The Girl (IN) Ipanema
Ipanema. Copacabana. Rio De Janeiro. Yeah.
Does this conjure up images of white sand beaches, near nekkid
women and men? Paradise? How about dengue fever?
I arrived in Rio with the travel book pictures etched in my head. I
just knew I was going to see, tall, tan, young, fabulous looking
people strolling down the beach. Well, sort of.
I'd packed several swim suits, to make sure that I would choose the
most appropriate one. I discovered that the Brazilians (the
cariocas) do not suffer from the same body hangups as we Americans.
They were no more beautiful than anything you might see on an
American beach, but Lawd, they were certainly more nekkid. I saw (or
didn't see) miles of cloth that had disappeared into the hinterlands
between many a butt cheek and grandpas in speedos.
When in Rio.....
Not really. I did pack my best tiny suit. Sort of like your skinny
jeans. The suit a good friend of me had once asked me to cover up
because she had a pre-adolescent son. And you know what, I was still
I enjoyed the beach and the people watching anyway. Lots of flesh in
thousands of hues. And that dang song kept playing in my head. "Tall
and tan and young and lovely the girl from IPanema goes walking..."
or maybe "Nina in Ipanema." Nah, sounds like a porn flick.
In my short time in Rio, I also absolutely had to visit the statue of
the big Jesus, the one on every commercial about South America.
(Christ The Redeemer).
I cabbed it across town and let me say this, I didn't speak a word of
Portuguese before last week, but my spanish seemed to pay off. I was
able to read most things. Street signs. Roadside warnings. And the
billboards in every bus stop from the ministry of health warning
about preventing Dengue Fever.
Did I get a shot for that?
I enjoyed the statue and the views from the top, but when I got back
to my hotel I frantically searched the internet for clues. What were
the symptoms of Dengue and could I get it?
Striped mosquito bites. Headache. Why did I read this?
While sitting pool-side for an afternoon thirst quencher, I felt
little pricks around my ankles, and I immediately started to itch.
There were cats around, probably to keep rodents away. My hotel was
oceanside, tucked into a mountain and needed protection from the
critters. Cats meant no rodents. No rodents, no snakes. I was okay
Well, the cats, they had FLEAS. And the &*^% Fleas were biting me.
In a few minutes, I was itching al over and convinced Dengue was
going to set in, never mind that the internet said mosquitos were the
source of transmission and not Fleas.
I was twitching like a crack addict in withdrawal, but I still
considering my cultural quest as I hunted down the best feijoada, the
Brazilian equivalent of soul food. Feijoada is the Sunday meal that
the Brazilian slaves ate. I said it, I ate meat. I even have a
picture to prove it.
I paid though. Paid big. Two days of major heartburn.
I enjoyed Brazil. Immensely. The best part, fitting in. This was
one country where o one really stared and there was a distinct
absence of that feeling that black folks get almost everywhere else,
that fringe feeling. People didn't know what I was, and they didn't