Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Photo Essay-ish: The Carnival That Cost Us An Arm And Leg... And Almost Our Marriage

A squabble escalated to a heated debate at a quaint guesthouse in Lima, Peru.

"Hell no! Two-hundred-freakin' dollars each?!", hubby delivered in his usual monotone but he was obviously upset.

"But we're already on the same continent and we'll be in Brazil during carnival season! It is no coincidence!", I was on the brink of tears. Okay, I might have actually cried.

We were merely choosing which sector in the Sambódromo (Sambadrome) we're booking tickets for, yet it felt like we were weighing our options for buying a house.

"Maybe we should just... Separate.", I was of course kidding. But this led to a series of petty quarrels.

"Grandiose" ain't enough to describe this parade.
Fast forward a month later, on day 243 of our 2011-2012 round-the-world trip, that nasty joke brought us to the grandest parade on Earth. And you'd be surprised to know that I wasn't the one who ended up wearing a blue wig... Voluntarily.

Luna's look of embarrassment. Atop our overpriced 4-star hotel in Rio De Janeiro. Wait, everything's overpriced during the carnival.
Finally inside the Sambadrome! A stadium — more like, a vast runway designed specifically to host the annual parade of samba schools during the Rio Carnival.

Sambadrome Marquês de Sapucaí, designed by renowned architect Oscar Niemeyer in 1984 (constructed in a record-breaking 110 days!), is a three-kilometer walk from our hotel Windsor Guanabara. Though ridiculously expensive in such season, the 4-star hotel was a wise choice because we didn't have to deal with the lack of public transport. We simply had to strut our way to the Sambadrome.

 The antsy crowd awaits.

I know, that's one looong strut. We didn't notice the distance, however, thanks to all the costumed Brazilians who we gaped at along the way. Also, the participating floats were lined up along our Avenida Presidente Vargas route. So every few meters we let out a bunch of oohs and aahs and swear words. 

Sufficient directional signs were placed on streets surrounding the Sambadrome. Finding respective entrances was easy, but because the stadium's colossal (length is about 700 meters), it still took us a while to get in. We arrived at Sector 5 about half an hour before eight in the evening. It was almost full and we managed to snag the last seats. 

The hubby fit right in the sea of multicolored wigs. For someone who blatantly opposed attending the carnival, he wasn't the least bit ashamed to order beer first and... To shake his booty when the pulsating samba rhythms blasted through the speakers.

 Carnival is held from Friday to Tuesday prior Ash Wednesday.

The origin of the word carnival is disputed. Some say that the word comes from the Late Latin expression that means "farewell to meat". And this expression is related to the tradition of Roman Catholics to abstain from meat on certain days during Lent.

Preparation for the carnival is a year-long affair. I once watched a documentary that followed the story of a samba school's porta-bandeira or flag bearer (a task which they believe is a gift from God). It showed the tedious rehearsal of swirling and waving the samba school's banner while dancing in uhm, weights disguised as a costume.

Portela is considered to be the oldest Rio samba group but not the oldest school. Won 21 times, an all-time record. On this float is the school's symbol, the eagle.

Each samba school parades eight floats. In between are groups of dancers (the "wing") wearing the same costume that illustrates a certain aspect of the school's theme. Tourists could join the parade for a fee.
Each samba school is given 90 minutes(!) to dance their way down the half-mile runway. With six samba schools performing each night, the show finishes in the morn.

Samba schools are judged in 10 different categories and winners are announced on Ash Wednesday.

Because one year and five month-old Luna was with us, we obviously didn't stay too long. We unfortunately left at one in the morn and strolled back to our hotel. We survived the insane party in one piece. And still married.

All that samba grooving made her thirsty.
We may not have fully gotten our money's worth, but we got out of the stadium smiling (and our hips still slightly swaying). Hubby won't entirely admit it, but I know he's glad I pushed him with a threat. Ahhh, a woman's gotta do what a woman's gotta do.

Now how do I convince him to do this again someday.
Round-The-World 2011-2012, Brazil Leg:


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