Destination Rio de Janeiro, the first travel to the former Brazilian capital.
A wild student party took place at Friday night, only a few hours before the bus travel to Rio de Janeiro. .
In December 2006, I received an invitation to make my first travel to Rio de Janeiro. A Cidade Maravilhosa, as Brazilians love to call their beloved former capital. A few hours before our departure, a wild student party took place at the university campus…
Since a long time I dreamt of visiting the famous city of Rio de Janeiro. The city is considered as one of the most beautiful cities of Brazil. Rio, with its much famous beaches, its tropical carnival, but also with its infamous reputation as a violent city. Because of the infamous reputation, I had avoided the city, since as a gringo I might be a likely victim of some criminal activity. To visit Rio alone, on my own, seems to ask for trouble. Every time when Brazilians ask about my impressions about Brazil, they ask my opinion about Rio. I had to disappoint them with my response that I did not visit the city yet. Then follows their strong recommendation (“You HAVE to visit this beautiful city!“) Or a strong warning (“DO NOT visit Rio, too risky!“).
That sounded clear to me. I will not explore Rio on my own. I had to wait a good possibility, fellow travelers – Brazilians – who know Rio well, and who could guide me through the city. I had to wait patiently. It took more than two years until I finally got the chance join a group of students to visit the city. Joho! I did not hesitate; I took this unique opportunity with both – already tanned – hands. Less than a day later, on a Thursday night at 11 PM, the bus was scheduled to leave for Rio. The subsequent day – Friday – was a holiday, the feast of the patron saint of the city of Belo Horizonte. We could enjoy a long weekend. A long weekend in Rio. Beach, sun, sea…
The organizer of this trip informed me that there would be a student party that evening, in the neighboring faculty. A wild party, he promised. That night I completed my work early, and set back to the apartment to my stuff my backpack with beach wear, sun block, sandals, and of course my camera. That night it was drizzling, being a good excuse to visit warm and sunny Rio. I left my luggage at the faculty, and went to the party. The heavy bass rhythm was emitted by giant speakers, causing the building to vibrate. The location was not to be missed. An improvised space, offering some shelter against the drizzle, and the chill of that night.
A large space full of students with different backgrounds, but most of them you would consider as alternativos. Male students with big boots, with long flowing hair, or tied in a big ponytail, complete with fashionable goatee, heavy sideburns, or fully bearded. Female students with a short haircut, often with a different color, from red to violet. Many students had piercings in their faces: in the eyebrow, the nose, lip, ear, or cheek. The tattoos were abundant. Bold prints on the upper arms, placards on the back, tribal signs on the lower, smaller drawings in the neck and ankles.
These students enjoyed the Brazilian alternative music, but also a surprisingly joyous live performance by a local band that played jazz pieces. A significant contrast. The students enjoyed ice cold cans of beer or cachaça, which they had brought from home. One of them even had a 2 liter PET bottle with him, which was full at the beginning of the evening. Now that bottle was nearly empty, 2 liter cachaça, liquor. If I would drink such a quantity – theoretically! – I would be knocked out, for sure! This student was a very experienced drinker, or he should have some deficiency of the ADH level. ADH, alcohol dehydrogenase, that effectively breaks down alcohol.
I met some of the students who joined me on my previous – memorable – trip to Salvador, six months earlier. I only knew a few students this evening, but that was no obstacle to become acquainted with two handfuls of unknown students. In the tradition of Brazilian openness and warmth, talks are started without icebreakers, and before you know, you become involved in a lively discussion about various Brazilian student affairs. But when these students find out that I am a Dutchman, the talks are being turned in a predictable way.
Standard questions whether I know Amsterdam (“yes, I’ve studied there for some years “), whether it is true that you can smoke marijuana freely in Amsterdam (” The law prohibits, but is tolerated”). The latter is not known to many students. They have heard many stories about the coffee shops where numerous kinds of marijuana is sold, and where you can smoke incessantly, and eat space cake. They look surprised when I tell them about the tendency to limit the use, that smoking marijuana will be restricted to certain locations, and that a number of the shops will be closed.
And you know the “Distrito Vermelho”? If I know that famous district? The Red Light District is close to the center, and is worth a visit on Queen’s Day. Many times I was asked to guide friends around the area. So I know the street pattern a bit. And I have visited the erotic museum twice. And, coincidence or not, there was an exhibition of an erotic cartoon on a white wall that night, during the party. An erotic cartoon that I had seen earlier in that museum in Amsterdam. The students cheered at the sight of these erotic caricatures. For many of them it was outright sensation.
As a Dutch I must wear some kind of an adhesive somewhere on my body, printed with: “Rich and educated European, with ability to live and work in Europe”. I never could figure out where this adhesive should be, but many Brazilian students seem to have a sensitive nose for this, and therefore try to attract my attention, “because you never know ….” Especially when they receive the rumor is that I’m single. How often I had to disappoint them that the door to Europe is hermetically closed for those who want to work and live there. I cannot imagine that they want to learn the complex Dutch language and culture, live together with me for some time (they should get married!), And moreover, to find a job with a salary that is a multiple of the Brazilian modal salary. Poor bastards! The diehards stay close in my neighborhood, sometimes literally sticking to me. I have no problem with that, I’ve already become adjusted in this respect, and do not consider it as some annoying, but as a pleasant gesture. Why should I feel upset by these female students?
The evening continued, I enjoyed myself well with one of the desperate students who remained close in my neighborhood that night. She was slightly tinted, a morena, and turned out to be a young mother with a daughter of four years already. A single mother. Suddenly I was tapped on my shoulder by Jader, the organizer of the trip. It was about time for us to go to the bus. It was almost midnight. The young mother looked puzzled, she really wanted to join me to Rio, but she did not have enough money for the trip. Jader offered her to pay the bus trip for her, so that she only has to pay for the accommodation. But even this amount was too high for her. She had no other option than say goodbye to me, and to spend her weekend at home. Meanwhile a fire breather gave a little demonstration. We watched his fiery performances. The girl pressed herself closer to me, like if she still wanted to enjoy the final moments of my presence this evening. It was time to go. We said goodbye to each other. She pressed a small wad of paper in my hands. I opened it. Her telephone number was written on it. Whether I would call her after my trip. I joined Jader to the bus.
The crowd of Mission RIO I waited patiently for us. We were the last two passengers to enter the bus. It was already 2 AM. The mission heading for Brazil’s second city had begun…
By Adriano Antoine Robbesom © 2007, 2015