The default vibe is love. People look you in the eye.
|Delicious traditional tapioca lunch, with pulled pork|
& egg whites
Despite recent headlines about political and health challenges, the Brazilians we met were full of optimism and good cheer. Not that there aren't homeless people, and millions living in poverty.
In fact, we visited Rocinha, one of Rio's infamous favelas, or shantytowns, where thousands of people live in poverty, but with a sense of community you don't find in many places. Our guide, Leo, told us that there over 400 favelas in Rio, housing 1.5 million of the city's 6.5 million citizens.
|This building is supposed be remodeled into a luxury hotel by August!|
One reason I wanted to visit was to see if Rio is at all post-racial. With 43% of the Brazilian population of mixed race, you see a number of gorgeous people, most of them in physically good shape. Combinations of indigenous tribes, African slaves, European colonists and global adventurers make for a panoply of skintones, and a fascinating cultural mix, but I wouldn't say racism is dead. We heard stories of discrimination based on skin color. And the gay bar LeBoy hosted a butt contest, won by a hunky white guy based on audience applause (an audience with lots of locals). There was a black guy with a much more beautiful butt to my taste, who really knew how to shake it, but he came in third.
|Christ the Redeemer - Art Deco overlord of Rio|
|You might expect a Hippie Fair in San Francisco, but Rio?|
|Among the goodies at the weekly Hippie Fair - all wooden|
|Leblon Beach, near where we stayed, abuts Ipanema Beach|
The beaches are everyone's happy playground. Nonstop volleyball and kick-volleyball games, even on cloudy days. Physical fitness equipment. Samba Schools selling snacks, drinks and beach chairs. Coconut milk everywhere. People of all colors and shapes walking, running, swimming, playing. Pregnant women proudly sporting bikinis. Leathery old men jogging and looking great. And yes, there were thongs - but not as many as I expected.
|Ball games on the beach are common|
|The beaches have many workout stations - free|
|Yes, there are thongs!|
|Thousands of beach lovers|
|Fabulous fish and vegetables at a beachside restaurant|
My frequent traveling companion Orlando and I were in Rio during the long buildup to Carnival (Mardi Gras), so we got to witness some rehearsals for the big event - some spontaneous, on the street. One night we went (on a 3-hour journey that included pickups at 11 hotels) to the Portela neighborhood, where a large Samba School was rehearsing its song (and dance) for 2016. The goal is for thousands of people to memorize their neighborhood's song so they can parade impressively through the streets during Carnival. We spent some hours dancing late into the night, and trying to sing in Portuguese while our new best friends from the neighborhood quaffed beer and danced away.
|At Samba School rehearsal - with my traveling companion Orlando|
|Our new friends, who pulled us onto the dance floor|
|Yes, coffee is big in Brazil - we went across the street from|
out hotel to find a good cup!
|I love the mailboxes, adorned with hummingbirds|
Rio has a sense of a healthy future, nowhere more than its new Museum of Tomorrow (Museu do Amanhã), which suggests we need to choose each action with future generations in mind.
|Santiago Calatrava's building is|
stunning. Photo by Edward Guthmann
|The most interactive of museums|
|The world literally melts and erupts as you wait|
to experience the Museum of the Future
|I played around with the leadership style quiz, and|
it suggested I reconsider my choices...
|The Museum of Tomorrow is the most interactive|
museum I've experienced...and it embraces complexity
|Curiosity, spirit, imagination - this museum's|
prescription for a better tomorrow
Then you're overwhelmed with giant digital displays showing humanity's impacts on the planet, including images, data, and questions about ocean acidification, ozone depletion, greenhouse gas emissions, and consumption of water, energy, and beef.
The last part of the museum invites exploration of alternative futures, and suggests ways you can be part of various scenarios. I came back to a spiritual sense of possibility, with interactive artistic expressions of community, storytelling, mystery and an invitation to further explore inner life.
|The final mystery chamber that invites further reflection,|
stories, community celebrations