I enjoying walking because it allows me to organize my thoughts. As a result, one of the things I like about São Paulo is that many places can be reached by walking. We’ve done a lot of walking these past few days of the trip, while we’re in and around the college, or walking to visit one of the local schools, or on a tour of someplace special to the people of Brazil.

Walking around these streets reminds me so much of my thought processes. The streets are filled with cars and the buildings are so close together, much like how many of my thoughts race through my head, careening from one topic to the next. The sidewalks often involve suddenly stepping up or stepping down, like how my emotions can vary from one moment to the next.

I walked to a market on Saturday morning that had closed a section of a street.

We’ve also done quite a bit of driving. São Paulo is a city with a large automotive industry and cars quite literally line the streets throughout the city. In comparison to walking, I find being driven someplace to be relaxing because I don’t have to have my thoughts in order and I can just relax and watch buildings fly by.

Being here in São Paulo has made me realize just how grateful I am to have opportunities to travel, whether that involves walking or driving. Back home, I’m often reluctant to go new places, especially as I wouldn’t exactly call Rochester a “walkable” city and being behind the wheel of a car makes me extremely anxious.

Walking in São Paulo allows me to collect my thoughts and watch how the people here go about their daily lives, how they experience this place they call home. For example, the small shops are almost all open directly to the street, allowing people walking by to come and go easily.

Driving allows me to see just how vast and full of culture a city can get, from the style of the buildings’ architecture, to the unspoken rules of driving through the streets. The city has rows of favelas on some of the streets, and I love seeing the colorful buildings as the cars race by, and it’s very interesting watching vehicles stop and go at intersections, seemingly following rules that they know implicitly but that I couldn’t articulate.

The driving culture here is one that reflects having trust in the other drivers. I’ve noticed that it isn’t always clear what the other people on the road are going to do, and yet everybody acts with the understanding that others are going to move as well.

The view from the bus on one of our many driving trips through the city.

On Sunday, while driving to a festival with my host family, I noticed that there was an area with a lane closed off completely to car traffic and reserved solely for bike travel. I found this so incredibly fascinating to see, with my background in Rochester and my understanding that accomplishing this on such a wide scale throughout the city would be difficult.

One of the street signs that describes the lane being closed on Sundays for bike traffic.

I’ve struggled these past few days with finding a way to express just how grateful I am to be here and to experience so many new places. “Thank you” and “obrigada” feel somewhat inadequate to describe how I feel. I’m grateful especially to be able to witness the amount of trust present in the culture of São Paulo.

I can’t wait to see more of São Paulo from the streets, whether that will involve walking or driving.

Categories: Brazil 2023


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