Rio is one of those destinations you either love or hate, and if you love it, you keep coming back. You just cannot get enough of Rio. So, even if you have been to Sugarloaf 20 times, it is still magic to go back and see it again.
I think it would be fair to say that a number of readers have been requesting I do a feature on the "bundas" of Rio de Janeiro. I try to be very sensitive to my audience of readers, so this section will be done with decorum, dignity, and taste as humanly possible. At the same time, I do not expect this to be well accepted by the entire readership. So be it. So with great care, thought, research (a heap of this), and because it is getting close to Christmas, I am going to talk about the bundas of Rio de Janeiro.
So here goes, if you do not like this, skip over it. Guys & girls, the bundas here are great, just awesome. Bundas come in all shapes, colors, textures, soft, plump, rock hard, pointed, round, pear-shaped, not-so-pear-shaped, you name it, they have it. This is bunda heaven. When God gave out bundas, Brazilians were given first choice. Bundas bump, grind, and bounce. Bundas lie everywhere. Bundas go deep brown in summer and light brown in winter. A bunda is something to take in, admire, sculpt, worship, hold in your hand (if invited), stroke, spank lightly (again if invited), to adore, to cover in oil, to drive you crazy, to make your head turn, to caress, to ohhhhhhhhh.
The female bundas are pretty nice as well.
Bundas in Brazil are generally shown to great effect on the beach with a type of bathing suit called fio dental (dental floss). This type of bathing costume is synonymous with Rio de Janeiro. The dental floss, as the name implies is designed to reveal the maximum amount of bunda, let it all hang out so to speak. Now it does not matter too much what shape the bunda is, a dental floss is still the go.
The Brazilian is very famous for their admiration of bundas. Some people like legs, some like chests, some like waists, but for the Brazilians, especially the Carioca, it is the bunda that counts. And they count them day in and day out.
Some days it can be a little hard not to break your neck looking at bundas. I have seen bundas lined up like pears in a fruit shop. I have seen bundas riding on bikes that would make you want to turn into a bicycle for the rest of your life. I have seen bundas dance and gyrate in a manner that makes gravity seem to disappear. The collective noun for a bunch of bundas is "pour beer down your chest" bundas.
After much research, I have determined the optimal age for a bunda is about 30. A 30-year-old bunda can sometimes reduce me to walking into telegraph poles. And I have. I once saw a bunda so perfect, I just followed it around for twenty minutes, then asked the bunda owner if it was bionic or surgically created. Nup, no silicon here. He really was not offended that I asked at all, which was nice.
You know, you can have a crap day sometimes, but just glimpse one good bunda and the sun seems to come out again. Once again, I am only talking about the male bundas, but you are free to use your imagination otherwise.
I think it was Winston Churchill who said, "A cigar is a cigar, but a good bunda is a smoke!". Or he would have, if he had visited Brazil.
Bundas, better quit while I am ahead on this one.
When I first arrived in Brazil, I noticed a lot of people would make the sign of the cross on their chests when they sat on the bus. Initially I thought they were thinking like me.
"Pray to God this bus driver will slow down".
But then I noticed that the drivers would do this as well.
"Attention bus passengers, we have a small malfunction with the main Mercedes bus engine, it's stuck on full throttle, and we have no brakes. Please remain calm and seated, in the event this bus finishes up in Guanabara Bay, you will find the life jackets stowed underneath your seat".
Now I realize it's just another one of those "mic" things. Every time the bus goes past a church, all the Catholics on board make the sign of the cross. With so many churches in Rio de Janeiro, this can look like some cabin scene out of a Boeing 747 disaster movie from the 70s.
One of the really nice things about traveling on the buses is the free use of the buses if you do samba as you enter the bus at the rear turnstile. Let me explain.
Usually it's only done by teenage boys in casual beach attires (read thongs, shorts and maybe a T-shirt). As you enter the bus at the rear, you approach the turnstile and start to samba on your hands and knees. Gradually, you samba your way underneath the turn style, then swing your body up and turn around and smile at the ticket collector.
If the ticket collector likes the way you samba, then you can enter the bus and sit down, and it does not cost you anything. However, if the ticket collector does not like the way you samba, (or sometimes the bus driver judges you as well), then you have to get off the bus straight away, or pay. Whatever, I think it is a great custom, although for some reason, not all the paying passengers agree with this. (Some of the bus passengers even suggested to me that these people were not actually doing samba, but were entering the bus illegally, but I could not believe this.)
Anyway, one Friday night, when I was coming home from the office, I entered the bus at Cinelândia and decided to try the samba bus entry myself. I was dressed in a suit and tie, and with my briefcase I hoisted myself onto the bus, and threw my briefcase over the turnstile. I then started to lower myself on my hands and knees and trying to samba under the turnstile. Well, I don't know what I did wrong, but the next thing I know is I find myself being shown the front entrance to the bus in Praia de Flamengo. MMMmmmm, must get some more Samba lessons before I try this again.
The tunnels of Rio
Rio de Janeiro is very famous for its tunnels. The geography of Rio requires the major roads go under the mountains in and around Rio (i.e. too steep to go over). There are about eight major tunnels at present, and some more under construction. The longest tunnel at present is about 3-km long, but one under construction is about 8-km long. All of these tunnels are dual carriageway (2 lanes each way minimum). Driving in these tunnels is very challenging, the speeds incredible.
One of the saddest sights you will ever see in Rio de Janeiro is the people sleeping in these tunnels. It is impossible not to be moved by this, it is just so tragic. Sometimes you see whole families sleeping together in these tunnels. I am not sure if they just do not know the danger they are in, or just so poor, or do not care, or seek the warmth and shelter at night that a tunnel offers. God, this city makes you cry, but also it makes you feel so alive.
Telerj wiped me out this month for two days, twice. No reason, but the whole apartment had no phones for two days. No apology, no ringing to say sorry, no letter of apology. Just wiped out. For two days we were going down the street to use the pay phone, waiting in line with other people in the apartment to make a phone call. Gees .
The family that
Question. How many guys out their get a manicure of their hands and feet from their wives each week? If by some remote chance this is not the case (like sure, doesn't everyone), you may be interested in the following.
As your average Aussie sow (see how I keep sidestepping this Pig word so well, even though Marta uses it as my second name), I have learnt a thing or two (belted into more likely) about clothes, grooming, hair, etc., since arriving in Rio de Janeiro. One of the rituals that takes place when Marta, Marina (Marta's mom) and Barbara (Marta's daughter) get together on every second Sunday is to play pin-the-manicurist.
Usually it is a Sunday morning thing. Everyone sits around cutting, grooming, filing, cleaning, painting hand and toe nails (I get excused from this part), combing hair, waxing, picking, and preening. The precision with which this is done is amazing. Marta does my hands and feet first, then Barbara does Marta, Marta does Marina (note the pecking order). Me, you think a gringo would be entrusted with this important duty? I just lie in my hammock Sunday morning and enjoy it, reading O Globo and having coffee.
Afterwards, all the finger and toe nail clippings, hair, belly button lint, dead skin and pubics are gathered up, put in a bowl, mixed with incense and burned over a candle to worship the Goddess of Brazilian Beauty. (Sick joke I know).
Brazilian women are just so fastidious about their appearance, they really pay close attention to every aspect of personal grooming. It is to be admired, enjoyed, and appreciated. So I do.
How is Melrose Place lately? We got that here too. Ah, but the novelas of Brazil. Rei do Gado (King of Cows) is my favorite novela. It is one hour every night of the week. It is basically Dallas in Brazil. Situated around a family in the south of Brazil, they own a cattle farm the size of Tasmania. I love to watch this show just for the scenery of Brazil, the Pantanal wetlands, the fazendas, the old cities and cobblestone streets. The acting and camera work is just first rate. The novela is even exported to Russia. That kind of makes me laugh if you could imagine Boris Yeltsin voice-overs on Brazilian actors. "Nyet Ivan, I will not bring my cows to Moscow this winter!"
Xica da Silva
This novela is through the eyes of a female slave, the daughter of Portuguese courtesan who has an illegitimate baby to an African slave. The Portuguese courtesan never owns up to his deeds of course, so she is also brought up as a slave, but she knows who her father is. Some scenes in this novela are very graphic, a bit like "Roots", and quite controversial. The acting again is first class, the lead female actress is just brilliant (and a dead set 12/10). Costuming is just outstanding. It is largely situated in and around gemstone mining towns of Minas Gerais. You do see some things on the Brazilian novelas that I am pretty certain would not make the final cut and censorship in other countries. In one scene, the soldiers are looking for stolen diamonds, so they stop a priest and his burro (f). The soldier then proceeds to put his arm inside the vagina of the burro (in close up) to look for the diamonds (Man, took me by surprise when I saw this I can assure you). Didn't find any diamonds, but the burro looked pretty happy and contented.
Beach Culture continued
Thought I had done this to death, but I have just scratched the surface on this one. My notes on this topic are going to be a little more random now, just observations, rather than a time of day thing. See, to know the beach, is to know a lot about Brazil, and especially the Carioca. The beach is life, death, spiritual, therapy, the office, the backyard, the playground, the culture, the warehouse, the shopping center, the place to meet, to play, to romance, to surf, to sell, to tan, to parade, to work out, to chill out, to ah, life is a beach.
Rio de Janeiro is one of those tourist destinations you either love or hate, and if you love it, you keep coming back to it. You just cannot get enough of Rio. There is so much to do in this city, its natural beauty is its very essence. So, even if you have been to Sugarloaf 20 times, it is still magic to go back and see it again. I never tired of crossing Sydney Harbor Bridge, or going on Harbor Ferry rides in Sydney, and it is the same here. You just keep on coming back to find more and relive the moment.
One of my favorite sights is sunrise over the Atlantic and Sugarloaf. I see this most mornings when I ride my bicycle, and there are so many different sunrises here, I never realized the sun could make so many different colors. I hope one day to capture this properly on film, so far I think I have seen about 15 different types of sunrises here. One in particular is my favorite, I call it "The Fire from Africa". It is like seeing a fire come racing out of Africa and goes on around the planet as it sweeps up in the sky and engulfs Rio de Janeiro in a scorching hot day. It has flames that streak the sky in arrows of light just prior to sunrise, then in a matter of seconds the fire spreads and the sun engulfs the whole city in a day of 40C temperatures. It is just magic.
I mentioned that I sometimes played beach volleyball with some old dudes in the morning. It has been pretty sporadic of late, just too busy, and well, let me explain.
All of the guys I play with are retired or semi retired pensioners. The youngest would be in his late 40s (some people in Brazil get to retire on full pensions pretty young much to the economy's sadness), the oldest is 81, and I think one of the best players. They have been playing all their lives and they just know every trick in the book. None of us can get too much daylight under the soles of our feet when it comes to spiking at the net, so we are all pretty equal in this regard. But they are just so skilful, and know exactly where to place the ball. It always seems they hit the ball to me just out of reach of my fingertips.
Anyway, lately they have been acting a little bit "stand-off". You know what I mean, like "Ah John, can you let one of the other guys play this time" or "John, do you mind if Eduardo, our blind and crippled pensioner play this game to sort of even things up a bit". I don't know exactly what is going on here. Maybe it has something to do with me being the last one to be picked on the team. Or I seem to always play on the losing team or something. Anyway, one guy is eventually sent over to explain that they are getting ready to compete for the senior or veterans division final for beach volleyball in a couple of weeks, and you know, would you mind letting another older guy play to get some practice.
I think I just got told, "You are not good enough. Go find another team." Very humbling, and somewhat humiliating. "Hey, anyone want to have a game of fresco ball? Carlos, Márcio, Romário, come on, I am getting better at this boing boing thing, truly!"
Another dimension to the beach volleyball is that the summer competition has just started. This is Saturday afternoon serious stuff, like cricket in Sydney. I have developed a keen appreciation for the finer aspects of the female beach volleyball teams, so athletic, so skilful, so much teamwork, so strenuous, so "pass me another beer, por favor".
The BBQ (Churrasco)
Now, the beach would never be complete without a BBQ would it, especially for Brazilians as they love their churrasco. What you won't find though is a Weber or a gas BBQ with volcanic hot rocks, or God forbid an electric public BBQ.
The best BBQs are made from the rims of car tires (the older and rustier the better) or a stainless steel beer keg cut in half. Mount it on a tripod of scrap metal poles, throw in some wood and charcoal, put a grate on top, hey presto, the perfect portable BBQ to go to the beach. Sausages and kebabs are the standard meat on the BBQ. Also toasted cheese pieces on a stick, which is just heaven. The wood/charcoal they use is very slow burning, and just makes the most delightful low visible smoke yet high flavorsome char grilled meats you ever tasted.
John Miller is an Australian, living in Rio de Janeiro, selling Australian wine. `Postcards from Rio' is a journal of his journey in the land of the Cariocas.
John and Marta Miller
Rua Joaquim Nabuco, 106 / Apt 1001
Copacabana CEP 22080-030
Rio de Janeiro
Tel: +55 (021) 521 8568