Paranoid From All the Rio Hype

Jackie Steves is guest-hosting her Dad’s blog with 17 posts in 17 days. Follow the adventures of Andy and Jackie Steves as they ‘ the first Steves to venture into South America ‘ report on their experience.

The next day at mid-afternoon, we touched down in Rio de Janeiro. Our previously arranged ride having fallen through, we were on our own to find our way to our hostel.

So many people ‘ uncles, family friends, other backpackers ‘ had warned us about this city’s dangers. In just the past two weeks, I had encountered three or four backpackers whose stay in Rio had been tainted by getting mugged. We heard stories of little gang kids attacking people with knives. We had also watched the film City of God with our mother just before our trip, which served to really freak her out. We tried to reassure her that we would be safe, but would we? There is no denying that that film was based on a true story. So there was the bad and the ugly, but there was also the good and the beautiful. I had heard people sing this city’s praises more than any other city. I read “Rio” by Ruy Castro, one of Rio’s most famous author’s; the book was an illustration of his enormous love for his city.

Seeing that ATMs come with six guards armed with large guns, we could tell this city required a strong police presence.

During our bus ride to Copacabana, the area where our hostel was, we saw countless favelas (Rio’s slums), the most tenuous-looking constructions made of cheap materials stacked high on top of each other, a faded rainbow of colors, laundry hanging everywhere, and dirt roads despite an urban setting. Andy caught a glimpse of blood streaming out from beneath a tarp covering a dead body. We couldn’t tell if it was from a car crash or perhaps gunshot? That freaked us out, and as soon as it was finally our stop we hastily hopped into a taxi. After the first two cab drivers we tried didn’t know where the address of our hostel was, we grew even more anxious. We felt like at any moment, a gang of children would attack us with knives and mug us. With hindsight, it’s amusing at how paranoid we were that first night.

While walking back from dinner later that night, I saw a large woman shirtless, breastfeeding her baby on the sidewalk. We also saw a few other homeless people, but the area didn’t feel too dangerous altogether.

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