Ving Rhames and Mean ATMs

December 28, 2009 - 7:15 pm No Comments

As we descended over Rio, the clouds broke and revealed huge expanses of mostly tiny buildings surrounding green mountains all around the city. I was snapping pictures out the window when a Brazilian guy leaned across the aisle and said, “Be careful in the street with your camera.”

Green Hills Around Rio

Apparently, Ving Rhames was on our flight. He walked right by us and zipped through the much shorter crewmember line in customs. Doug spotted another familiar face, Chris Ferguson, who is apparently a big time poker player.

We walked to baggage claim and waited. And waited. No bags. The guy at the service counter confirmed that Doug’s bag was still in Miami, but he had no record of my bag. Hmm. He told us that our bags would be delivered tomorrow and gave us each a US$25 credit to use for toiletries.

Lost Baggage: Annoying

Before we did anything, we’d need some local currency. My usual routine of hitting an ATM and withdrawing cash (you seem to get pretty fair exchange rates in other countries) was thwarted by ATMs not recognizing my bank card. As we were walking over to get ripped off by a currency exchange booth, one of the guys standing with the taxi drivers offered to change my money at a much better rate. Sketchy, but it worked.

The arrivals terminal was filled with taxi drivers and non-taxi drivers who wanted to take you places. They were willing to match the standard rate of R$80 offered by the sanctioned taxi cab services, but one of the drivers finally offered to give us a “discount” and take us for R$69.

We hopped in and headed to Ipanema. The scenery around Rio is magical. Lush vegetation lines the highway, and green, jagged mountains define the hazy skyline. Christ the Redeemer, one of Rio’s most famous landmarks, is visible in the distance.

We pulled up to our apartment building and met Laura. Friendly and helpful, she showed us in and answered all of our questions. Turns out Laura’s been renting property in the area for 21 years. When we asked her about safety in the area, she told us that only a couple of months ago, police swept through Ipanema and Copacabana and, through a well-organized series of violent attacks, cleared out a lot of the crime. According to her, the neighborhood was now “very safe.” Maybe Rio is starting to clean itself up a bit for the upcoming Olympics.

Our studio apartment is small but comfortable and safe. There is a security guard at the front, and it takes two keys to get in. Doug has graciously offered to let me have the twin bed while he takes the cushion thing that opens up into a bed. The little air conditioner has to work pretty hard to keep the room cool, but the Internet connection is great. A novelty broom closet elevator takes us up and down from the third floor.

We still owed Laura some money, so we walked around to a few banks, but again, we had a hard time finding friendly ATMs. After making arrangements to meet up with Laura again tomorrow, Doug and I stopped for lunch and split a platter of steak, chicken, sausage, and pork. Then found a drug store where Doug and I discussed our preference of solid stick vs. roll-on deodorant. After finding some “Happy Time” hand lotion, we were ready to go.

Happy Time Lotion

I’m getting a pretty good vibe form this place. It’s not nearly as scary as I was expecting it to be. Locals and tourists all seem happy, and there seems to be police everywhere. I’m going to continue to be cautious, but I think I might be able to get a few pictures out of this place.

We came back to the apartment for a few minutes and were just about to venture out to explore the Ipanema Beach, but thunderclouds just rolled in and it’s now pouring rain. Since we’re wearing the only clothes that we have and will have to keep wearing them until tomorrow at least, we’ve decided to stay in and chill out in our air-conditioned room for a while before heading out to dinner tonight with Tati.

Leave a Reply