More about our Lives in Sao Paulo

“Wisdom is a divine endowment and not a human acquisition.”  Anon

There are so many strange and interesting things you’d find in Sao Paulo and Brazil. For instance, I’ve picked cashew nuts right from a Caju tree but of course they are not edible till roasted. The tree was not on our property but hung over onto the sidewalk from a neighbour’s lot. The nut grows rather strangely on the Caju tree by hanging to the bottom of a fruit that looks a bit like a small, soft, red/yellow pear. The fruit itself is commonly used to make a tart lemony tasting drink. We liked it. But one part that nobody eats or even let touch their lips is the husk of the cashew nut. Most people are extremely allergic to the shell and the toxicity can easily be fatal. I’ve read about people becoming ill because of the contact with the shell that had been made part of a swizzle stick.

Then there is the Guarana soda-pop drink that we’d serve you as a visitor; you’d like it I’d bet—that’s one reason it outsells every other foreign-oriented drink in Brazil. Yes, you’d like it but I recall one pastor from the USA that would not touch it. It was not because it had twice the caffeine content of the coffee bean but rather he was not sure what was in the drink. It happened on a Brazilian plane flying to Brazil and quite naturally they offered this Guarana drink on board. He could not speak Portuguese but the drink had the name on the bottle, Champanha Guarana. And that seemed quite clearly to be an alcoholic drink so he refused it. Later those us who lived in Brazil had a laugh at his confusion.

Guarana in its natural form is a small reddish berry-like fruit that is sweet and juicy but I imagine its popularity is linked not so much to its taste but that it has twice the stimulant of coffee beans. Tests have shown, if you believe such studies, that it increases memory and alertness. If Guarana helps memory I ought to have a few cases shipped North to me. But it is not grown in the area of Sao Paulo where we lived but way North in the Amazon basin; there the berries form in huge clusters along the bush’s branches. The tree may grow to over forty feet but most cultivation now is a dwarf variety that produces berries that mature earlier and have more fruit.

There is no way to tell all about the hundreds of different fruits and vegetables that we could buy in the Tucuruvi market. You’ll just have to take a trip there so you can see and taste the Brazilian dishes made from the variety they have on hand. But I want to tell you a bit about the area where we lived—Tremembe da Cantareira. Situated in the Zona Norte it is supposed to have a cooler climate—though we never noted any difference except the cold of its damp winter. It is on the edge of a low mountain range that provides a climate where many vacationers have built their cottages.

The bar situated on the corner of the main street from Tucuruvi and our turn always seemed to be both busy and open every time we passed. Yes open in the sense that the number of roll-up steel doors left it easily available to thirsty passersby. Such a pity that the cheap rum available there destroyed so many lives and I am sure now does the same. The next turn left was our street and it was quite typical for the area since two German families were neighbours. You see this well treed cooler area was attractive to European immigrants. One family was a conundrum to us–the protective high wall hid folks we never once saw. We wondered; you see Brazil was open to war criminals and their money at the end of WWII so our imaginations could create all sorts of scenes.

But our imagination did not need to go too far for Josef Mengele, the Angel of Death, came to Brazil. He was an officer and physician at Auschwitz who chose those to go to the gas chamber and performed outrageous surgical experiments on prisoners. We never knew our neighbours—they had a vicious guard dog that would try to jump the high wall when anyone went by. We had warned our children to stay far away but little boys are adventuresome. So Vernon one day climbed up and sat on the wall to survey the world. The dog jumped high enough to take a piece out of his upper arm but was not able to pull him into the yard—no doubt to his death. That incident is just one of many that help me believe in the Eternal Father’s protective angels.

If you descended the hill on which we lived, turned left you’d find soon on the right a Padaria—that is a bakery. Most every morning we had some of their warm bread on our breakfast table. We picked up the wonderful Brazilian habit of not wanting day-old bread on our table. The same Padaria made great pizza but we weren’t much into pizza with so much other great foods available.

So what were we doing in that section of Sao Paulo? We were given the responsibility or it might be called “opportunity” to work with a small group that met in a small hall in a back yard that was about the size of a double car garage. One Sunday while we conducted a service, a dog ran in that smelled to high heaven with rotten meat. I can’t recall any smell quite so bad and neither did the small congregation. Some tried to shoo it out but it kept running from under one pew to another till everyone was involved in getting rid of the dog. You can imagine that was the end of that service and maybe it should have ended then for who knows how well the missionary was doing. That was me of course.

Next post continues with Life in Sao Paulo




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