Thursday, September 10, 2015

Good-bye Rio

We've just moved on to Argentina, but here's what I want to remember about Rio - a city that I enjoyed and hope to return to someday: 

There are a lot of police everywhere, and the military on Sundays. I think this makes me feel safer, but I'm not really sure. Seeing machine guns at the beach on Sunday is a bit unnerving - especially when you read reports from the last couple of years about how trigger happy the police are. No wonder I had the sense that in a split second a gun fight might break out. It didn't and I didn't even get a hint of one, but we remained quite vigilant when out and about. 

If I'm going to be completely honest about Rio, I did love it, but I found the never-ending vigilance a bit tiring. When out and about - especially with the kids - I just never let my guard down. On busy beach days they feel the need to post a military base command with guys with machine guns, that tells me there's likely a good reason. But the vigilance paid off (or maybe that made no difference, but all the police everywhere did), and we stayed safe.

The awesome sidewalks. Everywhere, all these pieces of stone that are roughly 1.5 inches x 1.5 inches make up the sidewalk. They are all black and white and make quite an awesome pattern. Copacabana and Ipanema each have their own pattern. Other places likely do as well, but those were the two that I'll recognize easily once we've left. 


The street art, i.e. graffiti (but not tagging). Every city should make it ok to do graffiti on public spaces. Every single place we've seen it looks better because of it.

Surfers will walk to the beach in bare feet. I guess that way you don't lose your flip-flops.

The bike infrastructure stuns me. There are separated bike lanes to keep bikes away from traffic. Pedestrians give way to bikes. Share Rio bike stands (a bike sharing system) are everywhere and are well used. For about $10CDN a month you have unlimited use of these bikes. As a result, a lot of people bike, and not in spandex for a gruelling fast paced 50km ride, but rather in every day clothes just to get around. My favourite are the surfers. Those that don't walk to the beach in bare feet, bike by just holding their surf board under one arm (some of the less macho ones strap them to the bike). This is a bike culture I could embrace.

Ok, that remaining bike looks a little rough, I know, but look
how many bikes are out and about.

The motorbikes will drive in the bike lanes or sometimes a little bit on the sidewalks. When they do go on the roads, they seem to think that white line on the road in between the cars is what they are to follow - especially if they beep their horns a lot while doing it.

Brazilians like things sweet. Sugar is added to juice. Sweetened condensed milk can be added to most anything, including caramel popcorn.

The food on the beach is fantastic: shrimp, cashews, cheese that's grilled over a little grill right in front of you. I think I could have lived on a diet of just this, getting my fruit from the lime caipirinhas that were also sold on the beach.

South American cheese grilled on a wee portable BBQ on the beach

Portuguese is a tough language. I thought that by knowing a bit of French and a smattering of Spanish this would be a breeze; after all, they're all romance languages. Not so. As soon as you introduce nasal sounds, have a d that sometimes sounds like a soft g, and an r that sometimes sounds like an h, you know you're in for a rough ride. We did ok though. The people are friendly and we spoke the phrases and words we knew.

Pão de Queijo: Little round bits of a soft and delicious bread with cheese inside. What's not to love.

Corruption runs rampant, yet what do the people do? They say, "What can you expect from politicians, they're all the same - they don't do anything for the people, just for the tourists." Then they shrug their shoulders and go to the beach. 

I'm saddened by the corruption and how everything is done for the tourists and to make Rio look good internationally for the World Cup and Olympics. Favelas are promised services, including proper sewage removal, yet that hasn't happened. Do they think tourists won't notice? The city was to have proper waste treatment facilities for the Olympics, yet raw sewage still can run into the already polluted bay. Beautiful beaches in that area, but it's not safe to go in the water. Yet, I can't help but admire these people. Why get a knot in your tummy and wear yourself out over things you feel you can't change. Look at the good in your life, be grateful for what you have because someone always has less. And, of course, go to the beach. 

I'm looking forward to watching the Olympics next summer to see Rio. I hope the tv network sends out some good people for the lifestyle stories. But most of all, I hope that the police and military presence that is making Rio a safer place now just doesn't disappear once the last tv crew leaves.

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