Back in Rio after our week in Buzios, we started to relax and feel more comfortable here, settling into our shoebox apartment pretty quickly.
Despite so many scaremongering reports about violence in Rio, we have been lucky to meet only warm friendly people where ever we have been. The people here (called CaRIOcas) are so willing to help you, make you feel welcome and are just so nice.
Most days follow the same pattern now; up, breakfast, walk along the beach and tackle the mission of the day eg get Brasil sim cards for our phone, shopping etc.
Now we have Rio sim cards we can access the internet when we are outside which means we can now take Rio bikes. Rio bikes are like Boris Bikes in London but they are orange here. For a £2 a month registration fee, the bikes are free if you return it to a station within the hour. As most places take us less than an hour to cycle to from Copacabana it is perfect for us and it has been a great way to see the city.
They are very good at providing bike lanes here too so it feels like a very safe way to get around. Jody does lock her handbag to the bike though in case someone tries to grab it as we cycle by them – we don’t trust them that much!
On one such cycle ride we found a food festival in Botofoga and stopped to take part. If you have never had truffle chips (as in proper chips – not crisps) then you need to go and find some. OMG! they were delicious. They were also serving draft beers from the back of a truck to wash it down. Perfect!
One of the most exciting things that happened in this first month, was a reunion. The wonderful Chloë we had met whilst volunteering in Huanchaco, was now in Rio and she came bearing gifts. As luck would have it, she was staying just 2 streets away from us and we popped round one evening to see her. Chloe has been an absolute superstar and when we put out a plea for help 2 months ago, Chloe responded. She has made her way overland from Peru to Rio too and on the way she stopped to pick up something very special for us.
We almost thought we would never see them again.
During this first month Bryan had to make a dash back to England to attend to some business and Jody spent a few days here on her own. Despite us spending practically 24-7 together for the last 2 years, it is still sad when we have to be apart.
Then again it’s great to get some me time – for both of us. Bryan managed to catch up with all his friends, have an Indian, have a Wetherspoons breakfast, have Walkers crisps, English chocolate, Fish and chips and a Thai curry all in a few short days.
Jody managed to clean the bathroom and the shoebox.
But she made him promise to bring back tea bags (you can get tea here but it’s about £3 for a box of 20 tea bags), some Walkers cheese & onion and some CDM or galaxy. And if he could possibly squeeze in an onion bahji that would be fine too.
Well the day soon came around for him to return (which gave Jody the excuse she needed to buy a new dress) and he didn’t disappoint with the goodies either. When he unpacked his bag, tumbling out were not one but 2 multi packs of cheese & onion, 2 bars of CDM and then a special surprise. A white carrier bag.
Bryan watched as Jody opened the bag as laughed the moment she caught on as to what was in it. Not one but 2 takeaway boxes of onion bhajis and samosas and get this – a full portion of tightly wrapped mutter paneer. OMG! You are mental! This has to be the furthest any Indian takeaway has ever been delivered. And all in his suitcase – that could have been very messy. Apparently he had declared it through the red channel too but they didn’t want to know.
Well Jody didn’t even bother to heat up the bhajis – forget the crisps and the chocolate. Her first Onion bhajis in over a year. She thought she had died and gone to heaven!.
We belong to a facebook group called “UK Volunteers Going To Rio”. There are almost 1,000 members on this page and we swap ideas, tell our own volunteer stories and as we are in the very fortunate position to be out here weeks before the vast majority of them (many whom are coming alone), we have felt a little bit responsible for sharing tips, advice, reassuring people that they can safely wear their wedding rings, use their mobile phones and won’t all be murdered upon leaving the airport. Hopefully anyway.
Many many people on this group were asking for help to find accommodation as it has sky-rocketed due to the Olympics being here. We took a few days to visit some agents and landlords, view some properties and take photos and details to post on the facebook page to help. One landlady who owned an awful lot of property around Copacabana; Denise, was particularly pushy with us but invited us to her penthouse on Copacabana beach.
Well it was like crawling through a secondhand furniture shop getting through her place. It was rammed and so so untidy – not what we expected at all from someone who was clearly very wealthy. But the views from her balcony were to die for. Very lucky lady to live there. Anyway, we hope we helped a few people out in the process.
One evening we walked to Ipanema to watch the sunset. Rio is on the east coast so you don’t get the spectacular sunsets like those on the west but there is a famous gathering spot on the rocks at the end of the beach where you can watch the sun drop between the mountains. We made it there in time and the atmosphere was nice.
Lots of people having a beer or a coconut from the beach sellers, a few people having a Kum-Ba-Yah moment with a guitar, others with their dogs and they entertained us too, leaping off the rocks into the sea after their ball. The sun sets very early here and as we watched the sun drop down between the two Brothers mountains at the other end of the beach, we had to laugh as everybody started clapping and cheering the sun. Well done sun!
One of our objectives here is to get our Olympic uniform and our passes (accreditation). There is a centre set up especially for this process and although Bryan had his role and roster for the Olympics, Jody’s status was still “application under review”. Not great so she decided to accompany Bryan when he went to get his uniform.
We took the Metro to Central Station then a short walk to the Cable Car terminal. This cable car surprisingly was absolutely free to use and it took us up and over a favela. This seemed much safer than walking through the tunnel underneath it. It gave us great views over Rio and a bird’s-eye view of the favela. The place we needed was just a 5 minute walk from there.
When we arrived it was pretty straightforward for Bryan as he was in the system but Jody had to join another long queue so she could get some help. Eventually she was plopped down in front of Luiz. Luiz was brilliant. He spoke very good English, was so helpful and so funny. Jody asked him if he was looking forward to the games and he said he was so excited he was shaking!
Well half an hour with Luiz and Jody had her role and her venue sorted – her roster was being written for her and her accreditation should be ready to go soon after that. Unfortunately we couldn’t complete the whole process on the day as this is Brasil afterall and their systems don’t work as fast as their people.
But it had still been a very productive trip as the short time spent with Luiz had been more productive than the whole proceeding 6 months of trying to sort it out with the help desk. What a star!
Bryan on the other hand, got everything. Uniform in the bag and a smiley photo on his pass. Sorted!
A few days later it was time for Jody to re-attempt getting her Olympic pass. This time it was really busy when she arrived so she queued patiently for Luiz to become available as she thought she would get dealt with quicker if she saw him. Well as soon as he looked up and saw her you would have thought he’d spied a long lost friend. He jumped up out of his chair and ran and hugged her which took her by surprise a bit – she’d only met him once before. But clearly she had left a lasting impression on this young chap – either that or he’d had a really bad day and was just glad to see a friendly face!
It took just a few minutes to get the accreditation printed off so she could finally go and get her uniform too. Thanks Luiz – we recommended you to all the other volunteers struggling with their roles so we suspect you have been pretty busy lately.
And Bryan managed to get some swimming in too. There is a group that swims around the fort 3 times a week at 7am. So off he goes and swims with them when he can. The group is led by an ex-Olympic swimmer himself – another Luiz and they seem to be in awe of Bryan’s swimming history. Well at least he can say he swam with an Olympic swimmer in Rio 2016 now (he doesn’t have to tell the whole story does he?)
Well month one had been quite eventful and we were kept pretty busy.
We are certainly enjoying Rio more now we are in a nicer, safer area and we are looking forward to receiving our first guest. Yes our little shoebox is going to get more crowded soon but more on that later.