We have been having some Internet woes at the home base, so I apologize for not posting the last couple of days. If the Internet holds, there should be three coming in quick succession tonight. To begin, I’m writing this without my contacts in and I cannot read a single word on the screen. As such, I apologize to my future self when you edit this tomorrow, because I shan’t edit anything until then.
Saturday was a relaxed day. I ventured into the city on my own for the first time. You walk down the hill for a bit, make a bend around a steep switchback, follow the road down a bit more and then you start descending down a seven or eight story staircase onto a major thoroughfare. There are tons of shops running up and down the street with little bars on at least every other block. Many of them seem so similar that it’s tough tell why some are swamped and others are quite the opposite. I needed to buy groceries for myself because I could tell my host wasn’t going to want to cook for both of us for most of our meals. I went to a couple of stores, got some essentials and then trekked back; you don’t realize how mountainous Rio is until you have to climb stairs directly up its face.
The staircase I previously descended is beautiful when viewed from below, each step face covered in a reflective mosaic for the entire width of the staircase all the way from the bottom to the top. There is some beautiful graffiti art on some house walls lining the staircase and some really tacky words just spray-painted on some others. It’s truly a beautiful relic amidst the piles of garbage lining the walkway upward.
Some more thoughts about Santa Teresa
One of the first things to strike you about the Santa Teresa neighborhood where I’m staying is the trolley tracks. The hillside is steep everywhere and downright sheer in places. I would love to see the trolley that could tackle this terrain, but it’s nowhere to be seen…
A couple years ago the government decided to make some repairs to the trolley. From the way my host tells it, it was supposed to cost something like a million dollars to fix everything that needed fixing. It’s been two years and no work is currently being done on the trolley system as much as I can tell. There are entire stations “under construction” yet no construction workers are working. Nothing looks like it needs that much work, yet the trolley still sits idle. Veronica described the trolley as the heart of this historical neighborhood, but either the government’s incompetence or corruption has left this bustling neighborhood wounded. Many buildings are tagged with spray paint on the sides — “bonde já” — which translates to “trolley now.”
In this neighborhood, there are great aspects of culture or art that have fallen into disrepair for one reason or another. I’m sure as I visit more neighborhoods in Rio, I’ll find a different story, but Santa Teresa, its staircase and the trolley seems to be symptoms of a government’s greater woes…