This week, I finished my month-long Portuguese class here in Rio, a milestone in my six-month stay here with CIEE, my study abroad program. Now that I’ve started to navigate the language and the carioca accent a little more comfortably, I’ve been able to explore new areas of town, communicate with more people, and understand more about the life of an average Brazilian. Now, I can easily speak with waiters, bus drivers, and even engage people on the streets in friendly conversation.
Of course, there are challenges too. Crime and robbery here in the city is not so uncommon, and bringing my iPhone or credit cards around is not such a good idea. As a girl, it’s a little bit tougher to get around, especially once the sun sets below the horizon. Men here can be very aggressive and forward, so even the slightest indication that I am alone could put me at risk of kidnapping or robbery. My solution? I try my best never to travel alone, even during the day if I can help it. Traveling in groups adds security to any situation, especially if there are men in that group. Having a close group of friends from my study abroad program has helped me get around and see more than I could have seen alone.
Most days, you can find me spread out at the beach in an ever-so-famous Brazilian bikini or walking across town looking for a hopping bar or art shop, taking a run from Botafogo beach to Flamengo or exploring the booths at the feiras around town. Regardless, I’ve tried not to let any day go to waste, despite being in classes for six hours during each and every one. I’ll elaborate more in the coming days, but here are some of my crazy adventures I’ve experienced in the past few weeks:
Seeing the Pope
During World Youth Day, or Jornada Mudial Dos Jovens here in Brazil, the Pope came to visit for half a week, along with over 2 million visitors to Rio de Janeiro. The result? Crowded streets, multilingual conversation, many nationalities worth of flags, and some of the coolest two seconds of a lifetime. At first I didn’t think I wanted to go, but after participating for a day on a whim decision, I was extremely glad I did. I’ll explain more about this awesome once-in-a-lifetime event soon!
Finding Our “Spot”
From day one, my friends and I decided we wanted to find a bar, café, or hangout spot that we could call ours. We bar hopped a few nights in search of the perfect place, and alas, we found it. Situated in between various bars, lanchonetes, and restaurants, Águia dos Andes in Botafogo has quickly become one of our favorite places to meet, chat, and watch Brazilian futebol while snacking on chicken wings and drinking a caipirinha. Also, we’ve become so familiar there that we know our favorite waiter by name, Wagner, and the staff already knows our favorite food and drink orders by heart. I think we’ve finally found a place that we can call our own.
Navigating the Nightlife
There are two notable occasions in which I’ve gone to Lapa, one of Rio’s most hopping club scenes, for a night on the town with good friends. And, admittedly, I’ve had two very extremely different experiences. The first time, I was with a group of friends and we went to a small and crowded club called Club Six, which cost R$15 for girls and R$25 for guys. The crowd was primarily younger people, around my age, in their early twenties. It was fun, but I ended up leaving before 2 so I could avoid heavy taxi fees.
The second time I went out, I went to one of Rio’s esteemed clubs, Rio Scenarium. This one cost a hefty R$35, but was extremely nice and well-decorated on the inside. It looked like something out of an Anthropologie catalog or an old, prohibition-style train station. There was a live samba band as well as a room full of remixed disco music. With an older clientele, I felt a lot safer and more comfortable at this bar than the last, but one caveat is that the men there were really aggressive (read: too aggressive).
Some of my friends went out swimming in Ipanema Beach and were swept my the current deep into the water. Luckily, the lifeguard squad was able to rescue them, but it definitely had them shaken up for a while. As a precaution, we don’t go out to the water alone, but even in a group we learned it can be extremely dangerous.
The currents there are too strong to swim in right now, and in just three hours of sunbathing at Ipanema, I saw four helicopter rescues. The situation is similar in Copacabana and Barra as well. For me, as a weak swimmer, I think I’ll stay out of the water for a little while.
As you can see, my little adventures (and misadventures) throughout the city have amounted to a steep learning curve and a lot of realizations about the reality of life here in Rio. But of course, there is still a ton to learn, see, and experience. I guess that’s what the next five months are for!