Friday, August 30, 2013

A travel memory

It was January, 2012. I was in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on my first solo backpacking trip. I was staying at a hostel in Ipanema, a relaxed, glamorous beach suburb. Every day, the surrounding streets were alive with all-day bars, beach cafés and young, beautiful Brazilians enjoying the sunshine. For me, everything was still so new and unfamiliar and surreal, I felt that every minute that passed made me happier and happier to be alive. I was on the other side of the world, and for the first time in my life, was truly free to do whatever I wanted to do.

It was only my third day. In the morning, I had been on a tour of Vidigal, a slum or "favela" which sprawled up the side of a mountain overlooking the sea. I went with a Scottish girl from my hostel called Julie, and about ten other backpackers. We all spent two hours walking through the slums, guided by a local. He told us stories about the people who lived there, the drug dealers, the spectacular samba schools, the political turmoil of Brazil, the stark socio-economic inequalities, the pride and loyalty of the favela community. I saw blinding white smiles of children walking around the favela, bare-foot, dancing in the rain. I saw dogs kept on balconies, barking non-stop and walking in circles because their enclosures were too small. Rubbish was strewn absolutely everywhere. Every house was missing a roof, a wall, a door, crumbling and barely held together. And when we got to the top, the view over the Atlantic Ocean was so breathtaking I just stood there silently, taking it all in. The lowest people of society had the best view in all of Rio. So they were rich in one way, yet so poor in another. Which one mattered more?

That night, Julie and I were both craving some familiar Western food and decided to have dinner at a place called the "Gringo Café". It was just around the corner from our hostel, with a cute green-and-white colour scheme and some hilarious English translations on the menu. I had sunny side up eggs and a hashbrown washed down with a Bohemia beer. She had a Chicken Caesar Salad.

As we were chatting over dinner, I told her about the scratch-off map I have in my room. Each time you visit a new country, you get a coin and scratch off the gold film, and it reveals different colours until the map of the world becomes a rainbow. She suddenly started laughing and told me she had exactly the same one in her room, the same brand and everything.

She took another swig of her beer then said to me: "I have this crazy dream that one day I will have been to every country in the world." I smiled and shook my head.

"That's not a crazy dream at all, Julie," I said. 

"Not even in the slightest." 

1 comment:

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