Funks and Wars

Trip Start Aug 19, 2010
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Flag of Brazil  , State of Rio de Janeiro,
Sunday, November 28, 2010

Rio de Janeiro was one of the places I'd most been looking forward to visiting since I started my trip.  That said, however, I didn't really know what to expect.  I knew that the city was home to two famous beaches (Ipanema and Copacabana) and there's the giant Corcovado hill with the Cristo Redentor cake-topper statue - but this was about it.

Whenever someone talked to be about Rio de Janeiro before I got there, all I got was that it was an awesome place and that I might find myself staying a while.  There weren't any specifics about what I should expect to see once I got there, except that the juice stands, which are on every corner in Rio, are amazing.

I arrived in Rio in the afternoon of November 21 and the mind-blowing entry into the city, as I imagined it might be, didn't materialize because the bus station is kind of far from the main (i.e., beautiful) part of the city.  The bus station seemed like it straddled various favelas in the outskirts of the city.  Since it was still light out when I got to Rio, I decided to take public transportation into Copacabana, where I stayed - I didn't want to mess up my long streak of not taking taxis - I took public transport because if I didn't, I was afraid I might screw up my good luck in finding my way around on buses and metros.  It worked out because the bus I ended up taking stopped only a few blocks from the apartment I was staying in.

I stayed in a room in some old, retired 'Merrican dude's apartment.  It was the complete opposite of where I'd just been (the hostel in Trinidade) because the guy who owned the apartment was this grumpy, sad (divorced) old guy who seemed like he was renting out rooms in his apartment because he was lonely and needed people to talk at (not to) - it also seemed like he was the kind of guy who liked to earn extra cash wherever he could.  It was one of the weirder places I've stayed at in the sense that it felt so sterile and lifeless.  It was on the top floor of a high-rise up on a hill in Copacabana (for those of you familiar with Rio, it wasn't in one of the hillsides where the favelas are - it was further up, closer to Leme and the Manilow-famous Copacabana Palace Hotel).  Anyway, the apartment building was in a cul-de-sac where the street had controlled access and in order to get into the building a dude in a little kiosk outside had to buzz the door for you.  The apartment certainly was clean and comfortable and it had an amazing view of Copacabana below, but there was just something off about it. It felt weird being there.  It was too… devoid of personality and joy.  Plus, the old, sad dude that owned the apartment didn't help things - he was an odd one.

Also, I'm not sure what it was but I got into kind of a funk the day I got into Rio and it just stayed with me the whole time I was there. 

I tried hard not to let the funk stop me from doing stuff around town, though.  I explored the Sta. Teresa neighborhood on several occasions (this is kind of the arty, bohemian part), where I met the artist who made the famous tile staircase on one of the Sta. Teresa hillsides (there's a picture of the staircase in the pictures section). I had a night out in Lapa, which started out with a free outdoor concert under the famous arches with the male singer dude from Tribalistas (one of the few (awesome) Brazilian bands I did know before I got here).  I spent a day wandering around the Botanical Gardens and the nearby Parque Lage, which was one of the nicest planned parks I'd seen outside of Europe.  I spent quite a bit of time getting lost in parts of the Centro neighborhood (which, for you LA folk out there, was kind of like Santee), my mind got thoroughly confused that there were all sorts of Christmas-ware for sale when it was a summertime 90 degrees (F) outside.  I sampled quite a few restaurants and juice bars all around town (Bibi Sucos being my favorite juice place).  And obviously, I took the tram up Corcovado hill to pay my respects to Cristo Redentor and to experience just how beautiful Rio de Janeiro was from his point of view.

But mostly I just walked along the water.  I must have walked from the Leme-end of Copacabana down-around the corner to Aporador then to Ipanema and finally to Leblon - and then all the way back.  I did this walk maybe three times hoping that something about the city would tell me that I needed to stay more than the week I'd already planned on spending there.

Unfortunately, the city said nothing to me.  I attribute this to the funk I was in while i was there - so I maybe didn't hear what the city was trying to tell me. 

Either way, I think I was in this funk because I was in Rio during the week of Thanksgiving - and while being in Rio for Thanksgiving sounds cool and all, it wasn't.  I really do enjoy the ('Merrican) holiday season - starting from Thanksgiving all the way to New Year's.  It's my favorite time of year and I can't understand why most people think it's the most stressful

Even though I consciously and deliberately distanced myself away from all of the holiday fun with friends and family, it still sort of felt weird and sad to be away from it all.  Thanksgiving day was, obviously, just a regular day in Rio de Janeiro.  I spent the early evening of Thanksgiving day drinking a beer next to some old local dudes in front of a convenience store/snack bar where they'd put plastic furniture on the sidewalk just in front of the street-facing counter.  Then I went up to the apartment to make a party-of-one dinner.  Yeah, yeah, the worlds smallest violin makes another appearance on this blog.  But really, though, this funk was funkier than the dips in my normal mood cycle.

I finally left a week later.  I suppose that it was for the best since there was a war going on in Rio. 

If you kept up with world news, you would have known about the crazy gang wars going on there.  I personally had no idea until 2 days before I left that these were gang wars happening in many favelas around the city.  I really just thought that it was normal to see a bunch of police guys with giant guns slung over their shoulders all over town.  Although I have to say that during the week I was there, it felt like nothing was going on at all in the city. 

But the war I am referring to isn't the gang wars, it was the passive-aggressive one being waged by the old dude who owned the apartment I was staying in with me and another person renting a different room in the apartment.  It seemed that almost every day someone was getting a note taped to their door chastising that person for things like not putting pot lids back in their rightful places.  There were even threats of eviction.  Dude was wack(!) I had to get out of there.

So I suppose Rio ended up being a weird place for me.  I'd like to go back sometime later when I am in a better state of mind. 

***

Reading list: High Fidelity - finally finished.  It was ok.

Playlist: Kind of a weird playlist (or is it?)  One Two Three Four

***

Until next time.

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