My friends, I have arrived.
I am finally settled into my new apartment, two blocks from the beach in Copacabana, with some really lovely roommates. I have a place to cook, ground, and unpack. Yup, my Brazilian experience has truly begun.
To be honest, my assimilation started soon after I got here. My Brazilian friend Camila, who I met in Toronto 8 years ago, has been a god-send in showing me the ropes. She has taken me to farmer and hippie markets, tourist sites and even an amazing Samba party in an old slave trading yard. I promise to write more on her later. She truly deserves her own blog posting.
I was told by her and others that it is essential to do whatever you can to not look like a tourist. Sadly, a lot of Brazilians are poor, opportunistic, and prey on tourists with money and fancy cameras. One of the easiest ways to assimilate is to wear the ubiquitous Havaianas flip-flops that come in a myriad of patterns, colours and even heel sizes. Female tourists are easy to spot on the beach by the granny panties that so many wear. Camila made sure that I was not a target.
On my second day here, she took me to her favourite bikini store just off Ipanema beach. She feverishly ran around the store to find me the smallest, most colourful bikini imaginable. Camila has a way. Ladies, take note, the further the “dental floss” goes up the bum, the more local you become. I am now at least ½ Brazilian. It is quite an experience and confidence tester to stand in a store with so much exposed, especially with the winter whites all over me. I decided on a red, orange and turquoise number. It’s ridiculously hot!
Afterwards, Camila and I raced over to her esthetician for the dip and rip Brazilian wax that has become so popular around the world. Yowza, that was an experience. Camila went first and then coaxed me into the treatment room. When I opened the door, she was naked from the waist down and said, “See, it’s no big deal, it’s just a vagina. Elana, it’s just a vagina”. I am still laughing about that one. During my appointment, the esthetician giggled and clearly got a kick from my welcome-to-Brazil wincing.
The next day we went to Arpoador rocks, where the tide is sweet and the views are sweeter. It was time to do the big reveal. Luckily, I am not particularly body-shy; in fact quite the opposite. I attribute that to my hoop practice and the beautiful confidence it has brought me. Thank goodness because the first moment of revealing the fullness of your derriere could test anyone’s chutzpah. I am still figuring out the basics, like how do you pick up your towel without showing the world way more than they need to see and how do you sit without getting sand in places it really shouldn’t go?
What I discovered is that everyone wears the dental floss bikinis- old women, large dimple-bottomed women, even little girls. Brazilian women are proud, sensual creatures and it shows. There is however, one cultural inconsistency that I am still grappling with; while Brazilian women seem to have no shame on the beach, they also have more plastic surgery than any other nation, specifically in breast enlargement. I don’t think that it is fair or accurate for me to surmise an entire Brazilian cultural understanding after being here for two weeks. Women’s body issues and the lengths that we will go to achieve an unrealistic ideal are complicated. That is for another time. Sensual lovers, self love is the only true love. That’s what I know.
I do think it would be great (and sexy) to see more North American women sport their stuff without a care in the world. Women’s bodies are beautiful regardless of size. Curves are where it’s at (incidentally, this week Ipanema beach became legally topless. I must go!). This summer, I will be sporting the Brazilian bikini in protest to North American conservatism. Laugh if you want to, but baby its hot down here, and oh so sensual.