Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The rain has begun

One of the best kept secrets by travel agents all over the world is that summer in Rio is also the rainy season. Come see the fireworks on New Year’s Eve on Copacabana Beach – but be prepared for rain. Carnaval in Rio: greatest glitzy show on the planet – but be prepared for rain. Spectacular views from the Christ the Redeemer statue or atop “Sugarloaf” mountain for sure – but be prepared for rain. And of course the beach: bikinis and volleyball - ahem – when it is not raining.

The good news is that it rarely rains all day. The other news is that it can easily rain every day for many vacationers. A good rule of thumb is to get your bikini-clad bottom to the beach by about 10:00 a.m. This will allow you to get some good beach time in before the sun scorches you. And it gives you plenty of time to people watch before the typical summer late afternoon showers.

But then there are the real rains. Like the 90 minutes of downpour the other day that brought everything to a standstill. It was almost 5:00 and I was still at work. I could see the sky seriously darkening through our 14th floor office windows. For a moment I thought I should bolt to walk the 15 minutes to the ferry before the sky opened up. But luckily I thought better of it.

It began to pour. Really pour. The air turned white from the raindrops blocking out your line of sight. Within minutes the streets below were flooding. I called Luiz to tell him I was stuck at work and would head home when things settled down.

Traffic stopped. People were walking through the streets drenched, in water above their ankles, and at some crosswalks rising nearly to their knees. Then the garbage appeared. Washed down from the streets above the flood was now swirling with plastic bottles, newspapers, plastic bags and whatever else had been lying in the gutter.

It rained for well over an hour while I waited to see some sign of a letup. I was wearing a new pair of sandals (they cost me over R$100!) and I was NOT going to wade my way through the streets! When I suggested to my boss I would put them in a plastic bag and walk barefoot he burst out laughing. “Your feet are worth more than the R$100,” he said. I waited.

Finally the sun broke through and the rain slowed. In about another 40 minutes the water receded. I was able to make it all the way home with dry feet.

Later that night on the news there were reports of flooding all over the state and beyond, including the requisite landslides that blocked roads and mudslides taking the poor’s houses down hillsides.

The silver lining was that the next day the air was the cleanest it had been in weeks and Rio sparkled in all its beauty looking out from my view on the second floor of the ferry going to work.

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