The Chaperone


This blog entry about the events of Sunday, February 22, 2004 was originally posted on February 26, 2004.

DAY 126 (PART 2):  A taxi took us to the apartment in Santa Teresa, which was situated on a dead end street called Rua Murtinho Nobe that most cab drivers didn’t know the location of.  With the help of CB radio, we eventually made it to the three-bedroom place on the third floor of a five-story building.  We sat around, beerless, wondering what to do before going to the Sambadrome for the first night of Carnaval after midnight.  Sharon went off into the other room and come back with a smile.

“I have a date.”

Apparently, the 27-year-old Sharon fancied the cab driver she rode with the night before who was trying to pick her up with a line about trying some the Brazilian asaieda fruit.  After she called him on the phone and her high came down, she was suddenly all indecisive about having called the stranger for a night out in the first place and asked the rest of us for advice.

“Just follow your heart,” Terence said with a snicker before we all busted out laughing.

“How can I say, I haven’t met the guy,” I said, not knowing saying it designated me as a chaperone.

“I’m just going to sit with him on the steps,” she said.  She said she wasn’t out looking for a one-night stand.

“We can just follow you like a group of chaperones, like in The Godfather,” Terence joked.

“He’s a cab driver, he’ll probably want to drive you somewhere.”

“Am I being stupid?” she asked.

Paul just shrugged his shoulders.

Eventually Marcelo the cabbie came in his taxi and parked in front of the building on the quiet street.  We saw him waiting outside from our window.

Sharon, all dressed up to impress went downstairs, but not without dragging me along to check him out.  With very limited Portuguese, Sharon tried to communicate with the tall, dark and I guess handsome cabbie who fortunately spoke some English.  As predicted, he wasn’t about to sit on the steps all night and was there to pick her up to take her somewhere.  Marcelo looked fine to me, so I gave Sharon the heads up and announced that I was going out for a beer run.

“Can you give my friend Erik a ride to the market?”

I thought maybe she wanted a wingman for a bit longer and so I hopped in the backseat, while the impressionable San Franciscan girl sat up front.  All of the stores in the area were closed, so a local beer run was out of the question.  By the time we finished wandering for an open store, Sharon felt confident enough to go off with Marcelo and dropped me off, beerless.  The two of them continued on to the other side of town to buy the supposed fruit for her to try.  “Do you want me to get beer?” Sharon asked me.


“I don’t have any money.”

“I feel like I’m giving you an allowance,” I said as I gave her twenty reais.  “Don’t spend it all in one place now — unless it’s for beer.”

Sharon gave me her key to get back in the building and told me she’d be back by midnight so she could go with us to the Sambadrome.  The two drove off for “fruit” — and hopefully my drinks.

IT WAS ABOUT 10:30 WHEN I GOT BACK TO THE APARTMENT.  With all the exhaustion and a long night ahead at the Sambadrome, we all dozed off for a bit.  I awoke about an hour later when I heard Paul and Terence watching the Carnvale festivities on the TV in the back room.  Despite the bad reception, we still saw the dozens of super hot, topless Brazilian women being interviewed before shaking their asses for the camera.  At a certain point, all we saw was ass after booby after ass after booby.

“I love this cameraman,” I said.

Midnight — the time that Lonely Planet suggests is prime time to get cheap scalper tickets into the Sambadrome — was approaching and there was no news from Sharon.  We couldn’t exactly leave since I had her key and she couldn’t get back in, which made us all jokingly yell “Sharon!” the way Ozzie Osbourne does to call his wife.  We sat in the bedroom, watching the hedonistic festivities about a mile away — on a little TV, feeling like the losers in American Pie.  It was a pretty pathetic sight.

Suddenly the phone rang.

“Are you guys mad at me?” Sharon said on the other line. 

“No,” I said, the chaperone.

“We’re on our way back, the place was really far.  Do you still want beer?”

“Uh, YES.”

Another hour of watching the boobies and asses on TV, Sharon finally arrived with our beers.  With the night progressing without us, we just left the beers in the fridge and headed out.  The one good thing about Sharon dating a taxi driver was that suddenly the rest of us had a free lift to the Sambadrome.  Marcelo dropped us boys off near where the scalpers were (picture below) and left with Sharon to continue their date, lost in translation. 

LONELY PLANET REALLY GOT IT RIGHT when they suggested not to buy tickets from a tour agency and to just show up after midnight to get some from a scalper — the show goes on until sunrise anyway.  Lara’s friends paid up to $200 for their tickets from an agency, while us four guys could just shop around for whatever seats we wanted.  If one scalper didn’t have what we wanted at the price we wanted, they’d go ask around until we got our request.  We eventually got four tickets for Sector 6, right by the stage for about $33 each. 

Sector 6 however, was on the other side of the parade route, and it took a while to figure out how to get to the other side.  It was fun anyway, watching the party revelers around the Sambadrome, and the kids with party spray foam attacking some guy who was taking a nap on the grass.  When the guy woke up, face covered in foam, he didn’t know what was going on.  A little kid ran up to him and threw even more foam in his face.

Eventually we found our sector and stood at the front with the hundreds of others cheering on their favorite team.  For the past twenty years, Carnaval in Rio is actually a competition of the top fourteen samba schools, or teams, who create the theme, costumes, choreography and floats to express an particular idea each year as they parade down six blocks to the Sambadrome arch at the end.  For example, the Grande Rio school’s theme for 2004 centered around safe sex — a lot of their choreography involved a lot of homosexual, heterosexual and bisexual making out.  Each of their floats had some sort of giant inflated condom on it — some even had huge statues of Adam and Eve having sex on it and were actually censored by officials.  Grande Rio made the best of the situation, and covered the sex acts with blankets and a big “CENSORADO” banner on it

I was really impressed with Unidos da Tijuca’s finale float which actually included two figure eight go-cart tracks on it with guys driving around as people danced around them.  But the star of this first night of Carnaval was Mangueira, the school I went to see practice just the weekend before.  Being from the slums outside of Rio, many people in the stands were cheering on, waving their pink and green Mangueira flags.  I didn’t know the exact Portuguese words to their song to sing along to, but I faked it with mouth movements.  We all enjoyed the whole thing anyway as we danced and tried to sing along with the locals and tourists around us. 

The sun was starting to come up around six in the morning, and there was still another school to perform for their 90 minute performance.  Tired of partying in the stands, we just left at dawn, knowing we’d be back in the Sambadrome the next day anyway. 

When we managed to get back to the apartment after confusing a taxi driver without directions, Sharon was there waiting.  She had only just gotten back from her date with Marcelo, the last hour of which was spent outside the apartment.  Marcelo wanted a real kiss goodnight, but Sharon would only give him a peck on the cheek.  He waited around for it, but she refused and stood out there hoping that her team of chaperones would scare him off — meanwhile, we were too busy partying at Carnaval.  She eventually got rid of Marcelo and waited up for us. 

I was dead tired when I got back and just slept in the spare room on the floor, in the darkness, away from the sunrise coming from the windows of the other rooms.  I was sleeping for a good half hour when Sharon yelled at me in shock when she opened the door.


“What? What?” I said as a chill went throughout my body from the shock of the rude awakening.

“You can’t sleep on the floor!”

“Uh, I just was sleeping on the floor.”

“I won’t have it.  You shouldn’t sleep on the floor.”

“It’s no big deal.  I’m tired.”

She grabbed my arms and led me to her full-sized bed where I managed to get back to sleep while she stayed up talking in the other room. 

Still a little cranky, I decided that I would never be a chaperone again.

Next entry: Enter The Sambadrome

Previous entry: Fly Like An Eagle

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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:
Enter The Sambadrome

Previous entry:
Fly Like An Eagle


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