Seen from Corcovado hill with the eyes of Christ the Redeemer, Rio de Janeiro might easily be the most beautiful city this side of the universe – myriad sandy bays, cozy hills, and cheeky islets say so.
From up close, however, the beauty was a bit of a beast. I felt dazzled by an optical illusion of sorts: standing on the rocks between Ipanema and Copacabana, looking at one of these distinguished shorelines as a whole, the man-made structures would add something to that caipirinha of mountain, beach and sea. But walking along those slab monsters, the concrete would take away from the sweetness.
"...the real culprit was I, surrounding myself with all the wrong circumstances at the time..."
My wandering turned into wondering: was it her, or was it me? Who was to blame for my disappointment? Maybe the people who had talked Rio up to vertiginous heights? Those are not easily squished into skintight realities. Or did others simply not dare to admit that they didn’t like Rio as much as they’d like to? Only few people seemed to confess to it out in the open and even called her a “shithole”. I found that uncalled for.
No, no, the real culprit was I, surrounding myself with all the wrong circumstances at the time: the 48h bus ride in my bones; parting from Buenos Aires and the people I loved; the rain; headlines of gentrification and killings in the lead-up to the soccer world cup – terrors in the ugly name of a game.
With my mood tanking and prices skyrocketing (dorm beds ending up in the neighborhood of 150 dollars a night), I was ready to call it a country.
"It is a circumstantial conceptualization, so my harshest criticism towards many travelers, and especially the ones armed with blogs, is that they don’t distinguish between a place and their experience there."
Everything seemed against Rio and me, but it was my experience that tainted the place, not the place that tainted my experience. The feelings we attach to a place, and the memories they feed into, are only ever as good or bad as our experience. It is a circumstantial conceptualization, so my harshest criticism towards many travelers, and especially the ones armed with blogs, is that they don’t distinguish between a place and their experience there. I have no hard feelings Rio – you and I just got off on the wrong foot, and I am sure that when you show off by being artsy and beachy and a cool kid city, everybody who falls for you, love goggles first, lands on cloud nine softly.
And even I found my gems, as grumpy as I was. Like walking down from Corcovado Hill with my eyes chasing sun rays that danced on the roofs of the favelas.
"Rio is a hedonist's apartment..."
Rio is a hedonist's apartment with a beach for a living room, a bedroom full of Lapa-nightlife, delicious buffets in the kitchen, and a rooftop terrace with some unparalleled angles. Unfortunately, it’s easy to overlook the galvanizing poverty and inequities from up there.
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