So I had my first breakdown since I landed in São Paulo last Friday. It’s so easy for me to feel utterly alone in what I perceive to be an enormous, impersonal city, made entirely out of tall concrete blocks. Dislocated from anything I associate with some sense of home – no new friends or lovers yet, those in Europe not really reachable through the ever-unsatisfying electronic communication – I immediately need to implement my 3-lines of self-care plan:
1.The line of stillness. Anxiety, stress and accumulation of negative energies are something to be aware of in this rushed – paced city. Daily morning yoga, 1-2 minutes of breath meditation at least twice a day, heart meditation (my own version), emotional body scanning. Connecting to the energy of nature (luckily SP has some awesome tall trees in addition to tall buildings). Turning the energy of the people rushing through the city’s transport system into something positive, as a source of liveliness (as per Eckhart Tolle’s suggestion, watch his funny video on meditation here), instead of feeling drained by the cattle-sent-to-slaughter sensation of commuting drone drudgery (in the dearly missed words of my emotional curator). I made my first meditation altar, improvised on a cute owl plate my host has placed in my room. Palo santo and incense, to clean the air, candle – the flame can act as a focus point in meditation, dry leaf from homeland – connection to roots, caju seed pods – connection with the new land, chipped coin found on Barceloneta beach, reminder that even most durable things pass, my heart stone – the red with white lines, my protection stone from Oana – the black one, and my white travelling angel that comes with me everywhere I go (they – yes, my angel is gender-neutral – need a bath). Oh, and hidden behind the jar, a cute elephant button I picked up in front of Natural History Museum in London – reminder not to take things oh so seriously.
2. The line of movement. I need to soon get my energy moving, endorphins and other feel good hormones running; now that I’ve sorted out the accommodation and I’m not exhausting myself running every afternoon from one place to another (still figuring out how enormous this city is). Dancing is a necessity, not a luxury.
3. The line of connection. I will finally start being social. It’s been a week and I had absolutely no time nor energy to meet anyone. Luckily, it doesn’t appear to be particularly complicated, less so than in Czech Rep. People are usually excited I speak a bit of Portuguese and they are happy to also practice their English with me. I’ve been invited to the 23rd edition of Mix Brasil next week (LGBT, queer festival), meeting 3 people from OKCupid, maybe doing some caipirinhas with some girls from the office. I’m hopeful.
Some say your work is done when you get tired of it. After a week of stressful scouting for accommodation which was a good way of more familiarising myself with the Paulista ways – the expectation that you will work outside home, work a lot, or at least spend a lot of time in work-like situations (the neoliberal glorification of busy is very much alive and kicking here), the pervasiveness of cleaning employees in each apartment, faxineiras, weekly, or twice a month, and security staff at the front gate of edificios – I decided I am too tired to search for more and settled for a room close to Fradique Coutinho metro station in the heart of lively and vibrant Pinheiros bairro, adjacent to Vila Madalena, which I will move into next Sunday. So one more week of Airbnb to go, this one in Pinheiros, my soon to be neighbourhood.
In the first week at the office I learnt that, unlike myself, people are fond of offices and office buildings, and – the horror, the terror, the pain – open office spaces, the US style cubicles – except that in a latin culture, these spaces are extremely inefficient, as people seem very prone to gossiping and taking coffee breaks. Again cleaning personnel is everywhere, there are massage therapists providing their services in an office across the open shared space in the clear view of everybody else – again, something that my privacy-aware European sensitivity recoils from. However, people seem genuinely warm and friendly, although they are probably still seizing up the new gringa.
Some signs that I need to relax and get unstuck manifested in the not-so-amusing yet amusing form of getting myself locked inside a cemetery during what I thought to be a shortcut on my way to an appointment for an apartment – I am looking for permanent accommodation, just not that permanent, and having a payment for an Airbnb blocked by my bank. So I promptly took myself for a relaxing afternoon in Vila Madalena/ Pinheiros, through Brazilian coffee at Coffeelab and street food at the Saturday markets on Mourato Coelho street and Benedeto Calixto square – Bahian acarajé, espera marido sweet cream, pastel com carne e queijo, followed by a book fair and rooftop concert at a library downtown, accompanied by my host, who knows all the good places. Açai and banana frozen mix to take home. Caldo de cana with caju juice is my new to-die-for drink.