Rio along with the rest of the continent and other pockets around the world celebrate Carnaval this weekend.
Wednesday marks the start of lent, but at some point in history the revelry surpassed the piety involved with this event.
I must admit I left Rio before Carnaval, but you're going to have a hard time convincing me that the 2 weeks I spent there weren't Carnaval. But we'll get to Samba later.
There's more to Rio de Janeiro than dancing, and that's saying a lot because dancing in Rio is HUGE.
Rio is the second biggest city in Brazil, and the 3rd biggest in South America and Southern hemisphere for that matter.
According to travel guides, the most advisable thing to do in Rio is to lock yourself in your room. Actually, it's not even advisable to leave the airport because the evil taxi drivers will rip you off. So by paranoid travel publishers standards, I cheated death about a million times during my stay.
I did feel unsafe a few times, but that was only because the drivers of city's buses are all aspiring to be the next Ayrton Senna – not Formula 1 champions, but rather just someone who dies for ramming a speeding vehicles into a wall. I don't blame them though, their buses do sound like they have jet engines installed on them.
Another problem with the bus system is that there really is no way to know which bus to take. Rio, a city of 7 or 8 million people, has 830 bus lines. In comparison, the more populous Buenos Aires has 190. So I guess there is some redundancy in the routes. In any case I have a personal issue with buses. I can never request a stop right. I either pull the chord way too prematurely, or way too late. If the bus ends up stopping within 3 kilometers of where I wanted it to stop I consider it a success. Even with that, my success rate is under 50%.
So I prefer the metro. In Rio I had an extra incentive to ride the metro. I fell in love with the female voice that makes the announcements. I know all she's saying is, "Next stop, Botafogo. Exit on the Right side of the Train." But damn it sounds so musical when she says it. Actually, all Brazilians sound like they're singing when they speak. The heavy enunciation of the vowels is what does it, but you need strong vocal chords and jaw muscles to pull it off.
Not only do they sound nice, the Cariocas are genuinely nice people. Too nice. Annoyingly nice.
They are so nice, that even when they kick you in the face they purposefully miss it. They call it Capoeira.
I do speak Spanish, which I thought was close enough to Portuguese for me to survive. It's not enough. I couldn't have proper conversations with people. I even had trouble ordering food in some instances. Thankfully, Brazilians have a solution for that.
Before getting into that, let me tell you one thing.
I hate the Bento Box. Food should not be compartmentalized. Foods of all kinds and colors should mix creating what in Arabic we call a Khabsa. The Bento Box is Culinary Apartheid. It's basically the Israel of food serving vessels.
The opposite of the Bento Box would be the Food by the Kilo, or Quilo, buffets. They are quite popular in Brazil. Pile it all on one Plate and weigh it. All food is equal in the eyes of the Cashier.
To be continued…