In preparation for our trip to Rio we downloaded the song Copacabana. One of our nicknames for Ava is Lola and the kids have an imaginary friend named Cobana, so they’ve both been in a delighted frenzy exclaiming, “Her name was Lola! She was a showgirl! With Cobana!” to everyone from Cape Town to Rio. That song is only a close second to Katy Perry’s wisdom about California girls in bikinis. No wonder we get strange looks everywhere we go.
Rio de Janeiro was not part of our original itinerary. We had a few weeks left during the tail end of our journey and couldn’t decide where to go between Cape Town and New York. A deal on Emirates gave us the idea to make this stop in South America. What should have been a 3,800 mile trip took us 12,100 as we had to fly through Dubai. We survived the 25 hour journey and have been revived by Rio’s vivacious personality.
Sandeep and I have had a long interest in things Portuguese. Ava’s first flight was to Portugal when she was a year old. Goa, where my father is from, was a Portuguese colony until 1961. The portuguese culture, from its food and wine to its music has always fascinated us, so a trip to Rio seemed fitting. Sandeep was excited for Brazilian coffee, I wanted to see capoeira and samba and we all looked forward to some warm weather and beach.
Wanting to balance safety with atmosphere, we struggled to decide where to stay in Rio. In the end we rented a house in Santa Teresa, a bohemian artsy area set in the hills above the city. We spent most of today walking through the narrow and steep cobble stone streets, which remind Ava of Istanbul. The churches, all screaming colonial Portugal, transported me back to Old Goa.
It’s probably a perfect mix of warm weather and a social culture that brings Cariocas (people from Rio) out to the streets. Every neighborhood has a church and accompanying square, whose personality changes by the hour. We live on one such square, Largo des Neves. At 6:30 A.M. (yes, our jet lag had us up at that hour), a bread truck come bearing freshly risen loaves. Ava and Sandeep ran out to get our breakfast.
In the morning, kids shuffle to school. Outdoor action quiets down in the mid day sun, save for a few vans proclaiming things in Portuguese from very loud loudspeakers. Once the kids are back from school, the square fills with gossiping mothers, kids practicing capoeira and giggling teenagers. Night continues to be a trans generational affair, with people sipping on caipirinha made to order at one impromptu table and others nibbling on various assortments of grilled meat and cheese for sale at another pop-up vendor. Here is the same square at 9 PM.
It seems that everyone knows each other and at first we weren’t sure if we were crashing a family party. Then the crowed grew to the point that we realized no family (not even an Indian one) is that large. It’s now 10 PM and we’re jet lagged and trying to sleep. A Samba band has just started outside and the party doesn’t show any signs of dying down. We came to Brazil for coffee, capoeira, samba and sunshine. We didn’t realize we’d get it all on day one. Viva Brazil!