Saturday, July 19, 2014

boy from ipanema

Some things are universal.  The person in the room adjacent to mine is blasting music since 7 am in a way that is making it difficult for me to think.  This aside, the experience at this hotel has been most positive.  Many people at the conference have complained that the hotel is far from everything--the meeting site, the airport, the ferry to Rio, and Rio itself.  All this is so.  About a ninety dollar cab ride to the airport and it would be close to 200 in the US as the cabs here are not that expensive.  A thirty to forty minute ride to the ferry that takes one to Rio, and about forty minutes to the conference site.  However, the hotel is very attractive, the people friendly, the pool inviting and the place is near a beach that while not as famous as Ipanema or Copacabana, is very pretty.

There is a book written about Boston drivers called, Wild in the Streets.  It is a humorous shot at how people drive in the hub.  My favorite line in the book goes something like this: "A genuine collector's item in Boston is a moving violation."  Things have gotten a bit tighter in Boston and you can get a ticket now and again for doing something egregious, but still the motorists in town make you have to become one of them or else you will get hit.  However, having taken now three cab rides and several bus rides in Brazil, I can write from a comparative vantage point that Boston drivers are wusses relative to their Brazilian brethren.

The cabdriver who took me to the ferry looks like everyone's kindly gentle uncle.  He rode on the butt of every car from the hotel to the ferry. I sat in the front seat and thought it was a bumper car ride without the actual bumps. The return trip at the end of the day was with a young man in a beat up car.  He looked like the high school drop out who finally got a job driving a hack.  I was going to pass on the ride and take a bus, but I did not like the looks of the bus station.  So, I went back to the youngster, negotiated a price as best I could since our common tool was using hand gestures, and got into his cab.  Let me tell you. Only the cyclone at Coney Island was a more hair raising ride.  This guy was great.  If you look at a map of Niteroi you will see that the Camboinhas beach where the hotel is, is on the northeast coast, and is far from downtown where the ferry departs to Rio de Janeiro.

The taxi driver from the airport, the bus drivers, the taxi driver to the ferry all took inland routes.

Not this guy. He hugged the coastal winding highway. Again, if you look at a map you can see how windy the beach roads are, and this guy was flying. Dodging in and out, leaving inches between us and the cars in front who also were not shy. It was part taxi ride and part carnival experience and part sunset beach tour.  I literally and actually applauded when the kid pulled up to the hotel--in far less time than any of his counterparts.  I almost felt like asking him to take me back to the ferry and then up to the hotel again, like a kid who enjoyed a roller coaster ride.

The day in Rio was enjoyable as well. I am pretty good with a subway map and kind of enjoy trying to figure out how to get where I want to go.  Of course, not knowing the language provided greater challenges.  I found may way to Carioca, the subway stop in Central Rio and through the labyrinthine walkways underground (no more complicated than Boston or New York, but here I could not read the signs).  I took the train all the way to Ipanema.

I read after I came back that Ipanema is one of the ten sexiest beaches in the world.  And I remember the song, the girl from Ipanema. Tall and tan and young and lovely, the girl from Ipanema...

Well, both the boys and girls from Ipanema have not hit the gym much since Frankie crooned that song.  Occasionally you noticed someone well sculpted, but there was no shortage of folks who had not missed the buffet line. The girth, of course, was highlighted by attire.  I saw thongs on folks who might want to reconsider their choice of bathing garb.  Still the beach was beautiful. I took a few photos and as soon as I can upload them, I will place one here.

Downtown Rio seemed like a lot of large cities to me.  I think in large part this depends on where you happen to go.  Very big, not unfriendly, lots of folks--the ferries were jammed both ways--outdoor vendors, plenty of police presence.

Back at the hotel at night I took a walk to a nearby beach, sat by the pool with a Caipirinha, the national drink of Brazil, and felt a little sad that this would be my last full day.

The conference was valuable.  I met people doing interesting research. Thought about sports in ways I had not, watched many many soccer games in an attempt to understand the fandom of this sport that does not seem to me to have particular allure, but sure has to others. And as is often the case with travel, gained a perspective I had not had previously. 

Off to the airport later today. Maybe I can find that same kid taxi driver from yesterday.

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