Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Place where the fish stop...and get eaten - Piracicaba

Piracicaba River - A view from the bridge
On Saturday, we went to visit the town of Piracicaba. Okay, it's a city really; it boasts more than 350,000 residents. It is barely 2 hours from São Paulo, and is the home of one of the best agricultural colleges in Brazil called ESALQ.  I was told to say that because both my brother-in-law and my husband's cousin went there. But seriously, it is the best or one of the best and appropriately so--the city is surrounded by sugar cane. It is also the birthplace of "precision farming"--for more on that, see wikipedia. I am no farmer. Heck, I can't even keep an orchid alive.

Stop, fish! A view to the "old bridge"

In the native Tupi language, Piracicaba means "Place where the fish stop" and it is thought to be because of the waterfalls and rapids that rush through. It has a wonderful riverfront lined with cafes and restaurants absolutely filled on a sunny country afternoon. 

In any case, we admired the view from the new bridge (the old bridge was very pretty but closed for repair up the river) which included a giant turtle sunning itself on a log until my kids screamed loud enough for it to believe the world was ending and went off to see where the fish stopped. Which was on our plates. 

New bridge. Minus view of very frightened turtle.

After that, we went to the 40th annual Humor Show at a former sugar cane processing plant. They have cleared out the whole inside of the plant and dedicated it to the show. 

A view of the sugar cane processing plant, and now Humor Show

Now let's be honest. Okay, I'll be honest, you be reading. I had never heard of the Salão Internacional de Humor de Piracicaba. If you had told me anything about it, I probably would have thought it was a joke. And yes, the show is filled with jokes and humor, much of it with a political point. And here is where the story gets fascinating to me.

The Show was started in 1974 as a place for political cartoonists to express their feelings (graphically) about the military dictatorship. I am telling you that the military dictatorship is never far from anything here in Brazil. This place is shot through with scars and history of that time. Some time I'll tell you about what my in-laws suffered through the dictatorship, and they were hardly the worst victims. 


The show was fascinating and funny and scary. My six year old twins even found cartoons that cracked them up. And they understood cartoons for "adults"--of people standing yelling at each other and wanting to go to war, while their kids got together in the middle to play. One son liked a toilet-focused cartoon, and one preferred the one of Noah putting all the dinosaurs on an ark, and changing the name of it from Ark to Titanic. 

Brazil protests. "Let's hit the streets" The homeless reply "What took you so long? We've been here for years."

Hard to explain to kids why the little fishies are swimming around the "sun" and heading to the soccer ball.

Need I explain why this is a 6-year olds favorite?

The cartoonists are from everywhere; I saw Croatia and Russia and England and every country in between. I laughed more than I frowned and I so highly recommend this show that everyone who is here in São Paulo must go NOW to Piracicaba. It runs through October 20 and there is more information here

Now all this laughing made me thirsty. I love a restaurant that knows how to serve a beer that is "estupidamente gelada" or "silly cold", and that is what we found at O Remador (the Rower) restaurant. We ate fish called "filhote" (puppy) and "pintado" (painted). Fish called delicious in any language.

We also found the waiter with the best English I have ever heard in the restaurant industry, inside or outside of São Paulo city. All self-taught. He told us that it helps to have the Piracicaba accent which emphasizes "r"s, unlike the paulistano accent which treats them more like "l"s. Something that is "caro" or expensive would be "Kah-ROW" to the Piracicabenses and "Kah-lrew" to the paulistanos. Or something like that.
The waiter and the mother-in-law trade country accents. Who is more confused?

This day in Piracicaba reminded me about how wonderful the countryside around São Paulo really is. It's relaxed, it's beautiful and has lovely food to eat. And it is very friendly to foreigners. And people who scare turtles.

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