I am sat in Santos Dumont Rio’s domestic airport to fly to Porto Alegre. It’s Friday morning and there’s thick cloud and rain. The complete opposite of what I’m used to seeing Rio look like. I’m remembering the words that Maria said about the short airstrip and the huge sugar loaf mountain in close proximity. Still I’m sure the pilot’s use more than just their eyes to navigate around it. I’m not looking but I can hear gushing water under the landing wheels screeching behind me outside. It’s a shame I’m not going to be able to see the view but then as long as I get there safely to Porto Alegre then that’s all that matters.
Jaqueline, my Airbnb host has been so lovely and hospitable. Full of energy she totters around in typical Brazilian fashion; high wedged sandals and a figure hugging top and short denim skirt. She has two girls, aged 16 and 11 the youngest is the same age as my youngest. They both speak brilliant English and are both thrilled to be given a box of orange flavour Matchmakers I brought over as a present from Poundland. Jaqueline told me on the first day that she works for the state government and is not shy in saying it’s corrupt but no-one wants to say anything about it, they just want to go on the beach. She is going into work late today because they don’t pay them on time. So, they pay late, she goes in late.
The topic of conversation between the two locals I know here often leans towards the political and economic climate that is Brazil’s rich vs poor divide. I update myself on the recent politics of Brazil and learn that the suspended working party president Dilma Rousseff (the countries first female president), was impeached three years ago because accusations she was using public money to fund her campaign, however, this had not and has still not been proved. Following the ousting of Rousseff, the white all male cabinet (accused of a coup) put unelected Michel Temer was put in place as president. Now he’s been accused of doing some dodgy dealings and no one trusts him.
On Wednesday night after I visited Maria’s work we go to a bar not far from her work and gather with locals to listen to some live Choro Music, which means ‘crying’ or a ‘little lament’ It derived from the 19th century in Rio and involves the guitar, flute and percussion. It has a classic up tempo beat almost happy/sad song. We leave the place around 8.30pm and as we pass down the street we hear shouting coming from a window above us across to some men in the street. It’s ‘Fora Temer!’ which means ‘Temer Out!’ Maria says something must have happened? Later we find out that this Michel Temer has in fact been taped doing ‘said’ dodgy dealings. So, there are protests planned for the next night.
The following night Maria meets me for our final evening meal. We head to a tapas bar and speak about the politics. She has come to see me in Copacabana. She extends the conversation to the people calling for a general election. This happened years ago now the chants are happening again. There have been police milling about in the subway stations but the protests are planned to take place in Cinelandia nearer to the city. After I say goodbye to Maria I walk back three blocks over the wavy black and white tiles catching the light of the overhead street lamps up to the apartment. Jaqueline is not back yet, and I need to see her before I go because she is booking me a cash Uber taxi for the morning to take me to the airport. I also want to say goodbye to her too. She has Whatsappd me to say she’s not back until 11 so I go upstairs and wait to hear the door go. When it finally sounds I go downstairs to greet her and she’s only just come back from the protests in Cinelandia! She wears her sandals and jeans and a cricket jumper which shows underneath hiding is her sticker with ‘Fora Temer’ on it, the tear gas is still in her eyes! But she’s smiling.
I am leaving Rio behind now and will shortly be entering the southern state of Rio Grande du Sol. Hopefully the weather there will be better.