The Spirit of Rio

Yesterday, after finishing a three-hour long Portuguese class, I decided to go to the beach. I’m ashamed to admit that, despite living in a city where the beach is such an integral part of everyday life, I rarely go.  But this day was such a glorious day, and being only a few blocks from all of the action,  I just couldn’t resist.

So I walked the few blocks to Posto 9, one of the Ipanema’s beaches.  It was brimming with hundreds of perfectly bronzed bodies lounging under umbrellas or breaking out a sweat playing futebol or volleyball.  As for me? I just sat on the boardwalk and people-watched (believe me, in Rio, this is more than enough entertainment), sipping an ice-cold agua de coco to quench my thirst.

It’s still somewhat of a culture shock to see that not only is the entire female population wearing a bikini, but almost all of them are wearing thongs.  Anything more than that is conservative in Rio. No matter what your size or age is. Even after leaving the beach, many women saunter down the boardwalk in just their thong bikinis. As you can probably imagine, many of them also boast enviable derrieres.

The beach in Rio is more vibrant and alive than any beach I’ve ever been to. Not a single person is reading a book or listening to music; everyone is mingling with one another or engaging in activities like soccer, volleyball, paddle boarding, surfing…

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Posto 9, Ipanema beach

About a gazillion barracas (stands) are set up, renting out chairs and umbrellas, selling drinks and some food…hard-working men brave the heat, lugging coolers of mate (the sweet Brazilian iced tea), trays of acai and umbrellas displaying bikinis, sarongs, hats and jewelry…you name it.

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This particular day was feriado (a holiday) – and on Sundays and holidays in Rio, the street that runs parallel to the beach boardwalk closes off to cars, welcoming pedestrians, bikers, skateboarders, dog-walkers…

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Ipanema beach boardwalk

On this afternoon, there were a bunch of different bands performing on the street, as well.

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Street music on the streets of Ipanema

One rock band that was playing drew me in with its contagious beat, and I stood and just soaked in the scene for several minutes. The energy pulsating through the streets was incomparable to anything I’d ever witnessed before.

After that, I strolled down to Arpoador (the point where Copacabana meets Ipanema) and sat and watched the sun set through the clouds, thinking about how light was now leaving Rio and giving light to somewhere else in the world.

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Sunset at Arpoador (no filter needed)

As the sun set, my similarly appreciative onlookers began to clap and cheer.

You see, in Brazil, it’s all about the little things…

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