Tuesday, September 9, 2008

City Tour

Rio is supposed to be about the beaches right? Well it rained the first two days. Our image of Brazil’s hot sunny weather was far from correct. But despite the rain, an all day tour around the city with ex-marine Andres was one I will always remember.

Here’s a recap….
AM: Gondola ride up sugar loaf mountain…
Pre-fixee lunch of fried plantains, crab cakes, mashed corn, Chopp, sushi,
The pyramid- shaped Cathedral de Santa Cruz with beautiful stained glass
windows and a statue of Christ on the cross, strangely crucified with Mary
(something I’ve never seen).
… Drive through the square that hosts Carnaval, the week-long festival in the
Spring that shows off the dancing and art of Brazil.

…Grand finale: A rickety bus ride up the hillside, past favelas and the beautiful town of Santa Clara. When we approached the top we dashed up the 4 flights of stone stairs to beat the chill and suddenly, looming ominously was the 30 or so foot-tall stone statue of Christ. But it wasn’t the statue that was breathtaking… it was what He overlooked. The clouds that had hung over us the whole day parted for a sacred five minutes, just so we could see through them, through to an indescribable view. We were above the clouds, looking down on the entire state of Rio de Janeiro- Sugar Loaf, the bay, the favelas and beaches. Everything corrupt, everything deteriorating became beautiful…and than it was gone… swallowed up by the clouds.

This sure isn’t jersey because… this surely was NOT New Jersey.

Sunday, September 7, 2008


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.

Port #1 Salvador, Brazil: Land at Last 9/7

The feeling when we lifted off this morning from Salvador was incredible. We had only just gotten through the ship’s customs when we were greeted by brazilian performers playing drums and Candomble women passing out “wish bracelets.” But before we could indulge, we dove in a cab and told the driver (in my best Spanish) to take us to the airport. We had a plane to catch, a plane to beautiful Rio de Janeiro.

No more boats or waves, just us and the sky. I was ready, we ALL were ready to be on solid land, to eat deliciously fresh food and to celebrate Brazil’s independence from Portugal (even though we found out later that only silly Americans do this).

This sure isn’t jersey because… there are wild horses in the median, not plastic bottles.

"Hear thee, hear thee- We have just crossed the equator!" 9/5

My initial plan was to be a silent observer of the festivities of Neptune Day, but the ritualistic energy got the better of me.

“Dun Duh Do Dun Duh Do Heyyy Hooo.”

This was no alarm. It was six deck staff marching up and down the hallways in tin foil hats and white capes, beating drums.
By 7:45 am they had looped the boat three times and 90% of the students were up on the 7th deck by the outdoor pool.
The dean and teachers were dressed in white robes and red hats as they called the names of those who were brave enough to shave their heads in honor of Neptune.
For those not so adventurous were three garbage cans, filled with orange and blue juice that had been added to an unfortunately fragrant fish oil.
Although I wasn’t ready to give up my hair like the 40 who were (including ten girls), I had the ceremonial “fish guts” poured over my head. After jumping in the now uninviting pool I kissed a fish on the lips and bent on one knee to be knighted by the mighty King Neptune (my dean of students).
The rituals were complete by ten. The pool deck was scattered with hair that didn’t make it into the “Locks for Love” box. And the air reeked of decaying animal.
It was quite the morning.

This sure isn’t Jersey because… a student turned the staff’s soapy, post- ritual cleanup into a mass slip-and-slide.