Bird shit on two shoes.

Trip Start Oct 06, 2004
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Brazil  ,
Wednesday, March 16, 2005

So I am more than five months into my trip, and so far I have neither been robbed nor victim of some clever scam. It's of course something you have to look out for and try to avoid by not taking unnecessary risks or stop being vigilant. In Latin America, and most other countries around the world, you are much more likely to be a target of pickpocketing or a rip-off than for example a violent robbery. Only twice, as far as I know, have someone tried to pickpocket me. Once on a bus in Costa Rica and once on a busy street in Panama City. But I noticed both times that someone tried to unzip my daypack. Rip-off's however, are another story. Many locals (especially in touristy areas) do of course know that Gringo tourists typically got a bit of money and that they are unlikely to know all the local customs, price levels etc. So quite a few try to rip you off, including tour companies, store clerks, street vendors, bus drivers and especially taxi drivers. It's all part of traveling around the world, so you better get used to it. I mention all this as something funny happened to me this afternoon while walking around Copacabana.

"Hey boy, you need a shoeshine."

"No I don't."

"Yes you do, you got bird shit on your shoe."

I looked down, and surely enough I got something looking like bird shit on one of my hiking boots. A bit perplexed, I agreed to a shoeshine before first asking the price (another big NO NO for a seasoned traveler). Three minutes later....

"As good as new my friend, that will be 50 Reals (close to US $20)."

"You must be joking."

Two of his shoeshine friends come over and join him, and they all start to shout....

"50 Reals is the Rio tariff for bird shit on shoe."

They show me an official looking document with the following:

- Rio tariff, bird shit on one shoe 50 Reals.
- Rio tariff, bird shit on two shoes 75 Reals.

"How common is the bird shit on two shoes? Is it a big seller around here and hence you can rebate it?"

They all nod, while I continue....

"So where is the tariff document for dog shit on shoe, or just a regular no shit whatsofuckingever shoeshine?"

"We don't have that, it's negotiable. There's only a tariff for bird shit on shoe."

I burst out laughing and tell them that they are all a bunch of clowns (there's a lot of people around so I don't feel threatened), and that one of them put the so called bird shit on my shoe while I wasn't looking. They all refuse of course. But I hand the guy a five Reals bill (about US $2) and walk away. US $2 is still a lot for three minutes work down here, so in a way I guess I still got ripped off, me who never gets ripped off. But at least it was fun and pretty original, and I got a story you can remember for your next travels to Rio. Wonder how many tourists who actually pay the 50 Reals. Quite a few I would think.

It's my first time in Rio, and I quickly decide that I like the place. I guess it's one of those cities you just have to visit one day. I stay in a small rented apartment right on Copacabana Beach, and spend the days walking around Leme, Copacabana, Leblon and Ipanema. And like many other tourists, that's more or less all I see of Cidade Maravillosa (the Marvelous City). But then if you walk down for example Ipanema Beach on a Saturday afternoon, then that's the only place in the world you really want to be. Did anyone say Bikini! I do of course visit Sugar Loaf Mountain and the statue of Christ the Redeemer on top of Corcovado, but decide I rather sit in Leblon and drink fresh coconut milk or caipirinhas while watching the life go by, than running around visiting museums and sights. I guess there's a lot more you could write about Rio, but similar to the Vegas saying "What happens in Rio, stays in Rio!"
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