It is all about the timing. It always has been, with me. As my fingers hovered above the mousepad button in my hotel room in Dubai, I could almost sense that moment of scientific discovery in a faraway laboratory. That exact moment when the researcher pulled his head back from the microscope, petri dish awash with hitherto undiscovered viral organisms, to anxiously proclaim “There’s a new highly contagious strain of the virus in Brazil!”, just as I was hitting the PURCHASE NOW button on my $40 one way ticket to São Paulo.

Oh well, into the eye of the storm I go…

I really did not want to come to Brazil on this trip. Not only because I had visited the country on two previous occasions, and did therefore not feel any practical requirement to expend valuable pecuniary reserves on conquered ground. It is simply that I hold no flame for this country, zero desire to explore it further, and even less to spend valuable time here when so many other nations are distantly pleading for my attention. And if I had to come here again, it would at least be to the gloriously decadent coastal marvel that is Rio de Janeiro, and not that disgusting smog bucket of a humid megalopolis that is São Paulo.

How wrong could I possibly be? So incredibly mistaken that I feel I need to offer penance in the chapel of this the city namesake. I am sorry, Saint Paul, I truly am. For here you now find me: blown away; re-energised; exhilarated. Here, in this macrometropolis of some 33m souls; the most populous city in Brazil, the Americas, and both the Western and Southern hemispheres. I am blown away, again; punch drunk, floored, knocked down to the canvas. I have not been this seduced and shocked in equal measures by a city since I visited New York for the first time.

This city is quite simply electrifying, and its intensity surprises, maybe even frightens me. It has everything that my oversensitive urban exploration receptors could possibly want: the most all-encompassing street art scene the world has ever seen; brutalist architecture beneath mid-city tropical foliage; food, drink, life, passion, all oozing from every pore, store and inhabitant in this open canvas of a city. It is an intoxicating blend of New York, Cape Town, and Melbourne, three of my favourite world cities.

More street art than I have ever seen, anywhere!

Hipster alert!!!

I could stay here forever. I almost do. At $250 a month for an entire flat in the centre of the city, I could certainly book the next few weeks’ worth of accommodation. This is the very feeling I was hoping to avoid but am sadistically desperate to experience. Should I stay or should I go? One more day, a week or even a month? I want to stay, very badly. When will I ever get the time, freedom and opportunity to do so, to settle briefly and call home one of the most exciting metropolises that exists on our entire planet? Argh. These are the choices I will face on a daily basis over the next two years. I thank you all in advance for your understanding of these hardships I face, the struggle is real.

The insanely impressive MASP modern art museum

An insane museum, superb…

As if to make the decision even harder, I meet up with Carlo on my third day; Carlo, a friend from my Swiss home town of Basel, a grandiose person I have known since 1993 and one of those easy lifelong friendships that stops and starts effortlessly with each new encounter. We go out for a beautiful meal and catch up with his lovely wife Fernanda. But one catch up is not enough: I spend the entire following day having a Brazilian churrasco afternoon barbecuing enough meat to doom the planet until the year 2136, in the company of some fabulous local friends. I speak Portuguese all day, a language I do not know but invent very creatively, miraculously being understood even as my thalamus progressively melts down. And it makes me want to stay in this city even more.

We have moved on from the expired sell-by-date beers of 1993…

And in this way we arrive to the crux of the matter: do I stay or do I move on? It genuinely is 50/50 at this point, and I have given myself one night to sleep on it. This is quite simply the most exciting kind of decision-making that I would ever want to experience and I feel fortunate to have this open to me right now.

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  1. Stay man!!!

    You have two years, soak it all up for a couple of weeks; no regrets (although stay clear of the all-new Covid strain).

    Keep the blog posts coming – and more pictures (even boring ones) – I want to see streets, traffic lights, random passerby’s, and pretty much anything that showcases each venue in the every day… keeping the dream alive my friend that one day I might humbly follow in at least some of your footprints- albeit with three kids in tow

    1. I would have stayed an extra week, at least. But a new lockdown comes into effect in this city tomorrow, with all cultural venues and bars closing. That makes the decision to leave a little easier!

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