I had only one main plan yesterday - to get to the Iconic Rio monument of Christ - Cristo Redentor (Christ the Redeemer). Most people have seen this monument when watching football games based in Rio, watching documentaries, Brazilian movies and soaps etc. You see Cristo Redentor and you know it is Rio. Kind of the same way you see the Taj Mahal and you know it's India. Cristo Redentor is the world's largest art deco statue and was completed in 1931 after 9 years of construction. Funding for it was mostly obtained from the local Catholic community. There had been plans to build some sort of monument on Mt. Corcovado from as early as the 1850s and requests had been made at the time to Princess Isabel of Brazil (known as Isabel the redemptress for signing the Golden law in 1888 that abolished slavery in Brazil), but none had been fruitful. Finally in 1931, Rio got the monument it had long wished for on the peak of Mt. Corcovado.
Cristo Redentor is primarily built of reinforced concrete inside and soapstone on the outside (I see all the Kisiis here thinking about building their own statue:-) I was not quite sure what the easiest way to get there was. I spent some time googling it and I found a bus that left from close to my apartment in Gavea, and took me to Largo Do Machado. From there it seemed I would be able to buy a $20 ticket from the base of Mt. Corcovado, and then take a train straight up to Cristo Redentor. With my limited (non-existent) Portuguese and unlimited hand symbols, I asked the conductor to let me know when we got to Largo Do Machado. A sweet old lady came and sat next to me on the bus and said "something.....something....photo." I thought she was asking me to take a photo of her, but instead she took out her phone and took a photo of me - then put her phone away. Quite similar to Kenya, a guy got on the bus and started selling sweets, biscuits and chewing gum. He was speaking in Portuguese and started giving out candy. I couldn't tell it it was free samples or some Hare Krishnaesque type of trade (now that I gave you that flower which you stupidly thought was a gift, give me money!) I chose to error on the side of caution and declined the candy offer.
But candy would not let me be. The kind old lady who had taken my picture, opened her handbag, took out some candy and gave it to me. I need to confess that I am generally very trusting. During this trip I have promised to put on my skeptic hat to make sure I don't end up in any tricky situations. My first thought was "aaaah. Sweet lady giving me candy. Such hospitable people, these Brazilians." My second thought was, "Do you remember that documentary you watched with your cousin? The one about the South American drug that takes away free will? The one you find yourself taking someone to the ATM and withdrawing all your money? Then taking them to your house and helping them pack your stuff? Why did she take your picture? Is it part of some identification process? Yes, this is the one I drugged on the bus to Largo Do Machado. We will call her "number 4."
As my brain was doing all this crazy things, she opened up her sweet and ate it. That gave me peace that it was safe to eat it. All of a sudden I noticed that in the midst of all this candy drama, I had not paid attention to where we were. I suddenly saw "Cristo Redentor" off in the far distance, and I had a suspicion we overshot it. I asked the conductor and she said in Portuguese, what I believe was along the lines of "Oh snap! I forgot to tell you when we got there! Ok. Get out now, cross the road and take the bus in the opposite direction.) I hopped off and went to look for a bus heading back in that direction. I was now in the city centre and none of the bus numbers were similar to the ones I had written down. I must have asked at least 10 bus drivers, "Cristo Redentor, Cristo Redentor......" I think I must even have once said, "Cristo Dementor (hopefully no Harry Potter fans here.) It really was a tongue twister. Finally I got there around 5:30pm and it was magical.......