I did some pretty cool things in Brazil. Yet, I didn’t do it all There is soo much to do, and we had soo little time! Culture is EVERYWHERE! So are beautiful people. Men with six packs walking in speedos along the sidewalks was not weird. As much as I did in the short time we were in Brazil, I am telling you this, I WILL be back! Erika, work on that Brazilian visa, because it’s good for 10 years! Also, start that Rosetta Stone for Portuguese. It’ll be helpful. :]
The first day was my field lab for music. Our professor had NO idea if the plan was going to happen or not. I guess it’s Brazilian culture to throw things together at the very last minute. Luckily, their “throwing together” was super great! We began by going to the Sambadrome, where the big Carnival event happens in Rio de Janeiro every year. It was much smaller than I imagined it. Only the top 12 samba schools get to actually perform on it during the event. It’s what our Mardi Gras stemmed from. “Carne” “vale” means “goodbye meat” so it’s the day before Lent, and people go CRAZY! Don’t feel like you have to be super fit, though. Sadly, the dancers get plastic surgery to make them look skinny and put testosterone shots in their legs to make them look big. It’s their culture, I guess.
We moved to the Ciadade de Samba, the City of Samba. This is where 5 of the big samba schools are located. They work literally from the day after the last Carnival until the day of the next preparing. They design and make all of the floats, music, costumes, and more! It’s a big thing! Their lives revolve around this special one-day event. Wow. Next we learned how to drum like they do in the festival, and realized that as Americans (and mostly white people), we have absolutely NO rhythm compared to them. Haha. But they told us we were doing well, none the same.
After lunch, we went to a local get together to see their version of samba. Rishika and I met this fabulous fashion designer man who taught us his version of samba-ing. He also told us he helped with a samba school and we should come back for the Carnival celebration and march with his school… He also had a sudsy beer in his hand and was swaying back and forth quite a bit. :]
The next morning, I woke to join my group to hike in the Tijuca Rainforest. One of the things on my bucket list was to see waterfalls somewhere. Here was my chance! It was an interesting experience. Beautiful views and a lot of driving in large vans up a steep hill. It was a group of 3 large vans, and on the ride up, one of the vans ran off the road a bit and got stuck. Because it was front-wheel drive and couldn’t get traction, it couldn’t get out for a good hour. So we all sat and waited. The day got hotter, and other SAS students were passing us going to the place they were hang gliding. I was seriously regretting my experience, since I guess it’s the thing to do in Rio to hang glide. I really wanted to ditch out on my group and go with the hang gliders instead. It took me a long time to become content with what we were doing. Not everyone is going to have the same experience and I needed to be content with my unique itinerary. I was also doing something on my bucket list. Although I finally became okay with hiking–which turned out to be a fun, sweaty hike with an AMAZING view at the end–I added another thing to my bucket list: hang gliding.
After the hike, my friends and I went to the Corcovado train station and took the train to see the Christ the Redeemer statue in person: one of the 7 wonders of the world. It was MASSIVE!! When you see it in the city, you don’t think it’s that big, since it’s so far away. But when you’re standing next to it, WOW! Stunning.
When we took the train back down the mountain-like hill, there was a group of students who seemed to be on a field trip. They kept staring at us and whispering. Eventually, one of them asked a question in English and I answered it. They were in awe that we finally talked and we spent the rest of the time trying to communicate! It was one of my favorite memories.
At dusk, we headed to Sugarloaf, which is said to have the most stunning views of Rio. They were right. We got there right before night came and the lights were turning on. We were the only ones on our ride up, but I don’t get why. It is so magnificent at night! There was a thunder storm coming into the city, and the lightning lit up the Christ the Redeemer statue perfectly! It was too beautiful to capture on camera, so I stood and took it all in. That’s one thing I have learned on this voyage: the night time is too beautiful sometimes to capture on camera: stars at night on the ship, on the desert, riding camels at night in the desert, and now Rio’s lighting and beauty when the sun went down.
The next morning we were scheduled to wake up at 3 a.m. for breakfast and a flight at 6 a.m. for the Amazon! Well, I don’t know if my body can wake up to alarm clocks anymore, because I slept right through it that morning! Luckily my friend came to my room to wake me, or else who knows what would’ve happened. We got to the Amazon and it was more beautiful than I ever expected! They welcomed us with a fresh drink of pineapple juice–not the kind we are used to in the States. This juice was original; freshly squeezed from a pineapple, with nothing but natural sweeteners of the fruit. I knew this was going to be an experience of amazing, delicious food and drinks! Our lodging was also all up in the trees, like a big maze of tree houses. It was luxurious!
During our time in the jungle, we caught crocodiles and took pictures with them around our necks, swam in the Amazon river very near the Amazonian dolphins which are WAY different than regular-looking dolphins, and saw the Meeting of the Waters.
We also took a hike and were taught how to climb a tree if a pack of wild boars were coming, how to heal wounds from tree sap and bark, what parts of a tree are good for making baskets and which plants are good medicinally and which are poisonous, and saw many types of fruit trees including the Acai berry. We also got the chance to eat a maggot from a coconut tree, which I HAD to do. I bit it and it was actually not bad tasting! It tasted like coconut milk with a little crunch to it. Our guide then roasted them and we got to try them cooked; they were much better raw. The second night, a few of us also signed up to sleep in the jungle. My group were all girls, except for one guy, and the girls were FREAKING OUT. Our guide told us a few legends of the Amazon, including one about the giant water lilies and a man with a talking stomach. It wasn’t scary until we got to the sight we were setting up our hammocks, where we ate lunch that day, and our guides found a decapitated vulture, which they told us only could’ve been left by a jaguar. The vulture was eating our leftovers, and the jaguar must’ve wanted them more. This sent a lot of the girls over the edge, and at 1 a.m. they finally gave in since none of them had slept yet, and went back to the lodge. The only four that ended up staying were the brave and strong in heart. (Kidding…) But I am not going to lie, I slept pretty dang well, only waking up a few times and thinking to myself, “I am so ONE with nature right now!!” Haha.
After our wonderful time in the Amazon with nothing but fruit for breakfast, tapiocas, and fried cassava and plantains, it was time to meet the ship in Salvador. It was so different than Rio that it really is like another country we visited! They had a lot more African influence, where Rio was a definite tourist destination. The people were friendly, and the area was beautiful! I think I like the less touristy areas we have visited; they seem prettier and less fake.
The second night I went to a folklore show and dinner (who some WONDERFUL lifelong learner donated to let me go) and it was SOOOOOO COOOL! I can’t show my excitement and the coolness of it with pictures because I mostly took videos and I can’t send that big of files in an e-mail. But it. was. cool. I liked one of the drummers; he had a side ponytail made up of dreadlocks and smiled so genuinely I couldn’t take my eyes off him. Even though he wasn’t one of the men dancing shirtless with a defined six pack, he was more attractive than any of them. I was sad to go. But the next morning, I went on a service project to a school called “Project Axe” which works with kids from the streets and teaches them music: drumming, singing, and dancing to get them off the streets. They performed for us, and as I was enjoying how passionate they were about what they were doing, I glanced around the room and saw THAT SAME DRUMMER again!! What the heck!?!? How ironic.! So after the performance, I asked the leader of the school about him. He told me Andre, this man, was an educator at the school. He had been one of the students when he was younger and has since had success. He now teaches kids how to drum and at nights performs locally with groups, such as the one I went to the night before. What a cool story!!
Brazil was an AMAZING country and deserves to be explored more than 8 days. I think I’d need a month or two to see all of the beauty, and even then, it would be rushed. Also, all this traveling is getting to me and I’m finding myself more exhausted every day. It’s GREAT, but traveling for this long with what seems like no down time is really straining. I am thankful for EVERY experience I have had yet, but it will be nice to rest with family soon. Not wishing it away, though!! Pushing through my exhaustion and making the most of every situation!!
Until next time,