Copacabana, street kids and popcorn in the rain

We had a massive storm in Rio on Tuesday night. I was leaving work in Barra and had just got on my bus when the first fat drops of rain started to fall. Within minutes the rain was coming down in torrents and the thunder and lightning started soon after.

The windows on the bus steamed up and the rain was so strong that it was like someone was spraying the outside of the bus with a hose. As the bus hurtled along the precipitous Avenida Niemeyer I thought that perhaps it was a good thing that I couldn’t see out of the windows.


When hurtling along Avenida Niemeyer at breakneck speed in the dark in the middle of a thunder storm, looking out of the window is not recommended. Source


The bus came down the hill into Leblon and then followed the beach into Ipanema. Every time the bus doors opened to let passengers off, I saw some new scene of watery mayhem – people cowering on the beach under a buckling gazebo or wading through flood-water and sheltering under wind-smashed umbrellas.

Then I made my fatal error.

My normal route home involves getting off the bus and onto the metro, but that night in all the rain and confusion I got off the bus way too early. I found myself in the middle of a massive thunderstorm with 10 blocks to walk. Oops.

It wasn’t all bad though. I actually quite like a little walk in the rain sometimes. Did you see Rachel’s recent post? There is definitely something rather satisfying about a big storm and as the temperature was still a pleasant 25°C, I wasn’t too downhearted.


90 minutes after the storm started the rain was still falling hard and the streets were filling with water.


I set off on my walk, keeping the worst of the rain off with my trusty umbrella and trying to avoid getting splashed by the passing buses. When waiting for the lights to change at pedestrian crossings I would step back and shelter under some overhanging shop fronts.

During one of these stops I found myself standing next to a popcorn seller. The guy still had some popcorn left in his cart but looked like he had given up and was on his way home. As we waited for the lights to change, 3 street kids appeared, shivering in their raggedy t-shirts and shorts.

Call me sentimental if you like, but what happened next was really touching. The boys held out their cupped hands and the humble popcorn seller filled them with popcorn. The boys thanked him and munched away gratefully. It sometimes seems like all you hear about street kids is that they’re dangerous and addicted to drugs – it’s important to remember that they are children who need help. Of course, working out how to help them isn’t so easy – they need a lot more than popcorn…

The lights changed and the street kids, the popcorn seller and I went off in different directions. When I got to the next crossing I saw this:


Classic school mural. The teeth have all been filled with words of positivity – amor, paz, alegria, etc


I walked on and finally saw the metro station. I had just one final road to cross but it was completely flooded. I walked up the street to see if I could find a way across. Here’s what I found:



Faced with that, I headed back the way I had come and managed to find a way across without getting my feet wet. When I finally arrived home I found that the power was out, but like my unplanned stroll through rainy Copacabana, it had an unexpected upside. Mrs Eat Rio and I ended up eating by candlelight which was rather a nice end to my interesting journey home!



9 replies
  1. Rachel
    Rachel says:

    You are so right, street kids are kids. They need cared for, not feared.

    I can’t believe you were out. Mr Rant was too. He did end up getting his feet wet though as he had to walk up a river to make it home. At least we had power when he got here… until morning that is. We still don’t have elevators but at least the water is back on!

    Glad you made it home safe! Be careful, Carioca gossip is that we are going to have another one tonight.

    • tomlemes
      tomlemes says:

      Heh heh, being out definitely wasn’t part of my plan, but looking back I’m really glad I took that walk. Fingers crossed you get the elevators back soon and thanks for the warning about tonight (crossing my fingers it’s a false alarm!) 🙂

  2. Ray
    Ray says:

    Dam Tom, you got me all emotional with the visual (constructed in my head) of the street kids and the popcorn!! I truly hope that “Bolsa Familia” works to eradicate that problem in Brazil.

    Great post, I miss the adventure of those fierce storms, bad thing is that we all pay a high price every time they cause havoc in our cities.



    • tomlemes
      tomlemes says:

      Thanks Ray 🙂 People often complain about the flooding that seems to happen every time there is heavy rain, but I have to say I have some sympathy for the people whose job it is to deal with this. Rains this heavy would bring huge flooding problems to the UK (in fact far lighter rain habitually does just that practically every year).

      When the weather gets like this I always think of all those people living on the streets or in substandard housing. I know it was just a gesture, but it was lovely to see the popcorn seller (clearly not a rich man himself) helping out some kids who were worse off.

  3. Tiffany
    Tiffany says:

    Beautiful picture of the kids and the popcorn seller. I bet your unplanned ten-block walk was a much better experience than your normal route.

    • tomlemes
      tomlemes says:

      Hi Tiffany! You’re right, it was a far better, richer experience than my normal route and I wouldn’t have missed it for anything. I don’t want to come across all cheesy, but it really was simultaneously a beautiful and heartbreaking moment. So sad to see these young boys shivering in the rain, but amazing to see this guy helping out in such a simple, kind way.

  4. The Gritty Poet
    The Gritty Poet says:

    I would have waited for the rain to subside in a local bakery or a resturantt/bar/buteco/bistro kind of venue.
    Your narrative reminded me of a scene from a rather underrated movie.

    • tomlemes
      tomlemes says:

      Ha ha! It wasn’t that bad! 🙂 I do always try to stay a little more alert when I’m walking in Copacabana though. I don’t think it’s dangerous exactly, but there is definitely a bit more of an edge to the place…


Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *