Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Everyone was excited to arrive in Rio de Janeiro. One of the greatest aspects of Semester at Sea was our method of traveling. No bags to carry through an airport and no need to keep our eyes on the road, but instead we continually arrived in one new country after the other, with a slow approach on a ship, allowing us to stand outside on the deck and see each city in the context of its surroundings. Despite a cloudy morning, arriving in Rio was as exciting and beautiful as we all hoped it might be. We passed by the crowded favelas on the hills, the beaches of Ipanema and Copacabana, and Sugarloaf Mountain before arriving in port. Although we occasionally had to wait in line to pick up our passports and have a face-to-face encounter with a customs agent, as we did in Rio, I always appreciated the ease of traveling on the ship and simply swiping our shipboard ID to immediately head out and explore a new country. One of the smartest decisions I made before leaving the United States was to bring currency from every country. The ATM at the port was overrun with Semester at Sea students, faculty, and staff waiting in line and the ATMs outside the port didn’t like Brett and Kai’s Visa debit cards. The Brazilian Real I brought was enough to get us a cab to Sugarloaf Mountain, allowing us to beat the crowds and not wait in line. Brett, Kai, and I took the cable car to Morro da Urca, the first mountain, and after walking around amazed at the view and geography of Rio we took the cable car to the summit, Pão de Açúcar, where the view only became more stunning. The scattered mountains and hills that surround the beaches, neighborhoods, and lagoons of Rio create an otherworldly panorama that is hard to turn your eyes away from. Even as we got back on the cable car to take the scenic ride back down, I wanted to remain on the mountain with my imagination running wild about the world and life that was below us. After going to the beach and having lunch in Ipanema, we went to the Hippie Market, where we ran into numerous Semester at Sea friends (also known as SASers) and I had an indulgently delicious acai smoothie with guarana from a local juice bar on the street. In every country we would run into friends from the ship, which created a fun illusion, as if we actually lived in Brazil and were simply running into friends at the market. I then joined Henri and Jake for a walk around Ipanema, where I switched from acai to a mango juice drink, which was equally good. The juice bars in Rio are fabulous, and they perfectly satisfied my sweet tooth because I could feel healthy indulging in them. Our walk along the beach during sunset was one of my favorite walks of the voyage. The sun was setting behind the mountains and the street was closed to traffic, allowing everyone to walk, run, bike, and skateboard in the street. With most people walking, the street looked a lot like zombies from The Walking Dead overtaking Ipanema. We watched locals on the beach, some skilled and some beginners, balancing and jumping on slacklines tied to the palm trees and silhouetted by the setting sun behind them. Later we went to dinner at a local hangout and sat outside, with Henri working his magic and ordering us a delicious array of food to share. On our walk through the streets after dinner, the favelas on the hill were magically lit up with a condensed constellation of lights twinkling amidst the dark night. We walked over to a local music venue to see a Bossa Nova show in Ipanema, where a large Semester at Sea group had gathered for the show. After a long day of walking, sitting down and listening to live music was a comforting ending to the night. The next day Henri, Jake, and I gathered again for coffee and breakfast at a local confeitaria. We joined Jessa, Claire, Kim, and Patrick for yet more acai drinks, and then we all walked along Ipanema towards Copacabana. Afterwards we all took cabs to the culturally rich, lively, and artistic neighborhoods of Santa Teresa and Lapa, where we spent time walking around the Escadaria Selarón, the famous tiled steps created by the late Jorge Selarón, who recently and allegedly killed himself by setting himself on fire on the steps. Jorge Selarón was at the steps in Rio the same day, but unfortunately not during the couple of hours we were there and had lunch nearby at a local restaurant by the steps. Afterwards we went to Corcovado and took the train to the peak, where the Christ the Redeemer statue overlooks the city of Rio. For the longest time I have seen photos and videos of the statue, and to actually be there was hard to believe. I never ceased to be grateful and filled with wonder and awe that I was going from one famous landmark to the next. This day was just another day of the voyage, which happened to be at one of the most famous peaks and statues in the entire world. The size of the statue (125 ft.) on top of a peak (2329 ft.) is breathtaking, and the view of Rio is equally stunning, with scattered hills and mountains, some with favelas, rising above the neighborhoods and beaches. We arrived with enough time to marvel at the view, as the clouds soon took over the peak, hiding the view below and drastically lowering the temperature. Our busy day led us nicely to perhaps the most food all of us ever ate at one sitting, at Porcão, a Brazilian steakhouse, where meat arrived at our table within a few seconds of sitting down. Our servers rotated around the table, cutting us endless pieces of meat, as we all laughed and stuffed ourselves silly. We took time lapse videos of a true feast, which was a nice moment, a group of friends together sharing a meal, talking, laughing, and feeling full after a full day of exploring Rio together. Jake, Henri, Patrick, Kim, Claire, Jessa, and I were all together at that moment in time, in the amazing city of Rio de Janeiro, and my heart felt full as well. The next day was unfortunately an endless downpour of rain, but I suppose I was in the right place. Patrick, Jacques, Emily, Kierra, Keith, Claire, and I were all on a trip to the Tijuca Forest, the world’s largest urban rainforest. The experience was certainly complete with us hiking in the rain. Fortunately we spent our days on the beaches and streets of Rio during the first 2 days of sunshine, but despite the rain on the 3rd day, we enjoyed seeing another side of Rio. Also, our hike through Tijuca Forest served as an appropriate transition to our next port, Manaus, Brazil, a city deep in the state of Amazonas. Rio was certainly a highlight of the voyage. A unique feeling I had whenever we left a city or country, was a sense of bittersweet sadness at leaving a place that started to feel like home. Even in a short amount of time I would grow somewhat attached to every country, the people, the culture, and the lifestyle. As the ship’s horn blew (miraculously not causing me to drop my iPhone in the sea as I stood on the edge of the deck and filmed us sail away) and the land began to fade away in the distance, I was missing a place I could suddenly call home, which was how I felt leaving almost every country; however, I was always looking forward to our next destination, which at the time was an unfamiliar and unknown place, but after a few days of exploring the unknown, suddenly the country, people, culture, and lifestyle would become familiar, and I’d most likely find yet another place I could call home, which once again happened in Rio de Janeiro. 

1 comment:

  1. Chocolate candy! Uhhh, oatmeal cookies, oatmeal cookies! Soda pop! Orange soda pop! And we be eatin' like dogs, man. For a while, anyway.