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Cowboys and sugar canes

My journey has finally brought me to São Paulo, and being a city girl, as you'd imagine, this is something I've been looking forward to for a while now. Standing in this metropolis, which is - I believe - the third largest in Earth, I'm starting to understand why everybody seems to link São Paulo with the adjective "crazy". This is truely a mad city; we're talking traffic jams at all hours, roads with innumerable lanes of traffic, noise, and people all over the place. I suppose it's all these factors - and more - which make São Paulo such an interesting place, but especially the latter makes this metropolis worth a visit: The people. This is a true melting pot of colours, ethnicities and cultures. I've only been here for two days but so far I've had Arabic, Italian and Japanese food - a fact, which I find, describes the internationality of this place quite well.

Inhabitating no less than 17 million people (Greater São Paulo), you'll probably understand why I sometimes feel like an ant, slowly moving through a huge lawn of grass, which is not grass, but skyscrapers that shoot up all around me in this jungle of concrete, steel and glass that seems to continue infinitely. I guess this is how it feels to be an ant. I'm lucky to be staying with my Brazilian friend, Carolina, who as a true Paulista (inhabitant of São Paulo) knows just how to navigate in and out of the long queues of traffic to get from A to B. And believe me, there's a long way from A to B in this city.

As I've mentioned before on this travellog, Brazil is a country of differences. Coming from Bahia, the state of São Paulo is not only different climatically (unbelievably, I feel cold here at night, haven't felt like that for months now...), but also culturally. This doesn't come as a surprise, but what might surprise is the extreme differences of life within the state of São Paulo: Hosting one of the world's biggest cities as well as a very important region of Brazilian agriculture, naturally there are extreme differences between life in the city and in the countryside of São Paulo.

I know this, because I, upon leaving Salvador and before going to the city of São Paulo, spent little more than one week in Catanduva, a small city a five hour drive from the city of São Paulo. After having arrived in the city of São Paulo, various people have asked me what in the world I was doing out there in Catanduva, as it's just another small city in the countryside and has little touristy on offer. If only they knew! If only! When people ask me this question, I always answer that I had the greatest time there, and that I'd return anytime. In fact, I stayed there for a few days more than originally planned, and I'd probably be there still, if I hadn't had a set plan to follow. 'Cos I might be a city girl and, as such, thriving with the fast pace of a buzzing city life, but I lost myself to the tranquility of life in that stunning region of Brazil, where the landscape is greener than green, the earth burning red, and the big white fluffy clouds higher up in the blue sky than I've ever seen them before. That place left me speechless. And upon leaving Catanduva, I was already dreaming about returning.

The landscape of this beautiful region is dominated by fields of sugar cane and orange plantation. The first provides employment to what I assume must be a great percentage of the inhabitants of the region, and the latter results in the largest percentage of the country's entire export of orange juice - no less than 80%. Agriculture is the backbone of the economy of this region and what left a deep impact on me is the way that life there seems to be intimately related to the agricultural traditions: One example is the pastime of horse riding, which I had the joy of participating in (pictures are on their way...), another is the annual Rodeo festival, which took place while I was visiting (how lucky was that?!!). We're talking real cowboys, angry bulls, graceful horses, Brazilian country music, traditional dances and loads of beer. In other words, The Wild West. Had no idea this could be found in Brazil, how lovely it is to be surprised! I was told how some of the competitions correspond to real life situations at the farms and, at such, the Rodeo is not only for fun, but has a relation to real life - in a way, I suppose, the Rodeo is a way of practicing, and perfecting, the skills needed on the farms. 

While in Catanduva I stayed with Livia, my friend from London, and her family, who welcomed me as were I part of the family. I feel very lucky to have met such great people on my way, and their invitation to return is tempting, so tempting. Sometimes, here in Brazil, I've found myself wondering about what in the world I'm doing here, learning the Portuguese language, since I might never use it again, after returning home to Europe. Now I know, because my trip has been completely transformed by all the information and knowledge that I've received in Portuguese by people I've met here. And if there's one thing that's certain, then that's the kindness of the people I've come across and their willingness to share their way of life with me.

I left a bit of myself in that sunny spot of Brazil, and I'll keep a bit of Catanduva in my heart forever. My journey so far has definitely taught me that you'll sometimes find the most amazing experiences in unexpected places.

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