Brazil Part I – Good Morning Rio


Date: 15 December 2010

Day: Wednesday

Location: Rio de Janeiro

Scribble:

- The very different and colourful ethnic groups of Brazil seem to have integrated very well. The situation in the USA is painful, it is much better in Europe; however, this situation seems to be better in Brazil than in Europe. Friends and couples from different groups are ordinary here.

- It feels strange for me to turn east to look at the sea (actually in this case, it is the Atlantic Ocean). I am used to turning west to see the water and the beyond. My sense of direction is now a bit messed up.

For the last few days, the stars have been misaligned for me. A technical problem caused me to lose a project I had been working on for days and this upset me. In addition, because we travel so frequently and we trust ourselves in remembering what to take, I realised at the airport that I forgot all my credit cards and driver’s licence at home. As we had to bring both summer and winter cloths for this trip, I was confused and forgot a few items, which would have been useful to pack. Besides, as F.’s rucksack suddenly became unusable at the airport because of its zipper, we hurriedly had to buy him a new one.

Our flight, which was due to last 12 hours, so very long, has increased to 15 hours as we had to wait on the plane for 3 and half hours extra. This experience proves my theory about travelling. Travelling should not be postponed until after retirement. The experiences, which can be very tiring and difficult even at young age, can become torturous in old age.

Just as our plane was about to take off, one of the engines has faulted. We returned to the runway and waited for the engine to be repaired. Then, two people on the plane became seriously ill and had to leave. This time, we had to wait for their luggage to be removed from the plane.

Anyway, when we reached after midnight, all passengers were welcomed to the country by a middle aged woman dressed in a yellow summer dress who we think earns her salary just for doing that.

Being able to enter this country with my Turkish passport and without a visa makes me happy. As soon as we left the air conditioned airport, we noticed the sticky, extremely humid and hot air. It had been raining for a few days.

People who visited Rio before had told that the favelas – Rio’s famous shanty towns- are easily seen on the way to the city from the airport. However, as we were driven at night, accompanied by samba music, we haven’t seen anything. In Brazil with 190 million population, Rio has 9 million inhabitants. 2 million of those live in the favelas.

Our hotel, Hotel Orla is on Avenida Atlantica, which is over the famous Copacabana beach. Our room number is 508. It does it for us. We slept like dead fish because we were so tired.

We woke up to a foggy and cloudy Rio in the morning but hot nevertheless.

We went along the Copacabana, then our first stop was the helicopter field from where we could see the city’s amazing views. In the meantime, we could see the famous Christ statue hidden behind the clouds and the fog. In any case, we could watch the fantastic views of the city.

Rio’s architecture is nothing special, it is even ugly. It is possible to see a few colonial Portuguese style buildings.

Clearly, it is not a developing but a developed country (except for the favelas).

The stories I have heard and read about Rio frightened me so much that I didn’t even bring my wedding and engagement rings to this trip in order to not grab any attention. But so far, it is quite safe and people seem to be very polite.

Nevertheless, Rio’s most important aspect is its landscapes.

The ocean, the Lagoa lake, high mountains and rocks, the fact that the jungle is within the city limits make this city very special and nice in my opinion. The views really took our breath away.

Within the context of the city’s important aspects and history, the guide explains insistently about how Michael Jackson shot his short film “They Don’t Care About Us” and shows this favela from the hills to tourists.

There are tours to this favela as well; however, unfortunately, as for the last few weeks there have been violent clashes among the gangs in these favelas, F. and I decided not to go there. Actually, in one of the favelas, there is a statue raised in memory of MJ and I really wanted to see it. Unfortunately, I will only have to do with looking at the picture of this statue.

Each blue building or rooftop, which can be seen in a favela shows that the place belongs to the police and that the area has been cleansed of arms.

Our next stop was the famous Christ statue. When we were on the helicopter field, I had blown so that the clouds around the statue would go away; thinking that perhaps it would work due to a butterfly effect. Thankfully, the clouds and the fog diminished a little and it was possible to see the statue; however, it was impossible to see the city from here. Even then, the weather conditions gave the statue and the area a very mysterious air.

Here, I tried walk on and touch every corner for […]. […] […]

We passed the rest of our time in Tijuca Park, which has been chosen as a world heritage site by UNESCO as it is a jungle within a city. Brazil has 60% of the Amazons and unfortunately large areas are being lost very quickly.

In this jungle, F. and I were a bit shocked because it was as if we were in Bandarbhan in Bangladesh. Actually, it was no different at all. Besides the density of the green, all the fauna is the same.

All the trees, plants, fruits are exactly the same as the ones in Bangladesh. It appears that all the tropical countries around the Equatorial zone share similar nature. Jack fruit, 25 kinds of bananas, guava, kampuka, which is from the guava family, 25 thousand kinds of orchids (vanilla is the most well-known orchid; I had no idea that vanilla is from the orchid family) etc.

It was actually a nice surprise and we thought and sighed how different Bangladesh would be if its population was not 150 million. Similarities are plenty. Even the people look like Bangladeshis. They are very good-looking but weighty (we understood the reason during lunch. The portions are super-size like in the US).

The only difference in the nature from Bangladesh is that they grow coffee here. Actually, it could be grown in Bangladesh as well but no one drinks coffee in the country.

When we went back to the city, the clouds were greyer and the ocean darker. Alas, our plans for sunbathing on the beach and bathing in the water were destroyed. However, this did not stop us from strolling along the Copacabana.

I can’t say that it is a very clean beach but it gives a different quality to this city.

As one can guess, the beach is full with people playing football, girls in the tiniest bikinis (but quite weighty), people playing sepak, which is a volleyball game where all parts of the body are used except for the hands.

Even though the time difference with London is only 2 hours, I guess due to the fatigue caused by flying, when we were at those places and seeing those things today, it felt like I wasn’t there and I wasn’t aware. Now that I think about it, did I really see that favela? Have I been next to the Christ statue? Have I walked along the Copacabana Beach? Am I really in South America or South Asia?

I would like to see these places with a rested head but this will not be possible.

21:10

Now we got back from dinner under the hot, tropical rain. We went to the recommended Zaza Bistro; good thing we did. As a semi-vegetarian, I was worried about what I could eat in meat-loving South America. Tonight’s dinner wiped away my worries. Even though Zaza Bistro is elegant, it is quite chilled at the same time. People are smiley and polite. But most important of all, the food is finger licking good.

In the last 5-6 years, culinary arts all over the world have progressed tremendously. There is “fusion” is every cuisine and the presentation is becoming more and more artsy; you can’t get yourself to dig your fork in it.

At Zaza, the Brazilian food inspired by tropical fruits has been merged with European, Indian, Thai and Japanese cuisines. I wanted to try a little bit of everything. I drank coconut juice with tamara; it was very refreshing. The sweet potato crisps, which are brought to the table as appetiser, can be dipped in three different kinds of sauce, which are honey and tomato, olive and capari and yoghurt with wasabi. Shrimp samosas were served with mango chutney with cinnamon. Tapioka, which is a snack loved by the Brazilians, consists of small bread rolls, which wrap melted cheese and tomato. It is served with a mango and lime sauce. Brie melted on toast and walnut and caramel sauce added onto it was also a tasty combination. Lastly, for dessert, tiny mango pieces cut in cubes with apple crumbles and fantastic Brazil nuts were served in a big bowl decorated with raspberry sauce. A piece of art for the taste buds and for the eyes. Brilliant!

NOTES:

- Before coming to Brazil, I was worried and scared more than my trips to Iran or Syria.

- While passing through the middle income neighbourhoods, I realised that I had dreamt about these buildings and streets (but as Izmir) a few times before. Perhaps the soul travels before the body.

- I understood why I feel like I am in South of Spain, Costa del Sol or in places in South Asia instead of South America. You can walk on the streets here, there is a joie de vivre, the sweet life is taken at ease and made the most of it. That’s why it is more European than the US.

- It is useless to try to style my hair here. Due to humidity, the volume of my hair has grown into an Afro style.

#Rio #RiodeJaneiro #Favela #Samba #Copacabana #AvenidaAtlantica #Lagoa #MichaelJackson #MJ #TheyDontCareAboutUs #UNESCO #Guava #ZazaBistro #SouthAmerica #Brasil #AtlanticOcean #TijucaPark #Amazons #Orchids #Vanilla #Campuca #Sepac