I have better things to do. I do. If I’m going to be able to afford a master’s program in the states, I’ll need scholarships, so I should be applying for those. But something has inspired a nostalgic feeling in me (maybe it’s the rain), and because I can’t shake it, I’ve decided to give it a voice, give it words.
I’ve been living in Rio de Janeiro for almost 5 months now. When I was counting the days until I could go back to Colombia, time went by painfully slowly. Now time’s passing at a more mixed rate; at times it flies by and at times it almost stands still. Like I said, it’s been almost 5 months...
Rio is not what I expected it would be. (By the way, that’s true of every place that I’ve ever visited.) There’s only so much you can imagine when you see pictures, watch movies, and read about a place. Stereotypes, while almost always based on something real, never completely describe reality.
Here are a few big surprises about Rio:
- Rio actually is more beautiful than in the pictures. MUCH, MUCH more beautiful. Oh yeah, and those mountains that you see in the background? You can climb those any time you like and get a breath-taking view of the city.
- Rio can be REALLY COLD (12C in July) and it’s often cloudy and rainy during the winter months
- Most Cariocas (people from Rio) don’t actually dance Samba (or anything else for that matter). They appreciate music, but generally prefer to just listen while drinking lots of beer with friends
- Brazilians come in all shapes and colors, so even someone as white as me could be Brazilian (in fact most people assume that I am Brazilian until they hear my accent)
- Here the cat-calling is minimal during the day. At night however, it’s normal (even for Brazilian girls) for a guy to try to kiss or grab you as you walk by. (In Colombia cat-calling occurred constantly, but nobody ever tried to touch me)
- Brazilians hate to say “no.” So they often just say “yes” and leave you to discover later that they really meant “no.”
- Brazilians can be simultaneously intensely proud and intensely critical of their country.
Those of you who travel know that everywhere you go is subject to comparison to everywhere you have been. And because I’ve been in Colombia for the last 2 1/2 years, I often find myself comparing the two places. While Rio has a lot of incredible things going for it, it is also missing a lot of things. Zona Sul is filled with the noise of cars and people, but you don’t hear music in the streets. Where are the picós? Where are the people sitting outside and talking to their neighbors? They don’t sell arepas anywhere and there aren’t any juice carts. No zapote, no nispero. And something else is missing too. Maybe it's just my imagination, but I don’t see as many people smiling. I don’t hear as much laughter. And my heart aches for Colombia again…
By the way, I read about Colombia regularly: about the agrarian protests, the international festivals, and the peace-talks with the FARC. When I read about the protests, I was proud of the Colombian people for standing up to the government. In cities around the world, Colombians united to express their support for the farmers. I saw a video on youtube of Colombians in front of the Eiffel tower holding up signs that read: “Dear Santos, Here in Paris, we know about the agrarian protests.” The Colombians living here in Rio organized many events to declare their support of Colombian farmers and their outrage about the government’s response. At work, in the morning before any teachers or students came, I read newspaper articles or watched youtube clips of the protests, and filled with pride, love, and concern, I let my tears fall onto the desktop.
When I leave Rio, I will miss:
- the beaches
- the mountains
- the views
- the easiest job EVER
- beach volleyball on Mondays
- the sunset as seen from Arpoador
- the Carioca accent
- my foreign friends who have been discovering this amazing country with me
- my local friends who have been amazing companions on this journey
- the guy selling tea on the beach who always say “Mate! Mate con limaoooo!”
- my hot shower ;)
(list to be continued…)