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The truths about Rio

published: 2010-03-05

Toxic and intoxicating, city of extremes. This is what everyone says about Rio. But it’s more than that. It’s all the little nuances inbetween the outer boundaries. When writing a novel you wonder about how to convey these without ending up writing only in clichés. The answer being: don’t even try. Don’t try to prove you know something someone else may not know. Simply write what you know and see.
I got lost in a favela here and wasn’t immediately shot down. A week before I went, a journalist was. It was what everyone was talking about. I was met with curiosity and led from one man to the next, as if they didn’t quite know what to do and passed the problem on to someone higher up in the chain. Eventually I was presented to a white middle-aged man who wasn’t wearing a T-shirt. He offered me a beer and shook his head in fatherly concern. I was lost? He would bring me out, safely. But first I was to have a beer with him, and please come back, he said. After which there was some discussion about whether or not the other favela (the one I was meant to visit as a friend if mine was working there) was of the same gang. He had a gun. All of them did. But that didn’t matter. The most aggression I felt came from the women that had seen me wandering around the football field, where their men were playing a game.
I met with a twenty-five-year old journalist. He had written a piece about voodoo-type sceances. I wanted to go to one. He was wearing a T-shirt that depicted a man and a woman who were getting married. ‘Game Over’ it said. Yet he spoke of how he wanted at least three children. And typically for Rio: the men have a comfortable ease about themselves. Women come to them, not the other way around. It’s almost as if you’re dating someone in the fifties. Then he leans over his beer and tells me, “my grandfather was clairvoyant. I have his powers. They used to scare me. I’d wake up in the mornings knowing my spirit had left my body at night and feel exhausted. I would be afraid to sleep. It’s better now that a doctor has given me sleeping pills and anti-anxiety medicine.”

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