Sure I may have been out of New Zealand since 1996 and Cath out of Australia since 2001, but living in Australia and then London, you never really feel like a foreigner. But coming to live in Sao Paulo, we were suddenly and dramatically thrown into being foreigners. Where in London you hear a kiwi or aussie accent every day – in a pub, on a bus or on the tube, at least once a day you would always hear a familiar accent, but since we have been in South America, apart from our friends and people at Caths work, you can go days or even weeks without hearing anyone speaking English, and we have only ever heard one other Australian accent since we have been here, a random bloke from Sydney who had just spent six weeks tramping in the very south of Argentina.
Never hearing English spoken is a great help when it comes to learning Portuguese, we are slowly picking up bits and pieces of the language, but its not easy, the printed word is much easier than the spoken word, but its still a hard job learning another language.
So given our “isolation” from our fellow country men and women, when we got an email invite to the joint Australian and New Zealand embassies ANZAC day dinner, we jumped at the chance to immerse ourselves in our native cultures. We invited Zoe and Luccas – our resident QLDer and her Brazilian better half, and made a date – that date of course being Friday the 25th of April, and the location being the very swanky Grand Hyatt hotel.
So the hotel is only 6km from our house, and the start time was 8pm, so we got ready into our bestest outfits and jumped in a taxi, allowing 45 minutes to travel six kilometres may sound a bit excessive, but it is Sao Paulo on a Friday night, so we left a good amount of time. We got in the cab at 7:15 and 1 hour 45 minutes later we had travelled about 4 kilometres, the whole of Sao Paulo was in grid lock, there was a ring of stationary traffic stretching 10kms from the city centre and tail backs on the motorways into and out of town stretching up to 45kms. All around us stress levels were starting to rise, people were driving the wrong way down one way roads, motorbikes were streaming down the footpaths, and people were standing beside their cars, stuck in the middle of eight lanes of stationary cars. So with the clock ticking we were left with no option but to walk.
Now if we were in London or down under, we would never hesitate at the thought of walking 2km in the evening, but in Sao Paulo the idea is about as strange as walking on the moon, people just don’t walk around in the dark, its not safe, its not sensible and its bloody scary. Sure some people do walk around after dark, but they are generally only doing it because they are too poor to catch public transport, so the image of two gringos, one in a suit, tie and shiny shoes and a blonde bombshell in a cocktail dress walking through the not so nice parts of the city must have raised some eye brows. But heh, this was our chance to drink free kiwi and aussie wine and eat some real kiwi lamb, so we were desperate! We ended up arrive at 9:15, two hours after leaving home. We arrived just in time to hear poor Luccas (the lone brazilian in the room) singing the Brazilian national anthem, and then for the first time in many years (apart from sporting events) Greg and Cath took turns to join in the singing of the Australian and new Zealand national anthems. This was followed by speeches from the Australian and New Zealand ambassadors on ANZAC day and what it means to our countries, it was made even more poignant knowing that Gregs brother Joel had been among the crowds of Aussies and Kiwis at ANZAC cove earlier that day.
The dinner was lovely, and the Spy Valley sav blanc and big aussie red went down a treat, a starter of fresh Australian prawns and a main of New Zealand lamb, were a nice change to the beef focused diet we enjoy in Sao Paulo.
After the dinner there was lots of mingling and chatting i think there were about 60 or so guests, everyone was dressed to the nines, and either an Aussie or Kiwi or married to one, we had a great night talking to lots of Aussies and Kiwis, some of whom had been here for decades, and lots of others like us who are much more recent arrivals.
We were amazed to learn talking to Embassy staff that they estimated that there were only about 75 Australians and 55 New Zealanders in Sao Paulo, its no wonder we don’t hear familiar accents very often, we are totally lost in the population of 20,000,000 in Sao Paulo. They think there are about 200 Aussies spread over Brazil, and only about 100 New Zealand passport hodlers, we were also surprised to learn that only about 2,000 Australians visit Brazil any year, so we really are a rare minority group over here!
Greg and Cath dressed up to the nines…