Reveillon da Decada de Ouro II

06Jan11

Reveillon or New Year’s Eve is the biggest celebrations in Rio de Janeiro, second only to the carnival, and one of the greatest ways in the entire world to celebrate the arrival of a new year. Ever since I was a kid, the TV clips of Rio fireworks were enchanting to me, and I always wished to be a part of it. When an opportunity showed up to be in Rio for Reveillon, I didn’t hesitate to make up my decision. Especially, since my accommodation was free in the city where hotel prices exponentially increase for New Year’s. The time came for me to live my dreams, instead of dreaming them.

Copacabana Palace in Rio de Janeiro

To say that I was excited throughout the day on December 31st 2010, it would be an understatement. All psyched up, I dressed completely in white and headed to Copacabana beach where the main celebration was taking place, and where one of my favourite Brazilian singers, Daniela Mercury was holding a concert.

Daniela Mercury during the Reveillon Celebration

The city suddenly felt awake that night as if it were the carnival time. The vibe from people surrounding me increased with every single moment, giving me goose bumps. I was tempted to pinch myself, but didn’t want to be awaken from the dream.

After a struggle to either get on the bus or get a taxi to Copa, I managed to arrive to the Copacabana Palace in time for the logo of 2016 Summer Olympic Games to be revealed in front of the Olympic Committee and two million people who were on the beach.

The surrounding environment reminded me of carnival in Salvador with the exception that no water bottles, beer cans, or people were flying around. However, the constant shouting, pushing, singing, dancing and laughter were still present. As I was filming Daniela Mercury on the stage, a girl, standing close to me, asked me in Portuguese if I could take a photo of her with my camera. She is Carioca and has been coming to Copacabana each year for Reveillon; yet, she didn’t have a photo from the NYE celebrations. I obliged to this weird request. (Now thinking about it, it might have been her pick-up line.) Once I gave her my cell phone to type her email address, she realised I was a gringo, and our conversation continued. Ana spoke to me in Portuguese and I replied in Spanish. Somehow we understood each other. The midnight was approaching, and she couldn’t find her friend, nor could I find mine. Later on, it turned out, that my friend and his girlfriend were only a few steps away from me. Yet in the sea of people and with the cell phone disruptions, we couldn’t locate each other. As the clock stoke midnight, I celebrated NYE with a new friend, and the moment I had waited for years finally arrived. Nearly complete darkness surrounded us, the huge roar coming from two million people on the beach was heard, the Atlantic Ocean stormed, and the night sky above Copacabana Palace explored full of fireworks. The sky was burning for nearly 20 minutes, and all of us felt as being in the fireworks. Everywhere one looked there were sparks in the air with a refection in the ocean and on our white clothing. 2011 has arrived and Cariocas went into the warm Atlantic throwing white lilies and white roses into the water as the night sky glowed red.

Reveillon, aside from marking the end of a calendar year, has also pagan African meaning rooted in Brazilian culture. It is a religious day celebrating Iemanja, the goddess of the sea. Therefore, Brazilians wear white on NYE, and throw flowers into the ocean as the offering to the deity.

The whole experience left me with satisfaction and excitement, yet slight emotional drainage. I bid goodbye to Ana, wished her a happy New Year yet again, and moved onto looking for my friends in the sea of people. Eventually I gave up on that idea too. As it turned out, to get two million people on the beach is an easy task, but to get them out of that neighbourhood with one-way streets, it was a nightmare! Decisive on taking a bus home, I soon realised none of them were going in my direction. All of the sudden, I lost my sense of orientation. I didn’t dare to walk back home as many people did because I had to go through tunnels and I wasn’t familiar with the route. As it seems, there are certain things even I don’t dare to do. So the first time in my life, I pretended to be a confused, stupid gringo. I walked into the first hotel, told the receptionist that I was lost, and I needed to get back home. He asked me if I was a hotel guest, and I negated it. He suggested to me to hail a cab on the street, and I played dumb. It was impossible to hail one! So the receptionist seated me in the lobby, and called my taxi. The taxi ride back to the apartment was an adventure of its own as it took one hour to go around the block. I thought the driver would take a different route, but he didn’t. What was a 10 minute ride turned out to be 2.5 hours. Yet I didn’t care. I was safe in the taxi and on my way to the apartment. That’s all it mattered then.

2011 New Year's Celebration on Copacabana Beach, Rio de Janeiro

Tonight after spending nearly two weeks in rainy yet warm Rio de Janeiro, I’m taking a last sip of GuaraViton (ice tea with guarana and Korean ginseng) and writing this blog entry waiting for my flight to Toronto. I can’t help myself but to be a bit emotional. Tonight my five-year long relationship with Brazil is coming to the end. When I obtained my Brazilian tourist visa in 2006, never in my life did I imagine I would repetitiously come back here. Over the years, I’ve begun to love to adore the country and its people, the passion and drama, the music beats of each neighbourhood, the smell of feijoada and the taste of ever-refreshing acai.

Ipanema Beach, Rio de Janeiro

Because of Brazil, I danced samba for two years; because of Brazil, I’ve taken axe capoeira classes; because of Brazil, I know almost as much about its politics and economy as an average Brazilian would; and most importantly because of Brazil, I’ve lived and fulfilled my dreams. I was privileged and lucky to experience carnivals in Rio and Salvador and to watch NYE fireworks with my feet deep in the sand of Copacabana.

Sidewalk along Copacabana Beach, Rio de Janeiro

Today I feel as if Brazil is my home in South America. It’s a place where I always feel welcomed and where I feel comfortable being myself. Perhaps for that reason, I shouldn’t feel sad because one always comes back home, and I sure will. As the country celebrates the beginning of the Decada de Ouro (the Golden Decade) and embraces the world in upcoming years, I will do everything to be part of Rio de Janeiro and Brazil in 2014 and 2016. Until then, I shall take care of my life, explore other parts of the world and look forward to coming home again. 

EPILOGUE

The beginning of a New Year has always been the time to reflect back on the past and optimistically look forward into the future. Although 2010 was a very turbulent and instable year for me, I feel that because of it all, the year was that much better. I’d like to express my deep gratitude to each of you who surrounds me daily and to each of you who might be living far away, yet always close to me. Without you and your support, I would find it difficult to continue living as I always have. My humble thanks for being there for me and for believing in me. I wish you have a fantastic New Year! xox I.M.

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One Response to “Reveillon da Decada de Ouro II”

  1. good


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