SEVENSEAS Marine Conservation & Travel Issue 15, August 2016 - Page 57

Museum of Rio), seeing the sunset from Sugarloaf Mountain (Pão do Açúcar), hiking Arpoador (a rock formation where Copacabana meets Ipanema), and hang gliding over Rio and the Atlantic Ocean. For anyone who even slightly enjoys being active, Rio is like heaven on earth.

I also didn’t have a single meal in Rio that I didn’t love. From fancy rooftop restaurants to local bodegas, beachfront kiosks, and street carts, I loved it all—well, all of it except for the grapes with seeds that came with my hotel breakfast on the first day, those I didn’t go back for. Some culinary highlights included picanha (a prime cut of beef), the best açai (a berry native to South American) I have ever had in my life, tacacá (a soup made with an Amazon plant call jambú (pronounced zham-boo) that offers a slight numbing sensation to your mouth, yucca ice cream, and countless food items that I didn’t ask about but loved anyway. I may not have the sophisticated palate of a seasoned food critic, but it speaks volumes when I say I didn’t have a single slice of pizza or eat at a single American chain restaurant while I was in Rio. Good work, culinary cariocas!

While I loved the sights I saw and the amazing photos I took, the energy of the city and the perspective of the locals is really what made my trip so special. Each and every carioca I spoke with was passionate in some way or another about the state of affairs leading up to the Olympic games. Many wanted to know where the income from the Olympics would go, alluding to the political corruption case of President Dilma Rousseff, and the fact that almost every country hosting the Olympic games in the last decade exceeded the proposed budget for the games. A few shrugged it all off and cited the 2014 World Cup and how it all came together in the end; while it wouldn’t be perfect, they had faith Rio would come together to pull this one off. Some I spoke to were upset with what appeared to be an attempt by the government to hide the poorer areas of Rio by putting up walls so that visitors would see a curated version of Rio on their way to the popular tourist areas from the airport. Others had safety concerns as they informed me about the fact that law enforcement officers were frustrated having to work overtime without pay due to the financial crisis and how that would play out when the Olympics finally arrived. What excited and disappointed me the most, though, were the environmental concerns many people had when it came to the Olympics.

Citing a recent visit to the U.S., one man I spoke with was worried about the amount of trash that would be left in the wake of the Olympics. This conversation confirmed what I had known deep down: Americans are known for bringing plenty of business and leaving mountains of trash behind. Ouch. With an estimated influx of 500,000 visitors associated with the games, there will more than certainly be plenty of bottles, cans, plastic bags, cigarette butts, and who knows what else scattered down the streets and beaches of Rio. Economically that isn’t all bad because some of the locals make a very modest living turning in recyclables such as plastic bottles and aluminum cans, but aesthetically and ecologically the amount of waste that may end up in the ocean certainly isn’t helping anyone. Rio is a city that is mostly debris free—much less than the streets of almost any city in the U.S. I’ve ever been to—but when you have people visiting from all corners of