Estamos na Praia

March 27, 2010

Lindsay and I had a nice, easy beach day.  After leaving Sao Paulo and the family and lugging all of my stuff for a year back to Rio, it was nice to relax, people watch, walk around, poke in and out of stores.  I’m loving experiencing this with Lindsay after being here with Scott and some of our other friends. It was breezy today here and not too hot.  Rio is nearly back to how I remember it when we lived here, before it became a steaming, crowded mess.  It’s lovely.  I just went for a run along Leblon and Ipanema to Arpoador, and it was just so nice to be back in the familiar cadence, with the sounds of people having fun, laughing.

I keep trying to anticipate what I will feel when I leave Brazil.  I think I’ve gotten more used to living here than I think–the pace of life, speaking another language most of the time, the food, the people.  Parts of it, I’ll be very sad to leave. The two things I’m looking forward to most are being close to the people that I love, and being in a bed that’s mine, in a space where I can unpack all my stuff and quit living out of suitcases.

I also wonder what I should do with this blog once I leave.  Any thoughts? Suggestions?  It’s partially for me–a  way to chronicle our experience, but mostly for you, and more for you now that the Brazil adventure is coming to a close, for the time being.


Back in Rio

March 26, 2010

Lindsay and I arrived back in Rio this afternoon. I can’t believe how good it feels to be here. We checked into the hotel and went to get acai from the shiny new BB Lanches. We went to our old apartment and said hello to Marcos, our super hero door man. He opened up our mailbox, and it turns out he was keeping mail for us! It was all junk, but still. We stopped in at the Claridge, where Scott and I stayed when we arrived, and said hello to Paulo. We finished up with a stroll over to Ipanema and then back along the beach, with a quick stop at one o the kiosks. It just reminds me how happy I was while living here. I was so disappointed when it was unbearably hot and crowded over Christmas, and now Rio is back to the city that I totally adore, in all of it’s leafy, mountainous, beachy beauty.

The Addition of Friends

September 12, 2009

On Thursday night we went on a friend date with our upstairs neighbors.  We couldn’t be more excited about having friends in the building (let alone the city) and after drinks at Jobi we now have great new people in our lives.  In addition, the lovely Julia Gates jetted over after doing some business in Sao Paulo. We tore up the town last night, with some other new friends, a couple about our age visiting Rio from San Francisco for a couple of weeks.  We had a pretty standard night of sunset drinks at a beach kiosk with our new neighbors, dinner at the Cobal de Humaita, and then samba dancing in Lapa.  There was an amazing old man dancing by himself at Carioca da Gema, bald and spectacled and blue-suited.  As Gates said, he looked just like Sam from that kids game Guess Who.  He shuffled and twirled and spun us all.


This morning Julia and I went to the Corcovado (third time’s a charm!) and then we just went for a long walk all along the beach into Copa  We also stopped at the Laura Alvin Casa de Cultura in Ipanema, a hybrid movie theatre, performance space, art gallery, museum and book store.  There was a very weird exhibit that featured hands reaching out of holes in the wall.  In one room they just held a photograph, in another just an illuminated lightbulb, and in another the pair of hands rolled cigarettes.  It was totally weird.


We also have a new Portuguese tutor, so all in all our lives here just got a little bit richer.

Sete de Setembro

September 7, 2009

Today was Brazil’s independence day.  Everything was closed and the beach was more packed than I had ever seen it.  It was hot out, and the road that runs along Leblon, Ipanema and Copacabana was closed.  In addition to the usual beach riff raff, there were a few striking visuals.  There was a man about my father’s age, looking very respectable walking out of Citibank.  He had just withdrawn money and was checking the bills in his wallet.  Totally normal, except that he was only wearing a black speedo and a bulging fanny pack.  No shoes, no shirt, no pants, just him, his gut, his speedo and his cash.  Also, at the Parque Garota de Ipanema by Posto 7 there was a brass band.  I was at the turnaround of my run, having dodged a million people and dripping with sweat I stopped to stretch for a minute and see what the crowd was gathered for.  At that moment the band started playing Material Girl.  How does a brass band play Material Girl?  I’m not sure, but it happened–it took me a second to realize what song it was as lots of people hummed along.  For some reason it felt like a very Brazil moment.

And just for good measure, check out my piece on Matador.

Last night Scott and I went out to dinner in Ipanema.  When we were finished we wandered over to a confeitaria to get dessert, and then continued roaming Ipanema, trying to figure out what to do next.  One club on the top of Praça Nossa Senhora da Paz looked like H. Stern built it, and was filled with heavily made up girls in sequin mini-skirts and heels, and their bald, wealthy boyfriends.  Most of the other bars were filled with blooms of 20-something cariocas that crowded around tables or spilled out onto Rua Maria Quitéria.

We thought about joining in with all of the laughter and chatter, and then decided to walk down to the beach, the Itaipava kiosk still brightly lit.  We bought some $1.50 beers and sat on the wall and looked out at the waves crashing on the beach as a few couples and groups of friends filled the yellow plastic tables.    A group of six or seven kids a little younger than us somehow materialized a soccer ball and began to juggle it in their circle, Chuck Taylor sneakers filling with sand.  Directly next to us, four or five guys a little older than us shared a bottle of Smirnoff and a 2-liter bottle of Coke, alternating swigs.  One of them, at one point, walked off a few to go pee in the sand and came back with a tambourine that he beat like a drum and jingled, too, and these men broke into singing bossa nova tunes.

Life felt pretty perfect as the songs filled the space around us and the soccer playing kids laughed and people walked by, strolled, smiled.  Every once in a while one of the kids would come sit next to us, dressed to go out to a bar or a club, but seemingly magnetically pulled back to the praia, untie his shoe, empty out the sand, peel back the sock and wipe the sand from there, too, put his shoe back on, and rejoin the circle.


August 31, 2009

I went to my first yoga class in Brazil this evening.  It was at a studio in Ipanema, and their website looked modern and promising.  I walked in early (I am still American, after all), kicked off my flip flops, grabbed a mat and found a spot on the floor in the dim room.  The teacher was sitting cross-legged on the floor playing a tune on a sitar.  A little om-ish for my taste, but it was a nice environment.  I was too self-conscious (what was everyone else doing? how were they stretching? how were they preparing to meditate?) to notice that the teacher looked like every other deeply tanned, tattooed surfer on the beach, with navy spandex shorts, brown eyes, three-day scruff, and an easy smile.  The other thing I didn’t really think about was that the class, and all of its instructions, were going to be in Portuguese.  It was oddly relaxing to listen to these murmurs in another language, half understanding the commands, mostly keeping my eyes closed as I moved through the vinyasa poses.  The room grew hotter and it felt great to stretch everything out.

On my run this morning, instead of the usual net of surfers at posto 7, there were surfing lessons.  I was reminded how certain sports have very awkward beginnings and take a while (or forever) to get to gracefulness.  Skiing is one of them, snowboarding-the first few tries are painful and unattractive, and it takes some effort before you are gliding in clean arcs and beautiful slopes.  Surfing, I discovered as I watched a fairly heavy, very white woman a little older than me paddle out on a board, is the same.  Those first lessons are terribly unattractive (and I felt bad for the lithe, super tan instructor who was trying to keep her on her board).  It made me realize, as I stood among the parents taking digital videos of their children slippery and wobbling in the ocean, that I don’t to learn how to surf in Ipanema, where there are people around all the time watching, just in case I look pale and awkward paddling out.

From white caps and whales to white papers–I’m beginning to write a white paper on urban roof gardens in Brazil–how they could work to supply food, improve the environment in favelas, provide a project to occupy kids.  First I need to learn about white papers (any insights, please share your wisdom in my comments section or email me) and then I need to research urban roof gardens (again, wisdom welcome). From the outset, I think this could be an incredibly cool thing.

Closing Time

August 15, 2009

We don’t usually sit on the beach at the end of the day, but today we were there for closing time.  After basking in the sun earlier on Ipanema and then getting lunch and walking to Copa, we were on our way back and sat to watch the sunset.  The detritus of a particularly packed day on the sand seemed poignant against the clear sky and sinking sun.  Drinking straws poked up everywhere, discarded coconuts dotted the beach, empty cans and Globo wrappers lay like miniature sunbathers and towels. It’s amazing that it all gets cleaned up every night and is pristine each morning for the new wash of sunbathers.

We also saw an ice cream vendor and a drink vendor balancing a checkers board on their carts, playing with blue and clear caps from different brands of bottled water.  It was a good image.  I only wish I had my camera with me to take a picture.

Helicopter Rescues

August 3, 2009

We heard from our friends in Portuguese class today that there was a woman rescued while swimming a little too far out in Ipanema yesterday.  I had visions of a Baywatch style escapade– some Fabio in a red bathing suit grabbing a floaty device and charging across the beach and into the ocean, it turns out that it’s much different than that.  A helicopter is summoned (no one was sure where they’re kept in such a case of emergency) and a the woman was essentially ladled out of the ocean in a net and placed back on the sand.  She got up, crying and no one asked her if she was okay, or what had happened, it was just business as usual.

Born to Run

July 14, 2009

The ball of my foot hit the sand and propelled me forward.  The waves licked up on the mostly empty beach, taking ownership before it became crowded with leggy girls in tiny bikinis, men selling everything from Globo biscoitos,  to sunblock, and rings of teenage boys juggling soccer balls.  I took in the solitude, too, watching as my running form got more efficient.  I skipped through shallow tidal puddles, and let my breath fall in rhythm with the inhale and exhalations of the sea.

I hadn’t really run barefoot before last week, not since I was a little kid playing in our backyard, chasing whiffle balls through the grass, and I never had for any distance.  I just finished reading Christopher McDougall’s Born to Run, where he tracks his own transformation from often-injured rec runner to ultramarathoner, explaining about Copper Canyon’s Tarahumara Indians.  I was totally captivated by the idea of running barefoot, what it could do to my form, my speed, my endurance.

On Friday morning (and again Saturday and yesterday) I strolled the three blocks to the beach in my Havianas, kicked them off when I got to the sand.  I began running and I hate to sound cliche, or lame, or like I’m bragging, because I am 1000% aware of how amazingly, incredibly lucky I am, but I went for one of the best runs of my life, along the water’s edge, the length of Ipanema, with the sun on my face and the wind to my back, barefoot and fancy free.

Ipanema exploration

July 7, 2009

Things like this happen here:


Men re-kane chairs on the street.  This was on the east side Praca Nascimiento de Paz, where there are a lot of high end boutiques (amazingly all Brazilian designers–so little US infiltration here), and glossy design stores.  It was just a really nice juxtapostion, like the little kiosks on nearly every corner where men copy keys, and the fact that nice restaurants are in glass huts along the beach.

Just around the corner, I found my new favorite boutique in Ipanema


It was full of funky, colorful clothes.  The most unfortunate trend here (as I’m trying to learn the style and figure out how it goes) are genie-ish pants that are loose, with tons of extra fabric around the ass, diaper style, and tight at the ankles.  Not flattering on anyone. The rest of it is super cute though.

On my walk home, it grew dusky on the leafy streets, and cool, after a cloudless day.  The posh houses between Ipanema and the lagoa were quiet and the air had sort of a satisfaction to it.  I was excited to see streets I hadn’t noticed before, flowers, cool, lush smells.  As I turned a corner back onto the main street, a man was playing the saxophone outside an ice cream shop.  He had coffee-colored skin and a headfull of dreads and was dressed all in white, playing jazz while little kids giggled and ran around him licking their sorvetes.  That sweet image gave way to the discovery of homemade potato chips at a hole-in-the-wall grocery that are not to be believed.


June 30, 2009

Now for today’s good news.  I had a lovely breakfast this morning and a place that was like a Rio version of Le Pain Quotedien.  Following some coffee and brioche toast with butter and honey, I ventured toward the beach.


It was sunny and breezy and I learned a little bit about how to navigate the Ipanema sands.  Beach chairs cost R$4 to rent, or about $2, and you set up shop for the day with your friends (we’ll make some eventually, I’m sure), bring a thin sort of pareo to lay down over the chair and then sit back and listen.  It’s a collection of sounds– vendors going by selling drinks, sandwiches, beers, lemonade, coconuts, sunglasses, bikini tops, jewelry, grilled catipury cheese on skewers, sunscreen.  If you look up, they stop and look at you, if you just listen you’re in the clear.  Also, the bikinis are impossibly tiny.  I couldn’t take any pictures without feeling like a little bit of a creep, but they’re small.