I spend a last morning in my adopted coffee shop on well-healed Jose Maria Lisboa before heading onwards to Ibirapuera Park and the grand exhibition hall within which my work here begins. So it appears I will never discover the filling of my favoured stuffed croissant (sugared salmon would be my best guess, strange as it sounds) but have at least a pretty good idea of the routines of the security men opposite; all tinted glasses, blacked-out pigeons and barely concealed pistols as they seek to protect the rich and famous from the kidnappers and cracked heads on the street.
A banner above my head pronounces Cotton and Coal: fresh from the UK and combined with my ultra-professional demeanor, entices a steady stream of interested customers to our stand. All good for business but my own interest is with our translator, Siamee – so quick at her job that askance she can tell me something of her life here. Siamee’s family are pioneers in what will become a wave of Japanese immigrants in the 1920s and ‘30s (she predicts), and while she studies in Sao Paolo she grew up by the Amazon, in the sweltering trading port of Manaus (‘much too humid for you, look how you sweat now!’) where her dad taught her to shoot at nine, in case attacked by man or beast. As if to counteract the contraband flowing up and down river from Manaus, Siamee tells me of (yet) another European’s folly and how an Opera House was transported, cut stone-by-cut stone, through the jungle to where it now sits in fetid surroundings, hosting piercing arguments between the untamed and the cultured. A dirty great pile of coal will serve your country better, I tell her while dabbing my forehead with the nearest bit of cotton available.
Posted by Pete