I Am A Foreigner Here
The ups and downs of arriving in Brazil
First 24 hours in Rio have been extremely stressful. I feel helpless. I am confused and overwhelmed which is the worst feeling ever.
I’ve done this many times but it seems like it doesn’t get easier. Should it get easier? Will it get easier? I guess it depends on many factors like ease of getting around in an unknown city, the ability of locals to speak English, my ability to speak their language, how well I blend in etc.
One thing is very clear: I am a foreigner here. I believe it would be different if I was just passing by. I will actually live here for 3 months so integration for me is crucial.
The main reason I am overwhelmed is that I don’t speak their language. Communication with people where I live is the number 1 factor in terms of me enjoying myself and feeling comfortable. Isn’t it funny how I travel and get out of the comfort zone and then I am looking for comfort. I guess it’s human nature, after all. Being understood, seen and acknowledged is one of our primary human needs. Well, I don’t feel that way… yet.
After spending about 11 hours on various planes from Puerto Vallarta to Rio de Janeiro, we were extremely exhausted and jet-lagged. Despite that, our first day in Rio was quite awesome. We went for lunch to a kilo place (it’s very popular here to serve food in a buffet-like manner where you pay “by kilo”) and then explored the beaches of Ipanema and Copacabana.
The landscape is breathtaking. The beach and the waters are clean and the waves are high. Brazilians are chilling on the beach having caipirinhas and speaking this magical Portuguese. I feel like I’m in a movie with real people being actors and the set is the actual city of Rio de Janeiro.
We’re staying in Ipanema, one of the best neighborhoods in Rio and indeed, this place has a lot to offer. Lago (the huge lake where Christ the Redeemer Statue is seen from) is to the right and the beach is to the left. Copacabana is a 30 minutes walk from Ipanema. The city is quite modern with shops and restaurants everywhere.
Yesterday I discovered Tapioca which is starch extracted from cassava root and they make a “banana pancake” from it. Food is great so far! We had some boiled corn on the Copacabana boardwalk and some organic chicken curry at one of the restaurants at almost midnight last night.
Women are gorgeous. Men are hot and “six-packed”. You can easily fit in if you speak Portuguese and are not overweight ;-) They speak this amazing language that I so want to learn. Everyone is super sporty and into their health. Now I understand the whole sex thing… I mean who wouldn’t want to have sex 24/7 having hot. healthy bodies. In the mornings and evenings, you see everyone doing whether cross-fit or just running on the beach. It appears that Rio prides itself on being super healthy.
You can definitely notice the “healthy lifestyle” by the food they sell at the supermarket. On the street, you can see a bunch of healthy/green stores. The supermarket has a lot of gluten-free and dairy-free foods. We had lunch at a place that has gluten and dairy dessert! OMG! Awesome!
Welcome to a big city that cares about its people and provides everything to keep them healthy and in shape! Awesome! Loving it! So grateful to have easy access to it. I missed it so much. Mexico is definitely not the place for those of us with food intolerances.
On the downside, everything is expensive. Obviously, the cost goes down once you get out of the best neighborhoods but I’m not comfortable with that yet. Especially after the warnings of violence in downtown etc. Lunch costs us about $8–15 USD per person in Ipanema. Coworking space is $300 USD a month. Airbnb is a minimum of $50 a night.
Now, to the stress part.
I slept until the afternoon today. The jet lag has kicked in and looked at where I am in the world is not helping either. I always have that feeling when I travel somewhere far… Australia, Colombia… same feeling. I imagine myself right now in the world and it makes me dizzy.
Anyhow, I gathered myself and went for lunch, checked out a local sim-card and went to the grocery store. I feel uneasy on the streets, uncomfortable and very vulnerable. And as we know, no one like to be vulnerable. Almost no one speaks English. But you can get around.
My biggest fiasco happened at the grocery store. I was pretty overwhelmed by some unknown fruits and veggies and local brands and by people too… They’re all busy picking their tomatoes and maracuyas and wines and I’m walking around like a crazy person looking for something to eat. I have “stolen” one woman’s shopping cart not realizing it’s not mine... I have also forgotten the running shoes I bought in the previous store in my shopping cart… I had to use google translate to excuse myself and explain what happened… LOL
I mean, look at the sweet potato and then 2 other different kind of potatoes/roots?
I feel like a child who doesn’t know anything and can’t talk. So many different colors, words, foods and people at once. I relaxed once I got home. I closed the door behind me and sighed in relief.
The good news is that in 2 weeks I will be like a true Carioca (a local girl from Rio) and running around like a local. Especially with some knowledge of Portuguese. I’ll be saying “tudo bom” and “como vai voce” like natural. Excited to immerse myself into this culture.
So here are my next to-dos on the path to feeling like a local:
- getting a sim-card- sign up for Portuguese classes- find a great yoga studio- discover great place to eat- sign up at the co-working space- get a bicycle to get around (rent or buy) - sign up for tours around Rio and favelas- go hiking in the morning and weekends- start running around the lake- go to some expats/digital nomad events
The “Confused” Wanderova
P.S. Just came back from an awesome yoga class at the studio next door. Namaste.