The Finger of God

On the way to the mountain city of Terezopolis, I saw this crazy mountain range that looks like it comes from a cartoon.

The reason for the journey was a non-religious wedding between a Brazilian jew and a catholic that took place in a house of one of their friends. Things to note for the future were a samba style Hora dancing, self-written vows and a casual summer style dress code. This is the second non-religious, self-organized wedding I have been to and I must say I quite like this. Focus on having a great time with one’s better half and loved ones rather than trying to impress the world.

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Payment in kind, or us against the bar

I decided to bring my visitors of the week, two lovely girls, one Bulgarian and the other Indian Canadian(aren’t we an international bunch?) to one of Leblon’s semi-happening places (I am not cool enough to know the completely happening places), Black Bar.

There were no free tables but we were luckily adopted by a group of post puberty guys, who had free space at their table, and a bottle of Ciroc, which they eagerly offered to share with us.  We were of course good girls and ordered just water and lemonade. The youngsters turned out to be visiting from Curitiba as organizers of some kind of a big skater event. After a couple of hours of chit-chatting, during which one of the guys proudly demonstrated to us the tattoos of Jesus and Mary faces, which he had on top of each of his feet, and few white lies from one of our team members about her actual age, we decided to take off. To our surprise, we found out that we were going to be charged 30 each for minimal consumption and  since we did not want to drink anymore, we asked to fill the gap with water bottles. To the hysterical laughs of our companions we received a whole bucket of bottles of mineral water. We then put them all into the purse the Bulgarian mafia (in case anyone wondered why women like to carry big bags..) and  took off onto a new adventure.

I don’t think it happens every day that three girls arrive to a bar, order water, refuse high quality drinks, and on top of that ask for water to-go in large quantities (9 bottles!!!). Now, that is the way to leave a lasting impression!

Commercialization

A couple of days ago I entered the Rio metro and my world turned pink. The inside and outside walls were completely covered with posters advertising hair products for women. Or, perhaps they were advertising the upcoming soap opera.. those seem to be interchangeable normally so sometimes I get confused. As I was riding to work inside the Barbie house, I started to reflect upon how metro advertising and commercialization evolved in the short time I have been here. Normally, the billboards inside are quite small and advertise hair straightening creams, dietary supplements or numerous English schools but recently they started to use the entire trains to advertise various events, like the Rio+20 or the Olympics on a massive scale. Then, banks started realizing where most of their consumers pass every day and ATMs started popping out inside the stations. First it was just Santander, but once in a while, a new bank would add its own machine. So now there is normally a row of at least 4 different bank ATMs at every corner of the station to the point that it seems almost a security risk to be inside.

I also started noticing small kiosks that began to spring out inside the terminal, selling very random things such as funny doormats and hand creams or perfumes (perhaps to help oneself after a sweaty ride). Finally, the food industry came through when Bob’s (the local and much more popular version of McDonald’s) started setting up ice cream booths in the station hallways. I am wondering what’s going to come up next…

If I had to generalize what are the most advertised topics, I would select the following: hair products, education options (English classes + MBA in <enter any random discipline>), TV shows and perhaps mobile phones .
As far as I remember, in NYC those were: alcoholic beverages, TV shows and lawyers for various petty issues or work accidents.

Anyone has any interesting lists from where you are?

The other world

Tonight, I stepped outside my current world and entered into a magical fairy tale. Who could imagine that inside Rio’s municipal theatre exists a piece of Europe, dressed in marble and velvet and decorated with crystal chandeliers and gold?! Even the crowd seemed like it was transported from a parallel world – elegant older ladies with pearls, sophisticated young adults and some extravagant artistic-types.

I didn’t bother reading the details of the show before going, thinking it will be a classical music concert. Due to my blissful ignorance, I ended up watching the ballet Onegin with Tchaikovsky’s music. The show, outfits and decorations were stunning! I ended up practicing my Russian, reading the writings on the main curtain 🙂 This is what I call my random life.

The Prince and the Pauper

After a fancy dinner with hedge fund / management consulting crowd in Leblon past Friday, I felt the need to cleanse myself through stepping down the social classes ladder. On Sunday, after getting lost and dropping off at the wrong metro station that was more shady than not, I finally found my way to the Quinta da Boa Vista park, located in the North Zone of Rio.  The park’s main attraction is the Paço de São Cristóvão that used to be the imperial palace that now houses the National History museum. The park also has a zoo, but the main zoo was the one I encountered on the park  grounds. Smell of sewage mixed with barbecue and cotton candy, running children everywhere, hoards of teenagers (goths vs. prostitutes), all accompanied by a cacophony of screams and laughs.

In front of the museum, I found a very long queue of folks hungry for culture (or for stealing something), which gave me a good half an hour to observe the behaviors of my fellow Homo sapiens. One particular scene especially struck me:

Two little boys ( about 5 years old), one from middle-upper class family and one from a lower-income family (older parents), were playing soccer with an empty coke bottle. At some point, the wealthier kid got tired, reached into to his pocket, took out some figurines and a colorful piece of paper that had the explanation about each, and started showing off to the poor kid which ones he owns. The poor kid ran to his parents and asked if he can get the same toys as well. “Sure”, said his mother, “I will buy you each and one of them.” “Why did you tell him you will get these for him?” said the father to the mother when the kid ran along. “It was just easier. He will forget about this soon enough, don’t worry” she answered with a sad smile. I was just in the line behind them and felt like crying.

On the steps of the National Museum