Monday, April 4, 2011

Carnival in Rio, 2011


After total 28 hours on air, 3 airport changes and lots of tasty nutritious flight meals, we found ourselves in a taxi driving through the streets of Rio de Janeiro. It was at night and we headed straight away to our rented apartment in Copacabana. There’s nothing in the world like this euphoric feeling that you get when you first land in a foreign place having no clue what the experience is going to be like but you look around and everything seems so fresh and exhilarating. And... I adore that feeling.

I was not sure if my ears were still blocked from flying or perhaps people were resting in preparation for the Carnival peak in a few days time, Copacabana was rather quiet that night.  I expected a somewhat noisy chaotic atmosphere just like they always portray Copacabana in the movies and books. Our two-bedroom apartment is centrally located and just two minutes away from the beach.  Nicky the Brit, the owner, got us settled into our apartment, which, by the way, looks stunning in the pictures on the website but NOT very much so in reality. As we were much too tired, we decided to go downstairs and eat whatever we could find and that ‘whatever’ turned out to be the horrible burgers from the restaurant nearby .(little did I know at that point that I’d be eating god-awful meals after meals all throughout my Brazilian trip!)

The next morning, we took a stroll along Copacabana beach and witnessed the constant flow of hotness, the perfectly -toned heavenly bodies of men in multi colors, that is. Men playing volleyball, jogging in their shorts, playing with dogs on the beach, never in my life had I seen beautiful muscular bodies in abundance at one sitting. “This is the Rio that everyone’s raving about” I thought. It was indeed impressive. Men in Rio certainly take ‘got it? - Flaunt it! culture’ to a whole new level. From the coast of Copacabana to Ipanema, everywhere we looked we saw six packs (at times it’s even eight, yes, without counting the other two you are thinking of, believe me!) In Rio, in every corner of the street, there is a gym. Sometimes 3 or 4 in one block either facing each other or standing next to one another. Working out is a serious business here in Rio. On the beaches as well, there are monkey-bars and jungle-gyms planted for those who would like to carry out some final push-ups or parallel bar-dips before they hit the beach in their skimpy swimwear. The pressure to stay fit and to look round-the-clock-hot is immeasurable. You’d better bring it or you are SOOOO no one! Realizing and recognizing the pressure, we immediately got ourselves gym memberships at the gym in front of our apartment, the first thing in the morning before breakfast. Relief!

As a city though, Rio is pretty rundown. It has seen the light of day for sure. With that much partying going on 24/7 and for decades, what Rio truly needs now is an expensive eye cream and perhaps a city-wide Botox, just in time to make her look pretty for the upcoming 2014 World Cup. The buildings in Rio are obviously not for the sake of aesthetics; old, ugly and monochrome.  In order to give ourselves a break from our daily party-on-the-beach lifestyle, we at some point wandered around the Centro, the city centre away from the famed beaches. The stench of piss and poop, the amount of garbage on the streets and the homelessness of its people shocked us big time. The beaches of Rio may celebrate narcissism and muscle worship, it is the city that reminds you of the hardship and poverty the real people are dealing with on daily basis. Here, you suddenly lose the sight of divine bodies and the party vibe. This is reality and it ain’t pretty.

Everyone in Rio owns a dog or two and they love walking their neatly-groomed and stylishly-dressed dogs. These bow-wows, without a doubt, leave their droppings and spray everywhere but there’s no follow-up from the dogs’ owners.  Therefore, walking in the streets of Rio can be one unpleasant experience. You’d better watch out or you come home with your Diesel shoes with dog poop on them. Gross!  Of course it was not all filth and garbage. There is so much beauty in Rio depending on how you define it. As for me, the beauty of Rio I found was in the faces of people especially when they danced samba. You can see people dancing in the streets, in the subway stations and on the beaches during Carnival. The joy that they radiate and the good energy that they send out to the streets simply made me forget about the rest of not very nice things.

Anyone who has been to Rio would agree that it has the most festive people on earth. Hundreds of people, together chanting the samba tunes, some on the trio Elétrico floats, men dressed up in women’s clothes, women and children wearing elaborate and colorful wigs and headpieces, boozing on the streets, Carnival is the biggest open-air party in the world. It kind of reminded me of our very own “Thingyan water festival” which falls in April annually. Back home, we do pretty much the same thing as well. We go out on the streets, party like mad, sing, dance and get drunk. The only difference for us in our case is that there is so much water involved. We throw water at each other in order to drive away our sins we carried out in the previous year. But we do have something in common; Carnival time is the time to make new friends, time to get out of whatever shall that we hide in and time to live it up to the fullest.  M and I loved the craziness we experienced on the streets of Ipanema. We were definitely “livin’ la vida loca”, drinking Caipirinha all night and kissing everyone, boy and girl, on the streets.

One day, we took the little old-school tram up to the famous Santa Teresa area to experience how the locals celebrate Carnival. Like many things in Rio, it was loud, vibrant and jovial.  For me, it was the most inspiring moment creatively in my time in Rio and I took lots of pictures. I had always wanted to capture expressions of people and there I felt I had the biggest opportunity. I was able to document one main ingredient of Carnival: “JOY”.  That evening, I came home feeling bloated, like as if I had eaten a nice rich meal for lunch but the only difference was that I had eaten it with my heart. It felt amazing.

They say the festivities of Carnival start on the streets and end with the Samba parade at the Sambodromo. We went to see the parade one night and needless to say, it was spectacular. Just like the way I imagined it and even more awe-inspiring in person. Each samba school usually has at least four to five thousands of dancers, some on the extravagantly-decorated floats, wearing extra-flashy, sequined- costumes with many different themes and competitively parade all throughout the night and till dawn. It was an once-in-a-lifetime experience for me and I felt lucky to have that opportunity.

Our biggest disappointment while in Rio was the weather. It was lousy most of the time, cloudy, foggy and rainy. We visited the famed sites, Sugar Loaf and Cristo de Redentor, but it was so foggy that we couldn’t see the view at all. We were hugely disappointed but there was nothing we could do. At the Cristo De Redentor, I waited with hundreds of other people who came to Rio from different countries to view and to take pictures of this world famous Jesus Christ statue. After a long, long wait, there was a 15-second break of sunshine came through and the wind miraculously blew away the fog, providing just enough time for me to capture the iconic statue in a decent light. With that one shot, I consoled myself and went home.

Ten days in Rio was pretty exhausting for us. We had too many sleepless nights. We really did push ourselves to the extreme to take in this awesome Rio-ness and I guess we succeeded. We arrived in Rio with full of energy, anticipation and curiosity and we left Rio with sunken eyes, hangover and fatigue but certainly great memories

1 comment:

JC said...

SUBLIME!;o) and lively lines/ I cant wait going to Rio and get the feeling of that vibrant MEGALOPOLE. i cross my finger to get a wonderful picture of CORCOVADO statue illuminated by sunshine.