You will have to bear with me as I probably won’t have a chance to post photos from the trip until I return, as the internet connection is very spotty here and I’m barely managing to access this blog! I will endeavour to update this blog everyday for everyone back home, but I’m doing it mostly as a way of documenting and capturing the day’s activity, my impressions, stories and conversations while it’s still fresh.
So I finally arrived in Rio yesterday afternoon, some 36 hours after leaving Auckland Airport on Aerolineas Argentinas with a 17 hour stop-over in Buenos Aires. I have a vivid image of Rio from the side windows of the small plane we were on, with its vast undulating lush-green hills filled with dense pockets of terracotta roofed favelas as far as the eyes can see. I was silly enough not to sleep on the entire journey over so when I arrived at the hotel severely sleep-deprived, I crashed straight on the first thing that resembled a mattress. I never left the hotel for the rest of the day, and I vaguely remember waking up at some point to have dinner downstairs with Dory and Claire who had arrived a few days earlier, but everything else is a complete blur!
Unsurprisingly I slept in this morning, managed to get up in time for breakfast and ended up chatting with a couple of politicians from Suriname who were on their way to the closing ceremony of a political roundtable which was happening just prior to WUF 5. It was by pure chance that I had looked up Suriname the night before and remembered odd facts, like the fact that it was the only country in South America that didn’t use Spanish nor Portuguese as its national language – so I was saved from coming across as completely ignorant. We exchanged jokes about them first thinking I was from China, though it turned out one of them had full Indian heritage and the other had full Indonesian heritage.
I was given just one mission for the day, which was to welcome in Merata, another colleague from the University of Auckland whose flight was due to have landed at 1 am. Since both of us were still jet-lagged, we decided to take it easy and do nothing but to go on a favela tour at 2pm that afternoon. The tour ended up being cancelled due to lack of numbers, so we decided to go to the conference venue to pick up our registration packs a short distance away. After a rather painless registration process, aided by very friendly and beautiful Brazilian conference ambassadors, we found out we had a free metro pass for the whole week, and ended up spending 6 hours being lost in Copacabana area walking around in a complete daze under the hot South American heat.
In the evening, we met up with a few more of the delegation, Yvonne and Anita, and the four of us went out to eat out at a pizzaria just around the corner from where we were staying. We spent about a good 15 minutes in fits of laughter holding our stomachs trying to order from their “Ingrish” menu, which was worse than their Portuguese version – titty of rump and husband of the chicken come to mind… The pizza was really bad but we didn’t realise until we couldn’t eat anymore that we saw this rather disturbing plastic of cheese oozing with oil dripping off the sides that it probably was a bad idea, and led to another sensible decision to try and ‘burn it off’ at Lapa, disco-central district of Rio de Janeiro.
Lapa was only starting to fill up with people around 9pm when we got there, and there was a parade of locals dancing on the roof of a bus escorted by a handful of police cars, surrounded by about a hundred locals and passer-byers singing along to the samba lyrics a couple of them were handing out. It went like this:
Esse e o bloco pra mudar
a nossa historia.
Somos Maria viemos pra viver
Illuminando a trajetoria e a vitoria
De mulheres que fizeram acontecer.
Maria Vem Com As Outras, vem dancar
Sobe essa poeira
Vem se libertar
Todo mundo tem o seu lugar
Da literatura de Simone de Beauvoir
Ao sertao de Maria Bonita
Lelia Gonzales faz a gente se orgulhar
o… abre alas que a Chiquinha vai passar
No choro, no riso
Na valsa, no samba.
Um novo mundo queremos criar
Sem violencia pra poder sonhar.
Of course, being our first night in Rio, we were responsible adults and came home before things went astray… but tomorrow is another day!