Monday, December 14, 2009

Ó Mar Salgado

I think we probably can all agree that I've come a long way since this picture was taken:

But the reason I dug up that picture is not to prove what a bathing beauty I used to be (although we all can be glad that I did not grow up in Brazil, where my fat little baby-self would have been stuffed in a miniscule bikini with no demure ruffles to hide my chubby hips).

The real reason is because I've been thinking about the ocean a lot lately, and my relationship with it goes back a long way. The first place I lived was an apartment in Portland not much farther from the water than my apartment in Rio is. For many years of my life, it was inconceivable to me that anyone could bear living more than half an hour from the ocean. This was one of the reasons I was excited to come to Rio, where the beach is a way of life.

I've gone to the beach quite a bit here, and my swimsuit tan can prove it. However, there have many more days when it's been too rainy or quite simply too hot for me to go to the beach. The super-hot days when I do manage to go, I simply lie on my kanga, sweat soaking through it, and when it gets to be too much I go wade into the ocean -- along with the tens of thousands of other people at the beach that day.

I do like the beach here. I really do. I like that it's so accessible and open to everyone, that it's perfectly to acceptable to go to the beach in all your spare time, that you can get whatever you want to eat and drink without even having to do so much as stand up.

I don't think I realized, however, to what extent I missed the kind of ocean I had grown up with until I traveled with the Brown-in-Brazil group to Ilha Grande last weekend. As its name suggests, Ilha Grande is a big island off the coast a couple of hours south of Rio. And, of course, we needed to take a boat to get there. The morning we left was brisk and cloudy, with bursts of rain every now and then. It didn't look like a great day for the beach, but it was a great day for a boat ride.

For me it was, at least. The old wooden boat took about two hours to lurch its way to the island, and several people ended up getting sick (including on my face, but that's a story for another day...). I enjoyed myself immensely, though. It reminded me in some ways of zipping around Casco Bay in a motor boat and letting myself be thrown in the air as the boat sped over the waves.

The next day was a lot nicer and we spent the day at what is now one of my favorite beaches. After being tossed about by some huge waves and showing my skills at beach soccer, some of us went over to climb on the rocks that formed the edge of the beach.

The rocks were a blast to climb on, and the view was amazing (unfortunately I didn't bring my camera for that part of the adventure). The waves crashing against the rocks reminded me of one of my favorite places in Rio: the Arpoador.

The Arpoador juts out between Copacabana and Ipanema, and at its tip is a huge rock that's always a bit cooler than the rest of the city, as it gets some of the best wind. In the past couple of months I started going up there to read and to sometimes watch the sunset -- it's definitely one of the best places in Rio for doing so.

I'm leaving Brazil in two days, and there are plenty of things I'm going to miss and that can never be recreated in the States. For example, I walked past a group of monkeys while I was coming back from the beach at Ilha Grande. That just doesn't happen in New England. However, there's a reason I like sitting on the rocks at the Arpoador so much.

I can stand on top and to my left is Ipanema Beach, to my right is my home of Copacabana, and in between them I can see the Cristo looking down at all of us. It's so Rio it's ridiculous. But then I can turn around and look out at the open ocean with its white-capped waves on windy days, and feel like I've suddenly found myself in a Winslow Homer painting.

I'm going to miss Brazil; I'm sure of it. But I'm pretty excited to go back home to Maine.

P.S. The title of this post comes from a great poem by Fernando Pessoa called "Mar Português". Oh salty sea, how much of your salt/ Is the tears of Portugal!


  1. I love this picture of you so much it almost makes me cry......

  2. Why'd you put me in horizontal stripes with that bod? My torso looks as wide as it is tall.