So the Friday night standing around in Lapa went til about 3am, then I went home with Eduardo. Saturday, we got up around noon, and it was football day at the Maracana.
Brasil has a reputation for football, and it is very rightly deserved. We went to meet Sao-Mai and Nadja at 2pm at Saens Pena, we walked over with Giuseppe to Maracana for the Fluminense vs A. Corea game...Fluminense, the tri-colors, the green-red-white, has a fan base that is so energetic, so into the game, with a mesmerizing musical backup full of all sorts of percussion, fans that don't stop shaking for the entire 2 and a half hours (plus before and after), it was actually refreshing and surprising to see how non-violent the crowd was (although I will admit that if I needed any sort of lesson in Portuguese palavrao - big words - curse words - I had come to the right place...it's funny isn't it, in any football passionate country how the people go absolutely nuts and talk to the players as if they were in the same room, able to understand and hear what the fans were advising them to do...endless source of humor for me...) Anyway, it was an awesome experience, and in the last 15 minutes or so of the game it started pouring rain, but hard-core Rio de Janeiro summer style, pounding down, but not affecting the thousands of fans who were now dancing in the rain, drenched, singing, cheering, jumping up and down...ahh this is Brasil's energy.
After the game, I was planning to go to Leblon to get my stuff, but realized that it was going to be a tight fit heading there and going back to Tijuca in the dark, so instead decided to head back to Eduardo's. So Sao-Mai and Nadja walked with me in the rain and we finally got back, they went back to Leblon, I went with Eduardo. After a nap, I somehow convinced Eduardo to go to Democraticos with me, an old-school club in Lapa with lots of traditional Brasilian music. That night it was garfieira, samba that's danced to by couples. Gabriela, Joyce, and an Italian named Dario were also there. I have to admit that samba really isn't my strong point, but it was a lot of fun. That night I went back to Leblon and thought everyone would be sleeping when I arrived at 3.30am, but there the crew was, awake on the couch. They drifted off to sleep shortly thereafter but Cahe and I stayed up talking til past 6am.
One of the most enlightening conversations I've had in Brasil, we discussed everything from favelas to the Brasilian mindset to Japan and fantasies and who knows what else. Some highlights, also so that I don't forget...
Cahe was raised in Ipanema, always having come from a family with money. His mother passed away when he was young, and the woman who helped in the house essentially was a second mother. She was from a favela, so Cahe and his brother often went to the favela to play, it was no big deal. The favelas are generally not dangerous, the problem is that they become the proposed territory of druglords, and then the police come in to take action, then shootouts happen, then innocent people are shot. There's a lot of cocaine and marijuana, the cocaine comes from Brasil as well as Colombia and Bolivia...Pernambuco state in northeast Brasil (where I'm headed in a few days for Carnaval) is the center of marijuana production.
We talked about the education system, which is technically provided gratis through secondary education, but one cannot enter the secondary school until they pass an exam, so if they were not blessed enough to have gone to one of the better free elementary schools, they will have a very hard time getting in...so once again it becomes a question of economic status.
We talked about the Brasilian mentality of pure individualism because they have always been kept under, first by the Portuguese, then currently a strange form of neo-colonialism by North American corporations as well as Brasilian ones, so each person will do whatever they can for personal gain. Which makes it crazy, as employers have such little faith in their workers, so they must constantly be vigilant as to what is happening in their businesses.
And so on and so on.
The following morning, Sunday, I went with Sao-Mai, Nadja, Humberto and Laura to a waterfall in Floresta da Tijuca, the national park located within the city; did I mention that Rio de Janeiro is called cidade maravilhosa, the marvelous city, and nature-wise, yes, it is...the coastline, the cliffs, and yes, a national park with tropical forest WITHIN the city...ahh...anyway, we walked to a little waterfall, the walk was really pretty, with monkeys scrambling around on jackfruit trees.
Afterwards, it was a Sunday afternoon at the house in Leblon, which means a giant vegan feast (stroganoff, which I hadn't had in years, possibly...fantastic) and passion fruit mousse. No meat, no dairy, lots of satisfied taste buds. I was determined to get back to Tijuca before dark this time, so I gave my beijos to everyone and off I went.
Sunday night I was starting to feel pretty wrecked from the very inconsistent sleeping patterns, but I didn't want to miss out...strange feeling, to be exhausted, wanting to go to bed, but I just couldn't...haha. So Iris had finished her exams and was free to go out, so we ended up going to a house of a friend of theirs, in Copacabana...where Julio, the Argentinean I had met on Friday was staying. It turned out there was a nice little crowd there, 2 Argentines, a Peruvian, Eduardo, Iris, Manuela from Portugal, me, and 4 Uruguayans arrived...2 guitars being passed around, beautiful voices, beautiful guitar, I was in heaven. A great switch from the full-on partying of the previous nights. We stuck around til about 4.30am, and went home.
Monday, my body was finished. I slept til about 3pm (waking up for food and bathroom) and then Iris and I went down Rua de Conde Bonfim to buy some Japanese ingredients at Cha Verde, because I was planning to cook that night. Manuela and Chen, her friend from China, as well as Danilo, and Eduardo and Iris, and me, had a regular little cook-fest which was fantastic. Various shapes and forms of sushi, way too salty miso (I didn't taste it first, not realizing that Brasilian miso, like Brasilian cheese and various other such things, would be about 20x saltier than their international equivalent...) It was a big success though, I loved it.
Then we were off to forro...ahhh I've found my new love. I knew that forro was a couples dance, and when I had walked by a place in Sao Paulo playing it, I'm not quite sure why, but I got the impression that it sounded like country music...which didn't interest me much. But it was free if you brought 1kg of black beans to be distributed to the poor, so our group of 7 went, and there were about 10 others that we knew there. I was watching the people dancing and the basic step is very similar to salsa, but I wasn't sure...finally I went to the very very gentille Brasilian guy who was patiently dancing with all the ladies that were lost, and we danced, and it was all fine. Then Raphael, who I had met at a samba in Lapa previously, showed up and it was absolutely fantastic. I don't know if I've written on this blog about dancing in Cuba...it's like you leave your body and the music just takes over and your body is an instrument of the music...well, that's what happened, and I'm hooked. I was really not feeling it with the samba in this country (it's just too fast and complicated and I'm so clumsy I'd trip over my own feet, not to mention whoever the poor victim is that's dancing with me)...so I'm ecstatic about this new discovery.
Tuesday morning, I was up early for my day at the favelas. Tahnee, the Ozzy who lives in Rocinha, had agreed to take me around the largest favela in the Americas. So I arrived, scared off my ass, but quickly felt at ease. It's funny how the media and even the locals contribute to give ghettos and slums, favelas, whatever you want to call them, horrible attention so that people are scared to go there, think of them, even speak of them...it's actually quite tragic. I suppose part of it is that Brasil has such huge contrasts...in Leblon or Ipanema, beautiful restaurants, clubs, palm-tree lined streets...and then you go to Rocinha. But it's really not that bad. Compare it to any African nation, or as a matter of fact, a huge part of Asia, and it's not any different, really. There's a cool energy there, I actually felt that people were really friendly, they are living in much closer quarters but as a result you get the sensation that everyone knows everybody and there isn't any overwhelming sense of fear or danger. So we had some pizza, took moto-taxis to a gorgeous lookout (it's actually ironic, I have more photos from inside the favela then the rest of Rio combined because I wasn't comfortable with my camera anywhere else) and then visited her house. Tahnee is first-class, amazing girl, her down-to-earthness, trusting and trustworthy nature, she's a winner.
I rushed to Barra da Tijuca where I was meeting Marcelo, Alexandre's friend who took me through Cidade de Deus. Same deal, yeah, they are poorer, but the grand majority are people trying to make a living, carrying out their lives just like the rest of us. I went to his house in Barra for lunch, then rushed back to Tijuca to get my stuff.
I said bye to Eduardo and Rua dos Araujos, and realized even as I was doing so that I've fallen in love with Rio de Janeiro...we'll see what happens from here on...
I got to the bus station an hour before my bus, but as January is festival time and everything is jam-packed, my bus was sold out, I ended up having to take one to Cabo Frio, it was pouring rain, switched to a local line for Buzios, asked a really nice man how the hell I could get to my meeting point with Nikolas, the Argentinean, and he basically took me there. Soooo nice.
So I met up with my new travel buddy that I had acquired in Rio. He was staying with an Argentinean woman in Buzios, who has a bakery, and it was great to see a familiar face. We had basically only known each other one day in Rio (met through Danilo), but had agreed to try to hitch up to Salvador.
So Wednesday morning, we had a delicious breakfast, then off we went into the full-on rain to try our luck. Dripping wet, we got into the car of a guy who was delivering sodas, and he took us a bit further, where we got in with a construction worker, who took us to a gas station, where we found a hilarious guy who sells baby clothes in Rio das Ostras. He took us to a gas station on the highway, but it was going in the other direction, hence most of the people staying there were headed south to Rio de Janeiro, not north to Vitoria, or Espirito Santo, and certainly not to Salvador da Bahia (It's about 1500km to Salvador from Rio...what on earth where we thinking, right??)