Brazil in one night: Pedra Bonita Part II

Lee Kaplan-Unsoeld
April 16, 2016

As we drove along the Copacabana beach, we hit a patch of traffic where a number of cars were pulled to the left hand side of the road, watching a tense situation. As the driver saw what was unfolding, he pulled to the left hand side of the road, and Felipe and I stared out of the window, looking up a a man in only his underwear standing on a window ledge, looking like he was ready to jump. Inside, people were leaning out through the broken window, pleading with him to come inside. We must have only been there for five minutes, but the moment lasted an eternity. At last, one of the people inside hooked his leg, grabbed tight, and awkwardly pulled him inside. We had a collective sigh of relief, and the driver pulled away, satisfied with the result, and ready to drop us off and pick up his next ride.

Despite being in the car for so long, when all was said and done, it only cost around $10, a fraction of what it would have cost to take a taxi, and a big reason why there are now so many taxi drivers protesting Uber’s presence in Brazil. For a consumer, it makes a lot more sense.

                Once in Leme, we went up to Felipe’s family’s apartment building, just a couple blocks away from the beach, and standing tall on the edge of a favela called Babilônia, which lay silently behind it that night. His apartment was spacious and quiet, his family all asleep by that time, almost 3 a.m., and we quietly used the bathroom and drank some water. I read a newspaper in the living room while he changed clothes and grabbed his camera, and we left to go meet up with Daniel and Pedro and start the hike.

                Walking out onto the streets in Rio at 3:30 in the morning is a strange feeling. There was still a buzz going on, and people out and about. We had some time to kill as we waited for Daniel and Pedro, but the city provided much for us to see. We strolled past the building where we had seen the potential jumper earlier, the sidewalk below littered with things that had been thrown out the window in the leadup to his attempt to jump. A small table was splintered, a dvd player and TV shattered, and all sorts of fragments of things beyond recognition waited to be cleaned up by the street sweepers in the morning.

                There were plenty of people to watch as well, and we decided to wait in a well-lit area next to a surprisingly busy bar for that hour of the night. Well dressed women occasionally walked down the sidewalk, looking for something that I couldn’t quite place at first. Upon asking Felipe, he cleared up my doubts, this was Copacabana. These women were prostitutes looking for late night (or early morning) customers. Quickly getting over the shock of it, I remembered where we were, in an area ridden with rich tourists in a country with one of the highest rates of wealth inequality in the world. Of course there would be prostitutes.

                Exchanging a hello with a woman who may or may not have been working herself, we walked along the road, Felipe on the phone with Daniel, who was in the cab with Pedro and super close. We hopped in the cab, and I began to be assaulted by an onslaught of unfamiliar words. Daniel was sitting next to me in the backseat telling Pedro and Felipe about his recent dating experiences, using all kinds of colorful language that I could barely understand. I could sense the passion as we zipped through the streets at 4 in the morning, but as I tried to his stories, which I’m sure were very interesting, I began to notice that the cab driver was falling asleep at the wheel!

                When we stopped at a traffic light, his eyes closed, his foot let off the brake, and we began to roll backwards since he was in neutral. We still had a ways to go, up a windy mountain road. Wondering if I was the only one noticing it, I leaned over to Felipe and shout-whispered in English, “Dude, I think he’s falling asleep!” He kind of looked at me sideways, nodded like he already knew, and did nothing. Daniel kept droning on about his love life, and I tried to catch the eye of the taxi driver as if to say, “I know what’s going on, and you need to wake up man!” It didn’t really work.

                We started into the hills, and as the car tilted back to go up, he got more and more comfortable, and the car slowed down to a crawl. I was sure we were going to die, at some point, and I noted where the emergency brake was just in case he fell completely asleep and the car went rolling backwards down the hill.

                Luckily for all of us, we got to the trailhead at about 4:30 a.m., hopped out of the car, and all looked at each other, recognizing how sketchy the situation was. Well, all of us except Daniel. He was so busy talking about his love life that he hadn’t realized how out of it the taxi driver was.

                We started the hike up Pedra Bonita, and immediately started sweating. It was almost 5 in the morning and it was hot. Before long, Daniel, bringing up the rear, yelled at us to wait, and we waited patiently as he caught his breath. We started again when he caught his breath, but before long, he asked us to wait again, and we had to stop. Though I really found his whole dialogue about his love life to be a great way to pick up on some Brazilian Portuguese slang, he stopped talking as the sweat soaked through his shirt and his breathing got sharper.

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Lee Kaplan-Unsoeld

<p><span style="font-size: 13.008px; line-height: 20.0063px;">I am a sociology and cultural anthropology student from Olympia, Washington, who has been lucky enough to study abroad in Spain, Costa Rica, and Chile. I am now headed to Brazil for my final semester of my undergraduate studies, and could not be more excited to learn a third language and enjoy some of Brazil&#39;s natural and cultural beauties. In addition to traveling, studying people and learning languages, I like to read, write, rock climb, play violin and drums, hike, swim, do yoga, and enjoy quality conversations that run late into the night. Please join me on this blog in processing some of the crazy stuff going on in my life, and in Brazil.</span></p>

2016 Spring
Home University:
Saint Martin's University
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