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Noontime in Rua 25 de Março, São Paulo


“Açai, açai!”

Beads of sweat are dropping from the young street vendors face. In the burning sun every movement made requires energy. The young boy carries a cooled box containing the viscous, dark red and refreshing flesh of the açai, the fruit of the eponymous Palm tree- which he sells to passers-by. The açai is a dark violet berry and originally from the Amazon and very popular in Brazil.

It is about noonday and the street “Rue 25th of March “in the market hood of Sao Paulo is crowded with people. Today is my third day in the city and especially this place was highly recommended to be worth visiting.

“Açai, açai!” , the boy shouts again and again, his face is red and his hand is longing for the bottle with water in his pocket.

A man comes along and gives him some coins whereupon the boy starts to fill the liquid in a transparent plastic mug, adds some nuts and a straw. As the man goes his way, the boy raises his voice again:” Açai, açai!”,

Pulsating chaos everywhere and the street seems like a colorful snake wriggling awkwardly its way. My sensual perception is certainly overextended and so I do not know what to turn the attention first to, sounds, smells, pictures, colors or people.

Hucksters are turning over their goods assiduously. On the external parts of both sides of the street people selling scarves, watches and bracelets shown on blankets on the ground and occasionally bits of the grey pavement is visible.

On handcarts pushed up and down the street or parked on the floor one can buy sweets, hot corncobs, coconut mild or sugar cane juice.

In this hustle any step forewords seems to be a progress. Close body contact to other people is unavoidable and makes the experience even more tangible.

The açai vendor moves upwards the steep street. Occasionally a person stops and buys his good. Eventually the boy himself takes a rest, sits on a folding chair he carried on his back and watches the crowds passing by.

Unpredictable smells of the plenty snack stands, restaurants and fish and butcher s shops fuse together and become one big tang. Here and there a new odor joins the mixture of smells, changes and varies it slightly from meter to meter, shop to shop.

However, one does not really want to imagine the origin of all the smells and yet the changingness of sweet, musty, salty and bitter scent is puzzling and turns out to be an interesting game, for my own nose at least.

Two salesmen had invented a certainly interesting strategy of selling their good, a ball game, where one had to throw a Velcro ball in-between to Velcro plates and catch it.

Both of them were on opposite parts of the street, passing the ball to each other, laughing and talking, shouting and yelling, trying to catch the people’s attention.

Their idea seems to work out, already a large group of people has gathered on one part of the street, watching them interestedly and making it impossible for others to get through.

The huge blast of sound leaves a lasting impression on the visitor. Music out of portable stereo units carries songs of different artists and different genres in the people s ears and causes temporary deafness.

The beats and styles of music changes every meter and creates the feeling of participating either at a huge party, wedding, techno club, or whatever one would associate the particular song with.

With the music the shouting and hyping for the different products which are always the cheapest, best and most valuable offers- the noisiness climbs the border of tolerability.

Children are playing next to their parents’ handcarts, reading books or entertaining themselves.

Two old women are having a vociferous discussion with each other; a young guy stands between them, trying to mediate. Not being able to understand their conversation my focus lies on the body language which is impulsive and energetically and in a strange way entertaining me.

Human movement is the major traffic of the street. The only cars to be seen on the street are two police cars which are more less getting ahead in a walking pace.

In-between people, the police cars and handcarts again and again a brave Moto boy -which is the expression for the motorbike drivers in the city – who is trying to make his way through the crowds in a break necking mode of operation, using his horn, voice, hands and feet to shoo the people out of his way.

In the first floors of the houses in the street many shops can be found, all of them protected by security men with friendly faces. Shops are structured in certain domains, clothes shops next to clothes shops, home- improvement store next to a home- improvement store and so on. Despite or maybe even because of the restlessness of the place people seem to find what they are looking for, identified themselves with it. It is said you can get anything you like in this place and by just walking through it seems to be true. Laptops and Digital cameras on the one side, car tires on the other part of the street, fitting for washing machines or other domestic appliances, screws, drills and spades.

Women with content faces and children tick off their huge shopping list, others carry heavy bags full with stuff and groaning because of the unbearable heat. It seems common to always carry an umbrella, a useful protection against any weather change, or also against the sun.

Meanwhile the majority of people in the crowd are on their way for lunch break. Different meal offers are drawn on colorful signs and arrows show and guide the hungry city dweller, business man with suit and tie, secretary with glasses and high heel, craftsman, student, friends and working mates or whatever their background and occupation to their preferred place. Two little signs at the end and begin of the street advise people to watch out their handbags and after having joined the flow of the moving crowds this seemed more than reasonable.

If I was a pick pocket, I would work here; the choice of available handbags or backpacks is huge and infinite.

For the moment, the life in the street seems better than any film, satisfying any desire for action and interaction of different people. One sequence follows another one, never standing still, always moving.

The houses of the street seem to metaphor the place with their glaring colors: pink, yellow and green in-between grey and brown walls. Modernized living next to a fragile seeming building are polarizing and yet fitting into the ambient frame of the quarter but also of Sao Paulo itself.

Overwhelming cluelessness arises in me about the impression of the hour spend in the street. Tiredness creeps over me and I am feeling full of the market and its ever-changing rhythm.

With a mug of cooling açai the escape of the beat from the next portable stereo unit which was just once again sending its sounds in my ears succeeds.

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