Copacabana Beach

Copacabana Beach

Our Apt in Leme, across the street from the beachOur Apt in Leme, across the street from the beach

Globo ManGlobo Man

Copacabana sidewalkCopacabana sidewalk

Watching the little white plane icon nearing the US continent,––we’re less than 300 miles from Houston, souring at 34,000 feet above the Gulf of Mexico. I’m definitely a land creature. I never feel quite as comfortable flying over water.

Flying out of Rio, I finally got somewhat of a sense of the immensity of that thriving metropolis. Even at 500 mph, it seemed to stretch on forever. Face pressed against the window so as not to cry in public, I watched the lights of Rio fade in the distance till only darkness, jungle, was below. Leaving was much harder than I anticipated. As the one person in the world I love the most became a speck on the landscape, her space in my heart expanded to aching point. It’s just too far away for a mom.

It was such a good visit! I do wish we had had a little more mom/daughter time, but she is one busy, successful woman, in a part of the world that demands forbearance, flexibility, and lots of patience. I’m very proud of her––of both of them. It’s not an easy task to settle in another country, get a handle on the language and customs, find work,and make a comfortable home for yourself. They seem happy, well adjusted, and very excited about the impending wedding J

10:30am now, Rio time. Hard to believe that yesterday at this time Carol and I were walking the streets of Copacabana looking for habaneiras (flip flops) and the “Tapioca Lady.”  (She makes sweet & savory tapioca crepes in a street cart.) Our last few hours on Leme beach were quite peaceful. Monday is a slow day on the beach, not many sunbathers, surfers, or vendors. The one vendor you can always count on though is “Globo Man.” I never was able to translate the major ingredient, but Globos are basically crunchy (salty or sweet) ricecake-like treats that stave off hunger with little calories. The other food vendors I will dearly miss are, “Empada Man,” and “Cashew Man.”

That brings me to some developing thoughts about Rio beach culture. I love it!! Although I saw many of the usual tourist sites, my favorite time was spent on the beach, in that timeless, relaxed mode that came to define the city for me. Brazilians do everything possible to make the beach experience easy for you. The first essential is a beach chair.  For only $1.50, “Beach Chair Man” will place your chair anywhere within a decent distance of his kiosk, provide and umbrella if you wish, and collect the chair when you decide the day is done. If you fancy a new, minimalist bikini, “Bikini Man” will arrive at some point holding an umbrella of dangling swimwear. If you need a sun hat, “Sun Hat Man” will accommodate. There’s really little reason to ever leave the beach.  Best of all are the many kiosks selling Coco Verdes (Green Coconuts to drink) and Caipirinhas. Carol and I were loyal to our one Caipirinha maker . . . he had a customer service ethic beyond most Brazilians and knew what we liked . . . . little ice, less sugar, and muito fuerte (very strong.) There are two bottles of Cachaca wrapped in a sweatshirt in my luggage. It’s an attempt to extend my summer interlude on the back deck.

“Caipirinha Man” was friendly, and I think funny– one person that I would definitely have enjoyed conversing with. He loved to chat and did so inspite of the fact that I repeated, numerous times, “Eu falo um poquito Portugues.”  If you speak one sentence, locals expect you will understand their next six. The Brazilians are chatty. On the street, the buses, the beach, and in restaurants and shops, 2-3 word answers (although easier to understand) are not the norm. Who knows what they are talking about??!!  But I have to say, I enjoy the challenge and would much prefer traveling in a country where English is not pervasive.

The Houston airport was a jolt back into American culture. The very first thing I noticed was the sense of order. Orderly lines. Clear instructions. Better security. I have to say that there is a certain liveliness of spirit that comes with the kind of chaos and uncertainty I found in Brazil.  I think, on many different levels, it fosters and encourages human contact. When everything runs smoothly and orderly, we just kind of float by one another.  If the bus is 1/2 hour late, you talk more to one another. Walking through the airport, I was also instantly aware of the plethora of food choices, more people with excess pounds, fewer high heels, toilet seat covers, carts driving people from gate to gate, the massage chairs (which I indulged in), and the predominance of English–– most of which speak to our profusion of creature comforts.

I’m glued to the window at 33.000 feet. Why, why –would anyone chose an aisle or middle seat??!! Puffy clouds dot the southwest desert landscape like tufts of cotton candy, and occasional mountain ranges pierce the earth’s skin like pubescent facial eruptions. I’m hoping we fly over the Grand Canyon. I’ve only been there once, but have flown over numerous times. Always appeared to me as if the hand of G-d sculpted it’s length, like a young child carving gullies in beach sand. The earth is astoundingly beautiful from up here and it’s the only chance we get to wonder at it from this vantage point.