Nelson was our street security in Rio. And he sums up the city for me.
Our hostel, the Rio Bambu, was an adorable house on a stone road, like all the roads in the city, where we stayed from the 7th to the 10th. “We” were the girls who organized the trip online pre-departure. “We” were 12 girls who didn’t really know one another, packed into a room the size of my NJ bedroom. I slept in the top bunk of a triple bunk next to an open-air window that could only be “shut” by pulling in the outdoor shutter. It was amazing… so were the shower faucets above the toilet… but I’m serious- I loved it.
I also loved Nelson. We met him as we left to go to dinner the first night. Nelson is a 46- year- old Brazilian that lives in a favela 30 minutes from our hostel. He was our street security guard… and our entertainment. Within 5 minutes of knowing him he had given me the first, of many, Samba lessons to music he sang himself. He than offered up the chicken and hot dogs he was grilling with his buddies. And when we returned we repaid him with beers and toasts and a mini-celebration of his birthday, which he initiated by pointing at the date on his driver’s license. We communicated with Nelson by me half-understanding his Portuguese and he half-understanding my Spanish. But our half-understanding went into the night and brought out the best of all of Bambu’s residents, and the 10-year-old neighbor, Kyle, who played soccer better than we could, with rolled up garbage bags. This is when I officially stopped believing the warnings our ship captain scared us with… because I felt more welcome in Brazil than I do in the state where I was born.
This sure isn’t jersey because… street security escorted us to his favorite bar.
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