I never quite found my footing while in the sprawling metropolis. From the shock of Portuguese to the feeling of somehow always being surrounded on all sides by water, this beautiful maze never really became familiar. And to think, I was one of the lucky ones. I was staying with family in the Flamengo district which meant I always had someone to show me around. If they were unavailable for some reason, they made sure I knew which bus to get on when setting out alone.
Nights were spent at pulsing nightclubs, or drinking caipirinhas in the streets downtown. We ventured high up into the favelas where we were cautioned not to speak English while walking through the steep twisting hills. Our destination on one such night was a bar in the Alta Vidigal district. We were told that it had some of the best views that you will find in any neighborhood and it just happened to be a favela. The views didn't disappoint., and neither did the music. The nightlife in Rio seemed to never end and each night we would beg to go home sure that four am was a perfect time to crawl our weary bodies into bed. As we hailed a taxi the rest of our group would shrug their shoulders with a lack of understanding at our inability to watch the sun come up and greet the new day.
We learned that Brazilians live always for today, for the now and that they'll deal with tomorrow when it comes. It's a seductive lifestyle. One that promises satisfaction without regret because when tomorrow finally does come, you'll have already forgotten about yesterday.
We spent our time with twenty something women, friends of my sisters that consisted mainly of super posh hipster lesbians. They flaunt their youth, beauty and sexuality with a ferocity that makes the boys tongues wag. Little did these poor fools understand that these sex kittens have no need for men. This crew has the pulse of the city down to a science. There was no question of where we needed to go each night to be at the best party in town. As we roamed the city like hunters stalking prey, we would stash a bottle or two of gin in fashionable handbags to keep the buzz riding high. Constantly perfumed by the scent of weed, cigarettes, cough drops and Dior, there was no doubt we were having a blast. Every night brought a feeling that anything might happen and it probably would.
I couldn't have dreamt of feeling more out of place with my worn down unstylish travelers clothes and straight husband who at 34 must've seemed ancient to these devilish cherubs. It was a ridiculous adventure in a once in a lifetime kind of way. We were shown a slice of life that we didn't even know existed; Let alone could have imagined, but it was incredible.
The two weeks we spent with them, completely submerged in their world disappeared in a foggy haze and when we came up gasping for breath, we knew we could never go back. It showed us how far from those days of nonstop partying we really are, although they don't seem so far away in the dream of memory.
But no matter how wild the parties were, no matter how late we were out, no matter how much we hurt in the morning, we learned an amazing quality of Brazilian life: The one of acceptance.
We spent time with several families in Brazil and saw a tightness to the families there that I had never experienced before. Moms laughing at their daughters needing to go to the hospital with serious hangovers for IVs of saline solution to rehydrate. Daughters coming home confessing to drug usage at parties and hugs at the end of the day for everyone. Tongues would cluck, hair would get ruffled but I could see smiles hidden by a turn of the head, or laughter hidden by coughs as the older party remembered the frivolity of youth. There is an honesty between children and parents that allows for everyone to trust one another and talk about real issues, concerns and troubles.
My time in Rio was less about the sights and more about the people and the lessons learnt from them. I learned about acceptance, love, family and what it means to be free. Not free in sense of how we might think of it in the states but a freedom to be whoever you are in your own way and that love is unconditional. Even weeks later I'm still inspired by this group of young women and will carry them with me as I continue to explore, learn and work on being less American and more human.
The pictures for this post came directly from the instagram feeds of the girls themselves. Thank you for letting us repost them!
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