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Growing up my older brother, thanks to the national football team and the original Ronaldo, was a little bit obsessed with Brazil for a while, and would always say how we wanted to go to Brasilia or wished he was Brazilian.
I was – and kind of still am – the complete opposite.
Brazil has never really appealed to me as a country I’d like to visit; I don’t know why.
Maybe it’s because of the sheer enormity of the country, or the fact that they speak Portuguese, a language that kind of frightens me with how similar-yet-different it is to Spanish. Whatever the reason, given its distance from UK, it always seemed sort of silly to spend hundreds of pounds on a flight to a country I didn’t have any interest in experiencing.
However, my lifelong dream is to visit all 7 New Wonders of the World, which of course has always meant that at some point I would need to swoop in on Rio, be it for a day, a week or a year. So, seeing as I needed to somehow find myself in South America to meet a friend immediately after India, and the cheapest way was an Emirates flight to São Paulo via Dubai, it seemed the perfect opportunity for me to cross Cristo Redentor off my list and get Brazil over and done with, so to speak.
The original plan was for me to fly over to Sao Paulo on 2nd May, my friend meet me on 3rd, we spend a night or two here and then bus it up to Rio to take in the main sights before flying down to Iguazu to cross overland into Argentina and subsequently the rest of the continent. In total we would have been in Brazil for one week max.
Obviously that plan failed, seeing as it’s the 9th of May right now and I’ve barely been here 24 hours. Basically my friend screwed up meaning he can’t meet me until 17th. I stayed in India until the very last day of my visa, but still am going to end up being in Brazil for 8 days alone and then 8 days with my amigo, which is more than double what I initially planned/intended/budgeted for. At this moment in time, though, I’m not complaining.
Everybody looks Brazilian in Brazil
Talking from experience, as a foreigner in India, you stick out like a sore thumb. Likewise in Nepal, Sri Lanka, Jordan, Peru and innumerable other countries. Brazil is apparently not on that list. From the moment I landed, people haven’t looked at my pale skin and blonde hair and assumed I’m a tourist. In fact, everybody from the Immigration officer to the bus driver to the lady selling Metro tickets to a random woman on the street warning me to avoid the mess her dog made, have all spoken to me in Brazilian-Portuguese without hesitation. Obviously when I respond with a badly pronounced obrigado, no matter what the preceding statement was, they realise their error. But in those few seconds, it’s nice to be Brazilian.
It seems to be much like in UK, where the colour of your skin doesn’t have any indications on your nationality or heritage. It’s nice.
The mosquitos are monsters
Mosquitos here are on a whole other level to anything I have ever experienced before! They are ruthless monsters who don’t give a damn about anyone or anything. They are absolutely enormous and buzz louder than anything I’ve ever heard before.
As it took the best part of 40 hours to get here from India, when I arrived at the hostel all I wanted to do was sleep. I almost immediately collapsed on my bed and as I drifted off, kind of contemplated whether I should get up and use mosquito repellent as I don’t have a net, but by that point I was too far gone. What damage could one night do, right?
On waking up at 4:30am with an unbearably itchy hand, I found out exactly what damage it can cause and regretted my decision immensely. They don’t care where they bite you (OH HI THERE 9 HIDEOUS BITES ALL OVER MY FACE!) or how many times you swat them away. To put it simply, they are the worst.
It’s not as scary as they say
This may be a slightly premature observation, what with the fact I haven’t even been here 24 hours yet. But, in those 24 hours I managed to navigate my way from the airport to the hostel after dark via public bus, a metro journey with 3 changes and a 20 minute walk. And I wasn’t robbed, murdered or shot. If the media and British FCO had their way, I would have been victim to at least 2 out of those 3 by now. Go me!
There are a lot of people with scary tattoos and angry faces though, so maybe come back later for a second opinion…
Despite my initial reluctance, I am actually quite glad I get extra time in Brazil. However, I am still equally as in-the-dark about what it has to offer, so if anybody has any recommendations on things to do/places to see in and around Rio and São Paulo, let me know!