A Taste of Three Continents - November 2005 travel blog

samba dancer

causeway and Brazilian navy

ferry and causeway

favela and nice apartments

old customs house

Rio from our boat

shoreline with Christ the Redeemer in background

Last night we went out for dinner and a show, a samba show to be precise. Dinner started with an extensive salad bar that would have warmed the hearts of the vegetarians in our family, although there were a number of items that were yummy but unrecognizable. Then we moved to Ken's favorite part of the meal - the meat. Men brought around skewers packed with different kids of meat from filet mignon to chicken hearts and sliced off thin pieces at your plate.

The samba show was not at all what we expected, which was dancing like tango or salsa. It's too bad that cameras were not allowed and I can only include a sneaky grab shot, because words escape me. It was a cross between Las Vegas, kung fu, the Lion King, and Busby Berklee. The dancers, mostly African in origin, were accompanied by a small live band and four singers. Since they must put on this show every night, I was impressed by the enthusiasm of the singers as they waved their arms and really got into the songs. We assume that what we were seeing was a simulation of the kind of thing that goes on during Carnival, when the samba schools put on twelve hours of dancing in the streets night after night. During the pause for a major set change, a man was alone on stage demonstrating the virtuosity some Brazilians seem to have for language. He rattled off a virtual United Nations of words and country names, and when he got to yours, you were supposed to cheer. In some cases the band played songs from those countries and a native from the audience was supposed to come up for a bit of karaoke. We enjoyed the rest of the show, but this part was very lame.

This morning we arose at the crack of dawn after our late night out, for a boat tour of Guanabara Bay. We saw the famous beaches and sights from the water as well as the five mile long causeway that connects Rio to its newest suburbs. Crammed in between the beautiful hotels and condos were favelas, slum housing. Those poor folks may not have much, but they do have a great view. As Rio runs out of building space, we have to wonder what will ultimately happen to them.

Rio has a string of beaches like jewels on a necklace. Copacabana, Ipanema - those you've heard of, Leblon where we are staying, and Sao Coronado. Sao Coronado is the area where the rich locals live. It is right below the biggest favela in Rio. Since the favela is not supplied with a reliable plumbing system, liquid waste flows down the slopes and into Sao Coronado Bay. No wonder so few people were swimming there. The beaches all have a wide expanse of sand with a view to rock outcroppings in the bay. Little stands sell fresh coconuts for their juice as well as other beach food and umbrellas and chairs are readily available. What seems to be missing in our opinion is stuff to buy. I'm always complaining about being overwhelmed by T-shirts shops, but unless you want to buy a soccer Jersey, there are no T-shirts to be had. Our neighborhood has plenty of trendy, upscale shopping, but a coffee mug that says Rio is totally off their radar.

Since so few locals speak English, meal time is a special challenge. Today we found sort of a buffet where you pick the food out yourself and you are charged based on what the food wieghs. These self service spots are a blessing for the tongue tied foreigner.

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