Of all the dangers I’m supposedly facing in Rio de Janeiro, it’s the old ladies walking their dogs I fear the most. The dogs are fine—they are leashed, groomed and even dressed up like four-legged humans sometimes—but their owners glare at everyone they see as if people were cockroaches ruining their walk.
These long-time Rio de Janeiro residents usually live in a desirable neighbourhood, like Copacabana or Ipanema. From the moment they step on the sidewalk and double check to see if the door of their gated apartment building is secured, they frown and pout. There are too many tourists around, stupid people who don’t seem to understand you have to pay before ordering at the corner casa do suco and it takes longer than it should be to get a damn cafezinho. Worse, tourists sometimes ask for direction in broken Portuguese—how hard it is to know where you’re going, really?
It’s not just the tourists they find annoying. Tourists have money, they spend it and then they leave. But other Rio de Janeiro residents, those who live in the comunidades, they don’t stay where God put them, up the hill. They leave their chaotic slums to work, play and relax in nicer neighbourhoods. The cheek of them! Now proper people have to hire 24/7 front desk staff for their apartment building. It was bad enough when you had to run a security check on your maid… can’t trust anyone here. Thanks God for those military police patrols.
You can’t just close your eyes and pretend these undesirable people don’t exist. They are right there, their communities are just above you—geographically speaking, of course. Vidigal, overlooking Ipanema Beach, the Cantagalo favela on the hill behind Copacabana and Ipanema and hundreds of others.
Life is stressful. Too many poor people want the life of rich people. A quarter of Rio de Janeiro live in fear, the rest just survive.
There’s one place where you’ll always see people relax and smile—the waterfront. Along Avenida Atlântica in Copacabana and along Avenida Viero Souto in Ipanema, everyone is more relaxed. You can still tell who’s living in a million-dollar building across the street and who is coming from a hill overlooking the city, but it doesn’t matter as much. Play football, swim, read on the beach, drink água de coco, exercise, run, bike, walk your damn dogs… going to the beach is free and everyone is welcome.
This is where we spent Christmas Day. We started the walk from Posto 3 in Copacabana under the rain and by the time we got to Ipanema it was sunny. I continued all the way to Leblon, at the end of Ipanema, while the guys were relaxing at Posto 8, and we climbed the Pedra do Arpoador between Copacabana and Ipanema.
Best Christmas Day ever.