photos by nacrowe
back in october 2014 i was lucky enough to have the opportunity to visit RIO DE JANEIRO during a school break while i was teaching in VENEZUELA. seeing BRASIL was always a goal going back to my days growing in NIGERIA. right before i moved to AFRICA, american schoolmates of mine took VARIG AIRLINES through BRASIL (as opposed to LUFTHANSA through GERMANY) as their connection point to flying out to AFRICA. everyone that had been to SAO PAULO or RIO DE JANEIRO spoke of how similar it was to WEST AFRICA, so i was always curious moving forward.
my time in VENEZUELA found me arriving during the beginning of a historic financial collapse that saw their currency go from 1 USD/6 BOLIVARES to 1 USD/20 BOLIVARES in my first year. the second year i believe it went up to 80. this mean tickets flying in an out of VENEZUELA were cheap. roundtrip tickets to BRASIL costed somewhere around $300 if i remember correctly. just insane. i remember that because i took a 20-minute sightseeing helicopter ride in RIO DE JANEIRO (see bottom photo) that cost more than the flight there and back from CARACAS. again, just ridiculous. and beyond tragic for VENEZUELA. because of this, i ended up going with a colleague from school that was fluent in PORTUGUESE and had visited RIO DE JANEIRO the previous year. much like CARACAS, this was not a place i wanted to be found inadvertently wandering in the wrong neighborhood.
upon arriving we went to the MARACANA, which is the world-famous football stadium where PELE once played. it is basically the MECCA of world football, period. we went on a tour and then learned a game was that afternoon, so we stayed to see FLAMINGO play their SAO PAULO rival. people in the UNITED STATES talk about fans going crazy, but they really have no clue. BRAZILIAN football fans are on another level. the game is just a prologue for whose fans can out passionate the other. drums blaring and people dancing was going on long before the game ever started. next to me stood a grandmother holding her infant granddaughter sawing to the beat. once the game was underway this passion turned to venom as i learned sooooo many PORTUGUESE swear words in a short order, all directed at the referees. "BOHA" was constantly being screamed by this grandmother as she muffled her newborn grandchild's ears. just insanity.
i could go on about all the touristy stuff i did there, but in essence my big takeaway from my time in RIO DE JANEIRO was how much of a microcosm that place is for much of what i saw in LATIN AMERICA in general. there is a real "live in the moment" feel to that place that is certainly palpable. violence always seemed to be around the corner, we even witnessed an armed assailant rob a bus two blocks ahead of us while walking in the financial district one day.
we stayed in an air bnb located in-between both of the iconic beaches, but to our back was a notorious favela that had one street access point that was heavily monitored by BRAZILIAN TROOPS, complete with a tank. there was also a sense of people chasing physical beauty everywhere, which again carried a desperate "live in the moment" feel to it, not unlike what i witnessed in VENEZUELA, COLOMBIA or whole swathes of EASTERN EUROPE. it was intimidated yet sad at the same time to see that.
and that was my take on BRASIL. impossibly beautiful with a kinetic, contagious energy that seems as much about nerves and fear of the future as it is about living life at a phrenetic, unyielding clip.
if interested, more pictures from this trip are available to be viewed HERE.