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July 10, 2003

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From Ouro Preto we boarded an overnight bus and arrived in Rio de Janeiro this morning. Rio ranks among the best for name recognition; say "Rio" and people know what you're talking about. And no other Brazilian city conjures more images in a traveler's mind. Our first impression happened at the bus station, pre-dawn hours, as our bus arrived and dumped us in the terminal. Disheveled, we looked like everyone else although our hairs stood more on end because we felt nervous about pick pockets. The crowded station seemed like a perfect hideout for them. Our fears never materialized - no one accosted us except the taxi drivers. A taxi drove us to Copacabana beach where we tried to find a cheap hotel. We found a hotel, not so cheap, about $50 per night, a decent place to stay. Then, instead of beaching it like normal Brazilians, we ran up and down Rio's downtown market districts and arranged our flight to Africa. Rio is one of the most densely populated places on earth, the downtown area forested by pastel colored apartment buildings, metallic skyscrapers and crowded with pedestrians.
One Rio story: we wanted to rent a DVD and entered a store near our hotel. The store's policy didn't allow renting to non-members. A bystander overheard our trouble. Even though we didn't know her, she said not to worry and told us to rent DVD's with her membership card. Would this happen back home? Maybe we've had an exceptional experience in Brazil, but it seems that people south of the equator are especially friendly.