lovely woman who had been with the Consulate for a lil over four decades, met us at the airport.  I venture to say she may have the most experience of any Consulate/Embassy FSN of anyone in the State Dept.  Maria Estela took Keola and Jeff to the hotel, while Cesar and I took Moana to the Hospital Israelita Albert Einstein to get checked out.  The hospital was immaculate.  Large, modern and pristine.  We worked our way through triage, and Moana was eventually seen by a doctor.  I killed some time hanging with a giant statute of Uncle Albert, and wandering through a labyrinth outside.  Thankfully Moana did not have pneumonia but rather a sinus infection.  We kinda worked out the billing with hospital.  Not exactly, as I had to continue to deal with it well into this week.

We made our way back through the choked streets of Sao Paulo from the hospital to the hotel.  Exhausted after a long day that came after a long night prior, I had a shower and wandered out to find a lil dinner. I found a local bar and restaurant that had espitinhos- sticks of grilled meat, sending smoke into the night.  I stopped in for a delicious grilled beef skewer covered in farofa and spicy pepper oil.  I sipped cold Skol out of a lil cup and I listened to sounds of local chatter and local music bounce off the small tiled walls of the establishment.  I had a grin from ear to ear.  I had another skewer of grilled chicken wings covered in farofa and pepper oil, before I turned in for an early night.

The following day I wandered my way up to Avenida Paulista- the center of my Paul universe, in search of a sweatshirt since SP had an autumn chill. We had a concert at SESC Interlagos- a large community center complex in Sao Paulo but outside the city center.  We drove along a river past the giant high-rises and impressive cross-directional cantilevered bridge. 

We arrived to the community center for a midday hula program and mid-afternoon concert.  We were met by the Consulate’s CAO, Danna who was also an Ex-Con- ie, she had worked for the Israeli Foreign Ministry.  She had worked in the cultural affairs section and had been ending her tenure as I was beginning mine.

I wasn’t sure that Moana should be doing the hula class and thought she should save her energy for the concert since she wasn’t feeling well, but she wanted to do a short class.  Then apparently, she found out that some of the students had been studying hula online, that they had literally shown up at 8am for the noon class because they were so excited, and she went on to give a full workshop.  We kept telling her that she could end the workshop, but she was determined to teach them since this was their first real opportunity to learn. 

After a lil afternoon break and soundcheck, Keola and company gave their last big concert of the tour.  There were probably about 250 people on hand for the show, mostly families with their kids.  The last show went well, and Moana showed a lot of perseverance to get through the full day.  The group got some interesting kudos from the sound engineers, who mentioned that they work on projects from small shows to giant concerts for megastars, and they really enjoyed their program.  They said that the group was incredibly professional in their soundcheck arrangements, and had such a wonderfully unique sound that they had never encountered.

After a slog back through traffic and a lil rest, Keola, Moana and I went out for sushi in the neighborhood Liberdade.  We drove through town and into the historically Japanese neighborhood with streets lined in giant white bulbs that I think were mean to represent Japanese lanterns.  We had some phenomenal sushi.  Prior to visiting Japan, Sao Paulo had the best sushi I had ever encountered.  It remains number two after Japan, but I think quite highly of its sushi.  By the way, Sao Paulo has the largest Japanese community outside of Japan.  The city has close to 2 million (check) residents of Japanese origin.  

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