The real Rio

I’m actually here.

Yeah, sure, I’ll be standing duty for 12 of the 80 hours I’ll be here, but it’s a small price to pay for a free ride. Today is Saturday and I just began my 12 hour shift. I’ve got grand visions of getting a lot of homework done during this time but the lure of the endless internet calls me.

Yesterday remained fairly uneventful. I helped out the best I could with a few things regarding supplies for the Marine Ball here. Some loading and unloading, but nothing major. The evening proved to be the most entertaining with a trip to Porcao, an all-you-can-eat Brazilian style barbecue place that is as good as it gets. We ate like pigs and drank like fish and walked away with a R$1200 bill (about $400). It was worth every centavo. The chow was great, the drinks were cold, and the company was outstanding. I felt right at home and it’s a good thing that Marines aren’t too picky about the company they keep. It’s a pretty damn good group down here.

I was lucky enough to be able to sleep in until 1230 while the Rio Detachment marines were up by 0700 and practicing for the ceremony. Sucked to be them! The word is that the hotel is shutting things down at 0200, and that’s when I’m getting off. I said I’d stop by after duty in hopes that an after party is getting fired up somewhere close. I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

My leisure schedule while I’m here remains largely unstructured. With the exception of stopping by the Ball tonight after duty, I’m reserving Sunday and Monday for “general sightseeing.” I was actually planning on hang gliding, but some lady died yesterday when the wing broke off and she plummeted. Ouch. The company running the show shut down their operation while an investigation is being conducted. Sky diving and para sailing are next on my list but I’m not sure of the weather is going to hold long enough to do either. Today is really nice but yesterday it rained sporadically. My one mission is to go swimming with my new Speedos, get pictures, and prove that I did it. I have faith and confidence in my abilities.

I drove past Copacabana and Ipanima yesterday as well. They are not exactly what I expected and this leads nicely into my first impressions of Rio.

Traffic is crazy. I won’t say specially good or bad because I’ve seen better and worse, but I’ll just leave it at crazy. A typical two lane road will have between four and six cars on it depending on if the sidewalk is also available. The streets are narrow enough to wipe a cyclist out of existence if you’re not 100% focused. I’m not used to traffic. In comparison to Brasilia, Rio is a festering cesspool of tourists and road rage. But Brasilia is not exactly the best place to compare it to.

New York maybe? I haven’t been there so I can’t say. I’ve never really been in traffic that bad. A traffic jam in North Dakota is when four cars pull up to a four way stop and everyone is so friendly they want the other guy to go first. No kidding. Here it’s bad.

The gene pool is diluted. Rio is Brazil’s Cape Town. It’s the U.S.’s San Diego, Seattle, Miami, or New York. I realize that a seaside city is going to get a lot of cross pollinization, but it’s still a shock when coming from Brasilia. There’s more English, more blue eyes, and more blond hair. It takes the fun out of being in Brazil. The women in Brasilia are, hands down, some of the most stunning I’ve ever laid my eyes on.

I’m the kind of guy that likes to see the sights and play the tourist, but I don’t like being where the tourists are and falling prey to what the tourists do. Brasilia is boring for most who visit. Almost everything in the city is closed on Sundays and there are only a few really good clubs. But what it has that I found I like are the little cervajarias on almost every street corner. These are bars with maybe a couple fold out card tables and some rusty chairs in front of a hole in the wall with a few dozen beers in an ice chest. You’ll always smell beef or chicken kabobs cooking somewhere nearby and hear real Brazilian music in the air. It’s not the processed, white washed, spoon fed version you see on record store shelves.

Chances are, if you follow that music, you’ll come across some locals playing instruments and singing like their lives depended on it. I like that.

I came across a cervajaria here in Rio yesterday on a waterfront walk, and I saw polished counter tops and shiny candy dispensers and manicured employees. I heard American rock and modern pop music. That’s what attracts the tourists because that’s what they like. They sit in their easy chairs and drink Budweiser and Coca Cola from pristine bottles with cabana boys waiting on them hand and foot. They tire and return to air-conditioned rooms with room service, hot showers, and mints on their pillows. When evening comes they’ll eat at a restaurant with the finest cuisine and great reviews, and later go to the most popular clubs with the cream of the city. When it’s time to get back to work, the office is filled with stories on how “they were in Brazil,” and suddenly they have an opinion as to how things work down here. But what is it exactly they did?

What can they say they accomplished? What was special, what was real about their time here that they couldn’t get in any major city in the U.S.? Nothing. Absolutely nothing.

I believe that what makes any experience worth it is when you can walk away and have a new perspective on your life. A different perspective. Sometimes that perspective comes with a price tag. Maybe it’s a $900 plane ticket to Italy. Maybe it’s gear and supplies and months of planning for 1900 mile cycling trip. But maybe it was only a three mile walk from home and a refreshing swim behind a beaver dam. If you always have what you want than how can you really ever appreciate what you have?

Just a little advice on life from a man who has no business giving it.

My opinions and judgment on Rio continue. I hope to take a ton of pictures in the next two days and come back… with a new perspective.

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One Response to “The real Rio”

  1. missy says:

    Jayme, I love your writing. It moves me to be better. I miss you.

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The author.Born in the year of the Dragon, the author grudgingly accepts the fact he has too many interests and not enough time. A cyclist as long as he can remember, an avid yet inconsistent writer since age eleven, and a U.S. Marine since age twenty-one, the author also adds peak bagging, diving, snowboarding, and computers to his list of interests. Incidentally, he is aware of his inability to make a living from any but the Corps. The author accepts this as fact and remains optimistic. Feel free to drop him a line.

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