So, as a kid, my parents thought, WE thought parades were awesome. Reality check, parades kind of suck—Boring only until the clowns (scary clowns) came by with candy or you saw someone you actually knew in the parade (whom you made fun of later). I suppose one day, when my own kids are ever in a parade, I may enjoy one, however, I have never been a fan…..until I was in a parade in Brazil…..
Carnaval was upon us and we had made NO plans to do anything….no Sambadrome, no Rio, no costumes. Carnaval is the week before Lent, there isn’t a huge blowout on “Fat Tuesday” like in the states. I think Carnaval is the ONE event that comes to mind when people think of Brazil. I am under the impression that foreigners think Brazilians walk around in sequin thongs and wear feathered headpieces daily. I think outsiders expect drum beats surrounding their every move and Brazilians drink all day. Brazil would not be the 7th largest economy in the world if that were the case. The reality is everyone parties hard until the weekend after, then the city gets back to business as usual. I had asked friends “what is the best thing to do during Carnaval?” “Leave Brazil,” was the #1 answer. We had friends going to Argentina, Peru, anywhere but here…..hmmmm. I was thinking we were pretty much screwed.
An e-mail came thru inviting Jeff and I to a bloco. No freaking clue what a bloco was. Luckily, that week in Portuguese class, we received a lesson in blocos. A bloco is a parade you participate in. You and your friends ARE the parade. There are bands on buses, clowns (scary), kids in costumes, grown-ups in costumes, candy, AND people actually watch the parade. Mind you, in Brazil, the onlookers are usually drinking a beer (because it’s Carnaval), so the parade may be a little more interesting…..
Our Bloco was called the Bloco Esfarrapados or the Shabby Bloco. It started on the outskirts of the Jardims, a super chic part of town and went on for 3 or so km. This particular bloco usually attracted 50,000 participants.
We found the starting point and waited for the bloco to start. I have participated in over 30 athletic races in the past 7 or so years and I started to get that “at the start of the race” stomach jitters. Seriously! I felt like I was getting ready to run a half marathon, except I was wearing TOMS and had no proper “Lady Support” for the girls–but I had THAT feeling…..And the GUN went off…..the balloons were sent into the air and we were off…..yeah, kind of what you would expect “racing” with 50,000 people, didn’t move for about 5 minutes. Luckily, I hadn’t started my watch yet.
We walked, simple…and it was really fun! I didn’t bring the girls because I did not know what to expect, but next year they are coming! We walked, danced, sang, snagged candy, caught promotional crap thrown off the buses, laughed as we were sprayed with “snow” from naughty little kids, drank a beer and enjoyed all the chaos. A great way to EASE into Carnaval I must say.
My favorite thing about the bloco was watching the people watching us. Old women smiling, remembering a time they walked the bloco, kids scrambling from their doors to catch candy, waiters patiently taking care of their patrons wishing they were enjoying the festivities instead. A beautiful day to be in Brazil, a beautiful day to be with friends, a beautiful day for a shabby bloco…