Hey strangers! Miss me? Sorry, life has been a little bit chaotic, but I'm back now to fill y'all in on the juicy details. For starters, I moved back to the good ol' US of A. More to come on whats next for this not-average-teacher, but in due time, grasshoppers...
First, let me fill you in on Rio de Janeiro:
Exactly a month after I arrived home, I jetted back to South America. Looking in, it seems rather odd. You were literally just there Kim… Well, my Chilean friend Flo (who’s wedding I danced in) had moved to Rio with her husband while he studied plastic surgery. Flo is now 8 months pregnant and will return to Chile next March. I really wanted to get to Rio to visit Flo before the baby arrived. It sort of became a now-or-never kind of thing, and it’s not like I’m working right now! So I bought that plane ticket and flew south again.
Rio welcomed me a blast of humidity to the face. Having traveled a good amount throughout South America, I wasn’t expecting Brazil to be so drastically different. I had my first taste of “culture-shock” when I tried to order a coffee at Starbucks and like an impulse, immediately ordered in Spanish –I mean I was in South America right? The guy looked at me with blank eyes. I asked him if he spoke English and he shook his head. I guess I had assumed that the Brazilians would at least understand Spanish. Rio immediately became a strange sort of frustrating warped reality to me, where I couldn’t effectively communicate with people even though I was in South America.
Other than the language gap, Rio was quite beautiful in my eyes! Having heard some stories about Rio, I was on my guard more-so than usual and didn’t go walking at night. I also made it a point to pay for everything in cash, as Brazil is notorious for credit card fraud. I do wish I had gone to Rio at a different time of the year because the humidity was so unbearable that I couldn’t enjoy the city in all her glory. Even after walking just two blocks, you looked like you just stepped out of the shower –sweating in places you didn’t know could sweat! The locals somehow have adapted to the humidity, so us sweaty tourists were easy to spot.
Corcovado (Christ the Redeemer):
The typical must-see attraction for everyone visiting Rio. In my honest opinion, it was probably my least favorite activity. We rode the train up, which was nice, but then at the top of the hill you were instantly greeted by hundreds of tourists. Too many people if you ask me.
We actually got so lucky because we were able to get on an earlier train up the hill. Once we got to the top, we took a few pictures and then a mystical cloud quickly situated itself atop the hill, completely covering Christ in all his glory. I actually thought it was really funny. Like most, we tried to wait out the cloud, but eventually concluded that the overcast wasn’t going away anytime soon. Unfortunately, there’s not much information up there or other things to do. I would have liked to learn a little bit more about the massive statue and it’s significance to Rio de Janeiro. But I'm so so lucky I got to see him up-close at all, rather than paying an absurd amount of money to sit inside a cloud.
Pao de Açúcar (Sugarloaf Mountain):
I did really enjoy this one! I took an Uber to the base of the mountain, however I got the 1 person in Brazil that didn’t know about Pao de Açúcar so we got a little lost first and ended up at a military base. I arrived here about an hour before sunset and rode the first cable-car up. You need to take 2 cable cars to get to the mountain. The mountain is something straight out of a Dr. Seuss book, it's so bizarre looking. I indulged in my first Brazilian caipirinha and then headed up in the second cable-car.
Like the Christ the Redeemer, there were a lot of people everywhere, however there was much more space atop Pao de Açúcar. You had a 360 degree view overlooking the bay of Rio. It was beautiful and so cool to see the strange geography of the city transform with all of the different colors of the sunset. I took pictures from just about every angle imaginable.
Escadaria Selarón (Selarón Steps):
This was actually probably my favorite attraction in Rio believe it or not. The steps were created by a Chilean artist, Jorge Selarón. He dedicated his late-life to working on the steps and covered them with unique tiles from all over the world. The 200-something steps are covered in mosaics, mirrors and tiles. The steps were his tribute to Rio. Selarón became obsessed with his current masterpiece and could often be seen working on the steps which were located right outside his home. The steps received international attention and are now considered to be some of the most famous steps in the world. Selarón was mysteriously found dead on the steps, with burn marks on his body. His death was ruled a suicide, however many believe otherwise.
The Selarón steps are incredible, however they are situated in a bad neighborhood. I wouldn’t go too late at night, or before it’s light out. I would advise others to go before the masses arrive, because the hundreds of peoples scattered about make it hard to take a nice picture. I so wish I had more time to explore all of the tiny tiles from all over the world.
Jardim Botânico (Botanical Gardens):
I visited the botanical gardens one hot afternoon after a nice lunch with Flo. As mentioned before, the heat in Rio really hinders the experience. I would have liked to stay longer and explore more, but the humidity was too much.
It was a lovely, and huge place to take a relaxing stroll and revel in all of the incredible plants that live in Brazil. The rainy and humid climate allows for some impressive flora and fauna to grow. Not to mention there’s some pretty cool insects and animals! Side note: Yes, I did get my yellow-fever vaccine before going to Brazil. No, it was not required since I was only going to Rio de Janeiro and not other parts of the country. However, since I was going to Colombia from Brazil, I was required to have the vaccine. So long story short and $300 later, I’m glad I figured that out before trying to enter Colombia!
^^ Fun Fact: Snoop Dogg shot a music video here
Ilha Grande (Big Island):
We took a day trip here on what turned out to be a rainy day. Overall, I’m not sure I’d recommend the entire trip that we did. My favorite part of the trip was Lagoa Verde, or Green Lagoon. We were able to snorkel there for about an hour among these gorgeous and abundant tropical fish. The fish photographer even brought fish food with him, so needless to say, there were a lot of freaking fish. But other than that, the tour took us to two other stops along the giant island where there wasn’t much to see. I’m sure if you were camping or even had nicer weather, it may be different. However, in my personal experience, I didn’t think they were anything to write home about.
The best part about Rio was its beaches. The beautiful white-sand, turquoise water beaches stretched on for days. There were days when the waves crashed with such intensity that you would think the ocean was mad or something. And then other days when the water was calmer than a puddle. The sun was strong but the water was that perfect temperature, where it was so warm yet still so refreshing at the same time.
One of my favorite things about the people in Rio was that they literally don’t care what you look like. I mean yes, Brazilians care what they look like, but they couldn’t care less what you look like. I can’t tell you how many grandmas in thong bathing suits I saw, or how many fat old men I saw in speedos. And guess what? Nobody cared! Nobody stared, nobody pointed, nobody laughed –and get this… the thong-wearing grandmas and crunchy speedo grandpas didn’t care either! It was so refreshing to be on the beach where nobody was judging each other.
^^I became obsessed with drinking coconut water
With huge tourist beaches, comes beach vendors. I have to hand it to the ones in Rio though, they are certainly creative, however no-less annoying than others. Every 5 minutes someone would walk by trying to sell you a hat, umbrella, tapestry, empanada, grilled corn, chips, beer, soda, toys for your baby, sunglasses, ice cream, sunscreen, dresses, jewelry, yogurt, selfie-sticks etc.
I drove by the “Escort Motel” several times.
Flo kept referring to the trash as the “dash bin”. The first time, I was too tired to correct her, but then we reached the point where it was too late for me to correct her, so I just let her keep saying “dash bin” and knew what she meant
On the second stop of our day tour of Isla Grande, I was standing in the water and I felt a pinch. A few seconds later I felt another one and realized that if I wasn’t moving, the fish would literally bite me.
The day before our day tour (I was going with a co-worker/friend and her kids) my co-worker kept complaining that she had something in her eye. We checked her eye and flushed it, but it was still bothering her all day. Finally, I got a text from her daughter telling me that after I left their hotel, they went to the doctor who told them that she had scratched her cornea. I ended up going on the tour with her two kids because she wasn’t able to go!
Flo told me she'd never been approached by so many beach vendors before, because of the fact that she was sitting with me, the whitest person probably in Rio.
My friend Nick had told me there was a hike you could do "to the top" of the Sugarloaf Mountain. When I got there though, I was beyond confused. You had to take a cablecar to even get onto the island, how did he hike there?! He meant you could do a little walk instead of the first cablecar.
^^ The 500 Hats of Bartholomew
^^Way to commit man
^^ Her shirt reads "I am the one I have been waiting for"
^^Sorry for picking your nose Dalí
^^This guy made me very nervous
^^I found corn on the cob to be a peculiar snack for the beach
^^"There's a boat right there"
^^ Amazing marketing strategy. Know your audience!
^^ I went to pay for something and realized I'd dropped a noodle in my purse at dinner
^^Our hotel had a giant wooden lion in the middle of the lobby
^^ Flo's skin vs. mine
^^ Flo was taking care of a little yorkie (my León substitute). His color was so funny!
^^ Good advice, also a little worrisome to read before stepping into said elevator
Rio was definitely not what I expected. After 9 days though, I was getting the hang of understanding Portuguese if I really concentrated (it’s very similar to Spanish). The language barrier and lack of Spanish was still so bizarre to me. I loved the beaches but hated the amount of tourists at all of the tourist sites. I loved being able to visit Flo and Joaquín in their new home and catching up with them for longer than just a few hours. The humidity was unbearable and definitely took a toll on me. I also didn’t like having to be on my guard all the time, and having to expect that people were going to take advantage of me because I wasn’t Brazilian –this happened in Chile too, however to a much larger extent in Brazil. Rio is such a unique place; it’s very comfortable in it’s own identity and culture. Maybe constantly being by the sea gives Brazilians that admirable carefree attitude.