Pre-Carnival jitters

5th March 2011

I spent the next 24 pre-carnival hours boasting and gloating to all of my friends through all the social networking media’s.

I felt this behavior was justified, after all, how many people can say they were actually in the Rio carnival parade??! And wasn’t this the very essence of what Rio Carnival was all about??!

At 3.30pm, I met Kylie, Orla, Pip, Joe, and about 12 other tourists, who had paid handsomely for this amazing experience, at the apartment of our carnival orchestrator.

From 3.30pm to 5.30pm, each participant had been given a ‘We were in the Rio Carnival 2011’ T-shirt.

From 5.30 to 7pm we were shifted to a street parallel to the Sambadrome (where the parade is held), and there we sat on the street curb, in the heavy rains, with nothing but plastic bags over our heads wondering what the hell our 265USD had paid for?! ‘Bloody Karma! Serves me right for gloating to everyone on Facebook!’

Finally in the fourth hour, when spirits had reached the deliriously skeptical, someone yells out ‘The costumes are here!’

Seeing our costumes for the first time made me realise how ridiculous it was to worry about being made to wear too little, when in reality the costumes covered the body from head to toe in baggy whites, complete with a bulky gladiator style gold chest plate with green leafy scarf’s flowing from the shoulders, and a large yellow head-piece with tall bright yellow, orange and green feathers sticking out of it.

Yes, I represented a pineapple.

I can samba baby…SAMBA! – Samba 4

By the 5th lesson it was all coming together. Feet, hips, arms. There were even moments when I thought not only was dancing the samba heaps of fun, but that it was actually starting to look good!

T, referring to the music – ‘So is this the type of music they play at carnival in Rio?’

Belu and Matias, another dance instructor at Bailer, laugh at me, then positioned themselves to do a demonstration… An amazing demonstration with leg action faster than I could count!

The music for carnival was about a hundred times faster than the songs I had been practicing to.

T, lets out a long – ‘… shiiiiiiiiiit!’

Martias, laughs – ‘I felt that come straight from your heart! Yes, for every 1 2 3 that you do, Belu just did 4 or 5.’

Belu – ‘And the girls in Rio do it in high heels! That’s why when you see them dance they have big muscles in their legs, and big butts.’

With this confirmation that I was far from being Rio samba ready, I booked another week of private samba classes.

Samba’s first shocking lesson – rhythm, co-ordination, where are you?!

The first night K and I ventured out into Palermo, we followed the drum beats to a Brazilian bar called Foyness. In Foyness there was an amazing live band playing with a female lead singer who was absolutely gorgeous! Her voice was incredible and the hypnotic shakes of her hips and rhythmic movements of her arms held me captivated. I fell in love… With her dancing!

In the following week, I found a dance school- Bailer – in Palermo and tried to describe what I had seen without the use of re-enactment. The helpful staff at Bailer informed me that what I needed to learn was the Samba. As the group classes fell at an inconvenient time, and I had limited time in Buenos Aires, I booked myself in for some private lessons.

Thank f#cking Christ. Because what happened in that first private lesson should never be exposed to the public. It was hideous. The movements felt so foreign, so alien to my body. My hips, feet and arms felt like they belonged to different creatures – a duck, hippo and goat, each with their own interpretation of beat and direction. I was so far removed from words like graceful, and sexy, and dangerously too close to descriptions like abominable, with all sorts of wrongs happening simultaneously. No one should ever be forced to see themselves like this, I resembled the snakes on Medusa’s head – the more I watch myself attempt to Samba the stronger the urge to be stone still.

My instructor, the beautifully fit and talented Belu explained that the Samba steps are very very difficult. But that the movement was ‘just like walking’. Hmm, 30 years of ‘walking’ did NOT prepare me for this moment…

Funnily enough, I’ve used that line myself a couple of years ago when I was annoyingly frustrated at Mark for not getting the basic Salsa step ‘Mark, it’s just like walking! What’s WRONG with you!’

He never did get that dance. And after the first Samba session I was pretty doubtful that I would ever get this dance, and whether something this unattractive and improper could possibly evolve into something presentable in time for Carnival in Rio.

Making friends on flights – Goodbye Asia, hello South America!

After a teary goodbye to my family in Malaysia (special shout out to my cousin Sheba for looking after me so well!) I jumped on a plane to Sydney for a couple of days, just long enough to make sure my animals were ok, repack, and for Mr fabulous to accidentally drop a 6 seater heavy wooden bench on my right foot, fracturing it – On the plus side, a bench falling on my foot in public did earn me many glasses of wine, which helped numb the pain – I enter my Aerolineas flight from Sydney to Lima and lay exhausted in my aisle seat, shut my eyes and tried to get some sleep.

2 guys sit down next to me at different times and start talking to each other about football.

5 minutes into their conversation, Brazilian voice – ‘So, is she your wife?’ referring to me

Australian accented voice – ‘No’, quietly adds ‘but I am sleeping with her.’

Surprised, I open my eyes an turn to see whom it was I’m supposedly being intimate with.

Introducing Kush, a large dark indian man in his 30’s, who Is a tough looking Flight Centre travel agent, but a real softy deep down – You know, the kind of softy that would be a complete gentleman to your face but sleaze behind your back?

Kush, embarrassed – ‘I’m not really sleeping with you. I don’t know why I said that!’

T – ‘ Because you’re a boy’ smiling, then turning attention to the young Brazilian sitting beside her ‘ You’re from Brazil? I’ll be there in March for Carnival, is it as crazy and dangerous as people keep telling me?’

Igor is a 24 year-old Rio born and bred, Macquarie Uni (based in Sydney) business student, who was about to spend 3 months back home in Rio with his family after not having seen them for 3 years since coming to Australia.

Igor – ‘There use to be little riots, where 50 men would run at you and just grab whatever they could.’

T – ‘That`s hilarious! 50 men, 1 backpack?’ imagining the comedy of splitting the goods of 1 backpack between so many.

Igor, seriously – ‘It would be you and anyone around you, always targeting more than a couple of tourist on the beach and grabbing camera’s and bags. But don’t worry, it doesn’t happen anymore, now the police protect the tourist, it’s bad for business if the tourist are scared.’

We chatted through the whole 16 hour flight and had swapped facebook details by the time we hit Buenos Aries in Argentina.

Igor – ‘Let me know if you come to Brazil any earlier than March, I’ll show you around. And it will be handy for you to know someone in Rio.

T – ‘Definitely! And you let me know if you decide to stay in Rio for Carnival!.’

We parted ways with the promise to keep in touch, and after having made my first South American friend within 5 minutes of my flight out of Sydney, I knew instinctively that I was going to love this continent.

Igor was right – it would be extremely handy to know a local especially during crazy carnival time.