The daily bloco update

Another one of those times when I try to do something on my own and it kind of fails. Went to Bloco Sargente Pimenta yesterday. It was pretty cool with Beatles music and I estimate around a million people. I found a place on the bridge that overlooked the whole procession. Stayed for 20 mins since it was way too hot and then walked home for 40 along the beautiful beach with view of sugar loafs. My carnaval is a total fail but at least I went to the gym both days. I will be thin and tanned by the end of this.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Some more of Carnaval in Rio

Today was the best day of my gym history because as a result of Carnaval festivities, only ugly, fat and old people showed up. I felt so skinny and attractive as I was hopping at ease on the elliptical machine with David Guetta music on my ipod and the middle aged chubby woman on the machine next to me huffing and puffing in agony. This is what gym should be all about. I felt so inspired that I stayed 15 mins longer than usual to use the weight lifting machines I haven’t used pretty much since I was in college.. Definitely going to go tomorrow.

Carnaval itself so far proved itself to be a major FAIL (as my friends from the west coast love to say). The city is overcrowded with various tourists and visitors from the suburbs (as most cariocas escaped to nicer and cleaner places). Everyone is drunk on the can-littered streets.  My friend, who is the carnaval grinch, was hating every second of the blocos we tried to go to, and so we decided to avoid them and hang out around town instead. The issue is that it’s hard to do anything in this town in this period of time so we headed over to the beach in Leblon which was full of ugly fat people trying to look smart and sophisticated with their sweaty tatoos and tight bikinis. Being the snow-white that I am, I could only stay for so little and so I sent greenchy to the beach on her own today and am headed to see Sargento Pimento, a Beatles themed bloco. Results to be reported!

Rio Carnaval, here we go

Lunch yesterday was a totally un-carioca (same weight as undemocratic), as I went to see a Modigliani exhibition at the Museum of Belas Artes in Centro (the exibition was so so but their Brazilian modern art collection was great). To compensate for my evil ways, the plan for today’s lunch is to go to Saara (?) market to buy a carnaval costume. I’m debating between Mini Mouse and Freddie Kruger ( sexual harassment: invite or fight or: conformity vs rebellion) so let’s see how it goes..

After getting “thanks so much for arranging everything” note for my friends that are visiting for carnaval, I realized I should probably arranged something and solicited some input on the blocos to go to. The results: an official brochure from Globo (the main newspaper), links to 2 blogs, an excel spreadsheet with 350 entries (categorized by must-go, avoid, best women, etc) and an excel schedule divided by day and hour of the 10 best blocos. Guess which one was from a former banker and which is from a consultant? Now I just need to synthesize.

A failed attempt at matchmaking for the same-sex community led me to contemplating on my own dating life and sending a “how are you and happy carnaval” email to a friend with some potential. I got the best response from him. He said “I’m going out of town but let’s do something when I am back (hum…I’m more or less in relationship, but if it’s less than more, we can see each other!)”. This is what I call a flexible design!! I think I’m going to use this one in the future.

I leave you here with another a piece of art.. This picture is actually 2D.

Carnaval Time in Rio de Janeiro

Backed by popular request, I decided to provide a mini-update on the events preceding Carnaval, that will start the upcoming Friday. I am trying to make sense of the whole process myself, as it’s not completely straight forward what happens during this time. Well, first of all, the carnaval kind of starts about 2 weeks beforehand, with numerous events that are called blocos or ensaios (block parties, or rehearsals) of the groups that will perform during carnval. As far as I understand, there are samba schools that organize these things or just various other types of groups such as bands or community promoters, or whatever else, that use the carnaval as an event to get-together and promote their cause via music. The weekend before carnval, is when these events climax, as there are blocos almost every hour in every part of town.  What happens resembles sort-of what I know as bar-hopping, only it’s not bar but block parties one hops through. So Saturday, I started with some friends in Urca, where there was a small bloco near the entrance of sugar loaf. First step was getting beer, then I was checking out handsome guys that were walking around in ridiculous costumes. The bloco didn’t pick up too much steam and so we headed over to Baixo Gavea, for another one. My friend commented he liked this neighborhood as it has a lot of young people (due to PUC University), but I didn’t realize just how young… When we arrived at the bloco, we were disappointed to find out a group of 20 year old drunk kids with a big speaker, a few drums, microphone and high blood-alcohol content, trying to sing Funk songs at full volume, and impress the equally drunk opposite sex attendants. Just before I started considering becoming a cougar, we decided to head off to the next bloco in Ipanema, which was a crazy crazy procession of anything imaginable.

We arrived just as the bloco started the parade. And it was insane. THOUSANDS of people, walking, drinking, singing, dancing, kissing, jumping, playing music instruments, and in general a moving chaos of celebration. It was also very hot, and quite sweaty..  I also started to understand what people meant re aggressiveness of Brazilian men during carnaval. One of the girls in our group, an attractive fitness professional, got grabbed by guys almost every 5 mins, and it took various efforts of the men in the group to extract her from those situations. One men, one of those whose hair prefers to grow on his back and arms in large quantities instead of on his head, was especially persistent. He kept putting his sweaty paws around her would not back out even when one of the guys in the group was holding her and saying she is with him. He tried maybe ten times before we lost him. This was happening all over, and in a procession which is packed with people, with no exit paths, the situation can become almost dangerous. The poor girl was quite unlucky, as she found out at the end of the parade that her bag was slashed and someone stole her phone. This is why they warn you to not bring anything with you, and keep all valuables in your front pockets.

Overall, exciting but overwhelming experience. I had fun but needed a break from this craziness and hid at home the whole of today to avoid any carnaval processions. I have to mentally prepare for next week… my withdrawal might have had something to do with the tip I got from a local friend  which was something along the lines of  ‘in order to attract Brazilian men, one must dress slutty and give them suggestive looks.’ I found this too much to handle and dove instead into the world of books I am much better equipped to dealing with. Just finished reading “The Paris Wife” by Paula McLain, a story of Hamingway’s first wife, their fun years in Paris until he finally leaves her (of course..) for one of her close friends. [insert a reaction here].

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Imagine a world with no police and lots of drug dealers

Now, imagine you’re in Rio.

We take many things for granted, living in places where institutions are well established.

Now, Rio de Janeiro, is a city with high levels of crime that puts lots and lots of efforts into protecting tourists that come to visit while ignoring its own population. The tourist areas such as Ipanema and Leblon are swarming police forces of any kind (local, federal, state or whatnot) these days. And so, every year, just before carnaval, the local police threatens to go on strike, completely holding the city hostage in terms of answering their demands. One can imagine how this is a nightmare scenario for this tourist heaven. From what I gather, previous years, this was just a threat. This year it became a reality.

Today Rio police is supposedly on strike and people are sort of freaking out. When I say people, I actually mean interested parties, i.e. the media and politicians. The situation has been quite calm but there are forces such as the one I mentioned above that create mass paranoia. Throughout the day everyone was walking paranoid around the city center. Afternoon, we received an e-mail from the company asking everyone to leave the office by 6pm. My boss even called me at my desk to ask me to leave and stay at home. I told him not worry and that I will just go hang out at a pacified  favela since they have the special police –BOPE, and they won’t be on strike for sure.  He didn’t get the joke. Oh well, he probably attributes it to me being a gringa (ergo, gringos have weird jokes).

Anyways, since all the companies in the city center released their employees early, trying to get home was a big pain.. the amount of people crowding the metro station and platform was like London in Bank station or Line 4-5 Grand Central station in Manhattan during rush hour. Horrendous. When I got out, it just started raining and people were all rushing to go home with terrified looks on their place. I could totally imagine this as a beginning of some silly action/natural disaster movie, and one of those Silvester Stallone, Mel Gibson, Bruce Willis types running around with a walkie-talkie, trying to figure out how to save the world from a doomsday scenario.

There is no point going out anywhere because everyone will stay paranoid at home watching the news, and all the places will be completely empty and so I guess I will stay put as well. Tomorrow they will probably announce the end of the strike because there are many carnaval events that are happening (blocos) that are way too important for everyone to be worried about silly police issues.  The carioca will resume drinking beer, dancing samba and going to the beach.   Such is the life of the carioca.