Brazil Beginnings

View from the first flat I stayed in - Copacabana Favela

It's been a while since my last blog post, during which nothing much was happening - until very recently. For one, I am writing this blog post from Brazil! I am sitting on a couch in a small flat in Copacabana's favela - you may have pre-conceived notions of such a place (and the name does have a negative connotation) - but the flat is nice, and the previous flat I stayed in, and the people are friendly. The children will call out "Oi!" as you walk up the stairs - and this is not the "Oi" of Brixton, circa The Clash.. No, it simply means hello.

Of course, I could not seem to manage going on a trip without some sort of.. well, let's call it "adventure"... Upon arrival in Rio, after a stop and transfer in Sao Paulo, I realised that my luggage had not made it. I should have grabbed it in Sao Paulo and checked it again, and I had thought it was moved during transit in the same manner it had been done when I had been to the US. I thus arrived in Rio, on time, 9am, without my luggage. I had to take the time to notify staff, and get the ball rolling in getting my bag (with all my clothes!) back. As such, I was rather late getting a taxi and getting to Copacabana where my host awaited.

The taxi driver spoke absolutely no English, so I communicated to the best of my ability in broken Spanish, as I speak no Portuguese, save the basic hellos, goodbyes, thank yous.. I had the address written down for him to see, so it should all have been plain sailing. Spoiler alert: it was not.
First, the taxi driver seemed very surprised at my destination, and asked me a few times "favelas? favelas?" in a tone that implied I had lost my mind. "Favelas! Sim!" I replied, happy to have caught on to the meaning of at least one word.

We arrived in the street where my lodging would be (I was using airbnb) and the driver could not find the house. He changed direction a couple times, finally stopping to talk to a group of men on the side of the road, showing them my phone, with the address. They all passed my phone around and for a second I thought, well, that's it, someone is going to run off with my phone! Thankfully, they did not, and one of the men hopped on his scooter and told the taxi driver to follow him.

Shortly after, the scooter man, who spoke English, asked me to follow him, so I paid the taxi driver and got out. The man handed me a helmet. I had definitely been taught to not go with strangers as a a child, and a part of me was wondering what I was getting into, but I decided to trust my gut.. and what other choice did I have? I didn't know where I was! The helmet was too big, falling over my face so I could barely see. I climbed on the back of his scooter and hung on as best I could.

After a few metres he turned to me to say "The number you are looking for.. It doesn't exist!" I looked at him perplexed. "249, right?" The taxi driver had been searching for the wrong number the whole time, despite looking at the written address numerous times! Clearing that up, he drove me to the correct address, and we walked up the very high flight of stairs.
Next problem: because I had been delayed at the airport, my host was not here, but at work. The scooter man took charge. He asked me for his number, and called him on his phone, speaking rapid Portuguese. The door opened, and a young man came out; another guest who was staying here. The man passed him the phone, and he too spoke to my host. Now, they knew I was expected. The young man showed me around the house, speaking Portuguese whilst I answered in Spanish. Somehow we made it work.

I had no luggage, but at least I had made it to my destination... That is how I started my Brazilian adventure! Up next, visiting the town, beach adventures, and more on the luggage fiasco..


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