Thursday, January 1, 2009

Washed Away in the New Year

And the Brazilian Saga Continues...

After a late night of partying on Copacabana beach to bring in the New Year, we set out early this afternoon to spend a lazy day on the beach at Ipanema, which in the native language apparently means "fierce waters." After only an hour or so into our sunbathing, snacking and exploring the area, the tide began to rise. A huge wave came up the sand and washed over us and our belongings. The casualties to this unforeseeable tragedy include: Armando's cellphone, 4 digital cameras (including mine), 2 ipods (including mine), 1 video camera, 1 right flip flop, all the towels and almost everyone's clothes. So on only day 4 of our trip I am without my tunes (ahh!) and without a camera (AHHHH!). Also, since Armando's cellphone was damaged, he could not contact our van driver to pick us up early. So we chose to walk to the meeting place, and when we could not find him took taxis back to the hotel. So much for a restful day on the beach.


After we got back to the hotel to calm our nerves and collect ourselves, we headed back to Ipanema to have dinner at the "Garota de Ipanema," the bar where Tom Jobim and other musicians of the Brazilian Bossa Nova style, gathered in the '60s and watched the girls walk back and forth to Ipanema beach. The food was delicious, but it was also nice to be sitting in a little peice of history.


Before our coveted belongings were washed away, last night we stood by the sea, wearing white as many people of Brazil do, to wash away the old year and bring in the new. An estimated crowd of two million people covered the Copacabana beach. After a fantastic meal at the hotel, our group joined the crowd around 11:15 pm in the rain. Nearly soaking wet, we joined hands and pushed our way through the crowd and to the ocean where you could see the flowers people had thrown into the ocean to appease the Yoruba orisha, Yemaya.

At the New Year’s Eve celebration at Copacabana people participate in an African ritual ceremony to honor deity Lemanja, the Goddess of Sea. Boats of varied sizes are prepared with the images of deity Lemanja, which are later put in the sea. Everyone comes with white flowers, which are thrown into the sea as an offering to the Goddess Lemanja . The deity Lemanja is also offered numerous gifts on the New Year’s eve. Click here to read more.
As we made our way across the beach, we saw people camped out in tents or under umbrellas, and babies sleeping. Apparently people from all over come to this celebration and they don't even bother to get hotel rooms... instead they stay up all night for the celebration, sleep for a few hours on the beach and then go home. At midnight, the rain stopped, the clouds dissappeared, and the fireworks began. It was a dazzling and overwhelming show, lighting up the sky for at least 30 minutes if not more. Then there was a music concert for about an hour and a half. We danced and danced and danced until we were beyond sweaty. We made new friends dancing with some young men who were near us and they applauded our (version of) samba dancing.

The night came to a close for us, after seeing a mini-Carnaval parade around the gazebo-like stage. A man and woman on stilts, dressed in gold to represent the city, led the parade. A small section of the bateria, baianas, a passista (choreographer/dance director) and dancers of three different samba schools followed: Beija-Flor, Salguiera, and Mangueira. It was the first time I saw the spectacle of Carnaval in person. It was amazing to see the talent with which they danced and drummed and everyone in the crowd was so pumped up by the music. It reminded me of listening to the radio or being at a party in Baltimore, where there comes a time after all the hip hop, r&b and pop songs have been played and then the club music comes on and people lose their minds.

Eventually we left - tiredness got the best of me - but it was certainly an experience I won't forget. And should my camera begin to work in the next few days I'll be sure to get some pictures up. Otherwise, Feliz Ano Novo. I wish you all many blessings in the coming year.

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