“The first condition of understanding a foreign country is to smell it.”
– Rudyard Kipling
Rio, depending on the district, smells of food, sewage and sweat, with undertones of tropical humidity. Despite the surprising state of dilapidation that the majority of the city seems to be monopolised by, the landscape is incredibly beautiful. Small mountains and outcrops covered in lush green foliage are scattered around the city and the hills form a patchworks of the multicoloured brick houses which make up the slums. The metro travels above the ground, so is a great way to get a glimpse of the different outer regions as you fly through. My commute out to the crèche today gave me a little insight into what life might actually be like living and working in the city. However there is still one major barricade: People keep assuming I live here so start jabbering away at me in Portuguese whilst I stare at them blankly, eventually getting the chance to feebly pipe up: “English!” To which they respond “que, entende nada?” Which, being similar to the Spanish, translates as “What, you understand nothing?” What I find quite amusing is being able to shout “Oi!” at people and for it to be received as an enthusiastic greeting.
I felt rather superfluous at the crèche today. It’s well run and well staffed. I’m not really sure why they’re recruiting extra volunteers. However, it was interesting to see how they go about the day and the toddlers, although admittedly annoying at times (one little boy peed in the ball pit), were generally adorable and, being around two years old, didn’t hesitate to climb all over me.
The afternoon was when things started to go slightly haywire. I arrived back at the hostel at midday to find no update from the airport. In the absence of my luggage I seem to have gone slightly mad and went out on a bit of a spending extravaganza. I headed first to the Botafogo bay area which has views of the Christ statue and sugar loaf mountain. As a bonus the harbour water isn’t great for swimming so the beach was completely empty. After pottering about in the shops I headed down to Copacabana which was the complete opposite end of the spectrum. However, saying that, it wasn’t quite as busy as I’d expected it to be. My ridiculous purchase of the day was a beaded Brazilian carnival outfit which was pretty expensive but I couldn’t resist. They even fitted it to my exact size. In hindsight, I’ve got to go back to collect it tomorrow at some point, which is inconvenient, and it’s heavy and mildly bulky so not ideal for carting around for three months…but it will make for fantastic fancy dress!
P.S. I discovered that they do fantastic fruit juices here, with stalls/shops everywhere. My favourite is açai with strawberry which is mixed with ice, like a slushy.