Rio de Janeiro, day 1: The Embassy Service Trip

May I just tell you – this Christ the Redeemer statue is not that big at all! It’s just a little scratch on the top of the mountain, from where we docked in Rio. Just sayin’.

Right now they’re clearing the ship, step-by-step usual routine. I’m waiting for the news – the local US embassy is organizing a free service trip. Yesterday I got an invitation to join, but then they announced random selection because too many people applied, so I’ve no idea if me and Rachel will be able to make it. It would be a pity to miss the only opportunity to participate in a free service project. As you know, I haven’t booked any SAS field trips because of the price – and the fact that you can self-organize many of them (which of course I didn’t because I’m a lazy ass and did no research before embarkation).
I’m such an un-party person, this is just terrible. At last a good going-out option – and I’m just going to bed, ’cause I’m damn tired.
The embassy trip was great, and I’m so glad it worked out. We got exactly ten people because half of randomly selected ones never showed up. So we signed up and got some time off to get wifi and do usual stuff. Then we went to a local children shelter, hosting kids from ages four to eighteen, whose parents could not afford to take care of them or were dealing with home violence, alcoholism and drug addiction. Our guides – three Brazilian students who’re sailing with us to Salvador, the embassy lady, a local journalist and the shelter workers – did an amazing job at helping us communicate with the kids who only spoke Portuguese. But, as it turned out, language barrier’s never too big of an obstacle; there are always ways to communicate.
The kids we met were mostly in the age group of 14-17. At first they were quite shy, but curiosity won after a short battle, and they started asking questions and invited us to play football and basketball. They all go to a regular public school in Rio, while living at the shelter.
One girl was pregnant; she was sixteen. Her sister was there with her; so was her [ex]boyfriend. These kids seemed much older than their age.
After doing some sports and conversing in a friendly circle, we were invited inside to watch a little movie by a local filmmaker. It was about a sister and a brother, both about 9-10, who made their living by collecting various garbage, like pieces of wood and metal, and selling it to the workshops and such places. Some of the shelter kids could associate with the film, because they had experience living on the street and collecting junk for sale.
It was very sad to say goodbye to all these kids, who were so welcoming and curious, and in such need of attention. But we were on schedule.
The next stop was at a small town not far from Rio, where they had a Black culture festival. That day was a holiday in Brazil, celebrating the Black population, and events were held throughout the country. The town we went to had a rich history of the Black community; when we arrived, they were setting up for the upcoming festival days.
We met the organizers, and they gave us a little tour. We watched a capoeira school performing – from little kids to old men. Capoeira is a Brazilian martial arts dance, developed by the African slaves brought to Brazil with a purpose to keep themselves fit and ready to fight if an opportunity to get their freedom back occured. It’s performed in “duos”, and only your feet, hands and head can touch the ground. The dancers are flying around, delivering kicks – not to each other, but near each other; an inattentive performer can get hurt. Capoeira is usually accompanied by berimbau, a musical bow, which indeed looks like a bow, only there’s a dried coconut shell attached to the lower side for pitch regulation. The mestre, a head of the school, sings the leading part, he’s the narrator. He can be accompanied by the choir in a call and response form.
So capoeira was very interesting to watch; and afterwards I was surprised to learn that one of our LLL’s (Life Long Learners) – she’s Russian – used to do capoeira.
The organizers walked us through the fair, still setting up. At one stand we got free books in Portuguese; at another – traditional Afro-Brazilian food, cooked on palm oil (like street food in Thailand), very heavy, but interesting to taste. While everyone was trying the meals, we ran to a local fast-food and got (only in Brazil!) some acai ice-cream. How cool is that?
The embassy guys brought us back to the ship, and the newly acquired interport students immediately suggested going out and partying, and I seriously considered joining in, but gave up the idea as soon as I reached my room. I was so exhausted I couldn’t even talk. Zzzzz.

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