Letters from the FIELD: First Impressions of Sao Paulo

Buffett dinner at Churrascaria Souths Place
Buffett dinner at Churrascaria Souths Place

After finally falling asleep on the long and fairly sleepless flight from DC to Sao Paulo, Monica Baik–my seatmate–said to me “Did you see all of those soccer fields right before we landed?”  Sheepishly, I mumbled, “Hmmm? We are here?”

The drive from the airport to our hotel, Melia Jardim Europa, was a long one.  According to our tour guide Sergio, the ride from the airport to where we are staying without traffic is about 40 minutes, but on weekdays it generally takes more than two hours.  Sergio continued to say that although there are a total of 30 million people in Sao Paulo, there are only 7 million cars.  Only 7 million cars?!  To put this in perspective, Boston’s population is only about 5 million.  Sao Paulo’s number of cars alone surpasses the number of people in the whole of Boston, and I don’t think I need to talk about how bad Boston’s traffic can get.

Our hotel is situated in a very clean and luxurious neighborhood, which our guide identified as the new financial center of the city.  The upperclass air of the area became even more evident after all the teams from Cohort 6 came back from the Picture Project.  As one of our classmates from a developing country pointed out, the unmet needs we had identified were all first world problems.  Our professor was quick to point out that we had only seen one highly developed areas of the city, and that there are actually many poor communities and problems.

On the cultural immersion side, we had a Brazilian barbecue buffet dinner on Monday night.  There were so many different types of meat, and the waiters just kept coming with more.  The most important lesson that I learned from that night is that flipping my coaster from a green to a red is the only way to signal to the waiters that I am full and would not like any more meat.  By the end of the night, I had eaten enough meat for the rest of the month.


FIELD Activities:

Sunday – Photo Project

Monday – First meeting with sponsor; Buffett dinner at Churrascaria Souths Place

Tuesday – Project with sponsor; work dinner at hotel