SEVENSEAS Marine Conservation & Travel Issue 15, August 2016 - Page 54

and fog on the horizon guarding the sunrise I was in love. It was so much more beautiful than I had imagined it to be.

I had spent about six weeks using an app called Duolingo and an online video series called Semantica Portuguese to help me learn some conversational Portuguese, so navigating my way from the airport terminal to my hotel in Copacabana, one of Rio’s famous beaches in the southeastern portion of the state, wasn’t too difficult. As my driver braved his way through a free-for-all traffic pattern that reminded me of driving on I-95 in Miami, we saw some of the poorest neighborhoods in the city followed by some of the richest. People of all shapes, sizes, and colors were walking the streets as motorcycles and mopeds zipped by. It only took me this short ride to figure out that I had left Miami to vacation in a less glitzy and less put together version of Miami. Who knew that existed?

My room wasn’t ready so I spent some time at the Pestana Rio Atlântica’s gorgeous rooftop pool, taking in the sights and sounds of Copacabana (think volleyball, soccer, samba whistles, and ocean waves, mixed with car horns, revving motorcycles, and all the expletives the Portuguese language has to offer when a bicyclist cuts a driver off). It may have been the first day of winter, but it was a comfortable 78°F (about 26°C) with a humidity similar to Miami and a surplus of sungas (speedos) to match. On the beach directly in front of my hotel was the construction of what looked like a large, blue press box to be used for the Olympics; I made note to go speak to one of the construction workers that week. As I watched joggers, bikers, skateboarders, dog walkers, personal trainers and their clients, craft-makers, tourists, and cariocas (locals) walk down the black and white sidewalks, I couldn’t help but wonder if anyone in Rio ever worked; to be fair to Rio, I often wonder the same when the gym is full at 1:00 pm on a Tuesday in Miami. Over the next six days I would spend hours exploring the city, talking to locals, trying some amazing new foods, watching breathtaking sunrises and sunsets, and learning why cariocas are simultaneously so incredibly proud of their city while remaining so ashamed of their leadership.