Carnaval is in town

The first day of Carnaval in Rio brought even more happiness to my life. Starting from a “cool” bloco in Gavea (beautiful, sweaty people), to some improvised block party at the center of action in Leblon (which was raided by the police), ending at a family-oriented clown bloco in Laranjeiras where I ended up dancing Xuxa songs while been sprayed with foam and confetti!

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June and some more favelas

The past few weeks were full of adventures and new encounters some of which I will describe today. I also had many new ideas that I will share in the upcoming weeks.

This Saturday I got to participate in a traditional holiday called Festa Junina, which marks the European midsummer and Brazilian winter (or Brazil summer no. 2, as it is hard to call the season winter when it is 30C outside). I went to the most posh version of this at the Rio Jockey Club. The event kind of reminded me of a Texan 4th of July celebration meet Pippi Longstocking. At the entrance we received cowboy hats and bandanas. All the girls were dressed in bright puffy dresses with ribbons in their hair or on their hats and freckles drawn on their cheeks. There was a big food fair with incredible combination of hot dogs, french crepes, sweets and pea soup. There was forro music and children games.

My favorite part was a dance troop composed of favela kids in their late teens, dressed in the brightest outfits I have ever seen in my life (think bright orange or fluorescent green with flower patters). They performed some crazy dances that resembled country dancing combined with breakdancing. I sadly noticed that most of the girls were really obese (probably 10 years younger than me, but double my size). Wish I could do something about that. Poor people in Brazil (and other parts of Latin America) are getting fatter and fatter.

I got some amazing traditional Brazilian jewelry, made of weaved straw with golden threads.

Brazilian jewelry – Capim Dourado

Saturday night I went to a party in a “mansion” in Gavea that was supposed to be themed after Nights in St. Tropez. The party crowd was a combination of gringos, hippies and kids from nearby favela Rocinha. The party flyer asked everyone to come in their bathing suits but everyone thankfully ignored this invite as the pool looked like it had better times (maybe in the 80’s). Anyhow, the best part of the night was en route to the party. My companions decided to save 5 reais and take the gypsy van to the party. After being squashed among working class, sweaty men across town, we were pulled over by the military police and then searched by women with machine guns on the side of the road. Felt almost like I were in a scene from the Elite Squad. I started considering a career change once again..

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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].

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