Reaching the Threshold in Rio


This blog entry about the events of Thursday, February 26, 2004 was originally posted on February 29, 2004.

DAY 131:  It was only about ten in the morning when the doorbell rang.  Lara and I were still half asleep.  I opened the door and on the other side was Luis, the designated English-speaker at Angramar Turismo, the guys that got us costumes and tickets in the Rio Sambadrome Carnaval and the apartment we were living in.  Luis wasn’t his usual mild-mannered self that morning; in fact, he came in really pissed off about something.

“The doorman say you have four Japanese men staying here!” he yelled.


“He said four Japanese came here on Friday with big bags and leave yesterday with the big bags,” Luis said.  “You singed a contract that only you two would stay here.”

Lara sprung out of bed in defense.  “No one stayed here but us, we told you that.”

“The doorman said he saw four Japanese.”

“American,” I corrected.  “That was my brother and my friends.  They didn’t stay here; they had their own apartment in Santa Teresa.”

“We told you it was just us and no one else,” Lara added.  “We wouldn’t do that to you.”  (Luckily for us, Tim the Aussie never crashed as we invited him to if he was at his wit’s end in Rio.)

“The doorman already wrote down the four Japanese men and called the owner.  He said he saw big bags come in on Friday and leave yesterday.”

“My friends didn’t come ‘til Saturday,” I said.  “Maybe he confused them with someone else.”

“He said one of them was wearing a Flamengo shirt,” Luis said, making me one of the “four Japanese” houseguests, even though I lived there already.

“Are there different doormen?” I asked.  “I think the doorman didn’t see the bags leave.  It was two of them, and it was Saturday, not Friday.  They left with their bags that night and went to Santa Teresa.”

Luis had calmed down at this point, realizing that perhaps he barged in with false accusations.  “Can you come to the office later and explain to Carlos?”

“Okay,” I said.  “Later.”

Lara was still angry about the situation, but still too tired to get out of bed when Luis left.

AFTER DROPPING OFF OUR LAUNDRY at a laundry service, I went to the Angramar Turismo office in Carlos’ apartment to state my case.  I had already written up a check-in/check-out timesheet of my friends — Exhibit A.

When Carlos’ sister opened the door, no one was in their usual cheery mood.  Carlos gave me the evil eye and silent treatment, still convinced that I had betrayed his trust.  The five minutes waiting with him in his office for Luis to arrive as translator seemed like an eternity.

Eventually Luis came up, more level-headed than he was earlier that morning.  Carlos sat back in his office chair like a mob boss, never making eye contact with me.  He said something in Portuguese to his consigliere Luis, who regurgitated it into English for me.  Again I heard the fake accusations, but I had Exhibit A to state my case.  I explained that people only came in and out for no more than a couple of hours at a time.  I explained that on the Monday, none of my friends even came over.  I told them that rather than have my passed out friends stay over one night like they asked, I told them it wasn’t allowed and spent the night in Santa Teresa with them instead, since their landlords were cool about having people over, unlike themselves. 

Luis took Exhibit A and explained what I just told him to his boss.  Carlos said something to Luis, who translated it to me: “So how do you explain the bags?”

“Only two friends came on Saturday,” I started.  “My brother had to wait at the airport for a friend on a later flight from San Francisco, so they could sort out their apartment in Santa Teresa.  The two guys came straight to Copacabana from the airport and dropped their bags off in the apartment so they didn’t have to bring them to the afternoon soccer — uh, football — game.  Don’t you remember them?  They got their bags when we met my brother at eleven and they all went to Santa Teresa.”  I continued to explain how we bought a new bag to store the costumes and reminded them that those guys came up to the office to help me.

Luis had my trust and had calmed down, but I wasn’t so sure about Carlos.  He said something to Luis for him to translate:  “Okay, we trust you.  But the doorman already write that people were staying there.”  Carlos said some more to be translated:  “Instead of charging for the people that stayed over, we just need 32 reais for the gas.”

“Gas?  But they didn’t stay over!” I argued.  I told them that I wasn’t bothered about paying the money, I just wanted to know why.

“I know it’s hard for you to understand, but in Brazil, the people of the apartment building share the gas and don’t want to pay more for the gas you used.”

“But they never consumed gas!  We were always in and out.”

Carlos saw me getting riled up and said some more from his office chair, still never making eye contact with me.  Luis calmly said, “Yes, we have a misunderstanding here.  You can either pay the 32 reais, or we can go to the doorman to argue.”

“Fine, let’s go to the doorman — all I have is the truth!”

As soon as I said it, I couldn’t believe that such a cheesy line came out of my mouth.

Carlos and Luis spoke some more and in the end, told me that the money wasn’t for them, but to the building and that they weren’t trying to rip us off or anything.  I left the back office still having to pay the 32 reais.  Before I left the office door, I cut a deal with Luis.  “Lara and I are leaving a day early, on Saturday instead of Sunday.  Can’t you just use the money for that one day towards the gas?”

Luis and Carlos were tired of arguing.  “Okay.”

KNOWING LARA THE WAY I DID, it was probably good that she wasn’t at the office during the “trial.”  She would have had Luis and Carlos have hell to pay, before storming out in a rage.  In the afternoon though, it was her turn to have a hissy fit — it was only inflated by the fact that she was really hungover from the night before.

Lara’s only goal of the day was to go to the post office to ship what she could of her Beija-Flor costume back to the U.K.  I accompanied her and the duffel bag on a subway trip to the central post office.  We managed to get a postal worker that spoke English, who told us that the costume couldn’t be shipped in the duffel bag; we need either a box or some brown parcel paper to wrap it in.

Easy enough, huh?

The in-store postal supply store didn’t have a big enough box or parcel paper even though the woman told us they would.  Being moody and hungover, that wasn’t the thing to hear about in Lara’s ears.  The store clerk gave us vague directions to a store that would wrap it for us.  We followed the directions with the duffel bag to a stationery store a block away.  They didn’t have boxes big enough for us, nor paper either.  Lara kept insisting that “there’s a box right there!” pointing to a big box that something had been shipped in.  The store employees wouldn’t sell it and laughed at us as Lara stormed out.

We found a small post office and they directed us to another store.  We couldn’t find it of course, and I could tell Lara was really reaching her threshold.

“Let’s just leave it.  Forget it.  I don’t want it anymore.  It’s not worth it.”

But I kept walking and found another stationery store where a nice woman helped us wrap the bag in brown parcel paper and string.  Lara was a happy camper again and went back to the post office to send it off to Guernsey, while I went back to Copacabana to pick up our laundry.

We Lara came home, she told me about the tantrum she had after the post office, trying to get to the bus station so she could get a ticket to Campo Grande.  No one was helpful — later we learned that there were two bus stations and two Campo Grandes — and Lara was just piss off the whole time, confused and frustrated that she didn’t know enough Portuguese.

“You thought I was bad at the post office, you should have seen me at the bus station.”

WE WERE BOTH LEVEL-HEADED FOR OUR FINAL NIGHT IN RIO, and we went out for a stroll along the beach front to the night markets (picture above) for some last minute gifts and souvenirs.  The masses of tourists were gone, leaving our temporary neighborhood to us again.  We sat out at an outdoor table at a beach cafe for a snack as the ocean breeze blew around us.

“I’m sort of bored of Rio,” Lara told me. 

“Me too,” I agreed.  “I’m sort of bored of South America.”

The two of us had been in Rio de Janeiro for half a month — the longest either of us had been in any one place on our journeys in South America — and had seen and done most of the things already.  Beaches, mountains — been there, done that.  Handgliding — been there, done that.  The shops and the parties — been there, done that.  Carnaval in the Sambadrome — been there, won that.

“I’m really looking forward to moving on,” she said.

We both had plans to leave the next day.

Next entry: Bye, Bye Brazil

Previous entry: The Nerd of Copacabana

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Comments for “Reaching the Threshold in Rio”

  • could it be?

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/29  at  11:04 AM

  • FIRST!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/29  at  11:05 AM

  • how much does 32 reias convert to US dollars?

    Did u tell Carlos that coz of you, you Beija Flor won the competion?

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/29  at  11:29 AM

  • ERIK: Fix your close italics bracket . at the end of the post.

    Japanese visitor?  No Japanese man can shake his ass like me!  DAMN YOU doormaaaan!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/29  at  11:43 AM

  • LOVEPENNY:  In Brazil and Argentina, you pretty much divide by 3 to figure out the US equivalent… I wasn’t bothered by the money, just the principle…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/29  at  12:07 PM

  • DAMN RIGHT! Markyt!!

    In the words of Missy Elliott “WORK IT!”

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/29  at  06:14 PM

  • Brilliant -congrats!
    Can anybody tell me about Cruz Quebrada near Fortaleza. Want to go in July.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/29  at  06:46 PM

  • Yo bee, did Rolf Potts ever get back to you, Erik?

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/29  at  08:38 PM

  • DAVID:  Sorry, can’t help you there, but what I’ve learned on this trip is not to go knowing too much about where you’re going… it ruins the surprise.  Most of the places I’ve gone to I haven’t heard of until someone told me about.  Lara avoided any and all photos of Machu Pichu before she did the Inca Trail, only to make her arrival at the “lost” city all the more special.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  03/01  at  07:54 AM

  • MOMAN:  I did get in contact with Rolf… he had an apartment in Ipanema with some friends.  Both of us were traveling in packs in two different neighborhoods, so it was hard to meet up with him.  I was planning to just meet up with him in the queue for the parade—he was in Beija-Flor too—not knowing that there were HUNDREDS of people in the same costume to sort through.  I suppose I could have gone to each person in costume to ask his name, but I had already had enough beers by then.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  03/01  at  07:56 AM

  • That doorman blows. To hell with him, and those jerks. You won AND have costumes to show for it. BTW, cool pic the other day posing like JC.

    Smell ya later Rio… Buenos Aires, here he comes!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  03/02  at  10:46 PM

  • CHRISTY:  In retrospect, perhaps Carlos had it in for us because he danced with a different school that didn’t come in first…  Sore loser.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  03/03  at  12:16 PM

  • sopranos premiere on Sunday!!! do they have HBO in Africa? I hear it’s gonna be gooooood!!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  03/04  at  09:02 AM

  • SKORNBLUM:  Tony and the gang are back already?  I’ll probably have to wait for the DVD—let me know when you see a familiar neighborhood!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  03/04  at  10:05 AM

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This blog post is one of over 500 travel dispatches from the trip blog, "The Global Trip 2004: Sixteen Months Around The World (Or Until Money Runs Out, Whichever Comes First)," originally hosted by It chronicled a trip around the world from October 2003 to March 2005, which encompassed travel through thirty-seven countries in North America, South America, Africa, Europe, and Asia. It was this blog that "started it all," where Erik evolved and honed his style of travel blogging — it starts to come into focus around the time he arrives in Africa.

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Next entry:
Bye, Bye Brazil

Previous entry:
The Nerd of Copacabana


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