Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Ipanema, Rio de Janeiro's Chinatown

I had an out of body experience today. Nothing special, I just went to Ipanema. I felt like I was in New York City's Chinatown but was swearing, upside down and sideways, that I was in China!

Before you call me judgmental or a hater, I do have a point. Every third person was an non-Portuguese speaking foreigner. In the middle of the day, at any given moment, I could have translated for someone in need.

Did I? Nope. I was never asked directly and I've learned to blend. You know, kind of like a wolf in sheep's clothing. We all know I'm there but I'm trying so damn hard. Why ruin it?

But something did come to mind, with all the issues to complain about, why are foreigners complaining? There's an entire neighborhood, the chicest one mind you, dedicated to you and your money. It's there with nice restaurants, English speaking doctors, and even imported products!

I was so excited when my neighborhood got jam in more than one flavor that didn't have a picture of Monica (Brazilian cartoon character) and the top ingredients of sugar and jello.

Of course one would ask why I don't live there. Well, I'm married to a middle-class Brazilian, we can't afford it! But even if we could, I would think twice. The weekends would be wonderful, who doesn't want to be steps from the beach, but do I want that day to day life?

Personally, I love my neighborhood. I love the cranky people pushing past my stroller, the doormen gossiping, and the bread shop guy telling me that my child is tired. I love the involvement.

Hell, an old lady joked with me today that I was missing a child. She saw me taking my son's friend to school the other day and mocked me. That is awesome. That is a Carioca neighborhood.

The thing that really pisses me off is all the stuff foreigners miss. They sleep in Ipanema and drink until oblivion in Lapa. There's a lot there in the middle there.

I'll break it down like this. If Rio de Janeiro was a woman's body, Ipanema would be the breasts. It's pretty, all ages like to go there, and it feeds the young. But it is not the heart.

To stick with this, to know Rio you have to be the blood. You have to travel to all the organs. One evening, without even knowing it, you will find yourself in the heart of a Carioca moment.

Take it from me, nothing can compare. 


  1. I like your metaphor of Rio & the woman's body; well done.

    I can also relate to your experience of not living in the Brazil that foreigners know. The "real" Brazil is really where the true beauty can be found. I agree.

    With that being said, we only have about another 100 days before we move back. We can't wait!

  2. Lucky you Meredith, I wish we could say the same.
    We are still in the initial stages of our plans to move...keeping our fingers crossed hoping that it happens soon.
    I also love Rachel's writting style, she makes me want to move to Rio. :)

  3. hi rachel!
    i love your writing!! you should post some pictures of your daily life & your local environment if possible :-)

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  5. The real Brazil is my backyard. I have 6 trees, a few ant hills and a neighbor that has piano rehearsal early in the evening. I enjoy his music while thanking God for nature, eventually though my mind shifts and I begin dreading the next morning, when I will be forced to take absence from my kingdom.
    I am thinking of naming one of the ant hills "Pico Rachel Rants", those guys are always complaing about something and never seem to stop moving. I think they stole my Havaianas, I have no proof though.

  6. Rachel, I agree with people having nothing to complain about living in Ipanema! I actually wrote a post about having a little crush on Rio because of it. I stayed with a friend for the week and I couldn't believe how different my life is in a small town in Brazil compared to what it would be like in Ipanema. The food was even cheaper if you can believe that.

    I think that the reason the expats don't explore much is because of being scared. I not saying for their safety but just because of something new... I have to say that moving here when nobody you know speaks the language can be very intimidating. Until I learned the language more I stuck to what was easy and what I knew.

    Then again I have met some people who refuse to embrace anything at all and they truly are missing out. I try to avoid these people at all costs!


  7. This was pretty beautiful!