Tuesday, January 24, 2012

New Years in Rio de Janeiro

Well hello and Happy New Year! So sorry I'm.. 24 days late on that but I hope it was happy none the less, new years resolutions going well? ;) So as you may remember from my previous blog I went with my second family, the Castelo Brancos, to Rio De Janeiro to pass new years on Copacabana beach and enjoy the ever so famous firework display there. We left for Rio on the morning of the 30th, myself, school and family friend Luisa Dias, two younger sisters, and parents, in the family 5 seat car with a literal mountain of luggage and an 11 hour trip ahead of us. It was an incredibly long trip but the scenery in Brasil out the car window is thoroughly entertaining. Between the rolling jungles, cities and rivers whipping by and the seemingly never ending bop-it matches in the car, there was hardly anytime to be bored.

When we finally arrived in Rio it was as if we were in another world entirely. In Penapolis, where I live, everything is fairly flat with little rolling hills here and there speckled in red three foot mounds created by ants, the occasional small forest, even in the center of town things are fairly calm, it has that small town feel, and there's nothing extravagant about it. Rio is the opposite in every way. As we drove into the city near dark, we were swallowed up by the mountains towering around us. The city grows in, around, under and on them, where there isn't a towering skyscraper there's a forest hiding small houses and slightly secluded villages from the eyes of the thousands of strangers walking on the side of the busy streets. The smell of the ocean filled the night air as we drove, mingling and mixing with a thousand smells of city life. Bakeries, a small river, trash piles waiting for the night services to be cleared from the street, exhaust rising from the streets lined in strings of bring yellow taxies, restaurants of every type imaginable, and the miles of plant life towering and wrapping through it all.

We drive for half an hour making our way across the giant city absorbing it all, observing people of every race and walk of life and the phenomenon of rush and relaxation colliding before us on the street sides. Finally we arrived at my grandmothers apartment, only three city blocks from the glorious Copacabana beach. We excavated our mountain of luggage from the car and transported it to the tiny fourth floor apartment, rid ourselves of all signs of travel and headed to dinner. And thus the adventure in Rio began.

When I woke the following morning and put my head out the window to start the day off right with some people watching from our vantage point in the air, I was greeted by a glorious sunny day, the smell of the bakery across the street with bread in the oven, and the cheery sounds of tire-screeching city life rumbling on below. I enjoyed it for a moment before the morning began. Within the hour we were down the elevator, across the street and jammed in one of of the billions of bright yellow taxis headed for Sugar Loaf, about twenty minuets away with a speedy driver. When we arrived it occurred to me we were defiantly not the earliest of risers as we were filed to the back of an hour long line in the already hot sun. We waited and waited, listening to herds of tourists walk by speaking in every language imaginable, watching the gondolas, ascend, descend, bescend, crescend, frescend, and descend again until finally! We were at the front of the line, boarding our own scend-dend-ding gondola car. Thank God! The first gondola took us to the top of the smaller mountain, Morro da Urca, which had a stunning view, topped only when we took the second gondola to the top of Pão de Açúcar. It was absolutely amazing, we could see The Christ, nearly the entire city of Rio (well kinda, its rather large), Copacabana, Praia Vermelha, Morro da Babilônia, Laje Isle, the Flamengo District, EVERYTHING. It is unforgettable. We went for a walk in search of monkeys on the side of the mountain in an area pretty much just the Brasilians frequent. Since the tours don´t go there it was nice and relaxing to just enjoy it all without crowds of people shoving for their picture of the scenery or hollering on their Iphones to their friends where they are. It was a lovely mini escape from most of humanity.

After we had enjoyed the awe-inspiring view from atop the loaf we went back to the apartment and headed to Copacabana beach to enjoy some sand and evening sun before it was over-run with the 2,000,000 people that would roar in later in the evening. The beach, although crowded, was spectacular. It was lined from end to end in flowers, washed up by the waves, that had been thrown in by thousands of people saturated with their hopes, wishes and dreams for the New Years as an offering to the queen of the beaches. It was a spectacular sight. Little hand made, painted boats of the same nature washed up as well, though in nowhere near the quantity of wish flowers. My sisters and I created some sand art, we all drank some deeericious beach tea/lemonaid, and I topped off my rather impressive sunburn before we returned yet again to the apartment to wrap ourselves in white for the new year celebrations. As we left, the rain started to fall.

In Brasil there is a new years tradition that I've decided to adapt in the future 'cause its about then thousand times easier than new years resolutions and all you have to do is put on your underwear before you leave the house new years eve. If in the new year you desire peace, truth, wisdom, good memory and balance, may your panties be white. For luck, hope, balance and new beginnings - green. For harmony, health, and calm - blue. To roll in money, wealth and wisdom - yellow. Some luck in love and beauty - pink. Passion, strength and energy - red. And for inspiration, sensibility, imagination and stability - purple. Naturally, I got polka color covered for the special occasion cause I couldn't decide.. and didn't use 'em due to the fact that this new years eve, it was pouring rain and the Brasilian world uses white clothing for new years. Yeah, bad combo.

We went to the beach around 11:45 to enjoy the twenty minuets of car alarm sounding, building shaking, window cracking fireworks with the other 2,000,000 people and all of their umbrellas in the pouring rain. Despite the insanity of it, I´ve never seen so many happy people in my life, everyone was 'ooooing' and 'ahhhhing' hugging, kissing, dancing and sending champagne corks peopping in a thousand directions at once, happy to be alive and ready for a new year.

After we had celebrated with and hugged half the beach, Luisa and I decided to try and go to one of the many concerts on the beach that night, and stupidly thought the David Guetta (famous dj guy) show would be a royally good idea! Wrong. We were in the moblike crowd three hundred yards from the stage for a good three, four hours trying desperately to beat our way out after taking a mere 30 min to get in. We were pushed, shoved, pulled, twisted, dragged, smashed, smashed, stepped on, smashed and pushed all to get a 10 second glimpse.. Of his backup dancers. Say whaaaaaaa?!? When we finally got out we watched a group of extremely bendy male street dancers dance to 'born this way' by the ever famous Lady Haha.. it was rather disturbing, but at least we got our new years show, right?

The next two days we were there the rain was pretty persistent, we went to the mall and a small street fair new years day, and stumbled upon an elevator that takes you to a lovely vantage point of the city and Copacabana all fresh and cleaned by the rain. The following day we dcided to go to the Christ despite the rain because it had become a 'now or never' kind of situation. It was POURING. We took the lovely red train (that Pope John Paul II took in 1980 :)) to the bottom of the Christ, and an elevator till we were nearly at his feet. When we got here my mom and sisters who have already been several times decided to go wait at the train for us as the wind was iiiiinsane and the rain was cutting sideways through the air. So Luisa and I braved the storm and climbed the last few stairs till we were standing at the feet of the gigantic Christ, his outstretched arms towering above us. It is such an amazing structure and feat of man, the calm it radiates is memorizing, even when below the wind had ripped the UM- off my -BRELLA and left me standing with a metal stick in my hand watching it blow away as the freezing rain drenched my sixty five layers of cotton shirts and sweaters (cotton killlls) and filled my keds till they overflowed like little foot sized swimming pools. We took some pictures and raced back to the elevator ringing out clothing and checking that our hair hadn't been blown off our heads. Even in all the mess it was probably the most amazing thing I have experienced in my life to date.

After our freezing experiance at the Christ we kept with the 'cold' theme for the day and went ice skating at the mall! Oh man. Brasilians should not be involved in public ice rinks. I had to wear elbow pads. And a hair net. Yeah. Not cool.

That night Luisa and I met one of her friends at a bar for dinner, and romped around the city on foot a bit and chanced upon some GLUTEN FREE CHOCOLATE! That is a rare thing in Brasil incase the capslock didn't fill you in. We had a wonderful time and ended our trip in Rio on a wonderful note. The famous last words of the night were "I'll laugh so hard if after going to the Christ in the rain today, tomorrow is sunny."

It was.

So, this has been the slightly abbreviated story of Rio de Janeiro 2011-2012 New Years experience. Up next asap as possible is the days following in Ubatuba and on an ISLANDDDD oooo! So, keep checking in for that :) apologies for any mis-spellings and my failing English skills, I love you all and shall write again soon!ish ;)

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