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Every drunk person has a guardian angel

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Today started with me sleeping too late. I woke up at ten when my host was rustling around in the kitchen, but I was so tired that I had to go back to sleep… I missed going to the street fair, Rio’s version of a farmer’s market, with her. So, I checked some email, worked on setting up my meeting with the Midia NINJA, then decided to head down to the street fair myself. Most of the fresh fish was no longer being sold by the time I got there, but the entire street smelled of it. Vendors were still hawking produce aggressively, though. I was being yelled at in a language I didn’t understand, somehow feeling guilty every time I just walked by a stall acting as if I didn’t hear the person yelling.

The scene made for some great pictures, which I diligently captured. I will say the one problem with a DSLR is that while the photos are better than a point and shoot, I always feel nervous pulling it out of my bag to photograph something. People either know you’re photographing them, or you have now become a target for robbery. As such, I feel very uncomfortable when I pull my camera out of the bag and begin to fire away in crowded places. I’d love to set up my tripod and really get some great footage of a bustling scene like this on video, but there’s no way I’m going to take the time to set it up in an environment like that.  But, since I’m doing a piece about guerilla journalists, I’m ok with my video having a bit of a guerilla feel to match the subject matter. In that case, I can get away with video footage that’s not perfectly steady. But, I still feel uncomfortable using such a big camera in large, public places like this.

After the street fair, I took a stroll through the gardens across the divided highway from the fair. It’s called the Paris Square and was designed by a French architect in conjunction with some larger plans for the neighborhood, which never came to fruition (sound familiar?). The gardens were pretty and there’s a lovely pond in the middle. I took some great photos and then headed home.

The night was far more fun. It turns out one of the original members of a famous Brazilian band from the seventies was playing at this castle-esque structure on top of the mountain Santa Teresa is on. The band used to be five or six members, but now it’s just the original member and his son on dueling guitars or ukuleles or whatever other stringed instrument they decided to play together. Despite not knowing a single word of what they were saying, I though the music was fantastic. The son was a virtuoso on the guitar and everyone in the crowd knew all the words to every song. It was a great mix of people, from young children to attractive 20-somethings to parents to party-hardy baby boomers — everyone was having a great time, myself included.

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The concert lasted for just over an hour and we started heading down the mountain hitting up bars on every block as we went. I was with Veronica and a lot of her friends from her PhD program — biology — so I was standing in silence for the vast majority of the conversations. That’s a really odd feeling being as talkative as I am and just having to sit in basically stunned silence because I have no eff-ing clue what anyone is saying. Every ten minutes or so, one of the two people would explain in English what they had been talking about, but it was still an eerie feeling being silent amidst lively conversation.

At one of the bars down the hill we were patronizing, I learned a great phrase: “Every drunk person has a guardian angel.” The reason for the utterance thereof is because I asked how is it that more people aren’t hit by buses or cars based on how fast vehicles drive on tiny streets and how many people stand in those same street while drinking. Huge buses barrel through turns on tiny roads barely large enough for cars to pass one another two abreast, much less a full-sized bus.  When I posed this question to Veronica’s friend Lily, she responded with: “all drunk people have a guardian angel.”

I had some really interesting conversations about the World Cup tonight, too. Despite Brazil’s legendary soccer mania, every single local I’ve talked to say they wish the country wasn’t hosting it. There’s a tradition in Rio, and maybe throughout Brazil, where every neighborhood will paint the walls of their streets in the Brazilian colors to support the national team. This happens every World Cup even when played on foreign soil. This year, even though the Cup is on their home turf, they’re not painting anything (at least not yet, anyway). The people of Rio are fed up with the level of corruption within their government and the amount of money being wasted on this event. Lily called the games “the cup of shame.” With the urban pacification programs, forced mass exodus of the working poor from their favela homes, embezzlement and outsized expenditures on stadium infrastructure in lieu of sorely needed real infrastructure, the people of Rio show tepid support for the up at best and outright disgust at worst.

The Midia NINJA are in a perfect place to capture this changing tide and I now have a meeting set with my contact Rafael. We’re to meet at his apartment at 9am Monday morning. As it turns out, this meeting already happened as I'm publishing this, but I have another post coming detailing my busy day today.

BrazilAndrew Stern