After spending 6 months traveling via sailboat from one island to another, many uninhabited, it stands to reason that in Rio, a city 6 million strong, I’d experience a little culture shock.
I landed nearly 2 weeks ago not sure what to expect.
If my Facebook feed were to be believed, I would have been attacked by mosquitoes, robbed & thrown into a bay full of sewage by now. So far, this isn’t what I’ve experienced at all.
I thought our Executive Producer, Christy, put it best on a conference call when she told our stateside co-workers “The Games aren’t cancelled, and we aren’t getting attacked by mosquitoes. Stop watching the news.”
But enough about that for now.
Within hours of landing and checking into the hotel I’ll reside for the next 2 months, I reunited with two co-workers from previous events in Russia and Qatar. Both Kelly (Canadian) and Stewart (Australian) had been here before, so it didn’t take them long to show me the lay of the land.
As it turns out, my hotel is in a great location–a 5 minute walk to Copacabana Beach and a 20 minute walk to Ipanema Beach. Hotspots for tourists and locals (“cariocas”) alike. Restaurants, bakeries, and juice stands for days. One particular juice stand already starts making my “acai con banana” as soon as they see me coming.
The beach scene is everything you’d hope. Huge stretches of sand with striking mountainous shapes in the distance. Any and all forms of beach volleyball are being played nearly 24/7. Caiparinah stands along the beach are plentiful. (Never had one? Think mojito with a shot of jet fuel. Watch yourself.)
Cross Rua Atlantico and you’re suddenly in the heart of a big city. It’s an edgy amalgamation of New York bustle and Southern California scenery.
As for work, on my second day in Rio I caught the Metro for the 30 minute commute to the Rio2016 Olympic Committee offices and immediately found myself in a 2 hour team meeting held solely in Portuguese. Sitting there cluelessly, I was glad to know my rockstar AVP (assistant venue producer) slash translator would be starting that afternoon.
Now, two weeks in, I’m fairly well settled with the basics–transportation, food, & laundry–covered. Most days we catch the Metro back to the hotel ($1.25) and walk or Uber (less than $3) to dinner (avg $15-25). Laundry is handled down the street for $3/kg by a New York expat named Bobby.
Is it safe, you ask? That’s a tough one. Is NYC or LA or Atlanta safe? I will say I haven’t felt unsafe since I’ve been here. We’ve heard of people even as recently as this weekend who’ve had issues, but it seems to always be more about property than personal safety. While there are no guarantees, we generally wander in groups, try to carry ourselves smartly, and hope for the best.
In case you were worried, we certainly haven’t gone hungry. From the traditional Brazillian “pay per pound” type buffet (where I regularly eat steak & a spinach salad for under $8) to Australian coffee houses, New York style pizzas, and yes, even Chinese food, we’re not lacking for options.
This weekend we even went across town to a local “Festa Junita” party where people dressed as rednecks complete with boots, flannel, fake freckles and missing teeth. I felt right at home. #alabamajoke
Questions about life in Rio? Fire away in the comments below!
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