The last time I came to Rio was in May 2014. I had just finished giving my presentation on baby massage in Leeds to an audience in Canela, following an invitation from professionals at ULBRA university in Canoas near Porto Alegre two months earlier. I wanted to help illustrate that the families who signed to the children’s centres were of multicultural backgrounds in Leeds and it was at the Semana do Bebe conference where I gave this presentation. Little did I know the seed had been planted and the event that I was at inspired me to bring the event to Leeds three years later.
Having organised not only my week away but also the week for when I’m not there; cats, kids and bins, I nervously hug loved ones goodbye and I think exhaustively ‘is this worth it?’ and ‘what the hell am I doing?’ Then the butterfly’s directly hit the stomach when I look to read the flight board and it says ‘Rio de Janerio’ suddenly I’m waiting at the gate with Brazilians and people who speak Portuguese. It’s not too late, I still have control in this temporary state to get up from my seat and go back to the central shop where I bought my new Paulo Coelho book ‘The Spy’ and listen to people speaking English in the Schiphol airport. But I know the preparation for full submersion is that I have to stay in the waiting area. The last plane that left his gate was for Bogota, so we’re in the Latin American quarters. I overhear couples chatting and try and think what they might be saying ‘go and get me that water, no that one the other one’ or ‘these seats are so un-comfy’ But then if I keep my mouth shut and calmly sit and think I could be anyone and I could know understand Portuguese fluently, apparently information from my Thomas Michel language cd’s I already know thousands of words belonging to the Latin language shared between the two! Then my mind turns to everyone I’m sat with and stare incredulously that very soon we are going to be in much closer proximity of space flying in air. And that every decision and choice people have made has led up to this point in time right now. It’s a space of travel where everything is in transit.
I am returning to Canela to give a presentation on how well Baby Week Leeds was received. However, it’s a fair way if you fly there in one go; once leaving Rio you have to collect your luggage and check back in again and fly 2 hours to Rio Grande Do Sul Brazil’s most southern state. Then you have a to drive two more hours up into the highlands were Canela is. Usually this is during the night. With this travel/time dilemma it doesn’t take long to look at the alternative and choose; collect my luggage from Rio and stay there for a bit. With the gift of this knowledge prior to my booking the flight I organised the trip a week earlier than the presentation date. This means I’m due to stay in Rio for 6 nights, acclimatise and catch the plane for Porto Alegre on Friday (during the day) and register for the conference on Friday night in Canela. It does mean upon my return I am doing the whole lot in one go to get back to Leeds Bradford airport. There’s no escaping it.
Within the space of time between Rio in 2014 and Rio now I’ve made some friends with my links to Brazil. Last year in Recife I met a friend called Maria she works for a community charity in Rio called CECIP Centro de Criacao de Imagen Popular, and I met Sonia in Leeds. Sonia is native to Rio and saw the Baby Week leaflet in the public library in Leeds last year with her toddler. Taken aback she saw the Semana do Bebe logo and emailed me. I emailed straight back and said ‘I need to meet you! These two friendships have set the basis of the first 24 hours in Rio.
I am meeting Maria first off at her apartment, so I will have to get a taxi. The airport has transformed from what it used to look like three years ago. It must be the Olympics I think! It was the Olympics looking at the sporty mural, now there’s an incentive. Preparing the weary traveller to stretch their legs after an 11 hour flight for what feels like a 2 kilometre walk over travel conveyor again and again. How did the airport get bigger? Once through immigration and luggage collection, the chance to buy more duty free perfume and alcohol envelopes the traveller in the high lighting ubiquitous selling zone. This certainly wasn’t here last time. It feels like I’m having deja-vu and reliving the 14 hours previously at Leeds Bradford Airport.
It’s a 14 kilometre ride from the Galeao airport to downtown Rio and I’ve lived long enough to know that I’m going to get fleeced one way or another because I am not local and I am a lone woman traveler. I will stick out like a sore thumb. I have checked and the fare online and from what people say it’s 130 reals (£32) if you pay before you leave airport but i’m going to risk it and catch a cab with the meter. (If you catch the station taxi outside Leeds train station, they clock an extra £3.00 to your fare. Only a local would book a taxi separately and walk the opposite direction to wait outside Wetherspoons for a cheaper price). As soon as I walk through the arrivals, a taxi steward is there instantly to guide me to the taxi rank which is into a lift that’s not properly marked and up one floor to the exit. He speaks English and this doesn’t make happy, as I know is going to find me the most expensive cab. So i’m told to wait one minute to choose outside. It’s 28 degrees and it 8pm. My jeans are sticking to my legs. There is a young boy of about 13 years old in the entrance sat on a small stool confidently slamming playing cards with small currency denominations. It’s one minute too long and I go out and find my own taxi and make sure the meter is running.