Like grant proposals through the hands of USAID, these are the projects of my life!

Peace Corps Response 2011-2012
Peace Corps Response 2010-2011
University for Peace! 2008-2009
Supercross08! 2008
Peace Corps! 2005-2007

An obligatory disclaimer: Everything I have written, has been written by me. All of my own views, expressed hereinafter, are my own views. If you needed to read this disclaimer to know these things, you're a silly goose!

Monday, January 14, 2013

A Guy In Copacabana!

New Year’s Eve in Rio de Janeiro was spectacular! It was an incredible party that was just one part of an epic adventure in Brazil! I was so impressed by this city that I can’t imagine not returning.

This was my second date with Angela, an Australian gal I met in Spain in 2008. We’ve e-flirted for years and finally decided to hang out again in Hawaii last August. We had a great time and I decided to invite her to Rio for NYE. She accepted, and we had a blast!
We stayed right in the middle of Copacabana, two blocks from the beach. We had an apartment on the 12th floor, with Jesus Christ right outside the window. 
It was super hot while we were there. Even though it was overcast for a lot of the time, the temperatures never really dropped below 90, and got much hotter in the heat of the day. I didn’t do well with the heat. Even the last month in Costa Rica, I’ve been suffering in 80-85 degree heat. It seems my body isn’t acclimating well - or maybe it’s just remember last winter and expecting something like that again. Anyway, we wouldn’t have survived without air conditioning. And the beach. 
The beach at Copacabana was great! There was a boardwalk stretching the whole distance of the beach. It must have been about three miles worth of beach, and it was constantly full of sunbathers, tourists, locals, and people selling all kinds of crap. So many people! So many beautiful people! You couldn't walk more than 20 feet without falling in love! Again and again! That was awesome! But... There were also a lot of ugly people. They were entertaining in their own way, though. Bottom line is, there were tons of people! There were people playing soccer, people playing volleyball, people playing volleyball without using their hands, which made the people playing the normal way look like wussies. The beach was so heavily populated with action, you couldn't see through the crowds to the surf, though you could hear it. And Ipanema was even more crowded! So, we stuck to Copacabana.
Once we negotiated through the hoards of people, and claimed a little piece of sand, the chaos turned into the best people watching ever! So much happening! It was fantastic! The only drawback to these beaches was the very strong currents in the water. I sat and watched a bunch of people in the surf up to their knees and thought they were being silly because there were some fantastic, big waves to play in, only 20 or 30 feet farther out. I decided to be the idiot tourist that showed the locals how to play in waves. Until I got in the water. What a current! The knee thing was a good guideline to keep from getting sucked out to sea. In fact, we saw a group of four get sucked out and had to be rescued by helicopter! It was really, really cool! Until the helicopter set them on the beach right in front of us and the wind from the blades blew everyone's belongings way up the beach – and sandblasted a burn on everyone's bodies! Pretty intense! I wanted to go for a helicopter ride, but Angela wouldn't let me. Probably for the better.

Along the whole length of the boardwalk were little huts that sold drinks and food. This is where we hung out when the sun got too hot, or when the sun went down, or when we needed any kind of other excuse for food and drink.

The food in Rio was incredible. Everything we ate was delicious. Everything - The cheap street food, the food from the beach huts, the proper restaurant food, even the stuff at the grocery store was super delicious! The rockin flavors didn’t stop! And we washed down their goodness with my new favorite drink: Caipirinha! I can’t pronounce it either - nor can I remember the name of the booze used to make it: Cachaca. They are sort of like Brazil’s version of Mexico's margarita. Sorta. They were refreshing from ice, sweet from sugar, sour from lime, and fun from alcohol! They were outstanding! We drank, and drank, and drank! And used the good food when we needed breaks. 

The New Year's Eve celebration in Rio is one of the biggest and best in the world. And we were right in the middle of it. There were two stages set up in Copacabana, on the beach, with lots of live music. I was expecting to dance my brains out, but the party on the beach – outside of the stage zone – was much more interesting. We met a bunch of people, shared stories and drinks, and watched an incredible fireworks show from several barges just off shore. The tradition is to wear white on NYE to symbolize purity from wiping your slate clean and starting over fresh! I liked it cause I looked really great! 

Tried to do a couple touristy things cause we had lots of time. Tried to go see Jesus Christ but our first attempt failed because he sold out. You have to buy train tickets that take you up to the top of His mountain and they sold the last tickets for 19:30 while we were in line at 12:30. We tried again a couple days later, getting there earlier, and waited in line for only an hour and a half. But, then we had to wait three hours for our train... It was a hot, sunny day until we boarded the train, at which point it was just hot... We got to the top, and all we could see were clouds. Jesus Christ! We did have luck getting to the top of Sugar Loaf, though, and it didn't take us an entire day! 

Tried to go see Santa Teresa, a particular neighborhood of Rio that is supposed to be really wonderful. Although we failed, this was actually the highlight of my Rio adventure: getting mugged.

We had two guide books that both instructed us the same: Go to the whatever metro stop and catch some tram from there. When we came out of the metro, there were no trams to be found. We searched and searched. We even pulled out a map – which is something you should NEVER do! Nothing says vulnerable like advertising that you're lost. Anyway, we ended up lost in a place we probably shouldn't have been.

We crossed a street and I nodded at a guy walking by to let him know I acknowledged his presence. I do this everywhere. It's a great way to establish that you are aware of your surroundings. We walked down the road a bit, and saw this guy cross ahead of us and hop the barrier. He then pretended to be picking a flower as we walked by. Just a few steps passed that, he grabbed Angela's bag. Our water and guide books were in there! She yelled, “Drop the bag!” and held tight as I turned around to see what the hell she was talking about.

I saw the guy pulling on the bag and was really confused. This was obviously our bag so he must have been mistaken. Or maybe he wanted directions? This is how my brain works... Always wanting to give the benefit of the doubt. He started loudly repeating, “No hay problema” as I grabbed the bag with my left hand and yelled, “No!” twice, in my best angry voice, though I was really confused and not angry at all.

Logically, I could see he was robbing us, but I wanted that to be verbally disclosed before I reacted. Adding to my confusion, was that I could see fear in his eyes as clearly as I could see the sky was blue. He was a grab-and-run thief, but when Angela didn't let go, I think his plan fell apart and he didn't know what to do except yell that he didn't want any trouble while hoping we would be scared and let go of our belongings. Well, that didn't happen.

I started to cock back my right hand, but he grabbed my wrist. I broke his grip and held up my fist as if to let him know that consequences were coming. I didn't want to hit anybody – I'm not aggressive enough for that type of thing. Plus, he hadn't hit me first. But he wouldn't let go of our bag so I punched him in the face.

It felt amazing! I'd never hit anyone before and didn't really know what to expect – but I liked it! A lot! I didn't hit him as hard as I could because I still wasn't “into” the situation – and in giving the benefit of the doubt, I wanted to give as many warnings as possible. But, he still didn't let go. Okay, enough was enough.

He left himself wide open so in quick succession, I kicked him hard in the groin and saw him bend at the waist, and then I punched him hard in the face again! Loved it! That knocked his grip loose from our bag and he bolted away, but not before grabbing Angela's necklace and pulling it from her neck. She said it was an old, beat-up necklace, not even worth five bucks when it was new. I scolded her for not wearing nicer things to impress me and then asked if she was okay. She was. Only joking about the scolding part.

The whole thing happened in a flash and my adrenaline was really pumping! I cursed myself a bit for not doing more on a physical level. By the time I got into the situation, I was expecting a fight and was waiting for him to attack so that I could counter as I had been trained. But he just wanted to grab and run – he didn't want a fight – and he certainly didn't want to get punched in the face. Too bad, Thief!

Many more pictures are here: Here!


Anonymous said...

Are you scouting new dojo locations

Inquisitive Mind said...

What!? This has to be fiction... too good an entry to be real life, haha. The whole fight scene part really got me hyped up! What a story to tell; just another amazing one to add to your list! Loved this!