One question I’ve always struggled with on my Russian proficiency exam was: describe your normal commute to school. I always wanted to give an interesting answer but all I could come up with was: “I exit my house, cross the park, take a bus and 10 mins later I’m there. ”
No more boring answers.
Now that I’m in Rio, I finally have a more exciting answer to give. My daily commute doesn’t have a moment of boredom. It starts with me trying to navigate Rio’s extremely uneven sidewalks that become extra tricky when one is wearing heels, as they are paved with small rocks that are often missing.
I then have to watch for all the men swarming around me. I’ve come to a conclusion that they are staring at me because of three main reasons: 1) I’m a woman, 2) I look different 3) they want to rob me (kind of related to 2). So most of the time I’m trying to figure out which is the true reason for the stares. I think most frequently it’s (1).
There also the old ladies that occupy the south zone. They love walking reallllllly slow or stopping in the middle of your way to chat with the newspaper vendor or the florist. One has to navigate around them carefully to avoid them falling down or even worse, trying to strike a conversation with you.
Crossing the street is always a good exercise and somewhat a military training – one has to look quickly around and in all directions for upcoming bus, taxi or motorcycle (those are the craziest attackers) and then sprint as fast as possible across the street before one of these sneaky bastards suddenly shows up at racing speed and makes a panini out of you.
Finally, when I arrive to the metro, I elbow some women to get a seat on the women-only cart, staying as far as possible from the seats reserved for the elderly (those old ladies come in quantities and the seats are never enough so if you seat nearby, you have to get up for them).
Once my seat is secure I can finally relax and write the above post…