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Diario: LIVING THE "CIDADE MARAVILHOSA"  -  Localización:  Brasil  Brasil
Descripción: A short story about my three-days experience in the amazing Río de Janeiro
Autor: Lucianacarolina87   Fecha creación: 
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Índice del Diario: LIVING THE "CIDADE MARAVILHOSA"


Etapa: Three days in Río  -  Localización:  Brasil Brasil
Descripción: Even though I only spent three days in Río, this time helped me to break the stereotypes I had as regard "the wild and dangerous City of God".
Fecha creación: 26/03/2018 17:44  
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This has been by far the best trip of my life, at least until now. Since I was a little girl, I have always wanted to visit Brazil. However, I had never had the chance to do it. So, when I finished my teaching training course, I said “Ok, LET’S GO!” Of course, I would go with my best partner for adventures: my boyfriend. Since we are from Argentina, we didn’t want to go to Camboriú o Florianopolis. These places are usually visited by Argentinian people, and we wanted to be embedded in the Carioca culture. So, Río de Janeiro came up to our minds. Río was the perfect mixture between wild nature and a cosmopolitan city. How could it be better? Well, two days before our departure, we heard horrible news. Río had become extremely dangerous due to the violence generated by drug dealers. As a result, the president decreed a military intervention to control this situation. Most people told us: “Don’t go there. It is not safe. People are shooting themselves in the streets. Many tourists have died. You can choose another destination”. I have to confess that I was scared out of my wits. In spite of that, we decided to go to the “Cidade Maravilhosa”. The higher the risk, the better the experience, right?
We decided to travel entirely by bus. Flying was expensive, so we thought it would be better to save that money to take excursions. We didn’t want to hire a travel agency for this trip, because usually, these organized voyages only show the traveler the most touristic part of the places, and we preferred to have a more complete a vivid experience. So, this adventure began in a bus from Salta to Puerto Iguazú, and it continued in another bus from Puerto to Río. 48 hours! Exhausting of course, but also a great opportunity to meet both new people and locations. On March, Saturday 3rd , we arrived to Río…

DAY 1: Río de Janeiro, Flamengo and Catete
We arrived to the Rodoviaria in the afternoon. We took a taxi to the hotel we had booked. Carlos, the taxi driver, gave us great advice about how to move around the city. As regard Riazor Hotel, it is located in Catete neighborhood. I think this is the best location because it is the heart of the city. Catete is very safe, full of shops, supermarkets and places to eat. You could really feel the hustle and bustle there! The hotel was simple but comfortable. Just what we needed. That same afternoon, we went to Praia do Flamengo, a few blocks away from the hotel. Local people were jogging, playing sports and riding bike. I was amazed because the streets and the beach were extremely clean! No one would throw garbage away. Everybody were just enjoying Saturday. We took a walk along the shore while drinking coconut water. The beach itself was beautiful, with the Sugar Loaf cutting the horizon. Where was the great danger we had been warned? I was so relaxed that I didn’t even think about that.
That night, we went to have dinner in the famous Lapa neighborhood. It was plenty of bars and restaurants. However, here we could see the other side of this great city. There were a lot of homeless people sleeping in the streets. This remarkable contrast shocked me: on the one hand, we had discos with carioca music where everybody was having fun. On the other hand, poor people were lying on the sidewalks, looking with indifference the great party around them. They were not asking for money or food. However, many of them were reading and selling books. At that moment, the image of Paulo Freire sprang my mind: they could be poor but not illiterate. This seemed as an unreal scenery: the middle class having party and the homeless reading.

DAY 2: City centre, Leblon and Ipanema
The second day was Sunday. During the morning, we visited “Lage Park” and the Botanic Garden. Both places were charming. Well – preserved spaces full of nature. Lage is a public park surrounded by the subtropical forest. People took advantage of this great environment to take pictures and have a picnic. The Botanic Garden is the home of different species from all the Amazon. Its walking trails allow the visitors to discover gorgeous landscapes while they learn about the flora and fauna. It costs 15R and you can stay as much time as you like.
In the afternoon, we went to the famous beaches of Leblon and Ipanema. Once again, I could see both the higher and the lower parts of society all together in one single place: indigents collecting cans, vendors offering their products and children smoking marihuana. Did I feel insecure? Not even once. Even though the seashore was crowded, you could easily find a place to stay. I had been told that you could be stolen if you left your belongings in the beach. We had no problem at all. I guess that many people are afraid of Río because they believe that the entire city is a dangerous “favela”. If you have seen the famous movie “City of God”, take into account that the sceneries reflected in the film may take place in the favelas that are 30 km away from the centre of Río. The heart of the city is very peaceful. Leblon and Ipanema are elegant neighborhoods where everybody seem to have a nice time. People were drinking beer and caipirinhas, but nobody was drunk or creating disorder. So different from Argentina!

DAY 3: The Aquarium, Urca and Praia Vermelha
In the morning, we visited the Acqua Río, the biggest aquarium in South America. We got lost trying to find it and we ended up in the middle of a pacified favela. It was very similar to a humble neighborhood from Argentina. People were very nice. They helped us to find our way. We had lunch in a small bar: hamburgers and the best maracuyá juice I’ve ever tasted. Did we hear gun – shoots? No. Were people locked in their homes trembling with fear? Not at all. After lunch, we got to the aquarium. It was amazing! Located in the Port Zone, this place keeps a variety of marine species. The main tank is definitely a must: guests walk along a tunnel which goes through the tank, so they can appreciate sharks, manta rays and other fishes very close.
After the peaceful atmosphere of the aquarium, it was time to exercise a little bit. So we went to Morro de Urca. This is a hill right before Sugar Loaf. You can go hiking there. When we reached the top, we got amazing views of Rio! It is definitely a great option to save money if you don’t want to take a cable car to the Sugar Loaf. We returned by taking the same trek and we spent the rest of the afternoon in the Vermelha Beach, located next to Urca hill. This beach was small but beautiful: it wasn’t crowded and the sunset was breathtaking. A great way to finish that day.
We came back to the city centre by foot and then, we took the subway to Catete. We felt safe and sound all the time.

So far, I would like to highlight the three main aspects that surprised me in Río de Janeiro:
1- The environmental awareness: local people help every day to clean the city. I’ve seen citizens picking up plastic bottles or any other kind of rubbish and putting them in bins. You can be fined if you dispose garbage on the streets. In addition, I’ve noticed that most cariocas take great care of the flora and fauna. Green spaces are very well – preserved. People seem to understand that protecting the environment is essential to improve their life-quality. I found this awareness so different from Argentina! Sadly, in my country, people usually throw their rubbish away and they don’t care about maintaining parks, squares and other natural places in good conditions.
2- Respect towards women: most people told me that Brazilian men were “machistas” and that I should be careful because I could be sexually harassed in the streets. Happily, in my personal experience, this stereotype was broken in Río. Men were very respectful. I didn’t receive cat callings or wolf-whistles. I noticed that this was the same for all women. As a woman, you can walk alone wearing shorts or tight clothes and no one would try to pick you up. Unfortunately, this is also different in my country. I live in Salta, in the north of Argentina, and whenever I go three blocks away from my place I receive lots of cat callings and sexual insinuations. This is the reality for Argentinean women. Most men think that they can verbally harass you in the streets, and that if you are wearing shorts, you are practically asking them to be disrespectful. If you ask these guys to stop their verbal aggression, they usually insult you. I think that Argentinians have many things to learn from Brazilian culture.
3- Femininity: I loved Brazilian women’s attitude. They were strong, proud of themselves. I would define them as beautiful fighters. I’ve never seen a submissive woman in the two weeks I spent in Brazil. All of them speak their mind and look very confident. They are certain about the fact that men and women are equal. One day, my boyfriend and I were in a local bus. He offered his sit to a woman who was standing next to him, and she said: “No, I’m fine. All of us are equal.” I found another remarkable difference with Argentina: the conception of motherhood. In Salta, my city, most pregnant women take their pregnancy as a synonym of weakness. They look tired and frustrated. When they become mothers, they complain that they no longer have time for themselves because of their children. On the contrary, Brazilian women assume their pregnancy with pride and joy. They look very healthy. I’ve seen pregnant girls working on the streets, laughing and without a trace of tiredness. I found this idea of femininity as a model to follow.
To sum up, if you are planning to visit Río, GO FOR IT! Be ready to be immersed in the amazing carioca culture. Precautions? The same that you would take in any other place: take care of your belongings in the street and avoid unknown places at night. By the way, don’t be afraid of buying food in the streets. Salgados and salgadinhos are delicious! You should also try acaí and fruit juices.
Even though we spent only three days in the city of Río de Janeiro, we continued our trip to the north, to the “Región de los Lagos”. I will continue this story.
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