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Day 1 of My Rio Vacation: A chegada

23 Mar

After about twelve hours in airplanes–between Dulles and Bogotá, Bogotá and São Paolo, and São Paolo and Rio de Janeiro (the cheapest route, naturally)–I finally arrived in Rio de Janeiro a little before 9am on Saturday morning. Stepping out of the airplane, I could already tell that my long-sleeved cotton shirt and jeans were not comfortable apparel for the tropics. It wasn’t really scorching hot–and hasn’t been yet this trip, with temperatures hovering in the mid-70s to mid-80s–but it was definitely not late-winter Virginia.

The landing itself had been fantastic: passing over strange, otherworldly mountaintops as we descended toward the bay, with the gigantic Cristo Redentor statue looking on. The SDU airport is literally in the bay, resting on a strip of land that juts out from downtown Rio just barely above sea level, so it was really cool (and maybe just a little bit scary) to watch the water getting closer and closer to the bottom of our plane–until suddenly the landing strip appeared out of nowhere, just in time for the landing gear to touch ground!

The wonder of all this had my head spinning as I passed through the baggage claim area toward the exit–shifting my backpack to a more comfortable position (I stuck to traveling light, 1 normal-sized backpack for a 10-day international trip; aren’t you impressed?) while trying to determine if there was a free WiFi network available for my iPod to connect to so that I could call my friend Marcos to find out if he was nearby and my parents to let them know I was still alive–when suddenly, quicker than I could blink an eye, I was attacked from behind! I gasped and whirled around to face my attacker as two long dark arms closed in, squeezing the life out of me! It was my good friend Marcos! He had seen me when I first entered the baggage claim area (I stick out like a big, ivory sore thumb here) and decided to sneak up on me. It was so great to see him again; we exchanged a long embrace and then broke into lively chatter as we exited the airport and began the trek to his apartment on the other side of the bay. With my long jeans and heavy backpack it was difficult keeping up with Marcos, but at last we arrived to his cozy little apartment, where I got to meet his Vietnamese-French girlfriend and use her MacBook to call my parents before we headed off for breakfast and an afternoon at the gorgeous Copacabana beach (where I could finally “bathe” in the surf and lay under a large red umbrella in the sand with absolutely nothing to do but relax!!)

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