I arrived in Rio de Janeiro yesterday morning after having spent 12 hours in flight. If I had possessed the common sense of a mule I would have gone straight to my hotel room to relax and recuperate from an entire day of travel. My mind, imagination and adrenaline wouldn’t permit it. I dropped my luggage off at my hotel and, within an hour, I was back in the streets.
I’m fortunate because my tour manager is a not only a carioca (a person born in Rio de Janeiro) but also extremely passionate about Rio and has a thorough foundation of social/political and historical knowledge regarding both Brazil and the city.
I know most would like to know about “first impressions.” For me Rio possibly possesses the greatest juxtaposition of wealth and poverty that I’ve ever experienced in my travels. Simply leaving Galeão International Airport and crossing the expanse of the city offers views of everything from favelas (Brazilian term for economically impoverished neighborhoods that, historically, once were the places inhabited by former slaves) to expensive tourist hotels and beach condominiums. As far as the people I’ve experienced thus far, I’ve had nothing but patience and compassion for my butchering of the Brazilian Portuguese language.
I spent most of the day visiting the District of Santa Teresa an historical and art district paved with beautiful stoned roadways. While the stone streets don’t make for the most comfortable ride they are a beautiful aesthetic companion to the sloped and curving walls throughout the area and the colonial era architecture.
In one day I was taken to the top most areas to overlook Rio and then down into the lowest areas closest to the beaches. I walked, talked, ate and drank pure coconut.
Probably my most memorable experience of the day was visiting with the artist, Getúlio Damado, the man who makes art from garbage. I had read about him before coming to Rio and it was nice to meet him personally. Getúlio has a really small artist workshop called “Atelier Chamego Bonzolandia.” The workshop is actually a replica of a small trolley but with only enough room for Getúlio to work in (barely). I could not come all this way and not buy something so I purchased a small seated figure made from wood and other recycled materials. I’ll put a picture of it up on Facebook along with a few images of Getúlio. Before I left he let me know, through a translator, that he has survived three different mayors who have attempted to shut his little shop down. I hope those are the last beauracratic battles Getúlio has to fight. His art serves as a political/social statement on waste and over indulgence. I wish him luck.
Well exhaustion has “officially” set in. I would love to hit the streets of Rio again today but, for now, I’m going to take a nap.