Carnival - The best party in the solar system!

Trip Start Dec 14, 2007
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Monday, February 4, 2008

Rio's Carnival - how do I begin to explain the largest, grandiose, craziest party on the planet? WOW is an understatement. Until Saturday night (and Sunday morning) I had never experienced a party like this. Let me tell my story...

I've caught a serious cold that Dalia and Luiz had. I've been fighting it for 4 days but Saturday was the worst day. I didn't sleep very much the night before plus going to bed every night around 1:00 AM and I was going to be staying out all of Saturday night. I was freaking out because I'd come all this way for Carnival and I felt like shit. I rested all day and tried to sleep, but gave up. Dalia came over and became my surrogate mom by cooking me healthy food and herbal concoctions. I finally begged her to find me some traditional medicine or I feared I might not make it through the night and eventually erase my nose with all the tissues I had used up. Dalia broke down and arrived back with some cold medicine and nasal decongestant spray.

Dalia's customers had invited us to their VIP party at the Samba dome where the main Carnival parade was taking place.  Dalia's customers owned a large supermarket chain in Rio. The story told to me is that they are a married couple who imigrated to Brazil from Portugal with no money. Once in Rio, they started one store, then one let to many and now they are one of the sponsors and advertisers of Carnival. As they are avid party hosts, they throw many grand parties throughout the year.

We were running late, again and arrived at the jockey club which was the rendezvous point for all the party guests. We were given special Carnival shirts with the supermarket name printed on them and where led to a craft table where women where cutting up shirts into sexy styles and dressing them up with sequin ties and trimmings. Then we hopped on the charter bus which led us through a pretty scary area of town where the Samba dome was located. Our special passes where checked as we entered a beautiful box seating area which Dalia's customers rented for the event. We were greeted by three beautiful hostesses who gave us boas, wigs and other Carnival paraphernalia to which we adorned our bodies. There was a huge spread of food and a lounge area with white couches and flat screen TV's where beautiful, bronzed bodies congregated. It was like a scene out of a trendy socialite magazine.
We found ourselves a place to sit on the bleachers with great views of the parade route. These weren't ordinary bleachers. They were carpeted with pillows to sit on and waiters came by offering us hordourves and drinks. Fireworks, music, singing and cheering told us the parade was beginning. Women in shimmering "barely there" (and some topless) costumes enticed the crowd to cheer for their samba school. Transvestites adorned themselves in feathers and women's costumes. Gorgeous, encredibly detailed floats with tan dancers passed by along with crowds of costumed paraders singing for not just their samba school, but for their happiness that it was Carnival. Each samba school is represented by a neighborhood, many of them from favelas. For many people of the favelas, it is there one time of the year to get dressed up and feel like a star. They consist of thousands of people. Each school takes up to 90 minutes to strut their stuff though the samba dome and there are 10 schools on this night. It's very tiring to dance and sing your heart out for that long. The judges sit at the end of the route and judge the best school. I don't know what the winner receives but I think its money, and of course, the honor of being the best samba school. Samba schools practice all year and most neighborhoods employ seamstresses to make the costumes for all the participants. It's a huge function.
We met a wonderful couple who was sitting in front of us. He (forgot his name) spoke English and his wife spoke some English. They continued to get drunk with us (Jim and Dalia at least) throughout the night. Around 1:00 AM dinner was served, but we had to get ready for our turn to be in the parade so I didn't get to eat. Jim and Dalia inhaled what they ate and we rushed to get our costumes on.
The costumes were covered in fake fruit. I don't know exactly what the school's theme was were dancing in, but the costumes where too cool! A lot of other guests also had the same costumes and some of the lucky women who obviously had ordered costumes sooner had cute short skirts which they got to wear on the float. As I was changing in the ladies room I met a young girl who spoke
English. She helped me get ready because I really didn't know what part
of the costume went where. Her name was Carol and she was studying
English to become an English teacher. She was so helpful and kind. I
ended up hanging out with her and her wonderful friends at times
throughout the early morning. (Side Note: I'm in love with the Brazilians. They are the warments people I have found from all my travels. They are beautiful inside and out. I think I want to be Brazlian in my next life).
We were escorted up an elevator and over to where the other schools where waiting to enter the sambadome. We were told where to stand and waited. It was an exhilerating feeling as we entered the samba dome. We were singing (in our case moving our mouth and pretending we knew what we were singing) and dancing our hearts out. We danced samba and had the most amazing time for 90 minutes as we slowly passed cheering crowds. The time passed by quickly. It was so much fun! And then we were at the end of the route. By this time it was around 4:00 AM I think. We couldn't believe we had particpated in the biggest part on earth!  We returned to the box seats and by then breakfast was being served. Can you believe the food at this shindig?  We stayed to watch the last school and were bussed back to the jockey club and caught a taxi back home. It ws 8:00 AM by the time we got to bed and we slept for 5 or six hours. I haven't pulled an all nighter like that in who knows how long. We didn't do anything the rest of the day but rest and go out to dinner. We were exhausted but contented to know that we had just participated in the world famous Carnival.
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