Monday, June 7, 2010

True Tourists For The Day

These days really seem to wear me out. It's definitely reminiscent of the days in Europe with Dani. There were times when we wandered through cities without talking at all simply because we were taking it all in and exhausted while struggling through the language and being hit up by streets salesmen right and left. That was today.

Starting the day out in the sunshine of the beach probably didn't help our exhaustion--laying under the sun, letting it zap all energy. But there was no resisting: it was an absolutely magnificent morning for the beach--the best kind of weather you could ask for: completely clear blue skies, 70-degree weather, just a slight breeze (nothing like yesterday's gusting wind) and sun-sun-sun! Before even getting there, though, we noticed on the street parallel to ours what we would consider in the US the farmer's market. It hadn't been there any other day so far, so we figured we'd stroll through. Aaah! no doubt fruit here is something a world away from any fruit I've ever experienced in the US. I first took note of this from the bananas in our hostel. They tasted more citrusy/fruity and less mushy banana like. Then, through the market people kept offering us samples freshly sliced off the fruit. The strawberries are something I cannot get out of my mind even though it is no 8pm at night. The man handed Micah and I each one and I thanked him and kept going. But once I'd bitten in I had to stop and look down at what I was eating. Was it dipped in sugar--the way you often times will eat them in America? No. I took another bite. Unbelievable. It was nothing but a fresh, ripe strawberry and I swear it tasted like it had been grown in soil made of nothing but sugar. Amazing.

We laid by the ocean for about an hour then walked down Ipanema towards Copacabana. We got right to the point where the two meet but had to turn back in order to make sure we were at the hostel for when the city tour we'd signed up for arrived.

The tour wasn't too costly, but that was somewhat reflected in what we got. I am glad we visited Sugar Loaf yesterday on our own time. Things were slightly more rushed in the tour (not to mention we didn't have our own personal guide and translator, Carla) but I'm sure our tiredness played a factor in how much we enjoyed the tour. It began with The Cristos, The Christ. We were in a bus/van and the road to the top was bumpy BUMPY and the driver sure didn't mind the bumps. He sped right up there taking every turn without hitting the breaks I'm pretty sure. We had to go through Santa Teresa, which was the rich neighborhood and through the national forest, which was quite beautiful. It was fun to see monkeys scurrying about the trees.

It was a bit disappointing that the lower half of The Christ statue was covered in scaffolding where they are doing some work on him, but it could've been the face, right? Quite magnificent. It's really awesome thing to be in this city and at any point you can look to the sky and see the figure--from a distance looking just like the Cross, overlooking you. Such a great reminder of the truth that we do always have someone overlooking us and keeping us safe. Or as Lawman Chibundi once said, "God's got your back."

The ride down was just as exciting as that up, except this time I was in the very back. You can remember what riding in the back of the school bus was like: ten times bumpier. This was so ridiculous it brought back memories of Cedar Point with Holly and Boo in 2000 and whatever the name of the park's oldest roller coaster is that was made of wood. So rickety and loud and jerky. The middle eastern guy sitting next to me kept laughing along with me and even made the comment, "It's like being on a roller coaster." Amen to that! We then stopped at the stadium but didn't go inside--lucky for us we got to experience that on Sunday at the game. Then it was to the Cathedral. I had no idea what it looked like so I was quite surprised when the van stopped and I realized that's where it had stopped. It's circular, but as if someone flipped a funnel over and cut off the small end that you stick into a bottle so you've only got the portion with the slanted edges. Strips of stained glass ran up the edges in about six or eight different lines. Natural light poured in from three main entrances and the alter had a huge wooden crucifix hanging above it. I have a weird thing about taking pictures in churches for some reason. I suppose I know that so many people come to just take pictures when to me a church is not a place for tourist attraction--it's God's house, right? I guarantee half the people who visit with their camera's are not people who truly practice any kind of faith. So I knelt before the alter and had my time to pray before continuing on with my pictures (which I'll mention I did without using the flash; it seems less disrespectful for whatever reason.) Oh, and for the record, the kneelers at this cathedral knocked St. Bernard's out of the ballpark for discomfort! These were straight wood with no cushion. Definitely not long adorations happening here!

We stopped by the strip/location of Carnaval and then the group was going to Sugar Loaf and we were dropped off at our hostel, which was a fortunate thing since Micah was starving. (So much for his insisting on "something light" before the tour and nothing more.) Our hostel hosts gave us advise for an all-you-can-eat pizza place just up the street--sounded perfect to us. Well, this was an all new experience for the three of us. Not only were we trying to figure out costs and what we could or couldn't eat without knowing the language, but this was an all-you-can-eat in a new fashion. Rather than having a buffet to select from over and over, the waitresses would bring out one pizza after another to the table and you'd simply let them know if you wanted a slice or not. Was kind of tricky when you couldn't ask what was on each one or what else they had or request certain things. You simply had to look and guess. I'm pretty sure we all left satisfied though because this deal also included the best dessert pizza I've ever had in my life!

I hate to admit it but it was only about 8pm when we got back to our hostel but we were all completely wiped and since we are heading out of Rio semi-early tomorrow to get on to Sao Paulo to FINALLY get to spend some time with the reason for this trip: GUI BUSO!