Sunday, February 14, 2010

Sambodromo and Samba!

The Carnaval parade at the Sambodromo last night was nothing short of spectacular! We really had the best time. We had a group of 7 of us (Marisa and I, one of her friends from Portuguese class, and 3 of her visitors from England who are living with us) all went, thanks to Marisa's skills at getting us cheap tickets! I guess supposedly Sunday and Monday are the best nights, and so Saturday is cheaper.. however, for a group of gringos that don't know the difference between the dance schools, it honestly is fun no matter what day you go! And the price difference was... several hundred dollars.

Basically, the Sambodromo is a huge, long stadium with seating on both sides, and elaborate Carnaval parades, put on my different dance schools, march down them with their elaborate floats, dance moves, and costumes. Each school has a queen, who is always a fabulous curvacious woman with a big booty and amazing samba moves, and huge drag queen-esque feathers and sparkles and everything else you can imagine. Yes, I believe the best word for the entire event is simply fabulous.

Probably the highlight of my night was the gorgeous, bootylicious black woman dancing behind me, who adopted me and was teaching me some of her dance moves! I had so much fun dancing with her and the man behind us. I don't think what I was doing technically classifies as samba, probably more just fast leg movements and general gyrating, but it was a great time anyway, and we made quite a spectacle of ourselves.. which you know I love to do!

There also were no sneak beijo attacks at the Sambodromo, which was a welcome change. It was a very positive, happy atmosphere, with people dancing and cheering from their seats, many of the fans in costumes, and I felt pretty safe. As a result, I had one of my best nights so far... I know that going to the Sambodromo is the "touristy" thing to do at Carnaval, but honestly, Carnaval lasts 4 days, and I see no reason not to spend one of them there. It's totally worth it, so I say whatever to the haters!

(Just a note-- don't spend hundreds of dollars on your tickets. I met a guy who paid something crazy like $300 for the same seats we had-- don't get ripped off. Go directly to the ticket window, and avoid going through a travel agent if at all possible.)

I am sort of embarassed to say that we only stayed to watch 3 schools perform.. each one performs for over an hour and is MASSIVE, I mean thousands and thousands of people, and we were all exhausted from dancing and cheering and drinking. I have no voice left! We ended up leaving and taking the Metro home... and were totally amused to be riding the Metro with people in their parade costumes. It's hilarious to see people dressed as enormous fish or covered in fuscia feathers on the subway-- love it!

In fact, that's probably my favorite part of Carnaval-- the costumes. Well, and the dancing. Samba is a crazy dance-- how do their legs move so fast?? And people are so in the spirit of things! Men often dress as women-- really good looking ones!-- and many people wear wigs, head dresses, masks, and day glo clothing. I have never seen so many hot pink tube tops in my entire life, and frankly, I think I need one. It would suit me, right?

Today has been mellow, because I've been feeling sick (too many caiparinhas?? perhaps). Alina and I still motivated over to the Sunday artisan market in Ipanema to check out the wares. I was feeling really crampy and nauseous, so she went and walked around while I sat on a bench with a group of 3 little old ladies. They chatted me up in their Portuguese, and I tried desperately to keep up in my very poor "portunol," as they call it (Espanol + Portuguese). I realized they were asking me if I was married or not, and I said no. They insisted that I find myself a Brasilian man and marry him, and I did my best to explain that maybe Carnaval, with its many beijo contests, might not be the best environment to begin a long-term relationship. They laughed, but I still think they wanted to set me up with their various grandsons.

Anyway, Alina finally came running up laughing and pointed to one of the street urinals for MEN ONLY, which is so annoying! I mean, where are women supposed to pee? They are these stand-up urinal things that men can use, but I see no female equivalent. How machista!! Anyway, she was laughing because there was a girl attempting to use the man's urinal. She had her friend holding the little door shut, but we and everyone could see her head and her legs and feet. We could all see that she was peeing all down her leg!! And her friend was laughing so hard he could barely stand up and hold the door, so it kept falling open! It was so, so funny! She finally finished and a bunch of people rushed up to her and poured beer all over her feet to clean them. Then she straighted herself up and kept on partying. CARNAVAL!!!

I didn't have my camera on me so this isn't my picture, but this is basically the idea of those men's urinals:

Right now I'm back at the house, trying desperately to think straight with the sound of Carnaval music (very particular-- I'll try to post a link so you can listen) blasting outside our window.. we have our very own bloco party right outside!!! I'm still not feeling great with this stomach thing, but I'm sure I can at least motivate myself downstairs to take part in our local bloco.

One other piece of news-- today I splurged and bought myself a plane ticket to Salvador! I am so excited. Salvador is supposed to be an incredible place, very different culturally and very well worth the visit. It's known for its music, food, a Carnaval that rivals (and some say is better) Rio's, and a heavily Afro-Brazilian culture. I didn't think I'd make it that far north, and I wouldn't do it by bus with my time limitations, but I found a good price on a place ticket and decided to go for it. I can't wait to check out the city, the surrounding beaches, and also Morro de São Paulo. I'll be in that area for 5 days, and then will be flying back to São Paulo to visit my dear friend Paul (whose family I stayed with when I was there last week, but he wasn't there). Then, I plan to head to Florinopolis to see some fabulous beaches, and then to Iguazu Falls, where I will then re-enter Argentina, and begin my descent back to Buenos Aires. I'm looking forward to each and every part, and think it's going to be an awesome trip!

PS. Happy Valentines... happpy they don't seem to celebrate it here, honestly!