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Published: February 24th 2017
Jon and I woke in a heap of sweat and dirty laundry, as there are no places to take our clothes to wash the last few days. Over eggs and toast, we had a plan:
1. Find Laundromat
2. Hike the Christ Statue
3. Find closest body of water to douse ourselves in. After all, it was 9am and already 90+ degrees outside and in.
In our hiking clothes, we walked down to the main square to procure a laundromat. Amazing murals catch our eye. They made up most of the building’s walls, walls inhabited by the homeless. The richest artistry next to the poorest of folk.
On the main road, Jon and I lost our way between the zig-zag nameless roads and half English/half Portuguese directions. We find ourselves outside a liquor store. I start to head inside to grab water and ask for directions when I noticed a group of 20-somethings all dressed up in goofy nerd costumes – you know, taped glasses, overalls, knee-high socks etc.
Then it hit: 10am, costumes, and liquor store. These are our kind of people. Only one spoke fluent English, Victor. They were
on their way to a bloko party for the start of Carnival. “Would you like to come with us?”
What an offer! Didn’t refuse. Off we went.
It didn’t take long to get our base ground words covered.
“De donde eres?”
“Lawyers.” …wasn’t expecting that one.
The group is alive and Río sang with excitement and anticipation. We followed the group to an underground subway. It takes nine stops to reach the party, very far from what I pictured. There was Victor, our communication liaison. Mickey and Laila, a new couple still reveling in the honeymoon phase. Matthew and Luiz who, during the entire time of knowing them, could not stop smiling. And Ana, the little sister of Matthew.
Nothing but drums. Heavy bass vibrations rattled me louder and louder as we take the escalator from the subway up to the street. Rainbow painted faces are all around me. Groups dancing together, arms swinging high up and down, in unison, as they stomped their feet in an almost tribal sway. I attached myself to Jon in order to not be lost in the sea of
the Carnival celebration.
Our first order of business is the time honored, cultural traditional of buying the booze. We gathered around the liquor store. The group was trading one ding-dong
for another to equal out the purchase. Jon and I reached for our wallets when Matthew and Luiz grabbed our hands to stop us.
“No,” Matthew says cheerfully. “First Carnival, yes?”
“Then no,” Luiz tells us, “Our treat. WELCOME TO CARNIVAL!”
Cue the montage. The next eight hours was a blur of live music, floats and parades. The costumes...fantastic. An arrangement of colored feathers cascaded around the dancing women, acting as their own personal auras. Light on their feet, they move like no care in the world. A group of dark muscular men stomp their way through the parade, wearing masks resembling serendipitous faces of theater, with black veils covering the rest of them. A costume that would spook the faint of heart.
Due to the spontaneity of it all, Jon and my lack-of-costume was an issue. I need to be a part of it all! I spot a vendor across the way, selling squirt guns and knick-knacks. I ran over
to buy a pair of plastic cat ears. “Now all we need is a costume for you,” I say to Jon. The boy next to us must have heard, because the next thing we know, he held out a blow up kid’s pool floaty and handed it to Jon. “Here you go,” he said, in a thick Portuguese accent. Jon happily obliged and we are set. But that’s how it is in Carnival: an environment of giving and entertainment through pure human interaction.
The connection is strong with everyone surrounding me. So much so, that there was a point in the day where I had run off to a bathroom inside of a restaurant. The women’s bathroom shared a wall with the kitchen. The very top of the wall is an opening that led right into the kitchen. Blasting on the speaker is one of my favorite Beatles songs, “Here Comes the Sun.” Drunk and happy as I was, I began singing the lyrics whilst squatting. And then, all of a sudden, it wasn’t a solo act…the chef in the kitchen began singing too, with me. Together we sang the entire chorus, both knowing fully well that the other
was there and present. I laughed at the fact that even though I will never see this man in person, and we might not even speak the same language…we are connected. Even if it was just for a moment, in the bathroom, with nothing but a wall separating us. Beautiful.
A full day in the blistering Rio sun, there was nothing Jon and I want more than a dip in the ocean. The group takes us to the beach. The combination of alcohol and good intuition made us leave the group with all of our valuables and dive into the ocean. No taste is sweeter than a cool dip on a hot fucking day.
Six Brazilians and two wet gringos sit on the beach and marinated in the sunset. What a lucky twist of events.
We all hug goodbye, amazed at how close we became with a language barrier as big as we have. Where ever you are, beautiful Brazilians, thank you for your kindness, hospitality and amazing spirit. If today was any inclination of what the real
Carnival will bring, Jon and I are in for a huge treat.
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