Cross dressers at the Samba school

Trip Start Feb 06, 2007
Trip End Jan 14, 2008

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Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Wednesday November 21st, last day in Rio, Niteroi, Samba School
First a trip to the bus station to buy tickets to Curitiba for tomorrow and suss out the area, to see if it looks safe to get to by public bus (it does). Only one company goes there, Itapemirim badged as Penha. They said 13 hours to get there, the liars.
The museum of contemporary art is in Niteroi, across the bay, with frequent catamarans (3R). The museum is about a 20 minute walk from the boat landing, is perched on a promontory, and closely resembles a flying saucer. The architect Niemeyer has been busy again. From a distance the building is spectacular, but close up you can see that after 11 years the white concrete is starting to look greyish at the edges, and the red-painted entrance walkway needs a new lick of paint. Another 30 years down the track and it will look like the grubby buildings in Brasilia. Inside the exhibition was based on a social justice theme, with massive murals that filled the spaces very well. But what did it all mean ????? Is this art ?????
Downstairs they have a white-coated-waiter restaurant, but the coffee is affordable, and comes with a little pot of mouth-watering shortbread biccys. We re-met a Dutch couple we had talked to back in Lencois. They had been to and come back from Manaus since we saw them. The river level was far lower than when we were there, but rising rapidly. Is this from snow melt in Peru and Ecuador ?
Much of Rio pongs of urine (and the other) because public loos are few and far between and far too expensive, but the waiting area for the boat was next to a small backwater of the bay. It must have been close to raw sewage, and if you fell in it would be instantaneous E coli poisoning. The stench almost killed you.
We chanced on the Palacio Tiradentes, and saw that this was open. It is the state parliament, and the public can visit, free, and go into the public gallery of the house. A history student who spoke pretty good English accompanied us, and told us some of the history of politics in Brazil (corruption and more corruption). A debate was in progress, and we can only assume it was on some boring topic like provision of public loos, or else Brazilean members of parliament are much better behaved than their Aussie and English counterparts. It was quiet, civilised, and no heckling. Voting is done electronically, and how every member voted is displayed on a board for all to see. There are numerous parties so toeing the party line is not required. They used to have secret ballots until 2001, with all 70 members having to go separately into a wooden box about the size of a confessional in a church. Voting must have taken all day.
For our last fling in Rio we had booked a samba school night. A bus full of Aussies, Scots, Italians, Dutch and a Polish woman squeezed us in, then we were off into the backwoods to the Portela school. Samba schools have leagues and matches like soccer, and the winners and losers in each league go up or down for the next year. Given that some schools have 2500 members we cannot imagine how performance is judged.
The night started off quietly, with women mostly in their 50s and 60s samba-ing very sedately, and looking as if they were line-dancing. Then it hotted up. The bands with their drums and tambourines and rattles played at deafening volume, and the dancers whirled and twirled at amazing speed. How can a woman wearing 4cm platform soles, and 15cm heels, held on by only a narrow strap across her toes, dance so beautifully and not fall out of her shoes ?  The dark-skinned dancers were the most agile. Must be their genes.
A handful of cross-dressers wandered around. The first looked positively weird, in a very short blue lame backless dress, long straw-like hair and medieval leg wrappings, the second spoiled his red outfit and cascading boobs with a pair of very hairy legs. The other was a painfully thin man, wearing a blue-sequinned bra top on his totally flat chest, a very short white skirt and a pair of platform sandals. His dancing was divine.
The Italian couple were on their honeymoon, and our guide had organised a huge cake which we munched while singing 'Happy Honeymoon to you'. It was a wow of a night.
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