First 10 steps out of Lavinia’s house, with my map in my hands – and an older man stops me and asks me if I could direct him to the metro – seriously? I actually knew where the metro was as we passed it on our way from airport so my confidence skyrocketed. 2 blocks later, a lady with a child asks me something else in Portuguese. I either look very very Brazilian or incredibly knowledgeable of Rio geography. I was cracking up – this was going to be a ride. I will be an official guide 2 weeks from now on. Of course, my blank stare with a bit of “eu nao entendo” just came with a disappointing – ah, English and them stepping away.
As I said, I am staying with Lavinia, a dear friend from my Moroccan adventure. She, Bruno and her 18 months old daughter Amora are generously hosting me in their apartment. Staying with locals is always totally different than being a tourist as you get to see how people really live and the joys and challenges of daily life. Lavinia’s apartment reminds me of where I grew up a little bit – 3 bedroom/2 bath, with 3 elevators and 2 entries. No dryer but you hang your clothes to dry them – memories of my parents and my brother stepping over me sleeping in my room so they can get to the balcony where all the clean clothes hung were therefore immediately triggered. Of course, drying your clothes in tropical Rio is a bit different than freezing Eastern Europe. I brought repellent, yet the windows are open as the temperatures are very comfortable – perfect, really. Quickly my thoughts were going to all the National Geographic documentaries on creepy crawlies, hanging insects and you know what – so I instinctively closed the windows in my own bedroom.
The apartment is in between Ipanema and Copacabana – doesn’t get any more famous. Looks a bit like Vinohrady for my Czech friends. Traffic is a mix between India and Czech republic – wild running to cross the street, cars and buses not really stopping, heavy parking on the streets, lots of one way roads but street lights and crosswalks. Metro station literally across the street, with rental-bike-system adjacent. This will pay off when I get back home at midnight after my shifts.
My Portuguese is seriously lacking, hence my Spanish resurfacing very quickly. Not too many folks on the street or in the restaurants speak English. It sounds very sh, zh, ch right now and happy – and totally incomprehensible. Let’s hope, my volunteer team does not rely on me for Portuguese knowledge then, shall we?