I remember dreaming about Brasil before I even got there. I was to arrive on December 13th 2002 and I could hardly sit still. I had never even been to this place, but felt a definite connection to the country already. When the day finally came I could barely contain myself. Here I was waiting to board the plane to Rio in Atlanta, and I could already hear the Português being spoken by my fellow passengers at the gate. The plane ride was the longest I’d ever taken–nine hours from Atlanta to São Paulo alone, not counting my Tucson to Atlanta and São Paulo to Rio flights. I tried to sleep on the plane, but didn’t catch a wink. I was too excited.
Rio was amazing. I don’t know where to start. The first thing that blew me away was how much the American dollar was worth, and how little things costed there. The exhange rate at the time was an amazing US $1 = Brasilian Real $3.81! That meant things were CRAZY cheap! I stayed at a pimped-out hotel, right on the beach with a view of the ocean for around US $60 a night! Taxi, meals, and shopping were all so darn cheap. I remember this HUGE feast I had at a fancy restaurant on Avenida Atlântica that ended up costing me something like 15 bucks–a meal that would’ve cost 80 in America. You would go to the ATM and take out $1,000 Brasilian dollars, but because of the exchange rate, it would only take remove about US $340 bucks out of your account. I lived like a king!
The food in Brasil was amazing! From the fancy Brasilian steakhouses to the small hole-in-the-wall restaurants that served up great rice and beans, I ate like a king! My favorite spot was the little juice stands they had all over Rio. 100% natural juices (sucos naturais), including strawberry (morango), pineapple (abacaxi), peach (pêssago), grape (uva), maracuja, and more. Damn tasty, and only about 60 cents a glass!
But more amazing than the music, the food, the scenery, and the crazy exchange rate, were the people…