Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Easter and rain

So this has been a rather eventful last week or so for Rio. We got a long weekend for Easter, one of the advantages of living in a Catholic country and going to a Catholic university. On Easter day I woke up at 5am and went with a group of friends to an island about an hour from Rio called Paqueta. We rented bikes and rode around the island for a couple of hours. There were beautiful views, beautiful houses, and great parks. You can only get to Paqueta by boat, and there aren't any cars on the island so the only transportation is horse-drawn cart and bike.
The girls!
After we took another boat to a city across the bay from Rio called Sao Goncalo. I have a good friend (Brazilian) from my university who has family there. They live on the outskirts of the city in a very poor neighborhood and welcomed us into their home for Easter. My friend's aunts fed us the best meal I have had so far in Brazil. There was fried chicken, chicken salad, pasta salad, roast, two rice dishes, flan, homemade jello, and chocolate cake. We all ate SO MUCH and had great conversations and laughs with his aunts, uncles, and cousins. Many jokes were made at my expense, as the only blond-haired and blue-eyed person in the group, but it was all fun. After lunch we played soccer with some of the neighborhood kids before starting the 2 hour, 3 bus trip back to Rio. On the way though we enjoyed a tumultuous bus ride along a dirt road and made friends with two ADORABLE Brazilian girls, Joyce age 4 and Jessica age 6, who even shared their Easter chocolate with us. It was definitely one of the best Easters I've had.
The whole group

So now for the rain. Rio is currently experiencing the worst tropical rainstorms in over 60 years. Tuesday the 6th was the hardest rain I've ever seen and it continued all day and night. My apartment was out of power and water for 20 hours and the streets all around us were under at least a foot of water. When we finally did regain connectivity to the outside world, we found out that almost 100 people died and the city had completely stopped. The rain is supposed to continue all week. Classes have been canceled at all institutions for the week and many businesses were closed for at least a day or two. I finally ventured out of my home today and there is mud and sand washed all over the streets from the hills. All of the people who died were in the hillside slums, called favelas, in Rio and the surrounding cities. When natural disasters hit, the poorest suffer the most damage and loss while the wealthy watch on their televisions and complain about the inconvenience.

This is a link with some great pictures of the flooding. Many of them were taken right near my house in places I pass everyday!