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 Stranger in paradise

 Author:  Topic:  Posted:
Apr 14, 2002
Rio de Janeiro: a city justly renowned for its beautiful beaches, friendly people, lovely weather, exciting nightlife. So why was I so miserable?

More diaries by hauntedattics
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Terrorism in the PRC
I am so completely enamored...
My New Heroine
Where is he???
Now I May Have Seen Everything
Travel advice
Vandalism in the PRC
Fun with fatties
An announcement
Impressions of Rio: a city of mountains rising from the sea so that the population appears to be both spilling out into the water and pushing slowly up the sides of cliffs...tropical heat (it was warm for autumn) and feeling the rain of air conditioner condensation walking through city streets...Brazilian Portuguese, which to my untrained ear sounded like a Russian speaking Spanish with occasional bursts of Swedish or Quebecois French...circuitous streets and numerous mountain tunnels making for unpredictable, lane-changing drivers that were, on further reflection, no crazier than Boston's Best...people selling everything along the roads, from soccer T-shirts to tomatoes to bicycle tires...a family of four living under a tree in a park near the old imperial introduction and rapid addiction to Guarana Antarctica ...speechless at Corcovado, quietly thanking a Certain Someone despite the surrounding tourist clamor...

But all these moments left me cold, because I was alone. Being alone at home is comforting and oddly satisfying, but being alone in a city of almost unreal beauty and absurd contrasts is almost unendurable. It's all very well to look out your hotel window and see the most beautiful sunrise over the most beautiful beaches in the world, but when one is alone, what does one do with that experience? Nothing. There's something disheartening in going into a nice restaurant, saying "Table for one, please" and watching the look of surprise followed by the look of pity on the host's face. And drinking to excess doesn't help. So in that sense, Rio was a disappointment. Why is being alone in paradise so awkward and embarrassing? Why?

(Of course, hanging out with the wrong person in paradise is no less annoying and embarrassing, but that's another diary entry.)


My advice (none / 0) (#1)
by Anonymous Reader on Sun Apr 14th, 2002 at 02:45:43 PM PST
If you want to meet people in these places who speak English, go to a backpacker hostel as there will be other people travelling on their own or groups that are quite willing to hang out with you so along as you are not too mad (or even if you are mad so long as it's amusing mad). Made lots of friends that way.

You're back! (none / 0) (#2)
by Chocolate Milkshake on Sun Apr 14th, 2002 at 05:34:37 PM PST
1. Did you do any driving? If so, how was it and what kind of car did you rent?

2. Did a lot of people speak English, or any other languages you might happen to know (Spanish, etc.)?

3. Buy any interesting souvenirs?

4. How was the food?

Answers. (none / 0) (#7)
by hauntedattics on Mon Apr 15th, 2002 at 10:48:24 AM PST
1. No, thank goodness. I had a car and driver to take me to and from the client offices every day. The driver was great, but the overall experience was somewhat scary. Look at a map of the city and you'll get a sense of what I mean.

2. Most of the executives I met with spoke English, at least to some degree, and almost all of the hotel employees did as well. On the street, however, not many did. I learned just enough Portuguese to get me into trouble.

3. No. Soccer shirts, chocolate and a personalized video of my trip to Corcovado. I haven't watched it yet, though, and won't 'til I get over my embarrassment.

4. Really good. Hearty, tasty and not too fancy, with a pleasing emphasis on meat. Mmm...meat. The seafood is great too, as are the tropical fruits. Their dairy products could be better, though, which for me was a major minus.

Don't men on businesss trips... (none / 0) (#3)
by elenchos on Sun Apr 14th, 2002 at 08:11:59 PM PST
...just hire escorts for exactly that reason? Yet look how harshly society judges them for it. Now you know how they feel. If only all men's wives could be sent alone on a trip to Rio, maybe there could be a little more understanding and peace, eh?

I do, I do, I do
--Bikini Kill

Cheeseburger in paradise (none / 0) (#4)
by osm on Sun Apr 14th, 2002 at 09:56:47 PM PST
with an onion slice.

I remember... (none / 0) (#6)
by Anonymous Reader on Mon Apr 15th, 2002 at 01:31:16 AM PST
... when you used to be funny.

What's worse... (none / 0) (#5)
by poltroon on Mon Apr 15th, 2002 at 01:11:22 AM PST
you can't even anonymously roam around and observe, because everybody knows you're a foreigner, so you're like prey. Like when I visited LA last year, and decided to toot around on the city bus for a while, and immediately the bus driver asked if I was a tourist. Actually, I didn't really mind that, but it just startled me how obvious it was. He was amused that I would ride the bus for fun. I don't know, I guess you have to hang around in gross hotel bars, or sit in your room and take pictures out the window.

Yes! (none / 0) (#8)
by hauntedattics on Mon Apr 15th, 2002 at 10:53:28 AM PST
That was so annoying. I might as well have had "American" stamped on my forehead, so just about everywhere I went people were trying to sell me something. It was easier while I was with the client because they ran interference.

Embarrassingly enough, I did take pictures out my hotel window and hung out briefly in the hotel bar before going to Ipanema for dinner one night. Happily, though, it was the Meridien hotel bar so it wasn't gross. Gotta love four-star digs.

Well ... (none / 0) (#11)
by Anonymous Reader on Mon Apr 15th, 2002 at 12:25:29 PM PST
From my experience in Brazil (been there for monthes half a dozen times)they try to sell something to anybody, not just to American tourists. They do insist a lot with foreigners.

I stayed at the Meridien (none / 0) (#9)
by Anonymous Reader on Mon Apr 15th, 2002 at 11:26:50 AM PST
On Ipanema. My watch was stolen within 12 minutes of my arrival in the hotel while I was in the shower.

Later I went to Barbarella's with a mulatta and time was of no consequence. So it was a win-win situation.

Sorry! (none / 0) (#10)
by Anonymous Reader on Mon Apr 15th, 2002 at 11:29:42 AM PST
Not Ipanema....the Meridien is on Copacabana. What was I thinking! The poor women on that beach have barely enough money to cover themselves with.

The men, too. (none / 0) (#12)
by hauntedattics on Mon Apr 15th, 2002 at 05:23:42 PM PST
Everyone suffers from clothing deficit on Copacabana. Sorry about your watch...that's why I used the in-room safe (and why I wear a cheap Seiko from high school graduation).

Seiko cheap? (none / 0) (#13)
by jvance on Mon Apr 15th, 2002 at 07:09:48 PM PST
That depends. Success is never cheap, but sex sometimes is.

Adequacy has turned into a cesspool consisting of ... blubbering, superstitious fools arguing with smug, pseudointellectual assholes. -AR

I've found that... (none / 0) (#14)
by Anonymous Reader on Mon Apr 15th, 2002 at 09:50:45 PM PST
The cheaper it is, the better. And buying this commodity in bulk is false economy.


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