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Today was both exciting and relaxing. Exciting because I finally got to meet Rafael in person, relaxing because I spent the rest of the day strolling the mountaintops and beaches of Urca, a peninsula jutting out from Rio adorned with two peaks springing directly out of the ocean it seems. I met Rafael at 9am at the Midia NINJA apartment in the Botafogo neighborhood. I wasn’t in the apartment for very long as Rafael wanted to go somewhere calmer to have our first conversation. We walked a few hundred meters to the Federal University of Rio and sat on the steps of one of the buildings to begin the project. The conversation went great. He mostly just let me know that they are under a lot of pressure both to cover everything that’s happening over the next few weeks as well as from journalists like myself wanting to either work with them or cover them as I am doing. I don’t know if any other Americans will be doing what I’m doing, but it seems like the secret might be out a little bit.

Anyway, we talked logistics, what I’m looking to do for my project, how they want to coordinate everything, etc. It was a good conversation. They want to be sure they can trust me before giving me access to their lives and their work, which I completely understand and welcome. I don’t want to just be some guy filming their exploits; I want to get to know the people I’m collaborating with so that I can tell the best and most accurate story possible. It will take some time to make that happen, so I’m glad I’ve given myself a month in Rio to do this the right way. Who knows how easy or difficult it will be moving forward, but I’m glad Rafael and I have made contact, and I’m excited to start working with the NINJA.

After our conversation this morning, I walked all the way down to the beaches at Urca. It’s a beautiful peninsula in the southeastern zone of Rio. It reminded me a bit of Milford Sound in New Zealand because the mountains seemingly grow from the ocean water straight up. There’s enough room between the shore and the base of the mountain for a block or so worth of housing, but for many of the homes, their backyard is a multi-thousand foot rock wall.

Bryan would have loved it — it’s hundreds of meters of climbing if you can lead climb the face. There were a number of people over halfway up the mountain when I boarded the gondola to take the lazy way to the summit.

Once at the top, you gain one of the most beautiful views of the city I could imagine. Christ the Redeemer is on the opposite mountain top looking right at you and you’re on a summit in the ocean with the entire city of Rio sandwiched in between. It’s a shame it was still kinda foggy from the morning because it made it difficult to get good pictures, but the view was magnificent.

After strolling around the summit for a while, I took the gondola back down to the base. I hiked into the actual town of Urca and had lunch in a café overlooking the beach. It was a perfect day out around lunchtime because I was in the shade and had an ocean breeze on my face (the beers didn’t hurt either). I finished lunch, walked back into Botafogo and grabbed a cab up the mountain home.

Tonight I’m mostly focusing on writing and working; I’m exhausted from walking all over the city for six hours. Plus, I only got a four hours sleep last night between my nerves, the damn rooster next door and my early wakeup time. I’m taking it really easy tonight.

There’s supposed to be a public meeting of the Midia NINJA tomorrow night I want to cover, so I’m off to do my prep work.

BrazilAndrew Stern