Joyful Julie!

I pride myself on usually being a pretty positive person. It just makes things easier (side note-I’m also ridiculously sensitive at times so dejected broodiness doesn’t count). But one day in Rio was testing my powers of patience.

Before arriving, when I told anyone my plans to be in Rio staying on Copacabana Beach alone, I got nothing but “that look.” You know the one that says, “poor American girl, didn’t do her research. She’s going to bet mugged.” Even my own mother said, “we’ll just pray that you’ll be ok.” Geez mom, thanks for the comforting words!

After almost getting got by the taxi folks in the airport, I was whisked into the city by a cab driver who apparently thought I was casting for Fast and Furious part 17. Considering my driving habits are most akin to a 45 year old soccer mom with 3 kids in the back, I was terrified.

But thankfully (and as they always do) my travel group came through. There was someone else visiting from California staying literally one block from me and she was hanging out with a “local.” I put that in quotes because this woman is the definition of worldly. Calling her local seems to minimize her story! Born in France, raised in Martinique, grew up in Canada, moved to Brazil to translate and is just a hostess with the mostess! Anyway, I digress-she took us to Lapa and I was able to settle my nerves with conversation, pepperoni pizza and a giant beer.

The next morning, I was feeling a bit braver with Rio.  I had a tour planned to see Christ the Redeemer and St. Teresa and all the touristy stuff and it was going to be a great day! #liverejoicing and all that….well it was a bit tougher than I thought it would be.

9am is the meet up time and I’m pumped! I get there at 8:55-just in case. But after about 10 minutes of waiting, nothing. Thinking I may have missed it, I called the company…9:30 they said. Ok. No problem, time to get breakfast! REJOICE! So I get back at 9:25 expecting to see a group of some sort. No such luck, but I’m not too worried.  Ten…fifteen minutes later I call again. Oh, we’re just running late. We’ll be there. Well, at least I’m not late! Rejoice!

Two. Hours. Later. The guide finally shows up with a flurry of profanity and life stories about his 2nd divorce and how his 10 year old has tits; it was enough to make anyone a bit uncomfortable. Add in him telling a story peppered with the N word left me not too thrilled with this particular tour. Not to mention, it was so cloudy, there was no way we were going to see much of the monuments and city anyway.

But thank goodness for Joyful Julie.

Julie was from Belfast. What a relief to hear such a familiar accent! It made me think of my family in Derry, Ireland and gave me such a sense of peace! As we approached the day, she laughed off the (really bad) jokes and comments of the guide and came up with a positive response all day! Her phone was stolen on her first day in Rio but now she has more time to experience things instead of keeping her nose in a phone. As we drove up and the concern was that we wouldn’t be able to see Christ the Redeemer, she said, “it’s probably better this way, since no one really knows what he looks like anyway!”

And when we got there, as predicted, Jesus was covered in clouds. You could sort to make out his form but that was about it. Julie quipped, “everyone comes on a clear day! We’re the lucky ones who get to experience something different.” God, I needed that girl.

I took a breath, thanked the universe for my presence and my day. Looked up at this amazing wonder of the world and started my descent when people started shouting. And as all horror movies teach you, I, the one Black girl, headed straight towards it!

Thank goodness I did! Literally, the clouds parted for exactly 15 seconds. I got my picture with Jesus! By the time I looked at it, realized I looked hideous and tried to redo, the moment was gone. He was back in the clouds.


We left and went to see a few other places in Rio. What an interesting city. The rich are really rich and the poor are really poor. It seems to me, from the outside, that it’s really hard to move up in class-if you’re born in the favelas, you’ll stay in the favelas. It’s equally beautiful and heartbreaking.

I got back to my hotel and tried to wrap my head around all that the day was. And smiled. Thank you Joyful Julie (and Fun Fran). You got me through that day!



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