I rang the doorbell.
“Open up, it’s me, Joana, I’m going up”. That’s all I needed to say. The flashback moment in my head, I was 16 again and had just forgotten my house keys. They know my voice. They know who it’s me, I don’t need much more information besides my first name.
These people raised me, helped me to shape myself into who I’m today, and are the most basic foundations of my existence. People say it takes a village to raise a kid. My neighbors in that building were from that village and played the part of a family I didn’t have during my teenage/early 20’s.
They were like an extended family to be exact. They knew how hard my mom worked and they saw how much of a dreamer I was. So after nine years of living abroad, I rang the doorbell like it’s 2002 again.
Rio is home. It’s where I grew up, where I have all my friends, where I know the streets like the palm of my hand.
The city where I know how to place the purse close to my body and be vigilant, to whoever is crossing the street. Growing up in Rio, a 7 million population city and the second biggest city in Brazil, I developed a sense of danger.
Sometimes, those street kid thieves come around, out of nowhere, just slapping the flip flops against the pavement, and you know you need to move faster. This time, I took Josh to see the city, after multiple times in Vitoria, meet my friends and the place I grew up. We only had three days and this is what we’re able to see and do
Day 01 – The arrival
Josh, me, and my mom arrived at Santos Dumont airport. Which is the domestic airport and centrally located. As soon as you get out of the arrivals, you would see a lot of taxi drivers, ready to give you the wrong information about Uber, because they hate each other, and snatch on each other’s business.
I should have known better than to ask one of the taxi drivers about Uber. The guy who informed us about Uber sent us in the wrong direction. Lucky for us, a lady heard us and told us to go to the other side. When you leave Arrivals, go to your left, to the Uber lounge, located at the mall, inside the airport.
After we checked in at the hotel, we all went to meet one of my best friends at the mall to have lunch. All my history in Rio is connected to the mall. The mall where I got my first job, at the movie theater, where I had my first boyfriend, where I broke up with my first boyfriend. Where I was taken to have a nice date/dinner, that it wasn’t at the food court. A real restaurant, with someone serving me? Hooray! This time around, we ate at the food court with our friends.
After lunch, we moved along to the building where I lived for 10 years. Going up those stairs, where I manifested all I have today, was priceless. It was like the 35 years old was meeting the 16 years old me and screaming “WE DID IT!”
I guess all the emotions took away my hungriness. Josh ate, my mom ate. I couldn’t do it.
Day 1.2 – Girl from Rio
Our dearest friend invited us to have breakfast at a coffee shop inside of a supermarket. It’s very popular in Brazil to have a buffet-style restaurant where they charge your food by weight. For example, 1kg of food on your plate, would cost you around $19,00 reais.
I don’t know anyone who would ever put a kilo of food on the plate unless you fill up with coxinhas and pie. It is never the case. I’d asked the lady at the counter if it was brewed coffee. My friend was quick to make fun of me, saying that brewed coffee was only at home. They have expresso, and the brewed coffee does not refill, like in America.
Of course, it’s Brazilian coffee and you don’t need it. After breakfast, we took part ways. My mom went downtown with her friend, and we went to Copacabana.
Again, my mind filled with memories, I showed Josh the way I used to take to go to school. He asked me if it was normal for you to study in one neighborhood and live in a different one. I have never thought about that, but I guess it’s normal.
We learn very early on how to take the bus by ourselves and move around the city freely. What I mean by that is, I used to escape school a lot. I was never good with rules.
The school gates were open. Now it has a big blue gate, that doesn’t allow anyone to see from the outside. Whatever is inside, it’s a mystery. I pushed the gate and walked in. It still looks the same, while I made my way in, I heard voices in my head, coming from that time.
“You are going to fail again, and you never going to leave this place”
That teacher was right. I would never leave that place. It would be part of me for the rest of my life. Everything I lived while I was there, all the emotions, all the crying, all the D’s and F’s, prepared me for who I’m today, but regardless of what she said, I’m not a failure.
The fact I could go back there, as an adult and be proud of what I’m now, makes me a winner. Walking around the patio and the iconic 2001 rock we all took a picture of it, thinking about that time I stood in line to get bread, and one of my friends saying that it was his 12th time in line, the poor kid was hungry.
We walked around Copacabana, had an Acai for lunch, and headed back for the hotel. I was planning to go to Urca and see the Sugar Loaf, but I got overwhelmed. At night, we met with my best friend for a beer in one of the bars in Botafogo.
Botafogo its is very gentrified now, with a lot of fancy bars and expensive appetizers. Again, I just wanted fries and a beer. Out of nowhere, we heard a lady running and screaming on the street that a thief stole her purse.
We all got up from our chairs and sat back down “She should be paying attention” It is that normal and people always blame the victim. Hooray, Josh had seen his first robbery in Rio! It’s like the baptism of the city.
Day 02- For Christ Redeemer
The day was cloudy but it was the only chance we would have to go up to see the Christ Redeemer. We moved on with our plans anyway. It was very quiet, and about 17 dollars per person to go up with the train. We took some photos at the entrance and board.
To get up is about 15 minutes and it’s a beautiful way up, surrounded by the national forest. Once you get there, you have stairs walk up to, we should have taken the escalator, but never mind.
The last time I was there was about 16 years ago, and It was also cloudy. The major difference now is the influencers and the influencer’s photographers. It’s a very crowded place and if you see a picture of someone at the Christ Redeemer and it’s empty, it’s a lie.
She either slept there or used an app to delete everyone. Oh! And there are also the Hoes, who dress up nicely because they think they are going to get proposed by their gringos. I lost my chance.
Josh told me he was never so scared of someone driving like that Uber driver was. One of the first things you realize in Rio is how reckless everyone drives. After the Christ Redeemer, we went to the mall. Where I could show him, where I used to spend hours walking around with my friends.
He asked us where we were going to have lunch. Without thinking I took him to the same place I used to always go and he said “That’s just cheese bread. Let’s find somewhere else”. Sorry, my bad.
Stay Tune for part 2!