Four years ago I came to Rio on vacation with my mom. We knew about the crime and definitely felt a little unnerved upon arrival, but as soon as we checked into our ocean front hotel we smiled and left our worries behind as all good gringos do.
Wandering around a 5 block radius of what we thought was Ipanema (woopsies it was actually Leblon, an even more upscale neighborhood) we were dazzled by Rio and those adorable freaking tiled sidewalks.
We basically became Brazil’s biggest fans
I loved Rio so much after my (pampered) little first trip, I decided to move here this past January!
My first months have been filled with fun and adventure. I was relieved that living here was close to as good as vacationing here.
Rio had kept her sparkle in my eye.
But tudo que é bom dura pouco, né?
I (nearly) witnessed a robbing at knifepoint.
A week later I was about to head through a tunnel on the bike path when I saw a group of 10 to 15 boys swarm on an innocent biker, kicking at his tires trying to make him fall down.
I cringed when watching a woman on the news being robbed while giving an interview about crime.
I also watched the news in horror as a man was shot in the middle of the day on a busy street while leaving a bakery.
After a long walk home late at night I came home sobbing I was so afraid.
I bought a money belt and began to distrust everyone, constantly waiting for the boy on the bike to pull up beside me and threaten to slash my throat with his knife.
I even joked about him not getting my iphone. *facepalm*
And although I was scared, I continued to live.
I got on the back of mototaxis and gleefully snapped motoselfies.
I caught some rays
and I had girls’ nights out in Lapa
On this particular night I paid entry to a club.
Danced my butt off.
Went to check my purse zipper (you know? just to see it was shut)
and realized my iphone and wallet along with 100 reais were missing.
I hated Brazil and Brazilians.
Negativity coursed through me.
I thought, “Just one more thing to put me over the edge and I’m buying a ticket anywhere but this corrupt country full of thieving low lives” >.<
My cidade maravilhosa full of smiling, compassionate people had disappeared in the swiftness of an unwanted hand in my purse.
The next day, after there were no more tears to cry, I began to email students to tell them not to call because of what had happened.
My heart filled when I began to receive their responses.
My students not only mourned my loss, but also offered help and even APOLOGIZED for Brazil being this way.
And with these responses I started to remember why I love Brazilians so much.
And with each passing day they come a little closer to regaining all of my affection.
Like the woman who tried (in vain) to make small talk with me in the grocery store.
Or the security guard that saw me leaving the consulate after something ACTUALLY WENT RIGHT! He caught me smirking to myself, smiled and said, “Look! She’s happy!”
or even the flanelinha guys on my corner that kind of scare me, but also tell me “Boa tarde, linda” or just plain look at me and start singing.
So Brazil and I did get in a fight and talked about breaking up, but now we’re back strong (at least until my visa expires!).
Rio has glittered for me just when I thought a layer of grime and dust had covered her sparkle.
And after all, if Rio really were picture perfect paradise then more gringos would be here
….and I’d be out of a job.
Taken the day after my wallet and iphone were stolen.
Talk about winning a girl back!