Getting used to Rio de Janeiro

When travelling you are most vulnerable when you are moving around because you have everything with you. Usually when I go out I carry a really small amount of money (around 2-3 euros), copies of my papers and my credit card that always has less than 100$ on it. But when I`m moving from one place to the other I carry everything:  my money, my passport, my laptop and all my clothes. This is why I felt unsecure when I went from the airport to the Sambodromo, especially because a guy in the bus told me that it`s a bad neighborhood. But I arrived there safely.

 Before going to Brazil I send many applications to work at hostels, but few of them replied. One of them told me to go to a hostel near the Sambodromo to meet in person, and as soon as I arrived he gave me the job! It`s a very small hostel, it only has 18 beds, but it`s intimate and everybody is very nice, so I felt like home from the first day.  From here it takes about 40 min to get to the city center and about 20 to get to Lapa, the party district. At first sight it doesn`t look safe because there are homeless people everywhere and the other people look very poor, as well as the houses. But just 5 min from here it`s the biggest police station in Rio, so there are policemen everywhere at every hour. Also, the guy who worked here before me told me that it`s very safe, that nothing ever happens in here and that the people in this neighborhood actually protect each other.  I don`t know if I`m included in the community yet, but the guys at the store on the corner where I buy things for breakfast already know me.  On the other side, Lapa is always full of tourists and party people, so beggars and thieves are there all the time. Nobody goes to steal in a poor neighborhood.

I haven`t had a chance to see much of Rio, but for now I can say that it`s a city of contrasts:  it has sea and mountains, sky-scrapers and cottages, expensive boroughs and slums, black people and white people and the list goes on. In any case, it`s different from all the cities I`ve seen.

I can`t say it`s worked its charm on me. For sure, it is a great city that has many things to offer, but maybe not to me.  I`m not into spending an entire day at the beach and I`m not crazy about dance and parties either.

 But when I went out I was amazed to see the way they dance, it`s like something hypnotizes all of them, regardless of age, sex or social status. We went to a party in Lapa to a bar where there was a band performing live and everybody was dancing, even the beggars and the guy that was circling around trying to steal people`s money. They are crazy about samba and forro and everything else they can dance to.

Anyway, Rio is not what you see in pictures, or at least it`s not just that. Maybe Copacabana and Ipanema look great, but that`s not all of Rio. Nobody shows you in brochures the people living in misery or the people sleeping on cardboard under bridges. But that`s what the city is and you have to accept it. Here, in the neighborhood where I live now I cannot ignore this reality.


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