In mid-February, I was lucky enough to spend four days in one of Brasil's most colorful and vibrant cities-Rio de Janeiro! Like most people, I had many preconceptions about Rio before visiting. I had watched City of God (Cidade de Deus) and seen photos on the Internet of the massive, colorful favelas that fill the city. I had heard stories about crime and gang violence that plagued the city and even seen videos online of groups of little kids pickpocketing people in the Olympic Village. I had heard all of the negative stereotypes and tales about Rio, and quite honestly, these realities scared me a bit. But, I also heard about o povo bonito (the beautiful people), incredible beaches, and the culture of samba and funk music that could be heard blasting on the streets. I knew I couldn't visit Brasil without visiting Rio de Janeiro…it just didn't seem right. As I boarded the plane, I felt both extremely excited and ridiculously terrified for the infamous city I was about the explore.
I'm smiling with my friend Citlalli for the camera, though secretly terrified! Um mundo novo
(new world) was awaiting us!!
First stop: O Cristo Redentor (Christ the Redeemer) He is actually waaaay more impressive from far away than up close !!
Next Stop: Escadaria Selaron! This set of colorful stairs is one of the most visited points in the city. The different tiles and murals that make up the stairs are simply beautiful!!! One of the best places to take photos in Rio!
One of the things I loved most about Rio (and what most people love most about the city) is the incredible landscape. Unlike New York City, Rio has praia (beaches), rios (hills), and morros (mountains). The city has some of the most incredible views I have ever seen in my life! One our second day in Rio, we took a cable car up Pão de Açúcar (Sugarloaf Mountain) to take in some of the city's most iconic views!
During our short stay in Rio, we were lucky to stay with two Brazilian friends from our town who recently moved to Rio. One of the most exciting parts of the trip was just getting to know more about Johanna and Rosie and exploring different parts of the city together!!
Of course I couldn't visit Rio without to mar o banjo (taking a swim) at Ipanema Beach! In this photo, I am channeling my inter Garota de Ipanema (Girl from Ipanema)!!!
On our last morning in Rio, before going to the airport, we woke up super early to watch o nascar do sol (sunrise) at one of Rio's most secluded beaches- Praia da Joatinga! Simply breathtaking!!
They say that todomundo said um pouco mis carioca (everyone leaves a little more carioca). After four days in Rio, I felt truly like a carioca (Rio de Janeiro native) and desperately wanted to stay. People were right when they told me Rio was an explosive city-you can feel that type of energy when you walk down the street. But it was also much more complicated than that. In a short period of time, I learned that Rio was a city of extremes coexisting in close proximity. The city's richest residents lived at the bottom of the hill that housed the poorest residents of the favela. There were sprawling beaches located next to massive mountains. You could see people begging for money and food on the city's 5th Avenue equivalent. In Rio, regardless of who you are or what part of the city you are from, you can't escape the realities of another carioca's life. As a tourist, while constantly surrounded by the city's beauty, I couldn't escape the poverty that, although didn't exist much in my Brazilian home, characterizes much of Brasil. In many ways Rio symbolizes Brasil because it is an epicenter of diversity and potential, but is also an extremely troubled city with widespread corruption, violence, and political problems. It's high energy and inviting spirit is also characteristically Brazilian.
Rio is truly one of the most incredible places I have ever explored.