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Riot of February - Transience Divine
February 4th, 2008
07:56 am

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Riot of February
The bus I got for the 19 hours to Rio from Florianopolis was the cheapest one available. I sat next to a nice Spanish journalist, who's totally obsessed with Brazil and Florianopolis and told me about everything I missed. The rivers on the way all run brown from the flooding, which was suggestive with all the many-buttocked hills along the way.

Rio de Janeiro is an incredible city, but I can't decide if I love it or hate it. It's actually several interesting cities in one: the few I saw were Ipanema, a hip beach resort/gay area; the Centro, with wide avenues, big squares, a few museums and many big businesses; and Santa Teresa, a village on a hill, with twisty streets, craft shops, and a bohemian vibe. The sudden hills, the bay, and the beaches are occasionally awe-inspiring, occasionally gross. The Favelas, the ghettos, grow up every hill, and the ubiquitous graffiti looks a lot like big hacking sign-ins. The bus system is a mess (which is to say, there are a zillion buses and no maps), and most everything was shut down for Carnaval.

Carnaval was mostly uninspiring. The parts that I had access to without expensive tickets, lead time, or connections amounted to vast drunken debauchery (which I have no trouble finding at home, though not on such a scale). Several main streets in the center became solid blocks of humanity, plus roving drum bands, and endless vendors each selling one of the same three items (meat-on-a-stick, corn, and beer).

My feet hurt from a triple assault of sleeping in wet socks, wading in (slightly) toxic water, and walking with sand in my shoes all day (I got in my beach though!). I also got in some decent clubbing with a band of Brazilians, friends of Fred, my helpful communist host.

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