Carnaval fever is descending on Rio de Janeiro.
A pleasant little open-air restaurant at an intersection two blocks back from Copacabana Beach has provided previous meals in relative peace and quiet, so we elected to give it another try last Sunday. Carnaval decorations strung from street-lamps were new since our last visit two weeks earlier. We picked a table at the edge, adjacent to the sidewalk and ordered the juiciest item on the menu, the filet mignon sandwich. Our taste-buds were about to pop. Just as our order reached the kitchen, a large truck drove into the intersection and parked, fully blocking one street. About the size of a vehicle Public Storage would rent to you for moving a house-full of furniture over the week-end, it was full of amplifiers and speakers, all of which were suddenly put to use, blasting Brasilian tunes to all who cared to listen and all who didn't.
Clever patrons grabbed their food and utensils and rushed for a table in the interior of the restaurant, as far as they could move away from the truck. We quickly followed. Paper napkins, stuck in the ear, provided little more than comic relief. Certainly the police standing near the truck would take issue with the noise or the interruption of traffic, but they continued to lounge around as though nothing had happened.
What to do? Give up on that terrific sandwich or "Grin and Bite It"?
Patrons still seated near the side-walk samba'ed to and from their tables, mimicking those dancing in rags in the street. Secure in the knowledge that the after-life would be even better than this, they gave thanks to the Catholic church for providing an answer to the very problems the church created: the evil step-mother, overpopulation, and the evil twins, ignorance and poverty.
The food arrived before our headaches became permanent. We wolfed it down and raced for the peace and quiet of the beach.
Monday, January 31
Tuesday, February, 1
Wednesday, February 2
Thursday, February 3
Friday, February 4
Saturday, February 5, Elsa's Birthday
One hundred-thousand Brasilians cram themselves in, not to sit on the hard concrete benches and watch the parade, but to stand in front of you, dance, sing, wave their hands, wave their flags and wave their song books. When they all stand for the parade, you must stand, too, or you will be unable to see the dancers and floats below. Pads brought to sit on were useless.
The first samba school came down the chute at 9:15 PM, after a warm-up show of singing and fireworks that actually started before the appointed hour. Each school, with 3000 to 4500 students, gets an hour and a half to demonstrate style and enthusiasm. With seven schools scheduled to dance the night away, it makes sense to deduct points for running over the allotted time or the show would easily run past the 7:30 AM finish.
Costumes are limited only by what the mind can devise and what the body can carry, although the dancer dressed only in green paint and glitter attracted a lot of attention from the photographers moving among the performers.
We lasted through only four schools, leaving the SambaDrome at 3:00 AM.
Monday, 7 February
Tuesday, 8 February
A phone call to the storage yard indicated all the papers were ready; all we had to do was show up with proof of auto insurance in hand and we would be on our way. Ah, the joys of civilization, where people could be counted on to do what they said they would, were back again. Our joy lasted long enough to get to the port, where the kid in charge indicated that he needed one more e-mail from the shipping company before he could hand us the keys. After an hour of waiting for the computer to cough up the message, another phone call revealed that the shipping company wasn't about to send a release until they were paid. One step forward had netted us two steps back. Working back up the food chain, we found that the shipping company hadn't been paid because the funds we wire-transferred to the shipping agent a week before hadn't been located. The only good news was that the car had actually made it intact; I could see it from the office window.
Fortunately, the person we had been dealing with regularly at the shipping company was at lunch when we called. Someone more capable found the money, informed the shipping company, sent the required e-mail, and got us going in minutes.
Naturally, the car battery was totally dead, but a near-by battery cart solved that problem. They gave us a gallon of gas, since the tank was required to be almost empty for shipping, but nobody offered to replace the two fine bottles of wine from Mendoza, Argentina, which had been stolen from their hidden location behind the spare tire.
We picked up our shipped luggage at an office nearby, cleared customs and headed for a gas station. Filling the tank (80 liters) set me back US114.00! The dead-battery hadn't gotten enough charge during the hour of running to re-start the car, so we asked for a boost from another person in the station. A crowd gathered as one attempt after another failed to get enough juice into the battery to start the engine. In desperation, we bought another new battery to replace the one we had purchased in Buenos Aires, only weeks before.
After 24 hours without sleep, we headed for the hotel and a nap.
Thursday, 10 February
Friday, 11 February