Last Sunday was a funny kind of day – it started off rather dull and hazy, then later on the cloud cleared and it turned into a gorgeous sunny day. This suited me perfectly as I had to work during the morning and the only thing worse than having to work on a Sunday is having to work on a sunny Sunday!
With the work (and clouds) out of the way, I went up onto the roof to enjoy the sunshine. When I got up there I found that I was not the only one enjoying the afternoon sun.
These kites, known in Brazil as pipas, are really popular, especially in the favelas.
You hear a lot of sensationalist talk about how kids are paid to use their pipas to help the traficantes (drug dealers), either as a warning sign (kids stop flying their kites when the police enter the favela to alert the dealers) or as advertising (kids flying their kites when a new drug shipment arrives). I’m not saying those things never happen, but I’m pretty sure that a lot of kids just like flying kites.
Anyone who has read The Kite Runner will be aware of the practice of putting crushed glass on the strings so that kites can do battle. Here in Brazil the glass thread is called Cerol and poses a serious hazard to people on bikes and motorbikes. Back in 2007 a 9 year old boy was killed when he was riding his bike and was caught around the neck. In fact it is such a problem here that many motorbikes are fitted with an antena anti-cerol - an extendible protector which looks like a car aerial with a small hook at the top.
Anyway, back to my relaxing Sunday on the roof. I had seen these pipas many times from a distance, flying above the nearby Santo Amaro favela, but whoever was flying this one was very nearby so I got a really good view of the kite as it moved through the air.
Seeing that there is only one string, it was amazing how much control the person in charge of the string seemed to have. At one point they let out what must have been a couple of hundred metres of line and despite the massive bow in the line, they were still moving it this way and that with sporadic, and no doubt expert, yanks.
The nice thing about hanging out in Rio with a camera is that there always seems to be something interesting around the corner. As I snapped away at the kite, a massive vulture swooped past the moon, flapping around as it searched for a thermal.
A few minutes later this Fragata (Frigate bird) flew by.
Sitting out in the sun, sipping my newly discovered favourite drink (more on this soon) and watching the kite and various birds flying around, I found myself reflecting that life could be a lot worse.