Rio, on three hours of sleep.

19 04 2008

Today I write from Rio. It was a whirlwind getting here, and when I finally lay my head down on the flimsy pillow in my bunkbed on the second floor of a three-story hostel in Ipanema, my body was shaking from weariness. It still is. It goes like this:

Yesterday Jay and I woke up very early, around sunrise, to make sure we’d be able to catch our boat from Morro de São Paulo back to Salvador. The seas were a little bumpy, much moreso than they were on our way to the island, and I was glad I’d taken a Dramamine before getting on the boat.  In the end, it turns out I probably wouldn’t have needed it anyway because it wasn’t all that bad, but nonetheless, the little pill made me sleepy enough to drift off for a few minutes toward the end of the 90-minute passage. Upon waking, I realized I’d been coated with seaspray and, the water having evaporated, I was left with a fine layer of salt from head to toe, making it appear as if I’d bathed myself with a box of Morton’s and not bothered to rinse off. I can’t tell you how unpleasant it was to wipe and scrape my dry skin clean of the frosting, and felt my hair thicken and grow tangled over the course of the day when the breeze kicked up and sent my hair flying and knotting each strand together. I am really looking forward to scissors.

After an hour or so of hanging around in Salvador, in Pelourinho—the historic and very touristy section of the city—my patience ran out. It was here, and all throughout the week even on Morro, that my tolerance for people asking me to buy stuff reached its max. At the start of the week I was quite kind turning down people’s offers: “No, I’m sorry, no thank you. Sorry. No, no thank you.” And as I was approached by more and more people I developed an edge to those same words and learned to avoid eye contact as that is a sign of being approachable. “No. I already ate.” “No, I already bought my ticket back.” “No, I’m not interested in going on a tour.” “No.” In Salvador, when, for the second time in five minutes we were approached by the same capoerista to donate money to their group, and when he placed his donation tambourine upside-down on our table with force and stood there waiting and looking at us as if it was our duty to give money to the donation tambourine, I lost my shit entirely and told Jay we needed to get out of dodgey Salvador and head for the airport because that was at least a place not many solicitors could go. So book it we did, on a city bus, and found ourselves an hour and a half later standing in a long line for our flight back to Rio.

All went well with the flight, and I even managed to sneak in a milkshake before the flight, so when we arrived in Rio and met up with my friend, everything was looking grand. We were off to find a place to stay, a cheap hostel or pousada, which would prove to be difficult seeing that it’s a holiday weekend. After another 90-minute bus ride and another 90-minute search for a hostel, at 12:30 in the morning, we all showered and went out to dinner at a super fantastic restaurant in Ipanema called ZaZa’s, where I had fabulous fabulous fabulous tagliatelle and vegetables in red curry. Oh, my mouth was in heaven and all was wonderful. I decided it would be my birthday celebration instead of doing anything back in Campinas, and it was a wonderful celebration.

It would have been great for the story to end there, having been up and traveling for so long, but no. We went to Lapa, the crazy party district to show Jay what the place is all about and maybe to hear some samba. When we arrived, at almost 3am, it was on fire. Not literal fire, but I’ve never seen it half as crazy as it was last night, people packing the streets so that it became almost impossible to maneuver through them. We wandered around, dropping into tiny crowded samba bars here and there, and eventually deciding on a samba club where we learned as we stood in line that the band was just now finishing up and going home. And so, for the next two hours, we walked in and out of clubs and eventually settled on one where my friend had plans to meet up with other travelers and where we d danced for the rest of the night.

All that sounds good, but if you can imagine, as the effects of my dinner drink wore off, and the realization that I’d been up for close to 22 hours, my mood took a turn for the grumpy. Realizing the sun was bound to come up within the hour, I gave my friends a look that said, “Either we leave now or I’m breaking up with you,” we found a cab and were back in the hostel at 5:30, my head on my pillow only after I rinsed my feet in the shower. I cannot tell you the state they were in: actually sticking to my flip flops. The flips no longer flopped, if you catch my drift. So much beer and rain and mud and whatever other gross things that I can only imagine coated my feet and shoes that when I washed them off, chunks of black fell onto the shower floor.

I climbed into my bunkbed and listened to my friends get settled in, whispered conversations, bags zipping and unzipping, lights turned off and then on, and then eventually all that was left was the whirring of the fan above our heads and I fell asleep longing to return to Campinas. It was a real, genuine longing for a place I’ve been eager to escape and I told myself I would leave tomorrow. Today. This evening.

So I write today from the hostel where, just three hours ago, I lay my head on a flat pillow and decided my vacation has come to a close. I want to be in the quiet and solitude of my apartment and to spend my time there simply, without noise and flash and techno music and solicitors. I will have two days to spend this way before returning to work on Tuesday and that kind of quiet and peace will be the best part, a vacation from vacation, if you will.


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