This post is dedicated to Hallie Jaeger, a close friend and inspiration in Chicago. She never asks an easy question like “How is your trip?” She always wants to know what the city smells like, what the sounds are around me and every last detail of how the food tastes. I am inspired by her questions to listen closer, smell deeper and engage the cities I visit more.
Rio is loud. Not like a concert that ends at 11 PM, or a blender that won’t ever seem to stop blending. It is loud until 5 AM. Every noise you can imagine, you will hear from the hours of 9 PM and 5 AM. The city is actually louder at 5 AM than it is at 10 PM.
I lay in bed and listen to the normal hustle and bustle of the city.
I hear the drone of peoples’ voices with an occasional group scream “WHOOOOOO”. The cars drive by, but they sound more aggressive than most cars. They aren’t out for their nightly stroll, they are on a mission. The buses sound the loudest. You can hear the air push by as they nearly miss the corner of my street. A motorcycle drives by and insists on showing off the non-muffled beast of a machine. He drives up and down the beach a couple of times impressively revving his engine.
Suddenly I hear fireworks.
Coming from the favelas, loud booms fill the sky warning of a police raid or informing of an incoming drug package. These loud signals which are similar to, and often followed by the sound of gunfire makes me freeze for a second. I feel oddly safe along the beach of Ipanema, but question the activity that could be happening so near to me.
The night gets later. The mundane drone of people who were normal late night drinkers, now sounds like singing, but I can’t make out the song. One man in particular I wouldn’t call singing but his voice is louder than the rest of the group and I am guessing he has had a few more drinks.
I am randomly awakened a few hours later and there is still singing and talking and horns constantly honking. This time I am awakened by one particular horn who I am guessing is as sensitive to the noise and people as I am. He lays on his horn, saying to everyone, “I mean business and I will conquer you.” The horn doesn’t last a few seconds, or even half a minute. The driver of this particular cab chose to hold down his horn for an entire minute which doesn’t sound long, but at 5 AM this is an eternity.
From my bed I imagine the streets outside my window are filled with people and the cabby needs to get through. He is laying on his horn until everyone in the mass of thousands moves aside. Once he completed his goal of splitting the seas and waking up everyone within a five-mile radius, the crowd bursts into a loud (drunken) cheer.
I cheered along hoping that the sun would soon come up and everyone would realize they missed their bed time. As for next week…if you cant beat ‘em, join ‘em. Cheers to Rio!