An Earth Angel and Rules of Rio

Returning to Rio for a few days before I flew to Colombia presented a mix of emotions, more so than I usually feel when leaving a country. I didn’t want to leave Brazil because I’d had such a good time with friends and families I’d met over the last few weeks, and I felt connected and loved by the people who had been so hospitable and welcoming.

I’m so grateful for all the people I meet, because I always learn something from everyone. I’m especially grateful for the few select individuals who always appear on my radar at particularly important times – usually with something I need to learn at that very moment. On my second visit to Rio, that ‘Earth Angel’ was Paulina. A very intelligent, insightful (wise beyond her years), direct, funny, beautiful, and talented, Polish girl who spoke five languages (Polish, English, Portuguese, Spanish and German) and made me envious of her linguistic ability. She said that learning languages was aided by a neurological phenomenon called ‘Synesthesia‘, which sounds fascinating.

I was, and still am, thankful I was in that hostel, in that room, at that time, and that we got to meet. I was amazed by Paulina from the beginning, and she possessed just the right mix of qualities to keep me entertained, interested and enthusiastic. She cheered me up from my misery, offered her personal insight into the favelas and the Brazilian culture, and we discussed long term travelling and relationships.

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My last few days in Brazil were brightened by Paulina, and she was one more person I was sad to say “see you later” to (my version of goodbye). I also caught up with Daniel, the tour guide from the favela, and I enjoyed hearing his observations of me and my style of travelling and writing. He said that I’m very relaxed, easy going, and open, and that he liked talking to me because he felt I wouldn’t judge him. The simple fact is, I am fascinated by people, and when they let me into their lives, it’s a bonus that I never take for granted.

Daniel also said he thinks I am able to see a place for what it really is, that I find the good in the bad, and that I see past the tourist gloss to find the realities in all situations. I was impressed with his assessment, and I felt quite proud that those points were obvious to someone who had known me only a short while.

The following is some helpful information, and some random observations:

TRANSPORT

  • Get a map from the airport – they give out good ones, and they are super helpful to find your way around or to follow where the bus is going.

  • If you can, take the short bus ride from the airport to the metro train line, because the Metro is so much easier to navigate than the buses if you have ANY type of luggage. The stops are clearly marked and announced, and if your accommodation is near a stop you wont need a taxi.

  • If you must take a bus, beware that all bus drivers think they are race car drivers, hooning around, squeezing through the tightest spots, and abruptly stopping and accelerating at random.

  • You will have to navigate the turnstiles to enter the buses. They are a stupid invention, and provide the ticket seller much entertainment and frustration I’m sure. They are not traveller friendly, and not even regular bag friendly.

  • Upon entering the bus, you first pay the bored looking, grumpy ticket seller, then she presses a button to allow the turnstile to move and she waits for you to go through. And she continues to wait, and then starts yelling at you in Portuguese while you stand there looking stupidly at her, not knowing what to do. I learnt to put my bag over the turnstile first, then manoeuvre myself through.

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BEAUTY

  • Brazilian are beautiful people, there’s no denying it. And that includes the men and the women.. Of course there are also regular looking people, and some you might want to hang around on a bad day to make yourself feel better, but in general, they are beautiful.

  • There are many unwritten rules in Rio, regarding appropriate behaviour and dress codes.. The type and colour of material and lipstick must be acceptable for the time of day it is worn (lip gloss is a not acceptable). These codes seem applicable only to the middle and upper classes however, because I also saw more muffin tops and unzipped shorts to accommodate the large overflowing bellies than I want to see again in a lifetime..

  • You are allowed to be more relaxed and liberal during the daylight hours, yet once nighttime arrives, it’s time to look your best, and put on a show. There’s no getting drunk at night – to be seen stumbling around and falling over yourself at night is just not acceptable.

  • So many people have braces in Brazil, I wondered if there had been a huge sale at the dentist.. teenagers and adults of all ages had braces. When I asked, I was told they are not cheap, so I think it’s just a matter of importance to look good if you’re born with Brazilian blood.

  • I’ve never seen such large mirrors in public spaces – other than when I did some pole dancing many years ago. The mirrors in the public bathrooms were full length, and people spent more time primping and preening than actually using the bathroom.

  • Men use the mirrors too – watching men with short hair that doesn’t actually move anywhere, try to comb it, while preening and styling their sideburns, was highly amusing.

MISCELLANEOUS

  • Typical foods to try (other than black beans and rice): Açaí berry with granola/muesli, tapioca pancakes and the well known, strong alcoholic Caipirinha drink

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  • The Metro has free WiFi for 15 minutes per person per day

  • All domestic flights in Brazil include 23 kg checked luggage, and often Brazilian airlines do not accept international credit cards when you’re trying to purchase a flight from inside the country, because they suspect fraud. I’ve since discovered ways around this, so contact me if you want more information.

  • Australian passport holders must pay for visas to enter Brazil and Argentina, while European passport holders do not.

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8 comments

  1. Hi Belinda
    Lovely to get your letter…I guess you are a bit warmer there than we are here. It was Zero at 7am this morning, but we have had some lovely sunshine since then.
    All the best
    Lorna

  2. Great to read your stories of the wonderful travels and the people you meet. I am sure we all miss you. No doubt you receive the Club posts so you know what is happening and the AGM coming. Keep up the good work and have fun.
    Ian

    1. Hi Ian,
      Thank you for your comments, I’m glad you enjoy my writing. I miss you guys too. Saturday’s just aren’t the same.. I will be thinking of you at the AGM, and am sure I’ll know the results soon after.
      Belinda

  3. G`day Belinda. I am following your sojourn with interest. I must admit that the uncertainty of your trip would not be my cup of tea. I would need to know the what, where, why and how!! But having said that I`m glad that you are having fun and enjoying yourself. That`s the difference between us old farts and you, (a different generation) the young and adventurous. Please keep on being adventurous and having fun and I look forward to seeing you at the Range when you eventually get home. Lots of Love Grumpy. xoxoxoxo.

    1. Hi Grumpsta,
      Thank you for your comments! I am pleased you’re interested in my travels, and I have to admit that I’m not a fan of complete uncertainty either.. nor do I enjoy the locked in plans though, so it’s sometimes a back and forth dance..
      It’s very nice to know I’m thought of at the Range too, and I’ll see you when I’m there again.
      Love from Belinda

  4. Hey Belinda
    I’m loving your posts there extremely well written. If I ever get to go to Europe I would want you right with me.
    Looking forward to our coffee catch ups
    Take care

    1. Hi Jen, thank you!
      It’s so good to hear from you, and I hope you’re well. I’ll be happy to talk travels with you anytime, and Europe always has a special place in my heart..
      I’m looking forward to catching up, although I think a dinner is needed instead of a quick coffee! 😉

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