There are a lot of things to get used to in Rio that may not be for everyone. Firstly though, Rio is enormous. To try to describe Rio is very precarious because it is different for each person. The kind of experience you have depends on a wide variety of factors; what areas you explore, how open you are, what you see, who you interact with, what stores, restaurants you shop at, where you stay and if you can speak Portuguese. So this is my story from my experience.
The most noticeable feature of life here that I can’t ignore coming from such a dichotomous racial separation, is no one pays any attention to skin color. Like actually doesn’t really notice at all. For all anyone knows, I’m Brazilian. And this is mostly concerning the black and white thing we have in the states, where we are very aware who is black, brown, white, etc. It’s refreshing to be outside those racial stigmas that are so in your face, especially in Charlottesville. You see all different colors all together and have no idea what their ‘label’ is: for example there are no african americans here in the sense that there is no context to compare from as there is not a predominantly white class to judge from. People in Rocinha look at me, but their stares are not heavy. They are curious, or just a glance. People don’t have these built up negative cultural animosities. I remind myself regularly that I am far from Virginia and its a much bigger world with more people and cultures then my brain could ever understand. This doesn’t stop my from trying though..
People have been so extremely helpful. . On the bus, bus stops and train, when we appear to not know what’s going on, someone always steps in even though we don’t speak the same language and offers assistance. As we hiked up the favela hill yesterday, capturing footage of the street life, stores, and culture, many locals in Rocinha were happy to try to talk and be on camera. I get the feeling that people just don’t mind. This is not the attitude of my experience in say New York or Miami. Or my experience when filming anything in Virginia. People are generally curious and eager to try to converse even though neither really understands the other. For example, we spent two hours with a Brazilian family capturing the gorgeous view they have from stop their house. We don’t speak Portuguese, they don’t speak English, but somehow it worked and we were having a great time trying!
I think it must be the hills how every one stays slim. After two days lugging our equipment, my body is exhausted. Granted there are motor taxis which will take you up and down, but save those for desperate times. There are fruiterias on every corner where you can get exotic Amazonian fruits or quality not found in the States. Other than the fruit, it seems the typical Brazilian food is meat. There are tons of restaurants, smalls shops that serve various meats including hamburgers, roasted chicken, ham, and other meats I’m not familiar with …and to be honest, I’m struggling a little. Coming from Charlottesville, with such a prevalent organic food scene, not so sure they’ve heard of that at all down here…it’s not just the over abundance heavy meats, but grocery stores are filled with processed foods. Most people are buying foods I would compare to shopping at Walmart and McDonalds. I’ve had delicious roasted chicken, but not much else to rave about. Im also a little picky with preparation and I found the places Ive tried simple and plain. I appreciate the small hot dog stands with meat skewers, barbecue, hamburgers, it’s just not what I want to eat. Ive been mostly vegetarian for a few years with a little meat now and then, so I’m adjusting. This is unlike my experience in Costa Rica where you find a small little restaurant, they call ‘sodas’, and it can blow your taste buds. But there is enough fresh fruit to keep me happy and that’s about what I’m living on. (They even served a hamburger on the plane, Copa airlines from Panama City to Rio)
We trekked up to Corcovado to see the giant ‘Cristo’, or Jesus statue. The views are incredible. From up there you really get an idea of how expansive and how unbelievably huge Rio is. Reminds me a bit of Mexico City, but with large mountains jutting out of the middle of the city and a beautiful ocean view. Rio also is home to the only natural forest actually within a city. This is where the Cristo statue is. Fortunate for the city, the forest’s ecosystem helps protect Rio, regulating the pollution, the temperature, and maintains a nature water stream. For anyone thinking about coming to Rio in the future, when you go to Corcovado, take the buses. We heard people waiting for hours to take the train. The bus is quick and cheaper.
Later that day we took Rio’s awesome subway to Maracana stadium, the largest futbol stadium in the world. I say awesome because they are clean, silent, and a smooth ride, unlike my experience with DC or New York’s metro. Although Brazilians complain because the metro doesn’t really go to too many places, but that is in the works now and hopefully by the Olympics Rocinha will even get a stop.
We had some issues at the stadium getting our gear in..Thanks to one very nice higher ranking police officer who made exception of rules, we were permitted to bring our cameras into the soccer match. Not only that, he let us leave our bigger gear with him while we were at the game. This was completely unnecessary and we are so grateful for his kindness. As such, we were able to get a glimpse at what the World Cup 2014 will be like. Brazilian fans have a fervor unmatched by any sporting event I’ve ever witnessed. Elliot said the game we attended was tranquil compared to his experience in Chile, where the police tear gas the fans at the end of the game to get them to disperse. Nonetheless, they beat drums, waive huge flags, jump up and down, scream loudly and encourage others to do the same. Just to hear the roar of the stadium is enough to make the hairs on the back of your neck stick up. I can’t even imagine what the World Cup will be like. I want to be there so extremely bad after this small experience and recommend it to anyone. Soccer in Brazil is no joke…
There are small bars on every street where locals hangout, listen to music, inside or flowing into the sidewalk. Just like most Latin countries, we are on Brazilian time. With abhorrent traffic from 4-9pm, people aren’t really in a rush, at least, I guess are used to the fact that there is nothing you can do to get wherever you are going any faster. It took us about 3 hours to get back from copacabana, just a few miles down the road. But we didn’t mind: Grab a smoothie, enjoy the city atmosphere…
As I mentioned, we spent yesterday in the Rocinha favela capturing footage of people, interesting stores, barber shops, basically the culture. All I can say is that I was filled with happiness from my experiences yesterday. I’m grateful to be here in Rio capturing these breathtaking scenes, beautiful and different culture.
Will and I also checked out Lapa last night for some live music and samba! There are tons of people in the street, clubs, bars, stands that sell beer and Brazilian version of the hot dog stand. The architecture of the area is impressive. You can tell the buildings were built awhile ago, some as far back as 1913. We experienced some local music, went to an Afro-Brazilian show, as well as experienced samba on the streets. Just walking around the streets of Lapa will keep you entertained. So many people, lots of music, it’s definitely the hang out spot on the weekend. Although if you ever make it there, we’ve heard a lot of stories, so don’t bring any valuables when you go. We had no problems and I enjoyed experiencing the electric atmosphere in the street.
Were off to the beach in copacobana to capture soccer and just what it’s like on a rio beach. I’m sure you can imagine…