Rainy de Janeiro
Trip Start Oct 09, 2008
64Trip End Ongoing
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In 2002, Jeffrey and I couldn't manage to spend more than US$13 for a night out no matter how hard we tried. These days it's easy to spend six or seven times that amount if you're not careful. We got a quick lesson on our first night in Ipanema, when my Brazilian friend Erika took us out to an "industry" party for those employed in showbiz and the modeling industry
It continued to rain for much of the next few days
We finally got some nice weather and a perfectly clear afternoon to visit the Cristo statue and then take in a magnificent sunset on Sugarloaf Mountain. And we ended up getting plenty of beach time in Ipanema east of famous lifeguard tower #9.
A few things I learned about Rio: the police are still as corrupt as ever. The cops supply favela gangs with cars and guns; supposedly better equipment than what the cops themselves have
In terms of politics, most educated Brazilians feel the current system is hopeless. All Brazilians over the age of eighteen are required by law to vote in presidential elections. The surprisingly large percentage of people that can't read or write are reportedly either bribed, tricked or easily influenced into voting for any candidate who is best able to speak to the lowest common denominator or who goes into the favelas and pays off the right people. Because so many voters can't read, voting booths include a color system and photos of each candidate next to the buttons. The current president of Brazil is considered to be the worst in recent memory. He never finished high school, speaks with poor grammar, and can't write properly. And because of the current electoral system, Brazilian intellectuals feel the country is trapped in a vicious cycle that will just continue to repeat itself until drastic steps are taken. I started to wonder whether the fact that 40% of eligible Americans choose not to vote in our Presidential election--a fact which I've always found terribly embarrassing--might actually be a good thing
On a related note, the government of Brazil apparently declared that beginning in January 2009 they are going to change the spelling of between fifteen and thirty Portuguese words. Erika had no idea why, but thought it was "stupid" and that older people would really have trouble adapting to it.
Other amusing things that happened in Rio:
--We stayed in four different hostels, one of them cost only US$6.50 per night. That got us a bed in a dorm room with 27 other beds. At any given time of the day there were always at least five people asleep in that room.
--When we were checking into our last hostel, we heard someone shout "Whalebone!" It was two Aussies and a Brit that we'd met in Punta del Diablo, who evidently had not forgotten Mikeo's wonderful new nickname.
--One night in Ipanema, Harry was being relentlessly harassed by a transvestite prostitute. Mikeo stepped in and in no uncertain terms told him/her Harry wasn't interested. The hooker flew into a rage and said, "When you leave here tonight me and my whole favela will be waiting for you!" Mikeo waited a beat, then calmly replied, "I'll be ready."
I'm happy to report that Rio is still my favorite city in the world, warts and all. And I could still see myself being very happy living here. I'd definitely have to learn Portuguese, though. In Spanish-speaking countries I come off like a nine-year-old with a speech impediment. Here I am like a deaf three-year-old who can only communicate through hand gestures and facial expressions. If I even attempt to speak Portuguese, people grimace then beg me to speak English, even if they don't speak English.
Reading: Rendezvous With Rama by Arthur C. Clarke