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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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!

Rio Apartment Hell

Today was just another standard day at work – had to wait in line again at reception to get a temporary pass (still don’t have a real one), spent an hour with HR explaining them what they were actually supposed to explain to me. Then went for a 2.5 hrs lunch at Porcão with the team because one of the senior managers was leaving. I’ve been there before, but the view was still breathtaking! Imagine the below view only during the day..

View from Porcão Rio’s

Once this was done, I was happy to find out that my connection to the real world was established – I got my own Brazilian Blackberry!! A small victory, at last ! My colleague who started a month ago, is still waiting for his… I did get a temporary SIM card this past weekend, however, because my levels of technological affluence are diminishing by the day, it was impossible for me to figure out how to use my soap-bar crap Nokia, and I was really getting frustrated.  Now, I got a new challenge – to learn how to use the touch-screen of the BB Torch…   Life is so complicated, my god!

I also had the pleasure to find out what $2500-$3000 /mo could buy one in the  Ipanema/Copacabana housing market… the answer is CRAP!  Considering myself a seasoned Manhattanite, I was so sure that nothing could surprise me, especially given the generous price I was willing to pay for a 1BD apartment. I have never seen something so terrible. The first apartment, which aside from being tiny and super smelly, featured things like a kitchen with a open window (without a glass or frame) with only a net covering it (one may call this constant ventilation), rotting closets (“oh, no problem, you could get them varnished..”) and various junk pieces under the pathetic excuse name of furniture. It was so disgusting that I told my real estate agent that I would not even put my worst enemy in this place.. I really don’t understand why would anyone want to stay in a place like this.. actually, now that I think about it, it reminds me of a hostel I stayed at in Costa Rica (an experience I swore myself never to repeat). The only difference is that the hostel was $25 a night and not $100 (not including utilities!!).. Absolutely ridiculous.

The next apartment in Copacabana had similar features (i.e. overpriced crap). But some of the highlights were the corner called “kitchen”, which consisted of a sink, a small cabinet and something resembling a toaster oven which the owner called stove. When I asked about a washing machine, the owner said that he could add one – he will just have to move the fridge into the living room, to make room for it!! I kept looking around to see if someone is playing a prank on me. But no, this was totally legit Rio real estate. Speaking to my friend, who is looking as well and even with a higher budget, I found out my experience was not unique. Looks like I will have to look into Botafogo.. which is the equivalent of  something like moving to Brooklyn here.

Ah yes, one final detail of the day. I was trying to listen to the morning news in Portuguese and heard something related to my current hotel and food poisoning. When I went to work later, I found out that there was a huge scandal in the hotel zone because people got food poisoning in several fancy hotels and then the police got involved and some of the chefs were arrested. I am not surprised!! At least about this hotel.. Never stay at the Pestana on Copacabana Beach!! The only nice thing about it is the lobby and the porters. Everything else resembles a hostel quality. I hear this is common in Rio.

At least until the end of this year I get to be the Garota de Ipanema — moving to my temporary housing there tomorrow.