I was excited to land in Rio, the jewel in Brazil’s crown. This metropolis is home to the late musician Antônio Carlos Jobim, samba, and the crescent-shaped Ipanema and Copacabana beaches, both of which serve as playgrounds for locals and tourists. Now that I was in Rio, borrowing the cheerful and feisty spirit of the locals, known as “cariocas” was inevitable. It was more than likely I would have to return it when it came time to leave Brazil.
Brazilians speak Portuguese, not Spanish. Portuguese is a tricky language; some sounds, such as nasal vowels, are very rare in English. Cariocas have a sing-song like accent and following what they say is daunting for the first time visitor to Rio. However, I knew that with a little time and practice, mastering basic phrases would be a cinch.
On a sunny morning I ventured out to see the famed Christ the Redeemer Statue designed and built in the early 1930s by Brazilian engineers with the help of a renowned French architect, Paul Landowski. With its arms outstretched and head slightly bowed, it’s as if the statue is blessing the city of Rio. The Archdiocese of Rio wanted to rekindle the spirit of Catholicism in Brazil after World War I, and that’s how the statue came to be. I was impressed with the statue and the view of the city from the summit! I was equally pleased with the vista of Rio from the top of Sugarloaf Mountain, which can only be reached by cable car.
To understand Brazil and for a once in a lifetime cultural experience, I went to see a football (not soccer) match at Maracanã Stadium in the northern suburbs of Rio. I was taken aback at the size of the place and realized I had entered a different universe. Being a spectator in Maracanã wasn’t anything like watching a basketball match at Madison Square Garden in New York City. Brazilians fans whip themselves into a frenzy when a goal is scored, and I couldn’t help but ride the wave. Just think how full the stadium will be once the 2016 Olympics get underway! If Brazil is victorious the ensuing celebration will be unlike anything that has ever been witnessed.