[Editor’s note: Second in a series of posts from my brother Marcus as he visits Rio de Janeiro — Mike]
Greetings from Marcus in Rio!
Tonight is the last major soccer match before the World Cup begins in 3 weeks. We had an opportunity to go to the game at the huge modern soccer stadium here, but only 2 of our 14 chose to go. Most of us arrived this morning after at least 10, and in some cases 20, hours of travel, so we mostly wanted to get finished with the day and get back to our hotel.
Besides me, one other participant arrived yesterday, and she called my room this morning to see if I wanted to meet. We walked 3.5 miles along Copacabana beach, stopping half-way to grab a cold beverage and shade. By the time we returned 2 hours had passed and the rest of our group was here.
We had lunch at a “kilo” restaurant, part of a popular chain. You go in, grab a plate, and move down a very complete buffet line. At the end, your plate is weighed, and you pay by the kg. Our hosts picked up everyone’s tab, so I don’t know how much my plate cost or weighed, but I left a lot behind. Not recognizing the dishes, and unable to understand the signage, I grabbed a lot of different things, but many of them tasted odd to my palate. Plus, we have a very substantial “Continental plus” breakfast here at the hotel every morning. Also, they are very generous with food here, but very stingy with beverages, and ice is more precious than silver. I was much more thirsty than hungry, and this afternoon I went to the mercado (market) and loaded up on bottled water. I think I may still have been dehydrated after yesterday’s travel and all the walking in the heat. I also bought an ice tray to make ice in the little freezer in my mini-fridge. I think that will be the best $2 I spend all week!
We had our orientation session this afternoon, met our group leaders and went over the week’s agenda. I was very interested to hear a little about Rio’s history – it got it’s start as the largest South American port for the African slave trade in the 18th century. In 1900, a majority of Rio’s population was black African, and the favelas we will visit this week were established by freed slaves. Also, it turns out that much of what we think of as authentic Brazilian culture, samba dancing and bossa nova music, for example, started in the favelas.
Tonight we went to a churrasco-style restaurant. This food tasted great to me! We had an incredible buffet with every kind of salad, vegetable, seafood, and even sushi. Then, once you are nearly full, they come to your table with at least a dozen different types and cuts of meats (beef, chicken, pork, unknown), and slice your choices onto your plate. This goes on with more trips for side dishes, and more spits of meat, until finally you flip over this marker at your place from green to red to indicate you surrender. Then they come around with the dessert tray. Then the after-dinner drinks. I think if we’d stayed there would have been more courses, but we gave up and left then.
Tomorrow we learn a little Portuguese, we get some history lessons on Brazil and Rio, and then we tour downtown and “little Africa”. We’ll view sunset from the Sugarloaf mountain nearby. Hopefully, I’ll post some great pictures tomorrow.