...Green and Yellow "I Remember Brazil"
I remember my 5th floor terrace door started to rattle at 10pm. And it kept on. For seemingly the whole night. I lay nervously in bed, on my second night in, and my first journey to, Brazil – scared that the sliding door’s glass would suddenly craaaaaaaack!!!! Tropical storms are no fun, and certainly not when you’re in a skyscraper hotel at night, trying to catch some z’s before your business conference the next day.
But that was my welcome to Brazil. And I still marvel that I woke up the next morning somehow magically refreshed and feeling well. I also glanced over at the terrace door. Phew. No cracks. I had nodded off to sleep sometime around 1am when the storm was still active.
That morning, I stepped out onto my cozy high terrace. It had a small round table and two chairs. I took a seat, and glanced out at the beach. Huge, green, rocky outcrops dotted my blue ocean horizon. The rocks reminded me of photos I’d seen of beaches in Thailand or Malaysia. The monolithic rock formations jutted up from the ocean floor with such authority, almost fortress-like. How amazing. I’d never seen this type of topography before.
I then looked at the “wavy” ocean below me. The white crest of waves were about five-feet high – definitely the highest I’d ever seen anywhere. And the hue of the water was a soft deep blue, almost green. It wasn’t a shimmering crystal or sapphire as I’d seen on my trips to the Caribbean. Instead, this blue felt heavy and solid, almost strong. Hmmm. I didn’t know what to make of it. The waves rolled onto the shore every few moments, almost lulling me back to sleep. Or at least into a mesmerized state.
Tiny red goalposts were then being erected on the white beach. Folks were starting to arrive, guys mostly, and they were setting up little scrimmage fields for the day. How awesome. A bird's eye view of world-class Brazilian soccer players? Could I really be that lucky?! This bit of “soccer fortune” solidified my opinion of Brazilian beaches – they were the most stunning beaches I’d ever laid eyes on.
That week, Brazil provided me with a lot of “notables” and “firsts.” Aside from experiencing “the most stunning beaches I’d ever laid eyes on,” I also experienced my first “drive by” of an urban rain forest. Yes, Rio de Janeiro has a tropical rainforest within its city limits. It's called Tijuca National Park. In fact, it’s the only city in the world with a rainforest. And lucky for me, my taxi-driver had to drive past it when he took me from the airport to my hotel, which was located in the posh district of Barra da Tijuca. That’s on the other side of the mountain past that famous beach called Ipanema.
On that hotel note, Brazil gave me my first encounter with a “rainbow wall of juices.” I was enchanted when walking into my hotel restaurant the first morning, as I was met with a huge wall housing over a dozen vats of different colored juices. I recognized maybe only two or three. The rest were thoroughly unpronounceable foreign juices extracted from that mammoth #1 rainforest in the world called the Amazon. Brazilian fruit juices reign supreme, and every morning I loved sampling a new one. All tasted delicious and immediately perked up my senses. Good morning!
I also saw my first mountain favelas (slums) in Brazil. It was tough to witness, but also important. There are impoverished areas in so many countries of the world (including my own), and for me, I found myself being interested in the vibrant life and strong culture I’d always heard was blossoming within these destitute dwellings.
My taxi-driver drove me through a circuitous road that was smack between the ocean on one side, and a big mountain favela on the other. On the favela side, I peered upward at a kaleidoscope of bright-colored tin rooves. They dotted the sky like stars, and looked ready to fall down on top of me. The homes clung to the side of the mountain in all their labyrinthine glory, as I wondered what interesting worlds were nestled within. Tough worlds. But also beautifully valuable worlds.
I then ate tasty authentic Brazilian food all week. Though I had eaten Brazilian at least a few times in the USA, it was still exciting for me to eat Brazilian food while in Brazil. When in Rome! I ate the national dish called feijoada, drank the national drink called caipirinha, and enjoyed those world-famous Brazilian meats that are cooked to perfection at one delectable restaurant called Porcao. Flip your coaster!
All told, my affection for Brazil is still strong, and perhaps even stronger than it’s ever been. Yes, even a whopping seventeen years after my first, and only, trip to this big, bold South American country. Case in point – I regularly cook a dish called Brazilian wagoner’s rice. Love that the green and yellow bell peppers in the recipe patriotically match the Brazilian flag. I’m also known to make a refreshingly wondrous caipirinha. Bring on that cachaca (sugarcane liqueur) and lime. I also regularly listen to beachy, breezy bossa nova music. Love me some vintage Astrud Gilberto and Sergio Mendes and Brasil ’66. It's oldie Brazilian tunes at their lounge-y best.
The places we travel to really do leave their footprint on us, just as we leave ours. Back in 2006, I left my NYC footprint on a pristine white beach in Rio – the calm morning after a tropical storm. And years later, Brazil has left its sandy flip-flop footprint on me. Obrigada, Brazil. This summer, I am reminded of your beachy, breezy vibes.