Animals - Alive or Cooked?

Day 13: Saturday, January 18th

This morning we hit up the São Paulo zoo. A lot of people asked me if I was really excited since I love animals, but I told them I’m more interested in seeing natural habitats than I am in zoos. Nonetheless, it was fun to walk around with my friends looking at chimpanzees, tigers, and tropical birds.

A cassowary, a blue-faced ratite from New Guinea (which I once dressed as for a high-school dance...)

This black vulture is just waiting for the little monkey to die!

This majestic white tiger was pacing back and forth. He made me sad.

This giant tortoises reminded me of my friends from the Galapagos!

The harpy eagle is the world's strongest bird. They snatch monkeys from treetops in the Amazon! I wish I could have seen one in the wild.

This wild bird (a chimango caracara?) was standing on the back of rhinoceros!

The two were quite friendly.

Another great kiskadee? My bird book has about twenty birds that look like this!

A common gallinule in the green pond.

We watched this great egret fish for clumps of algae.

We ate lunch at another sterile downtown mall which was so similar to yesterday’s, I didn’t realize it was a different mall until we were leaving. I bought my first Brazilian souvenir, a roll-on deodorant! (Apparently they don’t use powder in this country?)

After lunch, we headed to an art museum and did a whirlwind tour of the most important pieces. The tour guide let us go early because we seemed bored… whoops. The plan was to move on to the city’s Soccer Museum under the stadium, but that plan got cancelled because a soccer game had been scheduled and the museum was closed during games.

“Why don’t we just go to the game, then?” someone asked. Why not? We didn’t have tickets, but we drove our oversized bus down to the stadium and flailed around, getting in the way, avoiding peddlers, being shunted from line to line, and being distracted by the gorgeous equestrian police. By some miracle, we ended up inside the stadium in the nosebleed section, watching a Brazilian soccer game! We weren’t the most dedicated fans (a number of us turned our backs to the game at halftime to even out our tans) but it was a good experience nonetheless.

Tonight was our dancing night. When we got to the bar with Juliana, we didn’t see the dance floor we were expecting, but as the night went on people started filling in the space in front of the band. The drinks were expensive. I got a delicious picanha and cheese sandwich for dinner and a suco de maracujá (passionfruit juice) for dessert. Once people started drinking, the stories started flowing! I heard the life stories of at least three guys tonight. It was a good time.

Day 14: Sunday, January 19th

We started the hot, sunny day with a visit to the “hippie market,” an artisan market in a downtown plaza. Last semester, I went to a mega version of this market in an Ecuadorian town called Otovalo, so I didn’t really need any South American souvenirs. I tried on several necklaces of green stone beads. If I lived in Brazil, I definitely would have bought several of the succulent arrangements, but I thought US customs might have a problem with those. In the end, I left the market empty-handed, but I was satisfied my experience of shopping around.

Artists' stalls spread out in the baking sun.

Shiny, modern sky-scrapers shot up around the plaza.

I was fascinated by the mosaic of air-conditioning units stuck to the apartment buildings.

Lunch was ridiculous. We continued the theme of animals, but this time the creatures were cooked. Shirota had been hyping the restaurant up all week, cautioning us to stop eating at lunchtime the day before. He wasn’t kidding – this all-you-can-eat Brazilian steakhouse was incredible! Not only was there a buffet featuring all types of seafood and sushi and Brazilian soup, there were also plates of hors d’oeuvres on the table and a fleet of waiters roving around with entire cuts of meat on skewers. The waiter would stop at your place, slice off a portion of meat, and let you pick it up with silver tongs.

We were given cards detailing the various cuts of beef and their locations on the cow. I had to ask specially to try “hump steak,” the meat from the hump on the back of Brahman cattle. Where else in the world would I be able to try a hump steak? The meat was fatty and stringy, like a pot roast – not the medium-rare sirloin with which we had been stuffing our faces, but delicious nonetheless.

Sejal, Erin and I with a decorative Brahman cow.

Drinks and desserts weren’t included, but people had plenty anyway. Chris, AJ and Shirota challenged each other to a drinking contest, and Shirota ended up chugging a capirinha and a half before we left. It was a little more than he could handle!

Chris was a bit drunk, too, but instead of puking or passing out, he just felt chatty. While everyone else slept, Chris and I had an interesting discussion about Chris’s weed science class, how it is virtually impossible for non-farm kids to own their own farms, and the future of grain farming. These are the kind of talks I joined AZP for. I learned a lot!

Back at the hotel, I took the free evening to work on my Hollings Scholarship essay, and I was asleep by 11:30. Win.