I expected Brazilians to be like those friendly, beautiful people you see in the travel ads.
My first upfront experience with a Brazilian was at the airport when I was taking my backpack off the luggage carrousel. I suddenly felt a whack on the back of my heel. Too pre-occupied to turn around, I felt a second, harder whack. I turn around to see this Brazilian woman – she had hit me in the heel with her luggage cart. By the look on her face she was going to hit me again. There was a little girl on the cart, sitting on a pile of suitcases looking at me. The woman was glaring at me and I felt my blood starting to boil. It was only because of the kid, and the fact that Lissette kind of stepped in and helped me with our bags that I didn’t say anything. Oh, and the woman wasn’t hot and didn’t have a thong riding up over tight jeans. She just had that miserable mean look that reminds me of my ex-wife.
We took the taxi into the city, the taxi driver the silent type. Checked into the Sol Ipanema, one of Rio’s most expensive hotels (Lissette was worried about safety so I had decided to splurge while in Rio). Service at front desk was cold and distant and I wondered if they were judging us because of the backpacks.
We got in our swimsuits and went up to the rooftop swimming pool. Just a gorgeous view of Rio. They had a bartender up there who came up to us. Within 5 seconds he had given me a dismissive glance while at the same time fixating his eyes on Lissette’s cleavage. My blood started to boil again. This was a clear violation of the guy code. You don’t blatently stare at a girlfriend’s/wife’s boobs right in front of a guy, that’s disrespect of the highest order. Especially when you’re paying $260/night to stay in their hotel. I got my revenge back when he delivered the drinks, smiling up at him while giving him the smallest tip in history. Motherfucker.
Above left: Ipanema beach Above right: views from Sugar Loaf
The next couple of days seemed to be a repetition of a similar pattern. Anywhere we went people wouldn’t return my smile and would direct conversation at Lissette. I would be like “Hi” and they would respond with “hello” while looking right at Lissette. It was as if I was the guy who had just walked into the room and farted up the joint. What the hell? Even Lissette would laugh about it. Maybe I was too white? I don’t know.
Rio is a visually stunning city with its hills, beach and ocean. The views from Sugar Loaf and Corcovado are amazing. We never however got to “like” the city. We didn’t find the people warm and there was always a tension in the air. A week before our trip there had been a gun battle a few blocks from our hotel and the city was going through a sudden spike in violence. It just didn’t feel safe and we were always very much on our guard. Some people may think that sounds strange considering that we had travelled through Colombia the preceeding year. I can’t explain it, it was just a feeling in the air. We were always looking over our shoulder in Rio.
Rio is one of a handful of cities that make it on most traveller’s “must see” list. As I said – it IS visually stunning and I’m glad to have seen it with my own eyes. I wasn’t crazy about the place though. We were quite happy to move on after 3 days.
Have you been to Rio? What was your experience?
Related: Why I won’t be Going back to Brazil
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