One of my dreams came true: I visited Brazil. I wanted to visit this country for a long time. I met many Brazilians in Canada and really enjoyed their company. The story that you’re about to read includes a lot of fun, fantastic parties, and drama. Brazilian soap opera. It’s a rather personal account of events, so I’m deliberately avoiding people’s names. I’m also not going to put photos of people that I met, because I’m not sure if all of them are proud of what happened. Don’t get me wrong. Although some things didn’t work out, the whole trip was awesome!
The journey started with a long flight from Toronto to Rio de Janeiro via Panama. Travel time: 14 hours. I made it to Rio around 2am and took a cab to my hostel. It was dark but I was curious about the city. I was carefully observing the surroundings from inside the car. My first impression was not too great, but I’m not judgmental. After half an hour the cab stopped at the address from hostel’s website. But where the hell is the hostel? Even the driver didn’t know. All we could see was a dumped building with old door. After a minute we figured out that it must be here, so I entered the building. Indeed, that was the hostel: hidden among other buildings in the Lapa district. I was very tired after traveling and quickly approached the reception desk. To my amazement I heard that my reservation was canceled. What the hell? Come on guys, I’m tired and I need to sleep. Fortunately, the guy let me sleep and we agreed to resolve all the issues the next day. The hostel required some deposit for the key. They didn’t accept credit cards and I had no banknotes. All I had was $20CAD and this is what I left at the reception desk. OK, the first impression was not too great. What does it mean? It means that things can only get better!
I woke up fashionably late and went out to explore Lapa. Lapa is also known as the party district of Rio. It was still before the Carnaval but the streets were full of people. I heard that Rio is dangerous so I wanted to disguise myself as a Brazilian. How? I was wearing Havaianas, famous Brazilian flip-flops.
(Un)fortunately it didn’t work out. Many people were looking at me and knew for sure that I was a gringo. Looks-wise, I’m white with dark blond hair and blueish eyes. Women were giving me noticeable looks and smiles. I felt welcome! In the meantime I went to eat food per kilo, where you pay for food per weight. Delicious and cost-effective.
After several hours of fooling around and meeting locals I went back to the hostel to resolve the issue. The issue turned to be a non-issue and we quickly settled the things. I took a shower and checked out what was cool that night. CouchSurfing had a meeting at Copacabana. As I was shaving, I met a Japanese guy. He asked me about my plans so I told him about the CS event. He joined me and we headed to the beach around midnight. What I saw was totally surprising. 350 CouchSurfers enjoying caipirinha at one of the bars. The meeting was huge! I quickly made some friends. At some point an Austrian girl was looking for people to swim in the ocean. I’ve got some experience with oceans by night and I couldn’t resist the urge. We were trying to get more people on board. The usual excuse was: I have no swimming suit. Well, fuck that. I didn’t have mine but it’s not a reason not to enjoy the beach. After several minutes we were running towards the ocean and jumped into a meter high waves. NOSSA! It was very cool to swim and fool around. We got back to the bar. Turned out that the adventure was just starting that night. I made some Spanish friends, put shorts on my wet pants and we took a cab to Lapa. My ass and the cab seat were totally wet. Lapa was full of people! The vibe was there and we hit some bars. I was desperately looking for a sertanejo party. After talking to several bartenders and shemales we made it to the club. I found it very very cool. To my amazement Brazilian girls are fantastic dancers. They really feel the rhythm and know how to make dancing very sexy.
I woke up pretty late. Actually, I lost the sense of time. Initially I was heading to high-five Christ the Redeemer as CouchSurfers were hiking there. At some point I got hungry and went to an all-you-can-eat restaurant. The food was so delicious that I got late to the hiking event and went to see the Big Guy on my own. To my surprise, right after booking the ticket I met the Japanese guy from my hostel again. We both had reservations at 4pm. Cool, someone to hang out with. The statue is pretty big. Most of the people took pictures from the perspective imitating the Christ. I put it in the same category of cheesyness as supporting the leaning tower of Pisa with your hand.
Friday was the first night of Carnival. I was hanging out with two other guys from the hostel. Good men. One of them was wearing the Spiderman suit. He got a lot of attention while walking around Lapa! The streets were very crowded. After hanging out for a while we met some crazy teenagers who where enthusiastic about anything we said:
teens: Where are you from?
teens: Poland??? WOOOOHOOOOOO!
As mina pira. The girls wanted to kiss. Actually, the whole Carnaval is about international love. People make new friends, make out, and party everywhere in the streets 24/7. Wash, rinse, and repeat. I asked the teens to teach me forro, because it’s the kind of dance for the sertanejo music that I love. Not only they taught me forro, but also showed some samba and funky moves.
Again, I woke up late. When I got out of the hostel I saw people partying since the very early morning. Everywhere in Lapa. It’s totally crazy to see thousands drunk people dancing samba, kissing, smiling, and singing. We were heading to a CS bloco party. The party was not bad. From what I remember the live band was playing Michael Jackson’s songs in the rhythm of samba. I was significantly tired that day after the previous night. After two hours we went back to the hostel, because I needed to rebook my flight. I was required to go to the airport and do it there. On my way to the airport I heard several times:
some gals: Lindo! Lindo!
It’s great to be a gringo in Brazil. Some of the girls approached and asked for a kiss. Other girls were more shy and were saying:
some gals: My friend would like to kiss you!
It was totally entertaining. I don’t see any of that happening in Canada any time soon. Also, I got the impression that while girls in Canada prefer to hang out with girls, girls in Brazil like to hang out with guys. I conclude that Brazil is probably the best country to be a man. Maybe it’s time to move to Brazil? Anyways, I later came back from the airport I took a nap. I woke up around midnight, met people from the hostel, and headed to the street parties.
I have no idea how many people I met that night. We left the hostel with my buddies from the previous night and a couple. All of the sudden, I met the Spanish friends on the street who were with some Aussie girls. One of the girls was a blonde of Polish background so she earned a point. The girls were heading to the Sambodrom to dance at a platform. They had really cool outfit. In the meantime we went with the Spanish girl to get some vodka as I was thirsty. When we came back we met very cool Brazilian guys. One of them was fooling around with an Aussie girl. Her name was Izzy and he kept calling her Easy. I was amazed that I was able to hold a conversation in Portuguese for an hour or two. My Portuguese is very bad, but people could follow my thoughts. I started learning only 4 months ago. All the Brazilians were extremely friendly and receptive. Great people!
We were hanging around the whole night. The Brazilians took us to a funky party in an area that resembled favela. On the way I heard more: que lindo! Unfortunately this time it was said by a shemale. I’m not really into that kind of stuff. As I was talking to Brazilians in the street, they were also into sertanejo music. When I started singing Gatinha Assanhada, they were totally into it! What the hell, Polish guy, living in Canada, learning a little bit of Portuguese, and singing dirty songs in Brazil! Now, that’s cool!
It was a lazy day. We went to Ipanema to a bloco party and to hike on the beach towards Copacabana. Ipanema was totally crowded and it was almost impossible to walk. The crowd was very happy, cheering, and singing right on the beach. The beach itself was also very crowded. We made it to a hill and I took very nice pictures. Some minutes later we got hungry and went to Pizza Hut. Apparently Pizza Hut is rather expensive and of good quality in Brazil. My buddy chatted up two Brazilian couples that were sitting next to us. They were extremely nice to us and gave us pizza for free. NOSSA! I feel that Brazil is very about sharing. While in Canada people are relatively rich, they seem to care mostly about their own business. In contrast, in Brazil people are not as rich, yet they share a lot. I find the latter culture definitely more appealing.
Sunday night was the time for me to meet my Portuguese pen-pal. Whom? Long story short, I knew a girl who was helping me a lot with Portuguese. On the Internet she seemed nice and I know she badly wanted to see me in person. I had no doubt that she is very smart. Naturally, I wanted to find out who she really is. We were chatting a lot on the Internet and it was obvious that she liked me a lot. She also planned a lot of stuff to do, so I couldn’t resist meeting her. I must say that she looked really great in person and had a very charming smile.
Right away we went to a Carnaval party. I met there her friends and really enjoyed the night. Everyone was very nice to me. Perhaps all the people at the party knew I was a gringo. The party was very like Polish village weddings. Very fun and lighthearted with a lot of dancing.
We started the day with going to Alambique with the new friends. I didn’t even have a breakfast and was already served cachaça, wine, and jurupinga from a local artisan. The countryside was really beautiful with lots of green hills. We also visited local farmers where I got a coconut cream and Amarula. We then headed to a store to buy stuff for churrasco, BBQ. We spent the whole day at a friend’s house. Similarly to my trip to Aruba, I figured out that the people here really like each other. They do enjoy spending time together. No beer pong is necessary, not even a flip cup. Just good conversations. Obviously, I couldn’t follow all the convos, because of my poor Portuguese. On the other hand, they didn’t speak Polish, and only few people spoke English. It was enough to find a common language.
In the morning we went to a market with fresh fruits and vegetables. It was my Portuguese pen-pal, her two friends, and myself. I got a chance to try açaí, which was very sweet ice-cream. The pen-pal was taking really good care of me. Afterwards, we spend most of the day on an off-road trip to Pedra Grande Atibaia. It’s a huge hill made of a single stone. The view from there is breathtaking. Lots of people were parachuting, gliding, and para-gliding. As the evening was approaching we headed first to a churrasco at a friend’s place and then to the club to enjoy the Carnaval night.
Early morning I had to work on my publications. Yep, sometimes I need to work when I’m away. It’s a small price for being able to explore new country. In the afternoon we went to Sao Paulo. The trip was unplanned but I did my best to meet up with other friends there. Unfortunately, my phone stopped working. The best I could do was posting comments on Facebook from a friend’s phone. It’s a lame method and in the end it didn’t work out. We spent most of the night in a snack bar. The night was very calm and it ended up pretty quickly.
We went to a local park with my Portuguese pen-pal. The park is beautiful and very green. It is big enough to explore for an hour or two. When we got back from the park, I bought a coconut. I absolutely love coconut water. We had no tools to open it, so I used a knife. I stabbed the coconut and was hitting it on the ground. The coconut was very tough. I wasn’t careful enough and cut my finger. A bit of blood showed up, but nothing serious. I was desperate to open the coconut and eat its flesh. The moment of glory came and I opened the bastard!
When traveling, people ask me to send postcards. It took me a while to find some postcards and to write something nice. I even managed to write one of the postcards fully in Portuguese. NOSSA!
As it was getting darker, we went to the bar. We met more friends of my Portuguese pen-pal. The night was rather slow, but I’m always in search of adventures. One of the guys suggested going to a sertanejo party. I can never say no to such parties, because I have never seen them outside Brazil. I decided to go but my pen-pal stayed at the bar. She said that we need to wake up early tomorrow for a parachute jump. Yes, I left her at the bar and went to the party. I thought she would be cool with that, because I’m, perhaps, the biggest Polish fan of sertanejo parties. I didn’t realize that leaving this girl at the bar could be so disastrous. The sertanejo party wasn’t bad. The band played some of my favorite songs. The club was full of girls. Apparently more girls attend the sertanejo parties than guys. I can’t complain about it. I came back home around 5am, jumped over the fence, and slept for only 2 hours.
As I woke up I knew the things were going weird. My pen-pal was playing it cool, but I intuitively knew that something was wrong. It was very similar to how we split my Brazilian ex-girlfriend a while ago.
me: Let’s be reasonable and tell me what’s wrong.
she: Everything’s fine!
she: Sure! Don’t worry.
Well, what can I do. I can’t read thoughts and can’t make the other person speak when they don’t want to. Anyways, an hour later we met her friend and were driving several hours to a parachute site. My pen-pal arranged the jump a long time ago as a gift for me. I was totally thankful. The plane took us up to the altitude of 4km.
The jump itself is a great experience. I wasn’t nervous at all. I was jumping as the last person and saw all the people jumping out of the plane. It’s unbelievable how quickly they disappear from the horizon. We were sitting at the edge of the plane for about 3 seconds:
the instructor: 3… 2… 1… Let’s go!
me: Bring it on! WOOOHOOOOO
First, you free-fall for 45 seconds. The wind blows strongly into your face and you feel that you have little control over the direction. The 45 seconds feel pretty long. Then suddenly the parachute opens and you feel strong tension all over your body. The free-fall is over. Now you’re just calmly floating. The instructor let me steer the parachute. You can turn left, turn right, and slow down the speed. You can also land precisely on the ground. I was extremely happy after the first jump.
We were driving back for several hours to the house. The atmosphere in the car was pretty weird. Most of the talking was done in Portuguese and I was unable to follow the convo. Obviously, I later wanted to talk about it. I’m always into resolving problems, instead of making them get out of control. Minor problems are a waste of time.
me: Tell me, what’s the problem. You didn’t talk much to me today.
she: There is no problem. Don’t worry. It’s just we were with my best friend.
me: Sure? You know, if it’s the last night, I’m sorry.
she: No, don’t worry. Everything’s good.
OK, I’ve got experience in handling drama girls, but come on, I’m in Brazil for only one more day! Why to lie that everything is good, while it’s not? I then said that I want to go to Sao Paulo to visit my friends. She said that I should stay and that we will drive somewhere the next day. Think about it, though. Wouldn’t you trust a person who books you a parachute jump? As it turned out later, I was lied to about plans for the next day…
In the evening I was getting ready for the next sertanejo party. She said many times she’d take me there. Obviously, that didn’t happen. She kept saying how she likes rock music now. Cute. Instead, I went out with other friends to the party and it was really great. I was slowly learning how to dance but there is still a long way to go.
I woke up pretty late after the party and didn’t know much what was going on. People were speaking mostly in Portuguese. I then was taken to a churrasco party. I thought it would be just an hour and then we move on. The day before I heard about completely different plans. Uncool. Although I enjoyed practicing my Portuguese and meeting the people there, the churrasco prevented me from going to Sao Paulo. Don’t get me wrong. The churrasco people did their best to make me feel welcome. I am really grateful for that! Unfortunately, everyone was misinformed about my plans for Saturday. No one besides my pen-pal knew that I wanted to visit my friends in Sao Paulo. I was picked up from the party at night and failed my friends in Sao Paulo. I know that one of them even planned a day for me and became very sad that I didn’t show up. What can I say? Not much. Probably I can only blame myself for not pushing my plans too hard. I don’t have any bullshit excuses.
Early morning my pen-pal picked me up with her friends and took to the airport. I was noticeably annoyed by the previous day. I felt like being manipulated. That was the unhappy ending of my overall very happy trip. In any case, I’m still grateful to my pen-pal for taking good care of me and providing a lot of fun. No hard feelings on my side.
Besides the minor accident, I enjoyed Brazil a lot. Maybe even too much. I think it’s an awesome country with really really great and friendly people. Brazilians love their country. I heard it so many times: I’ve never traveled anywhere outside Brazil, but I think that Brazil is the best. I had 10 fantastic days and one less fantastic. Anyways, mama, there is no time for the drama. Lessons learned: 1) trust people, but not too much; 2) make your plans very clear to others and if they are not helpful, push harder. To those whom I couldn’t visit: I’m sorry. Update: some people misinterpreted my post. Probably because the wording was unfortunate. I rewrote some paragraphs to make it clear that I am very thankful and consider the trip a huge success. I underlined some phrases to explicate that my pen-pal did a great job and took a great care of me. Thank you!