The plane from Albuquerque to Houston was a whopping 3 seats wide and since it was so tiny we felt every bump as we flew along. Soon enough I was in Houston, hustling over to the international terminal at the far end of the airport. I found my spot on the 7 seat wide, 2 aisle behemoth (the largest plane I can remember being on) and settled in. My seatmate Monica was from Rio de Janeiro and assured me that it was beautiful there and I would love it, but I should keep track of my money.
I thought the plane ride from Houston to Rio de Janeiro was going to seem a lot longer than it was. Luckily Continental has excellent taste in primetime drama and there was a channel devoted to CSI. I was treated to CSI Las Vegas and New York with a barely bearable interlude of CSI Miami. Dinner was fine, beef and rice, with a cute little prepackaged brownie. A few hours after dinner I went to sleep and an hour or so before reaching Rio de Janeiro the cabin lights came on and breakfast was served. Breakfast was, of course, continental. We got declaration papers before landing and then waited in a long customs line once we were on the ground. The guy behind me had a fun British accent and was discussing construction plans with someone but other than that customs was pretty uneventful. I grabbed my bags and headed out of the airport. Right before you get to the exit of the airport there are 4 booths from different cab companies with a woman hanging out of each window asking loudly "Taxi?!" I passed them and found a woman holding a sign with my name on it. I hopped in a taxi and headed to Flamengo to meet my host family.
With my Portuguese phrase book in hand I found out the taxi driver, Carlos, had lived in Rio de Janeiro for 57 years and had two sons. He spoke English as well and pointed out an impressive looking castle in the distance, the favelas, or slums, near the highway, the Sugarloaf mountains, and part of the path the Carnaval parade takes around the city. There was a lot of traffic on the highways and everyone drives little four door cars but I saw a few small SUVs. Quite a few motorcycles were weaving in and out of the cars on the highway, honking every once in a while. Medical/police vans with blinking blue lights tried to get by and cars sort of moved out of their way but not too hurriedly. There are police booth/stands along the road with umbrellas and one cop car and policeman. The policeman at the booths all had really big black guns, maybe AK-47s?
I was in the city around 10am and since both of my host parents work they had asked a friend to meet me at their apartment. She spoke English, Spanish and Portuguese so we switched between Spanish and English as we spoke about my trip. I unpacked and then we headed to the beach since it was so nice out, sunny with a little breeze and a few clouds, probably 70 degrees. Even though it's winter weather.com tells me it won't get any colder than 60 degrees which is great weather anyway. The beach was gorgeous, nice white sands and blue sky. The water near Flamengo isn't the cleanest for swimming in but we just laid out in the sun. It was pretty empty with just a handful of people around us since it was the week and not an extremely popular beach. You can rent beach chairs and the bathrooms nearby cost $1Real, which is about .50c. There was a guy walking around the beach selling cokes from coolers so it's all pretty convenient.
Claudia, my host sister, got home and we ate lunch prepared by the cook/maid Lucia (which is also my host mother's name). All meals are served with arroz y feija~os, rice and black beans. We had a shredded chicken dish with cheese rolled in a pancake type bread.
I took a nap and then my host mom Lucia got home and we chit chatted a little bit and then had dinner. Dinner was a chicken Parmesan type dish with arroz and feijaos again. My host dad got home a little later and now everyone's doing homework or watching TV as I type away. I saw a little bit of the news and some of a soap opera. I can pick out a few spoken words once in a while that I recognize from Spanish but not too many. Written Portuguese is a little easier as a lot of the words are the same or cognates in Spanish.
The apartment is on the 6th floor in a nine or so story building that has kind of a courtyard structure in the middle. All of the apartments (I think) have windows that open into the center. If I look out the window in the kitchen or bathroom I can see into a neighbor's kitchen or bathroom. Not that I was being creepy and looking... The neighborhood is nice, lots of tall buildings which look like hotels and apartments. Hopefully I'll go exploring tomorrow because I need to head to the bank that's down a block to change my US dollars to Reales. The street by the apartment is still pretty busy and I can hear cars driving by.
Pics are up on facebook and hopefully tomorrow will be another exciting day!
Thanks for reading this far, this post was looong :)