I arrived in Sao Paulo, Sao Paulo via bus from Itanhaem, a beach town in the same state. I accidentally got off at Osasco bus station instead of Barra Funda, a mistake that was overshadowed by the discovery that my suitcase with a year’s worth of my life in it was not under the bus where I had put it. I talked harshly at the bus driver in broken Portuguese and he shrugged and that was the end of it.
I was in a stupor as I walked to the Metro to take an extra-long subway ride, thanks to my bus station mix-up, to the hostel. Either an idiot had taken my luggage-checked bag by accident, or, more likely, someone had ganked it. All I had in my backpack with me was a pair of pants, all my heavy books, my laptop and my passport (thank God, or I really would have been freaking out).
At the hostel I met cool people from all over the world, as you do in hostels, and tried to sort out my bag problem. I had a Brazilian friend of mine call the bus company, but I wasn’t counting on their help. The next day I walked to the hotel my company put all 30 of us bolsistas up in for orientation in the same clothes I had worn for the previous 3 days.
That week was a rush: meeting 30 Americans from all over the country, learning their names, where they were going to be living in Brazil, where they were from, what they studied, then forgetting and asking all over again. The first night there I received an email from an address I didn’t know, saying in Portuguese that the sender had a bag filled with ‘children’s clothes’ and had found my email address on some documents inside. My bag! (Assuming it was indeed my diminutive clothing that was confused for children’s clothes). I jumped up and down and squealed a little and drank a beer from the minifridge to celebrate. It turned out someone had mistaken my 45-pound bag for their beach bag and had taken it home. With the help of my program director and the accidental thief, it arrived at my hotel room safe and sound with everything in it.
With that crisis behind me, I started to enjoy Sao Paulo. My entry into the city was so tainted by my initial experiences that I hadn’t relaxed or grown to like it there. I started to look around when I walked around during the day, and started to go out at night. I went to a hipster bar that played Grimes and felt like I was at home. I had delicious palm heart pizza from a horribly overpriced pizza place. I ate quiche and drank mango juice in a little cafe. I got brainwashed at the Portuguese language museum. I broke into the hotel pool and swam in the icy water at 3am. I started to remember things about my fellow orientees, started becoming friends with some of them. Started enjoying the quicker pace of life, the variety of people on the street, the vastness of the city. Then, just as soon as I got comfortable, I was on a bus to Sao Jose do Rio Preto, a place I had never been and my home for a year.