It’s 2 a.m. and I’m looking down to the traffic on Avenida Corrientes, “the street that never sleeps,” from the Airbnb on the 8th floor.
I’m in Buenos Aires, exhausted and completely confused.
“Is it a spur-of-the-moment decision or did you think it through?” Feng asked when I was booking my plane ticket last weekend.
“Both. I mean, there were several options but staying in Rio de Janeiro for another week is out, I’m sick of the rain and it’s probably the same kind of weather everywhere in the south. I don’t have the time to go wander around in the Amazonas. I don’t feel like flying back to Santiago next week… so Buenos Aires sounds like a logical choice. It’s on the way, at least.”
In hindsight, saying “tchau” to Brazil from Rio de Janeiro is probably a good move. Brazil is a very addictive place and I’m sad to leave—but I’m okay with leaving Rio.
I know I’m going to miss Brazil. I’m going to miss Brazilians, most of them kind, helpful, and fun. I’m going to miss being in a crowd where nobody has the same skin tone. I’m going to miss the variety Brazil offers—each city is like a different country and I think I could spend years exploring every corner of them. I’m going to miss my favourite Portuguese expressions like “oi” (“hi”), “legal” (“cool”), “fazer xixi” (“to pee”), “bum bum” (“butt”) or “ótimo” (“awesome”). I’m going to miss pão de queijo, pastel de Belem, delicious fish, tapioca, the thousands different types of bread, chocolate and coffee, fresh juice, Bahian food and bolo. I’m going to miss the tropical weather, beaches and beach culture.
Believe me, Brazil is an awesome place. Despite its bad reputation, life—or rather “lives” considering how differently lives are lived depending on your socioeconomic background—is normal in Brazil. Everywhere I’ve been, I’ve seen people working hard and putting their heart into what earns them money, sometimes providing services or food they can’t even afford themselves. The first thing the stylist told me when I had my hair cut in São Paulo was “I love my job.” Not all Brazilians are that lucky, obviously, but it struck me how committed people were to their mission, whatever it was—working, partying, relaxing.
I want to tell you that Brazilians from posh bairros, working-class neighbourhoods and favelas all care about their family and loved ones and want to live a better life in a better country and a better world. That homeless people living under bridges occasionally say, “have a good day!” and mean it. That you don’t walk around being scared of everyone and everything, that a smile and a few friendly words earn you the trust of people and that when you ask for help you will get more than expected. I want to tell you I admire the way Brazilians behave in society—hell, they are the nicest drunks I’ve ever seen, cf. Carnival.
There are narcos, there is gun violence, there are plenty of ugly things going on in Brazil like anywhere else in the world but there’s also so much beauty, so much passion… It’s hard to leave Brazil, trust me.
“It’s going to be a culture shock after two months in Brazil,” Feng laughed. “Take it easy at first.”
I left the Airbnb and Catete without looking back—not because it was easier this way but because I really can’t picture myself living in Rio.
For once, it was sunny, as if Rio was taunting me. The scenery when we took off from Santos Dumont, Rio’s city centre airport, was absolutely amazing as usual, if just a bit cloudy. From above, Rio looked perfect—again, it’s the fine print and what’s beneath the surface…
I flew with Azul, the airline that hands out tons of snacks. Snacks were handed out and the staff inquired three times if I was okay with only a cake, crackers, coffee and Coke. Another cake, maybe? We have gummy bears too!
We landed in Campinas 75 minutes later. I didn’t know exactly where Campinas was when I booked the ticket—just a two-hour stopover, who cares…—but I can now tell you it’s in the middle of… ahem, green open space. Okay, I’ve checked now. It’s northwest of São Paulo.
I could have stayed inside the airport but I stepped out—I was told it was okay, plus I wanted a smoke and a picture.
Aeroporto Internacional de Viracopos/Campinas is Azul’s hub. There were only two international flights scheduled—Buenos Aires at 2 p.m. and Lisbon later in the day—and the airport was empty. I wanted to spend my last reais and buy another pair of Havaianas (it’s not like I already have five or six at home…) but this was possible the only place in all Brazil that didn’t have a Havaianas store.
I heard Spanish for the first time in ages as soon as we were on board. Huh, funny, the three-hour flight had turned into a two-hour flight. I can’t tell you how many Brazilians flights arrive earlier than planned, they are basically the opposite of Air Canada…
Migración was pretty quick in Buenos Aires and I only said “obrigada” instead of “gracias” about twenty thousand times. Yep, culture shock…
It was hot but it felt like Europe hot, not “you’re in the jungle baby” hot. I tried to load my Buenos Aires map in my head. Wait, where was that food place I liked last year… Suipacha or Esmeralda? What time does Carrefour close already… oh, right, 24/7, never mind. Now, do the 25 Horas convenience stores really stay open late or should I pick up water right now? Can’t remember. How much is that? 200? That can’t be… oh, right, pesos, not reais. Damn, food is cheap. Oh, right, fridges aren’t actually cold in Argentina. How come they are so many Argentinean tourists? Oh, because that’s their country, speaking Spanish is normal, don’t mind me, I’m tired. I’d better grab coffee. Shit, finding coffee is harder and more expensive than in Brazil.
It was only Thursday night but it felt like a Friday with so many people wandering in the street late at night.
I’d better get used to it—different country, different schedule, different culture…
Too much for me right now. Tenho… damn, tengo que dormir.