It’s no secret that I love Rio. A lot. Probably more than what would be considered normal for someone who’s only been twice. I mean, it was the only place that could contend with Italy when I was planning to move overseas last year. And while Italy immediately felt like home from the first time I visited, my infatuation with Brazil likewise began on my first trip a year and a half ago.
It took me a long time to go back. (And also a long time to finally share these pictures.) When I was originally planning to travel in September, October, and November last year, I intended to head east, all the way to Bali and Australia. As those plans fell through, I thought my time away would be a good opportunity to decide if Los Angeles was a place, after all, that I would enjoy living. (I would not.) Yet the more I planned, the more I kept feeling this nagging desire in the back of my head. I’d been wanting to go back to Brazil pretty much since I left and this was the perfect time to do that, so I did.
I just, I love it. It’s warm. The people are friendly. There’s mountains. There’s beaches. I’m obsessed with all the food. There’s problems. There’s fun. It’s chaotic and slow. It’s ripe and there are so many layers to it that I hardly understand yet.
I have a hard time explaining what I did on the trip because I wasn’t there to see all the same sights I saw last time. (Cristo Redentor is amazing, but it’s not like he’s changing his clothes every season or anything.) I worked, I ate, I shopped. I went grocery shopping, which included a fair amount of time on Google Translate learning the word abobrinha because I couldn’t figure out if I was picking up a zucchini or what. Or buying tapioca flour which is such a novelty for me because you just put it in a pan and it melts into a crepe like magic and you can’t get this at home in the United States. (I’ve tried.)
At one point, I went for a run near Maracanã and noticed that I could see the Cristo Redentor from where I was. This beautiful statue on top of a beautiful mountain in a beautiful city just watching over me. I thought back to the time when I was a kid, enamored by Titanic, and trying to convince one of my friends to come see it with me for the fifth time. “Oh yeah,” he said. “Isn’t that the one with that guy? Rio de Janeiro or something?” (“No, it’s Leonardo DiCaprio,” I whined, whilst simultaneously swooning over the actor.)
For the longest time, that was the main memory conjured up when I heard someone talk about Rio. It’s one of those cities, like New York, that feels monolithic, mythical, a powerhouse, one of the centers of the world. And here I was, just going for one of my usual runs here, as if I were home.
But that’s one of the best parts of traveling. No matter where you go, people are the same. You are the same. (Until you’re not, but that’s a different story.)
So what did I do? I ate a lot, including one of my favorite meals at Café do Alto. I went to the Museu de Arte Moderna and saw a beautiful exhibit called Favelagrafia. I laid out at Ipanema and Copacabana. I visited Parque Lage and spontaneously started to hike up Corcovado, though I only made it about halfway since I didn’t bring anything with me.
Mostly, though, I spent time with my boyfriend, his friends, his family. I listened to a lot of Portuguese and also spent a lot of time zoning out when I hit my Portuguese wall. I spoke a little bit of Portuguese until I zoned out because I forgot what I was trying to say in the process of translating my thoughts. I experienced a churrasco and fell asleep before everyone else because I do not have Brazilian stamina. (Maybe it’s because I don’t eat meat.) I went to a Halloween party that wasn’t on Halloween and spent way too much time thinking about my costume for something that was way too much fun to focus on what I was supposed to be dressed up as (a cat). I met people who were gracious and kind and who make me wonder why we don’t so easily open up our hearts in the US in quite the same way because both times I’ve left Brazil I felt like I was taking so much back with me.
I go back in February, which is way too long again, but thankfully TripIt shows a countdown on your upcoming trips and I may be a little obsessed with it. This time I’ll be in Maceió and I will be reading my Harry Potter e A Pedra Filosofal until then so I can stutter a bit less and engage a bit more. Because to me, that is the best difference between our cultures in these two countries that are surprisingly similar in many ways: it’s not about what you do but who you do it with.