“In your country, people never give you anything for free?”
Do they?! – People from Portugal are friendly, kind, but the general rule is if someone is too generous they want something from you that you might not want to give in return. This rule becomes stronger being a girl traveling in a foreign country, on my own. Yet, this stranger, afro-brazillian, chubby and sweaty, stands hands on knees leaning over with the friendliest smile in his face when he invites me to take a seat in one of the chairs his hut is renting, but for free.
Here, at Copacabana beach, in Rio de Janeiro, I was quite happy lying on my towel in the sand, so I said ‘no’ the first 2 times he came over to chat. The third time, he just moved my flip-flops next to the empty chair underneath the umbrella. I smiled and thought I would break the rule and accept his offer this time. So I moved my stuff to the chair. He was happy and before leaving he said I’ll look after you.
So he did! A few minutes later he brought sun tanning oil… and told me to apply it and stay in the shadow of the umbrella. That way I would get a golden tan with the sun reflecting from the sand, without burning.
His name is Gil and his job is to go around and serve the people on the beach with drinks, snacks. He charges for the chair rental, he goes around encouraging people to get in the shadow or get in the water to refresh. Despite the 40ºC, or at least it felt like so, I was happy to just stay where I was because mainly I was afraid to leave my belongings unattended in the chair (given I brought my 2 cameras and the bad reputation of Brazil’s safety).
Well, time to seat back and soak up some atmosphere…
Despite the background noise of kids playing, water splashing, people talking nearby, the vendors is what catches my attention!
“PRETTY and SEXY BIKINIS!!”, one man shouts carrying an umbrella with bikinis hanging out.
“GRILLED CHEESE on the spot”, another shouts repeatedly while walking with a little portable grill.
“LOOK AT THE CAIPIRINHA…”
“FRESH COCKTAIL MISS?”
It is like a catwalk of vendors in the middle of the beach. You don’t need to go anywhere, just seat and wait to the one you want walks by you. Even hammocks and carpets were being sold.
After an hour in the sun, I’m melting… a caipirinha would be good! I wave at Gil and ask him for one. Promptly he delivers this refreshing traditional brazilian lime cocktail, perhaps the best I ever had, sweet and wow, strong!
When I complimented the caipirinha and Gil’s service he was kind to bring me another caipirinha as a gift. I couldn’t say no… or discard it… so I started drinking it very very very very slow… until I heard some portuguese with a portuguese accent nearby! A guy and a girl talking about some place in Lisbon. So I said olá!
Perhaps because when you find someone from your own country when you are traveling abroad, you feel you are friends instantly, or perhaps because the caipirinha was loosening my mind, or perhaps because the siblings Inês and Luís were so friendly, we ended up chatting for hours, like we knew each other for years.
Later on it was time to say goodbye to friendly Gil and me and the siblings walked the “calçadão” all the way down to the Arpoador Stone (Pedra do Arpoador), where we sat to watch the sunset.
We have been longing for this moment for an hour now. I sipped on my last drops of coconut water when the sun touched the horizon line. The city looked more beautiful than ever, the sky changed colors quickly, the moment was perfect and there, at pedra do Arpoador, people clapped their hands when the sun disappeared completely. Well done Sun for another bright day!
I felt blessed! Rio de Janeiro has shown me generosity today.
P.S. I count 8 vendors in the photo. What about you? x