Next month Eat Rio will be 3 years old. During this period I’ve written over 400 posts and 48 static pages; you guys have left more than 4,500 comments, and I’ve filtered out almost 2,000 spam comments (if I ever do inherit 22.9 million dollars from a long lost uncle in Nigeria, I’m almost certainly going to miss out). The Eat Rio Facebook page has almost 1,000 likes (come on people!) and the Eat Rio Twitter account has almost 1,000 followers (are you trying to torture me?).
Now I don’t want to get too misty eyed here but, for me at least, Eat Rio has meant more than just the numbers. Writing this blog has pushed me to investigate and learn more about this great city. I’ve also made lots of friends through the blog, had several of those mythical ‘free lunches’ and just recently I was able to escape a less than satisfying job and switch career paths completely. Not bad for 3 years!
It feels like an age ago now, but I still remember why I started this blog in the first place.
Back in 2011, having spent something like 9 months in Rio, I had already discovered many interesting things that a casual visitor would almost certainly miss. Beautiful Carioca customs, brilliant music from the 1930s onwards, quirks of the language, fascinating stories from Rio’s past, weird and delicious food, talented artists, the list goes on and on. With each nugget I collected, I felt a stronger will to show the world (well, anyone who’d listen actually). It just seemed such a waste that people would visit for a week or two and miss out on all that cool stuff.
But more than the beaches and the mountains, the music and the food, I noticed something about the people of Rio that is hard to explain in words. They seem to take pleasure in the good things in life, just for the sake of that pleasure – nothing more. It’s joyful and it’s infectious.
A few months ago I was taking a small group out on a food tour. One of the party was Sylvia, an Italian girl travelling on her own. She had been studying Brazil (Portuguese, Capoeira, Samba and Bossa Nova, plus a whole host of other aspects) for the last year, but this was her first visit to the country. We wandered into Praça São Salvador, a small square where people gather on Sundays. There are some market stalls and a group, Arrumo o Coreto, usually gather under a bandstand to play Choro and Samba.
We (the food tour group) all stopped to listen to the music and Sylvia pushed ahead through the crowd to get closer to the musicians. The band were playing some lovely songs and the whole crowd was singing along – it was an amazing moment. After 10 or 15 minutes, we decided it was time to move on, so I went up to let Sylvia know – when she turned around I saw she had tears streaming down her face! She laughed and sobbed “I’m sorry! It’s just so beautiful!”. And cheesy as it sounds, I knew exactly what she meant – it was because of moments like this that I started Eat Rio (and not a beach, bikini or forest-covered mountain in sight!):