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So... What do you see when you walk out on the street from your apartment?/Roommate?/Yummy breakfast?

USA | Thursday, 4 February 2010 | Views [426]

Well,... I live on a side street off of a pretty main street in Botafogo - an area that is primarily Cariocas (people of Rio).  The apartment is about 1200 square feet and is pretty nice for apartments in Brasil (correct spelling for when I am down here).  I live with 6 other girls (5 of them Dutch) and share a room with just one other - Soesma.  She works for the landlord - a Dutch lady who owns several properties in Rio.  She has been here a while so is settled with her room/life in Rio with friends outside of the apartment so she isn't home every night.

When I walk outside, through a locked door to the building, and exit my "complex" via a locked gate, I end up on a uneven sidewalk next to a one way - two lane - road.  I usually go left to Rua da Passagem - a bustling road with many shops; there are car-care places (one for each specialization - batteries only, a 2 bay shop for oil changes only, rims for your car a few doors down, and tires a few shops away from that), banks, juice (succo da fruta) stands that sell yummy breakfast (large breakfasts of often fruit "juice" (mainly fruit and therefore very thick and good) and a pastry of chicken and cheese, drug stores (that sell toiletries and "over the counter" drugs as well as beer and contacts, hair salons (where manicures/pedicures are $R10), and a "get everything under the sun for cheap here" store (like Walmart but much smaller). I am between two malls - Rio do Sul and Botafogo Praia Shopping; which has been good for adquiring those much needed items; a purse, havaianas (flip flops that all cariocas own) a cell phone with "pre-pay" minutes, and a swimsuit.  I am also on the main bus route to Urca (Sugarloaf - Pao do Acucar) and a short walk to the Bus stop for Copacabana, Ipanema, Leblon, etc.

The busses are "fun"...  You flag it down and run to get on (otherwise the driver starts taking off if he thinks you aren't really hurrying) and he immediately departs - so you had better grab a rail to hold on!  You pay the ticket lady/man ($R2.20) and pass through the turn-style gate.  If a seat is available you are grateful; if not you stand and hold on while the bus accelerates, brakes quickly to pick up more passengers that have flagged it down, and accelerates again while making a 90 degree turn...

I take the metro to school in the Centro every day now and sometimes have lunch at one of the "per kilo" buffets (a buffet where your plate is weighed at the end - these are often elaborate as lunch is the main meal in Brasil and dinner is often a snack of bread, cheese, and meat).  I can get on nearby (5 blocks or so away) and 15 minutes later (7 stops) I get off at Uriguiana.  This stop is right near the famous Centro Market - a collection of semi-permanent shops that sell EVERYTHING.  I went there today and bought some Carnaval costume items for pretty cheap.  It is always busy so you (and Cariocas alike) hold onto your purse at all times - it isn't often that you are flat out "held up" but more common to have a purse snatched by a barefoot child or guy that slept on the street last night.  Therefore, when walking around ANYWHERE in Rio you keep real valuables on your body and "disposable" things in your closely guarded purse.  I also have a "throw away wallet" - which has small bills for buying things and if I ever am demanded to give it up, it at least doesn't contain all my money - or my bus ticket home.  I never take a credit/debit card to a place like this (and often don't take it anywhere with me anyway).  Also, my teacher yesterday found out that his credit card was "cloned" (easily done by swiping it through a 2nd machine when completing a transaction).  Therefore, I only use it at malls and watch the clerk as it is being charged.

The city is great though, just HUGE and bustling with life.  Cariocas dress well - with the women wearing heels everywhere - (when they can afford to at all), but can be very casual - it is ok for many to take the bus to the beach without shoes/shirt and they still get service.  They speak quickly but are patient with foreigners who at least try to speak the language - a simple "tudo bom" goes a long way!  

I have begun language training and have begun to learn how much I have to learn in order to be "fluent" (an unattainable goal it seems at this point) but am able to be understood and hold a conversation with someone that is patient.  I am learning so much, not only from class but from conversations on the beach/street.  I have met several people whom I can see myself connecting with; Brian from Rotary is already a confidant (as we have many of the same interests and share the Rotary experience), and some Carioca climbers - who meet at the statue at the base of the sugarloaf every morning/evening when they climb.  Several of the ones that I have met speak english and are excited to talk about the climbing in Rio and share their city!

Well,... Hope that answers some questions; off to have more experiences and I will write about them all again next week...

Tags: and buses, apartments, beaches

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