I hadn’t intended to be a part of Rio’s famed carnival celebration. Though I’ve always been blown away by photographs and video footage of the celebration, I honestly thought of the whole thing as one big celebratory ball of insanity–crowds, crowds, and more crowds. But I was in Brazil in Fall of 2011 visiting my sister, and one night at the tail end of my trip, conversation with friends there turned towards travel planning for Carnaval. See, they were all residents of Brazil, and they were headed to the world’s biggest party come February 2012. I had plans to return to Brazil sometime in the future, but not for this upcoming group trip of theirs. As they hatched out plans about apartment rental in Rio for their trip, ticket and costume costs, general dos and don’ts, dates of travel etc, some of them asked me, “You’re coming back for Carnaval, right?” My sad, regretful response: “Well…. I don’t think I can, since I wasn’t planning to. I’m already here now, and Carnaval’s just a couple of months away and it’s a big expense, and I don’t know if I can travel back here so soon…” None of them accepted my answer, and at the end of the evening, they all bid me fond farewells with kisses, hugs, and plenty of “See you in February” well wishes.
After a few weeks of “Will I or won’t I” self-questioning and some in-depth discussion with my husband (who would not be able to join me), I decided that I would bite the bullet and try to make the trip back. So began a frantic search for decently priced flights down to Brazil at the height of Brazil’s busiest summer travel season. Along the way, I hammered myself with nonstop guilty thoughts about how this wonderful trip that I would be taking was a rather unreasonable move on my part, considering that I’d just had a nice long stay in Brazil (I finally stopped feeling guilty about my trip roughly a week before heading down).
Everything was lining up beautifully: I had my ticket for Brazil; a friend in the group had secured a well situated apartment in Copacabana for the group; another had lined up arrangements for us to dance in the parade with Rio samba school Mocidade Independente de Padre Miguel; tickets for our frisa (open box seats) had been bought; and transportation to and from the Sambadrome had been reserved. I felt blessed that I’d be participating in this once-in-a-lifetime event.
Well, fast forward a bit to late February 2012. I learned and memorized my samba school’s incredible song. I went to Rio with my sister and friends, and found “the Marvelous City” to be as beautiful and spirited as people have made it out to be. We drank, sunbathed, drank, ate, napped, strolled, and drank. We paraded down the legendary Sambadrome in full costume under Mocidade Independente’s flags before tens of thousands of people. It was a transformative experience, one of pure elation– Rio de Janeiro is most certainly operating at a higher frequency during this celebration. I no longer think of Rio’s Carnaval as a once-in-a-lifetime event. I’m just trying to figure out when I’ll do it again.
Details to follow!