As I write to you, I am watching the sun set over the Atlantic, as my bus ride back to Sao Paulo takes a windy route along Rio de Janeiro’s picturesque coastline. I am heading back to what has somehow become my Brazilian home and that feeling of returning home that grows as I watch the remaining miles to Sao Paulo count down on the occasional passing highway sign.
Rio de Janeiro is one of those fascinating places that somehow doesn’t ever feel real- it was as though I had just stepped into my own Truman Show.
When taking a taxi in Europe it’s often a case of having to search them out. I remember once in Sweden struggling for about an hour to even identify a passing taxi let alone flag it down. Even Sherlock Holmes at the height of his career and on his best of days would have had struggled to detect a taxi in Stockholm’s rush hour.
Rio is a different story: they come to find you. Is you step out onto the sidewalk and you are instantly bombarded by the beeping of horns and signalling from drivers to take a ride to your destination with them. They spot Gringo’s (foreigners) a mile off and will almost fight for them (I have seen this once in Sao Paulo), as they know they can get away with charging twice the price or more.
I have never disappointed so many people at once as I walked down the taxi rink and had to deny each and every offer as I was to be picked up by friends. As I drove off in the back seat of my friend’s car, I spotted another Gringo emerging from the terminal and like a flock of 20 hungry seagulls presented with a single Chip from your local fish and chip shop, the taxi drivers pounced….
Rio de Janeiro is where almost all of Brazil’s ridiculously popular Novellas (soap operas) are filmed. This has created a very bizarre and chuckle- initiating phenomena in the city; as everyone appears to have stepped straight off a film set. In all honesty they are very stylish folk, but I would suggest they don’t leave home without “Highly Inflammable” warning signs around their necks, as Plastic Surgery would appear to be one of Rio’s most popular past times.
The beach is another spectacle to encounter. There are enough Bundas (bums) on view to make even Jennifer Lopez blush and all in site of the Christ on the hill -however in all the years he has been up there, he hasn’t looked away once, so he must be getting something from it!
The beach is where Brazil comes alive, with Samba music, Coconuts for sale, football on the beach, surfers in the water and the occasional pick-pocket, making his living from your abandoned wallet- that from his point of you, you chose to voluntarily give up when you went for a dip in the ocean.
When spending a day on the beach you are likely to be approached by Brazil’s latest and very cunning marketing strategy: Most clubs will send the female dancers out to the beaches during the day and just before sun down. They will be wearing very little clothing and simply pace the beach handing out flyers for their club, as they try to entice the on-lookers to join them later and spend any remaining money the resident pick pockets weren’t able to get hold of. It is a strategy that seems to work – the moment the ladies depart the beach, the entire male population of Rio de Janeiro follows.
I saw one rather old gentleman reach out for a flyer, before his wife, who he must have had assumed was pleasantly sleeping next to him, suddenly awoke in time to through a handful of sand in his face. A priceless moment….
In recent weeks I got involved with the organic Urban gardens in Horzionte Azul (the community here where my girlfriend Ediane lives). The garden produces all the fruit and vegetables for the lunches for the children of the Favela community those attend the local kindergartens, afternoon classes and all the workers of the Anthroposophical project that has really brought huge social transformations to the community. I will write a more in-depth piece about the project in the coming weeks, but if it already sounds like a dream you can read more here: Monte Azul
As I return to the hustle and bustle of Sao Paulo after a visit with dear friends I look forward to embracing the last of my weeks in this intriguing country.
This post was quite rushed, to just update you all a little- thus a lack of what I call padding. The next post gets in to the sticky side of Brazil. The painful poverty gap, the blinding corruption and the merciless approach Brazil now takes towards development. It’s already been written…stay tuned!