Friday, February 8, 2008

Brazil in Color!

Back from Brazil!! Getting my head back to Haiti is hard! Brazil was beautiful, easy to get around, and I never got stared out for being the only blan!! So much I could say, but might be easy to show you some of the craziness in color.

My first Saturday there:

Walking on Copacabana beach with Ricardo and the Janes family we came upon some interesting artwork!

We arrived at a massive street parade in Ipanema. It was one of my favorite days there—the people, bustle, learning some new dance moves on the beach courtesy Ricardo (You can’t come to Brazil and not learn how to samba!) Ricardo bought the Brazil flag sarong off the sidewalk. Yes, I am wearing it! (Nobody knows I’m a gringa this way, right?!)

Dad, for your next costume?

The floats get political! No clue what they say though!

Beer-head dude!
I got to be good friends with these guys—the caipirinha vendors!! Their caipirinhas came in the classic lime, passion fruit and coconut. How could I not try all my fruits and vegetables? :)

Looking in the direction of Copacabana


We went to a soccer game at Maracana stadium, one of the biggest stadiums in the world, which held the South American Cup in 2007. We rooted for the local team Flamengo. It’s only tourists who AREN’T wearing the jerseys. So we each bought some a sweet cheap headbands instead. This in turn bought us a LOT of friends! Ricardo, me and Nick.

Fans go nuts

Can I take some Brazilian kids home with me?!

Later that night—still so easy to make friends when you choose the right team!! Check the dudes shirt on the right :)
After the game we went to the Sambadrome. This is where THE Carnaval parades happen, the Monday and Tuesday nights, starting about 9pm, done by about 4am. The twenty samba schools in Rio each parade through. (The samba school is the equivalent of a Krewe in Louisiana. Except they can all dance!) Rich foreigners pay $700 for a ticket to the Carnival day parades, but you can watch the practice sessions for free! They don’t have the massive costumes and floats, but plenty of energy and music!

Parade turning into the Sambadrome. It’s probably 300m long, and the width of a highway, used specifically for the Carnaval parades!


Bike riding in the misty rain around the lagoon of Rio, Ricardo took this action shot from his bike!! (That’s coordination!) By the way, I should credit Ricardo with almost ALL these photos—I hate taking pictures!

That evening before dinner we heard mad drumming, and wandered into the thick of a drum school’s rehearsal—amazing. Deafening, but entrancing. I can’t wait to learn some myself!

Out for dinner that night at a traditional resto of the style in the Northeast region, Bahia.


We went on the favela tour. It was fascinating. Of course I’m going to compare it to Haiti. My first thoughts—this is a slum?! But you have businesses here!! In Haiti it’s tin lean-to after tin lean-to and a handful of informal businesses/street vendors in site. So Rio surprised me a bit. Clothing stores, butchers? Electricity?! Garbage pick-up?! (Just bring it to the bottom of the hill.) The favelas are all on hillsides, the areas where the rich people didn’t want to settle. The police don’t go there either, except for drug raids, which often end violently. You can literally see the borderline of the favela neighborhoods—it’s where the cop cars are parked, waiting. There are more than 700 favelas in Rio—varying mostly by who settled them and when. Very very few appear on an official city map. That would require the government of Rio to recognize them, install a police office there, and provide more services.

The first little bitty favela we saw was—according to our guide—probably one of the only in Rio that DOESN'T have drug gangs. Why? Because wealthy folks built a golf course behind the favela with a huge tall wall in between the two. This and a mountain limit the favela, and would give a drug lord no place to run and hide when the cops come. Very interesting. Otherwise, favelas and drugs-and-guns seem synonymous.

This photo gives an idea of the close quarters and houses on top of houses. (This is what much of Port au Prince looks like…) This is the small favela we visited, Villa Canoas, which has only about 3,000 people.

A street in a favela—not wide enough for more than one person.

This place has benefited a lot from a recent government initiative—bright- colored paint jobs, putting cement stairs over mud pathways, tiles for the houses—it was pretty in places!!

Ice cream in the favela—wow!! In Haiti’s slums you find mud pies for sale.

Rocinha, the other favela we toured, is one of Rio’s largest. More than 100,000 people live there. Within Rocinha is every service you could need—you could live here and never leave. It’s also literally across the highway from one of Rio’s wealthiest neighborhoods. You are never far from a favela in Rio.

Wednesday night:

A sweet local bar we wandered into in Copacabana! Copacabana neighborhood actually has the highest per capita of senior citizens in the city—all the folks who fell in love with the city in the 50’s and never left! So grannies everywhere. But still, a neighborhood bar on EVERY corner with friendly locals!

Goofing off on Copacabana beach!


We went up to some touristy sites—Pao Acucar, or Sugarloaf Mountain.

Copacabana in passing:

Soooo cloudy on Sugarloaf, surrounded in white like we were in heaven (thus angelic poses :)

When the clouds leave! View from the top of Sugarloaf—THAT’s the cable car used in some James Bond movie for a crazy fight scene between James and a dude who’s got a bunch of metal in his mouth!!

The Loaf!

From another site near the big Christ Redeemer Statue

Speaking of Christ—we didn’t hang out with him up close—he was a bit busy with the clouds. The Christ Redeemer statue is pretty much the landmark of Rio. You can see him from almost ANYWHERE in the city—kinda like Big Brother watching over!

Historic neighborhood Santa Teresa

Historic fruit vendor explaining to some other tourist why they’re not allowed to take pictures, while Ricardo takes picture.

We took a capoeira class that night—and it about killed us!!! All four of us we sore for at least 2 full days afterwards. I still have the blister. I LOVED it. That’s our instructor, who spoke NO English. But—my Portuguese vocabulary now includes Iiiiisso (thaaaat’s it) and Naaaaooooo (haha—no!) Saturday:

Another block parade in a different smaller neighborhood, Botafogo:

Graffiti! (I’m an elephant.)

Your average Brazilians in tutu

The most unflattering picture of me this trip. BUT, I couldn’t believe a fat stick of meat cost 2 Reais—US $1.30! That’s the same price for a can of beer (also exhibited in this photo)!

Cute kids everywhere. Put him in my pocket.

While Alfonso here on the left worked tirelessly throughout the afternoon to smoosh limes into delicious caipirinhas, his colleague on the right who handled the money took the liberty of an occasional break to play his cymbals!!

A last highlight not captured on film:

Saturday, my last night there we indulged in a rodizio churrascaria around the corner. The Churrascaria is the typical Brazilian method of sitting at the table while the waiters come around with meaaaaat after different type of meat, skewered on sticks, which they slice directly onto your plate. Rodizio means all you can eat. BUT unlike churrascarias I’d been to before, where the waiters have a respectful and cautious pace, these waiters came about once a minute to give us meat!! I have never in my life gone from feeling hungry to about to pop in less time.

We went home and took a two hour nap (that was an accident actually!) before going out for the evening. It was my last night in Rio, and I was determined to brave the over-stuffed belly, post-capoeira soreness that made us all walk like ducks, and MORE rain! Worth it. Streets were packed in the old historic district we went to. The night turned into samba dancing in the rain, and when we were finally ready to head home, we stumbled across… another practice parade!! We’d heard drumming in the distance and followed it. It was about 3:30 in the morning. The samba schools had on their FULL costumes—we even saw all the ENORMOUS floats, mostly wrapped up to protect them from the rain, but making their way to the Sambadrome. No other tourists in site! The parade was through the downtown business district that I hadn’t seen yet, and it totally took me in to see Rio’s contrasts so sharply outlined there. All the homeless people huddled under the rain in the skyscraper doorways, trying to sleep through the pounding and pervasive drumming representing Rio’s best moments of excess.

When we returned home about 6:45 that morning:

We hit a last parade before my flight out Sunday night—I was nervous I wouldn’t be fully sober arriving at the airport—a super end to my adventure! In the taxi on my way to the airport, it was a clear night, and I could even see Jesus perfectly lit up on the hill.

Getting back to Port au Prince—time for more Carnival, but some serious detox. :) Rio was an incredible opportunity and I’m hugely grateful to Ricardo and all his Portuguese skills and to Nick and his lovely family, the Janes, who let me stay with them!

PS--If you want to see any of the pictures in a larger view, just double click them.

1 comment:

Kristen said...

WOW! what a trip!! love the pictures.