Seemed Like A Good Idea At The Time

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“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.

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Stuck In Guacamole

“Most travel is best of all in the anticipation or the remembering; the reality has more to do with losing your luggage”.
Regina Nadelson

I could not agree more. In fact, I have lost my luggage. Well, TAM airlines have any way! NOT a good start. I waited in Sao Paolo airport until the baggage belt stopped. No joy. It gets better: The airport staff didn’t speak a word of English. My kindle having run out of battery before I even got to Heathrow (the major disadvantage of electronic books), I haven’t had the chance to look up even the basics of Portuguese. Luckily an elderly Brazilian man was in exactly the same position as me, also having come from a stopover in Frankfurt, so we were told to see if it arrived in Rio. It didn’t. They’ve told me that they will deliver it to the hostel when it turns up. Brilliant. I’ve been wearing stinking aeroplane clothes, complete with dirty socks and walking boots, around all day. It had better be here soon or this is going to get interesting!

At least these disasters are occurring in small manageable chunks (touch wood). Bite-sized fiascos are easier to manage. I did, at least, have all of my important documents, electronics and money in my hand luggage. The main things I would desperately miss from my backpack are the highly expensive Malarone (anti-malarial) tablets.

My first impressions of Rio were that the ‘favelas’ (Brazilian slums) were completely overwhelming, stretching as far as the eye can see; in contrast, the iconic ‘christ the redeemer’ statue seemed incredibly small! Today has been pretty overcast and rainy so I’m afraid I haven’t bothered with any photos yet.

When I arrived I agreed to go straight over to the volunteer project to introduce myself. The crèche turns out to be around 40 minutes on the metro and then a further 20 minutes walk, which I am now expected to have memorised and be able to do again solo. Hmm. The staff at the crèche are all Brazilian and, again, do not speak English. Ideal. It is so frustrating having such an impermeable language barrier. Don’t be fooled, it is not as similar to Spanish as you would expect. I just spent half an hour trying to explain to the cashier that I didn’t have change for a 50Real note (well that’s at least what I think she was asking about, I really can’t be sure). I was also told that I would have to, as in Papua New Guinea, wear long skirts/trousers for the work. I would have appreciated being told in advance; I can’t really get away with wearing my pj bottoms here. So one revolting dress and a pair of havaianas later, I’m settling down in the hostel which fantastically has free wifi! Yay!