I’ve decided that if I am going to die in Brazil, it will be on a bicycle. The prefeitura of Rio (not exactly sure how this translates – along the lines of the city mayor’s office) and Itaú bank have gotten together to help cariocas have cheaper, more physically active transportation (winner for me!). They have these bright orange beach-cruiser bikes that cost R$10 per month for unlimited use, provided each time you take out a bike you return it to a station within 1 hour. There are over 60 stations all over Rio, and all you have to do is call a phone number, enter the station code and bike number, and then BAM! the bike is unlocked! When you’re done with it, walk it up to the stand and BAM! it senses the bike and locks it back up. It’s very cool and innovative, and nice because I don’t have to worry about getting a bike stolen. They are beach cruisers though, which are…awkward to ride. They have really durable tires though, which is good because THE STREETS IN RIO ARE CRAZY!
Every morning I leave at 7:45 and bike about 4 km (~2.5 miles) to school. This takes about 20-25 minutes and I grip the handlebars for dear life! First of all, there is no such thing as a bike lane in Rio. And even if one were to exist, it would mean absolutely nothing to the drivers of large cars and buses. The nice thing is that Rio also has no rules about bikers, pedestrians, etc (jaywalking? not here) because it’s basically “do it at your own risk” type of thing. So, on the sidewalks there are bikers going with and against the flow of traffic and there are pedestrians doing the same, so I basically do a combination of road and sidewalk biking in order to get where I need to go, hopefully not running over anyone else or getting run over myself along the way! The only thing about the sidewalks is that they are made of little square tiles and haven’t been relaid in who-knows-how-long….so there are GIANT potholes everywhere, there are roots of trees growing up from the tiles, there are creepy things sticking in these holes, including lots of water puddles, not to mention very rarely do the sidewalks have the nice little slopes that go up or down to lead you into/out of the street….so basically I’m bouncing along the sidewalk in my bright orange beach cruiser every day, with my backpack literally flying up and down off my shoulders, looking panicked because I can’t see around the corner where there’s probably a very elderly grandmother walking..oh man. And, the sidewalks are the BETTER ways to ride. The streets, aside from giving you lung cancer due to all the bus smog that you breathe in, have even bigger potholes and bumps about every 2 feet, as well as buses that pull in-and-out from the sidewalks all the time and like to drive about 2 inches away from you. WHOO!
my transportation for the next 6 months!
I feel like I’m on Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, but apparently that is just a Disney/CA thing because everyone looks at me like I’m a looney when I say that. Hah. The way back home from school is nicer, I take the longer way and bike around the Lagoa, which is much more relaxing and has water and beautiful views and I feel like a human again. Maybe I’ll decide to get up earlier to go that way to school as well, but those 7 am classes during the semester (which I have 3 TIMES A WEEK!!!) will probably not be so conducive to that method. Anyway, I make it to and from school okay (and the more I ride the more comfortable I feel about it, I swear) AND I’m saving so much money!!! The only difference is that one reason I really like riding my bike at home is because it’s calming and can be a really good way to just…go! But here, it is anything but relaxing, haha. All things considering, if biking on the streets is the way I feel I might die in Rio…that tells you how comfortable I actually feel here.
So many other things to talk about! Side note, thanks to all of you who have been reading/commenting, I feel very loved 🙂
So, Helena has a brother younger by ~4 years? named Pedro. He just returned from a 10-day trip to Chile with his dad a few days ago and stayed here for a few days before heading back to Brasilia, where he lives and works for the Ministry of Culture. He has his PhD in Brazilian literature from PUC, about 2 female Brazilian authors considered “greatest pornographers of Brazilian literature.” He loves music and filme as well, and especially loves learning about American musicians…I’ve watched documentaries with him about Bob Dylan, Jack Johnson (at the Greek theatre in Berks!), and Billie Holiday. Go figure. It’s really interesting to hear his perspective about music in America because it’s very different from my view. When he thinks about our music, he thinks of Queen, Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, Miles Davis, Jazz, Swing, Country, etc etc…he could go on forever naming all the really great musicians and styles that have come from the US (slash Ingleterra – England), and especially all the movements in music that musicians have created. And how integral a role they often played in culture at the time, both in the US and even from his perspective as a young kid growing up in Brazil during the dictatorship. Even then the greats were known around the world, and in fact we watched some youtube clips from a festival called “Rock in Rio” that started in 1985, soon after the dictatorship fell. Queen, James Taylor, B52s, Rod Steward, Ozzy Osbourne, Iron Maiden, the Go-Gos….these bands played intermittently between Brazilian greats like Gilberto Gil, Rita Lee, Paralamas, and Moraes Moreira. So, I came to Brazil expecting a whirlwind of education about Brazilian music, but it’s been really shocking to not only hear clubs and restaurants playing popular American music, but to also meet this Brazilian scholar who is so enraptured with American music. Louco! It really makes me think again about all the freedoms that we had and have in America…the epic activist times of the 60s and 70s and all the amazing people that were able to influence people and spread a message – the freedom for people from any side of an opinion to do so. Legal!
Let’s see, what else…oh! Last Saturday morning Helena took me to this group she goes to, I forgot the name but it seems kind of like Tai Chi / Qigong ish. We met in the Jardim Botanico very close to home where there was a group of about 12 people and did energy / breathing /movement exercises that felt really good. The only downside was the 10 mosquito bites that I got on my feet which felt like they were going to explode afterwards! I met some really beautiful people there, one of whom was from Oceanside, about 15 minutes away from Encinitas! Crazy coincidence! One thing that I have noticed in Brasil, that was especially apparent to me at that meeting, was how young people act here. Not in an immature way, but in a way that you don’t see many 40+ year olds acting in the United States. It’s as if every adult here has the youthful spirit of a 28 year old (where they are experienced and wiser and have responsibilities, but are still young and can laugh at little things and have youthful joy). It’s crazy! I think it’s part to do with the culture, which is very laid back (for any social event expect a Brazilian to be at least 45 min late) and is not so concerned with power or money. Hmm…fountain of youth secret? Haha. But really! A great saying here is “Trabalhe para viver, não viva para trabalhar.” Work to live, not live to work. And it really shows their opinion about life! After work they go to the beach! They participate in Carnaval blocos! They have saint’s holidays (like today) where literally everything is closed! Including markets and banks! The attitude of this place is very much focused on life, something that I think is more important that the ever-reaching “American dream” that many Americans are always chasing, never being happy with their place in life right now.
Wow, interestingly enough that was a perfect segway. Good job, mind! Last week, I received news that a good friend of mine, Dominic, who I spent 2 months with at Forestry Camp, living with and learning with him every day, suffered a stroke and was in the hospital on life support. He continued to suffer brain damage and his family removed his life support on the 11th. I received this information via email at 7:30 in the morning before school. And I was so in shock that I couldn’t process it. I desired to sit on my bed and weep with my whole body but my mind strangely jumped into action of necessity: I had to get dressed, brush my teeth, go to school. There were things to do. I don’t know how to feel about this. Was it my self wanting to save myself from the pain of mourning? Was it a reminder that life goes on? Am I a bad person for not allowing myself to stop my life for more than 10 minutes to remorse? Anyway, that whole day I was in a daze. I kept having this image of Dom seizing and flailing around on a floor with his rosy cheeks, and the next moment he is pale and lying in all white in a hospital bed. And I just couldn’t believe that I will never see him again. And it made me appreciate the Yule Ball at the end of last semester, which Dom came back to Berkeley for (he graduated last spring) and I was able to sit and have a really good chat with him. It made me appreciate that I had done that, and it makes me think about all the times I miss out on gatherings…how would I feel if I were to never see those people again? It’s just incredulous. And hard to process here, away from anyone who knows him, where I’m not able to cry with a friend and talk about all the memories of him, where I’m not able to properly mourn him. At random times I find myself heaving tears of loss. He is my first good friend my age to have died (which makes me lucky, I very well realize), and it has made me realize the fragility and unpredictability of life. Dominic was one of those people that everyone loved. And it sounds cliche to say this after his passing, but I guarantee you there is not a soul out there who would deny this fact. He was an amazing fiddle player and I was able to enjoy his music many a-night around the campfire at camp. He had a great sense of humor and was very much himself all the time. I can’t believe he is gone. I’m so confused. He is an amazing dear soul and will always be with me, I know. It’s a huge thing to process solo but in a way I feel closer to him because I know he has been with me through this. He would probably have some sarcastic remark to say about this situation, which helps in moving on because he was such a self-deflecting person I don’t think he would want anyone’s life to stop because of this. Just…wow.
mellow beach cap. rosy cheeks. Dom at his finest.
I’m in this place right now where I really miss Berkeley and all the wonderful friends there, and my family, and just…people who know me and who I love. It’s hard here because I don’t want to limit my relationships to other foreigners but I feel as though my portuguese is not good enough to form strong relationships with Brazilians. I guess this is the part where I sink or swim, where I become a hermit or go an explore! Obviously I will swim and explore, but there have been many a time when I just feel comfortable hanging out with Helena at night watching a brazilian movie. It’s very much my home, here, and I think that at least is comforting to have, if not too comforting to make me not want to leave the house ;). Lastly, Pedro lent me his original copies from ’89 of the comic “V de Vingança” which I am reading!
Okay, love again to all. SERIOUSLY, I love each person who is reading this with my whole heart.
P.S. lots of new pics are up!