Saturday, May 13, 2006

Balitang Rio (September 2005)

There are so many things to write about Rio De Janeiro. I scribbled a lot while I was at the beach so I have tons of notes but I'd rather not bore you with details. Rio is so blessed by nature it has beautiful beaches, breathtaking scenery, romantic language, and sensual, laidback and very friendly locals. I loved it!

I remember J brought up the idea of going to Brazil three or four years ago and I recall trying to steer the conversation away from the topic everytime it gets mentioned. Somehow Brazil was never included in my list of places to see. My interest in visiting Rio started to brew when I stumbled into the Brazilian consulate webpage one day, and I learned I don't need a visa to enter Brazil. This is so because of what they call 'reciprocity' which means applying the same immigration restrictions to foreigners as Brazilians to the country of origin. Brazilians do not need a visa to visit the Philippines. J and I gave ourselves 3 months to get ready for this trip.

The flight from San Francisco took more than 20 hours and the aircraft was changed three times. I was so wiped out after the SF to Miami to São Paolo and then finally to Rio, the only thing I was thinking of was a hot shower, comfortable bed and a good nap.

It was raining when we got to Jobim International so the first Portuguese words I learned were 'obregado' for 'thank you' and 'guarda chuva' (goo-war-dah shoo-vah) for umbrella. Althought pronounced differently, I kind of grinned when I heard the 'chuva' part because I was reminded of my sister. Chuva is part of her vocabulary which basically means anything. :) The rain lasted only for a few hours but the clouds stayed the rest of the day. This gave us a reason to stay indoors to sleep and freshen up. Since our hotel was at the southern end of trendy Copacabana and is only three blocks away from chic Ipanema, we were able to check out the nearby stores to look for the best 'sunga' in the area. 'Sunga' is what 'carioca' men wear at the beach. 'Carioca' is the name for the locals of Rio. The 'sunga' (soong-gah) is lower than the usual Speedos but covers more skin. It looks like a shorter cycling shorts. The women, on the otherhand, wear what I call a shrunken two piece. J and I are still debating whether the swimsuit is small or the body parts it is supposed to cover are just oversized. :) The sun came out with a vengeance the next days and J and I experienced the 'hard core' beach life where the locals ovelwhelm the sand.

'Ciudade Maravilhosa' is what the cariocas call their beloved city. After our trips to the Pao de Açucar (Sugar Loaf) and Corcovado mountains, I was officially convinced it is the most beautiful city that I've ever been. The landscape is just breathtaking! I hate to admit that it is far more beautiful than San Francisco, my 'ciudade favorita'.

Since Rio is a real city and a beach town at the same time, it is normal to see a person with too much skin exposed while walking down the street with the office workers during the week. I guess this is normal if one grew up in a city where there are at least seven beaches. The culture is so laidback, carefree and very sensual. There are couples making out at street corners.

We walked the streets of Rio in the morning and then we relaxed on the beaches (and watched people too) from noon till the sun goes down. From ideas to events from plans to people, it is amazing how J and I never run out of things to talk and laugh about. Our Spanish language skills also proved to be effective in getting around. The problem comes when they respond back. The language is so close to Spanish but with a lot of 'sh' sound in a sing-song intonation. There were hardly any English speakers.

I have seen here the best looking men and women that could easily pass as super models without the attitude! Very friendly and they will go out their way to help you. When we met some locals for the first time, I learned that touching is very normal during conversation and they are not shy in letting one know of their feelings. The Cariocas love to eat too. We never ran out of choices where to eat and that include desserts. I felt at home right away.

On our last day, I took J to 'Garota de Ipanema' (Girl from Ipanema in English) restaurant for dinner. This is the place where Tom Jobim wrote the song with the same title. Not the kind I had expected because no Bossa Nova was being played in the background. It was hip and crowded. I guess it would sound too corny if the same song is played over and over again. :) I sipped my second round of 'caipirissima'. This is a variation of a local drink called 'caipirinha'. J took the tab so I decided to buy him the cheesy 'Girl from Ipanema' t-shirt. He loved it!

J has mentioned he'd love to visit Rio again in the future. I just smiled because he said the same thing to the other places we had visited before. But secretly, I'd love to retire in Rio. :)

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