With my first week living in Brazil in the books, I’ve gotten somewhat settled into my new, albeit, temporary apartment in Rio. Acclimation to my Ipanema neighborhood has come a lot quicker than my Portuguese. Learning the language will be the most difficult part about this move, especially since I won’t consistently be in the country. My linguistic education must start somewhere, and in this case, that’s at the level of a toddler.
A week isn’t sufficient time to properly evaluate whether I’ll love or hate a place for the long(ish) haul, but I’m already dreading the thought of leaving. I must admit that beyond the airport, I’ve only spent time in Copacabana, Leblon, Lagoa, and Ipanema. These high-rent areas are void of much of the mischief that Rio is known for, so I might be viewing the city from rose-colored glasses. Only time will tell, I suppose.
Coming from Houston, where 2,000 square feet is considered a starter home and an Escalade is a normal-sized vehicle, I find myself swiftly adapting to life in Rio. I’d imagine this quick assimilation is directly related to my love affair with European cities. Believe it or not, Rio has some similar traits, minus the grand architecture and abundance of Starbucks.
I’ve always longed to live in a place where walking is viable, but taxis are readily available. Everything I could possibly need is within a five-block radius, which then is hauled back to my gated, high-rise apartment in eco-friendly shopping bags. Groceries live in a small refrigerator and tiny cabinets rather than a walk in pantry and stand-alone freezer. There is no Target or Costco, but locally owned businesses have just what I need. A café is on every corner, and I discover my favorite. Eventually, the waitress knows my name and smiles as my pronunciation improves.
Yes, I’ve always wanted to experience this sort of life, I just always thought it would be in Europe rather than South America.
Rio is vibrant and full of vigor, though not frenzied like Beijing, New York, or Tokyo. The city is, after all, Latin American, where life naturally moves a bit slower. Cariocas linger over lunches and wouldn’t dream of skipping the espresso. Conversely, it took five days to get my cable and Internet turned on. Just like with anything else, I must take the good with the bad.
Rio is often depicted through the media as a never-ending party or non-stop crime spree. While I’m sure that exists, it’s not day-to-day life for most Cariocas. I see men in lightweight suits going to their office. I see kids in uniform walking to school. I see women buying groceries. I see dogs thrilled to be outside. It’s the same as Houston, just in Brazilian technicolor.
On the first night in my apartment, I wondered if the street traffic below my bedroom would annoy me, or if the sounds of sirens would eventually lull me to sleep. The whizzing cars, honking horns, and downshifting of truck gears have become ambient noise, an ongoing soundtrack to my time in Rio. And so far, I like the look of this movie.