I’m on the 18th floor (it’s the top!) of a condo in Rio and the view of the city is intoxicating. Above the hustle and bustle of traffic and the usual big city lights hovers “Cristo”, the largest art deco statue in the world and the 5th largest statue of Jesus. At night, the mountain below his feet is invisible and Cristo could easily be a bright, white helium balloon held in a child’s hand. From almost anywhere in Rio, Cristo dominates the skyline and reminds all that Brazil is, without question, Catholic. An even more dramatic reminder descended on the city last week, when Pope Francis arrived and addressed 3.5 million catholic youth on Copacabana Beach. Unfortunately, they all arrived the day before I did and gave me a good taste of what it might be like when this city attempts to graciously host the World Cup (2014) and the Olympics (2016). Traffic jams. Sardine packed buses. Parades of Catholics lined the streets, wrapped in flags from their home countries and chanting Hail Mary’s. The last night of their World Youth Day, a few million camped out on the beach. Not the least risque . . . remember, they are all at least trying to practice abstinence 🙂
In a grand effort to steer away from the hordes, I was found on Ipanema beach instead. Since I know you are wondering–– yes, by myself, testing out my comfort level in my new bikini. Don’t scroll down. No pictures posted. I’ll talk about the sand instead . . . clean, crystalline beige, glassy white, and easy to shake off your body. The water is warm, deep blue, and playful, just like the Brazilians. It’s on the beach, I am told, that they shake off the stressfull aspects of life in Brazil, particularly the strong, strangling economy that makes the average Brazilian struggle to make ends meet, and motivates those that can afford to, to fly overseas and fill their bags with goods. We’re no longer in Ecuador, Todo . . . I’ve gone from $2 dinners to $10, and $10 sleeping accommodations to $50. Had I attempted to bring in ten new I-Phones to sell, I could have financed at least half my trip.
It’s a wonderful city! The people are friendly, spirited, and judging by the crowd at the local samba club, they know intrinsically how to shed life’s trials straight off their hips. For me, it took at least one Caipirinha to even begin to find the beat. It helps to have decent sized hips.
I haven’t talked about dogs yet in this blog. Too painful. But the Golden Retrievers I saw this evening reminded me to record these thoughts. In Ecuador, like many poor, South American countries, they suffer miserably. Dogs are not usually pets, but roam the streets and countryside eeking out a living by scrounging scraps wherever they can. They work the streets, the markets, the bus stations, and even the steps of churches. Even if lucky enough to be owned, they’re almost never on leashes but instead wander the perimeter of their familiar territory, the edge of which is often the wheels of buses and cars. I never saw one hit, they are quite street savy, but my heart went out to them daily. After many a meal, I saved the fish or chicken bones and dropped them surreptitiously on the ground where they could easily be found. The mothers, ribs rippling from forelegs to hind and teats to the ground from multiple litters, have puppies to feed, that is, if they are not quickly smothered or drowned. My last memory of Vilcabamba is a young boy kicking a hungry dog in the face. I yelled at him in something more visceral than Spanish or English. It’s true, I’m traveling with a dog collar in my backpack . . . a reminder of my best friend, that keeps the heart soft. These are not wild animals, we domesticated them and are responsible for their needs.