Brazil: All the glory of Rio
The time has come to move on. With mixed emotions I will be heading to the airport in a few hours and will say goodbye to Rio, and Brazil, yet again. It`s been 6 weeks this time- where has the time gone? This is part of the reason why I am happy to be moving on; up until recently, I had not felt like I have wasted a single moment of the past 7 months as I was experiencing and exploring new things every day, but in the past few weeks I feel like I am just widdling away the time….and I`ve never been one who idles well. So, off we go.
Once I had my travel arrangements made, I realized I had things to do and thus had to jump back into backpacker mode. I spent the first part of last week with my new friend Cristiane and again have realized that it is SO much better to experience a city with a local than by yourself. I had been downtown before, but always wandering aimlessly and wondering what all the pretty buildings were. Last week I took a field trip with Cris downtown and was enlightened. She took me to the National Theatre and Library and Imperial Palace and pointed out all of the important churches, and the not-so-important ones too. She guided me through some of the hidden alleyways and small pedestrian streets I wouldn`t have found otherwise. We went to the cultural center to a photography exhibit and then to the Confeiteria Colombo – this really, really cool restaurant/sweet shop, ornately decorated and intact from the times when Portugal still ruled, where I was able to sample some of my favorites: bolinho de bacalhau (fried cod balls) – ok, probably doesn`t sound appetizing but really they are tasty gourmet fish sticks!, pudim de leite – a caramel flan thing, and pão de quiejo – these little cheesy bread things!!! All excellent and all things I will miss!
Another day I decided to pay a return visit to O Cristo Redentor and Corcovado mountain. I had visited this Rio icon in the past and it`s kind of spendy, so I wasn`t planning on going this time, but am glad that I did. For the past 5 weeks, this impressive statue of Jesus has guided me, oriented me and helped me to figure out where home is. I never felt lost when I could see the statue because I knew roughly in which direction I needed to head to get home. I also have spent many-a-minutes staring out the window at him while I watch life outside the apartment go by. It is also what the world knows about Rio, so, I had to go – again. First I stopped at the Dona Marta lookout from where there are wonderful views of Rio. If I haven`t mentioned it, this really is a breathtaking city! There is always a haze, partially pollution and partially fog, but I think it adds to the romance. From there it was on up to the actual monument, which is owned by the Catholic Church, but is found within the National Park Tijuca, a rainforest. The statue itself is 38 meters high and stretches 28 meters between fingertips. It`s damn impressive. I took the necessary photographs and then spent some time enjoying the views. Now that I have been here for awhile and have spent so much time getting to know the city, it was interesting to get the bird`s eye view and know where everything is….very different from the last time I came up here with my mom and we just looked and wondered what it all was.
Another day I took trip to Niteroi, the city across the bay. The Cariocas (people from Rio for those who haven`t been paying attention) joke that the only good thing about Niteroi is the view they have of Rio. I must say, I kind of agree. There wasn`t anything remarkably special about this city, but it was still a good trip – mainly because I had to take a ferry across the bay, and I have discovered that I really like ferries. Maybe my next city should be one with ferries…any suggestions? I went for a long walk along the beaches with the Museum of Contemporary Art as my target. It`s a really cool Star Trek, Jetson-like building perched out over the water. The exhibit itself was a waste of time, but it only cost $1 to get in, so I won`t stress to much over it. Can I paint a canvass red and then sell it for lots of mulah?? That would solve a lot of my problems!
For my last night out in Rio, I went to the Festa Junina at the Jockey Club. I have been very curious about this festa junina business, as I have seen advertisements for these festivals all over the city and heard it on the radio. I had no idea what it was, but the billboard I saw said the one at the Jockey Club was “the place to be,” and who am I to miss out on a party, so we went. Far as I can tell, these festa juninas are a Brazilian version of a hoe-down, that are always celebrated in June (thus the word Junina). They are a traditional town celebration that originates in the rural inland areas of the northeast and the rest of the country has piggybacked on to the idea, but sort of in a friendly mockery kind of way. People dress in “country” attire – with red and white tablecloth clothing and plaited hair and straw hats and they dance to Forro – the equivalent of our country music, except a hell of a lot better. The festival has something to do with São João (Saint John) who has something to do with marriage so girls dress up in wedding dresses. Originally, the celebration was used to wed pregnant women by force but now there it has something to do with single women who want to marry, or something like that. It was fun – but I`d take the Iowa State Fair over this any ol` day!
The remainder of the time was spent faithfully at the beach and out buying all of the souvenirs that I had procrastinated on and hanging out with the wonderful people I`ve met. I`ve done more in the past week than in the first 4 combined. Funny what a ticking clock does to a person! Tonight I went out to dinner with my friend Analise and had some fairwell caipirinhas and am now at my aunt and uncle´`s house, enjoying their company on my final night in town. I leave nearly 7 months to the day from when I left Denver. People here always say “volte sempre” (always come back.) They really need to stop doing that; it seems that I take them seriously time and time again.