Monday, April 21, 2014

Please come - Rio de Janeiro

Copacabana Palace hotel (no, you're not drunk; it's out of focus)
Yesterday I tried really hard to see Rio as a tourist. Oh, okay, I am a tourist but one who speaks Portuguese and has lived in Brazil for 9 years. I tried to be worried on Copacabana Beach about whether a pickpocket was standing behind me as I watched a Peruvian artist create unbelievable landscapes with his fingers, a brush, a knife and some Kleenex. I kept my camera in my pocket, except for a photo of the Copacabana Palace where I got engaged in 2000. 

I can't do it. I know Rio is filled with dangers like any big city. I know it has recently been written about by a Danish "journalist" who was horrified by the destruction of lives as favelas are moved to make way for the Olympics. I woke this morning to the sounds of someone yelling "socorro" or "help" right outside our window (when BH looked out, it was unclear what was happening and there was a group of people outside). 

My experience these five days has been wonderful. Magical. A city where we continue to be amazed that anyone gets anything done rather than sitting and watching boats head out to sea, or kicking a ball around the beach, or enjoying a sidewalk juice or coffee or beer. A city that is made for walking--the beautiful horseshoe shape of Leme and Copacabana remains my favorite with its undulating waves of black and white tile, but many places are fun. Ipanema's back streets to the Lagoa where men argue over Flamengo or Fluminense (don't ask me: Rio soccer teams). Santa Teresa's winding streets and walls covered with beautiful paintings of the tram that is out of service, seemingly forever under repair.

We have asked for directions from bus drivers, from flower sellers, from parking attendants and security guards. They have all answered us politely and helpfully, one parking attendant even walking me down the street to find someone who had lived in the neighborhood for 20 years and could better answer my question. Kids are waved onto buses where they don't pay. Fisherman hold out small fish so the twins can throw them back into the bay.  Rudeness has been few and far between.

We have walked through Santa Teresa and Copacabana as night is falling. We are not carrying valuables but we look about as gringo as possible, excepting BH who is the only darker-skinned, darker-eyed person in our group. My stepkids are as white as any Canadian, one with blue eyes, and the twins can't stop speaking English no matter what I try. We haven't had a problem.

So, I will tell you potential visitors to Brazil for the World Cup or otherwise: you do yourself a great disfavor if you avoid this city due to security, danger or fear. Yes, it is possible you will be pick-pocketed. That happens everywhere. It is possible the taxi driver will take you for a longer ride than necessary. I promise it will be exciting as they speed on the wrong side of the street, through red lights and then come to an abrupt halt and say: "where were we going anyway?" 

This is the City of God. You cannot avoid the hug from the Cristo Redentor (Christ the Redeemer) on top of his hill. You can see him from the beach, from Santa Teresa, from downtown. He welcomes you. Rio welcomes you. Please come.


  1. Dear friend,

    What a refreshing, unbiased great post about Brasil!

    Good job


    1. Thanks Ray! The thing is that I AM quite biased! I love it here! Don't make me leave!