I have spent most of the day today reformatting my website a bit to make picture viewing easier, as well as napping and trying to catch my breath. Yesterday was the craziest craziness I’ve experienced in the past week – and all the other days were pretty insanely crazy too – so I needed a break! Now I will take a moment (nothing ever takes only a moment when typing on the iPad… I might need to get a keyboard to go with this thing) to post about yesterday’s events in more detail than I could handle last night. I also have the ‘Small World’ story to finish from a couple days ago….
A sample of the tiles at the Palacio Gustavo Capanema
“Meet us at the Palacio Gustavo Capanema – the former Ministry of Culture Building, by the beautiful tiles!” my friend Gustavo had said. Sounds easy enough, I thought, but I jotted down the name of the building on a slip of paper just in case as well as, “Onde está o palacio?” — where is the palace… Onde, by the way, is said ‘ownje’ with the ‘de’ sounding much like an English ‘j’ sound… Jyu. It is complicated, for sure! I thought i knew how to get there by walking, but Gustavo had told me it was near a Metro (subway) stop called Cinelandia. Only one stop north (probably 5-6 blocks walking), but to play it safe, I would take the subway. As I left my hotel, hundreds of people were coming from the Metro stop back to the park by Bernardo’s along the bay just across the main avenue (highway) where I was staying in the Glória neighborhood. That is weird, I thought. I got on the Metro with my pre-paid card, a super-nice option my friend Bernardo set me up with when I had first arrived. You simply place the card on a reader, and it automatically deducts the fare from the card – you just continue through the turn-style while others wait in line to buy tickets.
On the subway, as in the streets and on the buses, all people will just spontaneously start singing – singing LOUDLY! And dancing (yes, on the bus, on the subway, wherever)! Not just singing, but banging on the roof of the subway, the side of the bus, the park bench you’re sitting at… The music needs a beat, and everyone is excited to join in the making of some serious noise! In fact, when you don’t know the songs, it is a little uncomfortable, as you are the only one not participating. I’ve found if you move to the beat and smile as you do, though, it is much appreciated!!
So, about ten minutes to 1, I got off at the Cinelandia stop and rode the escalator up to street level. The first thing I saw was the National Theatre. It was a beautiful building. I carefully took my camera out of my bag – best way to get a camera stolen is wave it around in public. It is a constant balancing act for me – the desire to take a picture vs. the reality of asking to be robbed. Rio is an incredible city, but has one of the highest crime rates in the world. You need to be careful – period. So I snapped a shot of the theater, and then asked instructions to the Palacio Gustavo Capanema from three older men in the park. They gave me blank stares. I showed them my slip of paper as I tried a little Portuguese – Onde está o…?… They had no idea. In Potuguese, one man suggested i try asking in Lapa and pointed the direction to head. I walked that way about 4 blocks before coming to the aquaduct I had seen last night with my friend. So, it couldn’t be near here. I returned to the station and headed another way. This time I walked until I came to the Carioca Metro Station – a different subway stop. Well, I knew I wasn’t close now, or I would have been told to get off here instead of the other stop. Retreat again! I headed off the third and really only other direction I could go, because nothing but the highway and the bay were off on the fourth side.
After walking a couple blocks, all was quiet. No music, no thumping and screaming, nothing. I was about to give up. Then, under a tree on the next block, I saw a group of about 8 people standing around who seemed to be in costumes – a sure sign of Carnival fun!! I thought I would ask them before returning to the area by my hotel to the obvious festival there.
I stood awkwardly on the outside of the group for about half a minute, and then when there was a lull in their conversation, I said, “Do you speak English?” One young man who, along with his buddy, was dressed in a tuxedo top and blue runners shorts complete with black top hat and cane, said, “A little.” I asked where the Palacio Gustavo Campanema was. He smiled, and said, “Right there!” pointing across the street to a plaza with a tall building “on stilts” – creating a plaza and some beautful tiled walls to have open public space before the structure began on the second
Bass Drummer who told me my costume was awesome!
story. I’d found it, but nobody was there, and it was already 1:15 – maybe I missed it. A man in a green shirt said, “Nice Style!” and gave me a thumbs up. I noticed he was standing by a large bass drum. Thank You, I said, and shot him a thumbs up in return. “Agostinho,” I said. He smiled, a few of the others turned to look, and many began talking. I knew their conversation, as Bernardo told me the costume I was wearing made me look like an eccentric soap opera character in Brazil… many people in the past day had congratulated me… One group near the subway even burst into applause when they saw me coming – it was a hit, for sure!
“You look for the bloco,” the man asked? Yes, bloco I said (block party). “Us too,” he said smiling. Perfect I said, and headed across the street calling behind me, “Obrigado!” (Thank You). So, I had found the spot, but where were my friends? Nobody was in the square, but I found the tiles and knew I was in the right spot….
Not long after, people started to come. I had been one of the first at the party. The bass drummer in the green shorts came over, and shortly thereafter, some girls all dressed in white dresses started showing up. They’d call from across the square and run to embrace, obviously excited to see one another.
A part of the Bloco Party Gang – where is Gustavo?
When maybe 75 people had gathered, my friends in blue – the Smurfs – appeared! It was a grand reunion! I had brought the camera, so I took it out and snapped some shots. I learned this was an ‘unofficial’ bloco, meaning the porta-potties, the vendors selling food and drink… These things would be missing. Instead, I found this group to be much smaller and more intimate! As the band started to play, I was able to take pictures – little did I know most of the group we were starting to dance and sing with that afternoon would still be with me five hours later!
Martha’s Vineyard Pirate & his friends with me.
About this time, I heard a pirate shout out in perfect English, “Hey man, where are you from?” Montana, I replied as I walked over. No kidding, he said. He had just come from Nepal working in an orphanage there, and one of his best friends (Lisa?) in that country was from Montana! I thought maybe it was my former student Emily Roche of Lewistown, so I asked, but no– there must be a couple Montanans working in Nepal in the past few years!
A group of girls representing the Womens’ Rights Movement of the early-mid 1900s in the USA.
After dancing in the shade of the tall building for a couple hours, the band started to mobilize and move to the street! We wound our way down one street and up another, singing, and dancing, playing, and drumming. It was very cool.
Trombone in the band.
The parade had no route. There was a group of leaders who continually held hands and kept the dancers from encroaching on the band’s space. Then there was a leader with a whistle. When winding through a park or at street intersections, this leader blows the whistle, points in a direction, and the band, with its hand-clasped buffer of people, helping steer, begins to move that way like an ameba!
One of the high points of the day had to be when the group found their way into the domestic airport. The band din’t go in – they just worked their way down the departures road… But the thrill of the airport was too tempting for many, and so a group temporarily veered off and sang as they jubilantly streamed into the facility! I knew they were excited, as they had been dancing all day without cameras, and suddenly there were iPhones and cameras all over the place! Check out the joy in this crowd as they rode up and down the escalator singing and dancing like there would be no tomorrow!!
People celebrate as the parade ‘detoured’ into the domestic air terminal!!
I thought that would certainly be the high point of the day, but I was wrong! Next we came to the water’s edge and started snaking our way down a very narrow street pinched between the fence at the end of the airport and the bay. Everyone wanted their picture on the small retaining wall next to the street overlooking the bay (see my photo album for pictures). The road went about 300 yards. Cars couldn’t get through. My friends and I pretended to ‘push’ a couple vehicles along their way. It was worse than running into a cattle drive on a highway in Montana, I’ll tell ya – at least the cows move out of the way!
But the best was yet to come. As the road ended where the corner fence of the airport pinched together with the waters of the bay, we were in for yet another surprise. This time it was a semi-trailer with thousands of gallons of water in waiting. The dancers in front of the band got very excited and started dancing in a frenzy in the afternoon sun and 85 degree heat. They had been going since about 1:30 – over 5 hours now – but they were invigorated by the sight of the water truck! The man atop the truck told the crowd to wait for the band, so they did… And then, thousands of gallons came out, literally drenching EVERYTHING!?! What an ending to one crazy Unofficial Bloco Party!
Everyone got drenched after hours of dancing in the intense heat. The end was perfect!!
Next, Jorge headed home. In fact, by now much of the group had broken up, splintering off to other parties, possibly to sleep out of exhaustion (my friends from Hong Kong went to take a nap, as their flight left about midnight). We walked around the bay past the World War II Memorial – a large monument that looks like a concrete T. I took a nice picture of the monument and the Christ the Reedemer statue in the background (in the photo albums, Day 6). We walked passed thousands of people milling about after what was obviously a HUGE Carnival party in the park, and then wound up by the bus stop just in front of my hotel. I asked the girls to wait while I ran my camera to the hotel room. I quickly took off my pants from my costume (soaking wet polyester is NOT cool – plus I had torn the butt when jumping on a concrete pillar by the airport… Another story) and pulled on some shorts.
When I got back to the bus stop, Camilla decided we had no time for a bus because we had missed lunch and were starving. I didn’t understand why we couldn’t eat right here – there were tons of options. But no, Camila had something else in mind. I didn’t care, because I had nothing I was worried about getting stolen after leaving my camera at the hotel. Little did I know… the cab took us south through the Botafogo neighborhood and looped around to the area called Urca. This is one of the nicest neighborhoods in Rio. We wound up at the Bar Urca. Wow. There is a glass counter bar everyone stands against and orders. Once you have your food, you walk across the little street to a low concrete wall, put your food/drink there, and then stand and look out over the water at nighttime Rio (it was dark by now). This was so impressive, I wished I once again had my camera!
So, I don’t even want to think how long it took me to type this on the iPad — I really do need an external keyboard… Tonight I will pack up a bit, as tomorrow I plan to go back and join Bernardo for a couple nights before taking a bus to Belo Horizonte (after seeing a state semi-final championship soccer match)! It was cloudy today, which was another reason I laid low. Tomorrow calls for sun and a new challenge: The Tram to the top of Sugarloaf Mountain!