This is the story of a girl who found herself stranded on a curb in Rio and encountered the most incredible kindness of strangers.
Journalists keep strange hours and travel long ways to get their stories. Having just arrived after 7am on an overnight bus from Sao Paulo to Rio de Janeiro, I was looking forward to meeting up with two colleagues in their apartment near the beach and to crash on the couch for a few hours before going out in the afternoon to cover yet another anti FIFA World Cup protest, possibly a violent one.
However, once arrived at the proper address, my friends didn’t answer the door. I rang, I called, I knocked on the door, I sent SMS, and even Facebook messages, but there was no answer. After about half an hour even after the janitor got in on the act and almost broke down their door by knocking so hard, but not before bringing me a chair to sit on while I was waiting for my friends to let me in. After about a further hour an upstairs neighbour became curious as to what the ruckus was all about and started making inquiries. The janitor kindly explained to her what was going on, so she offered me to sit on her couch until we could reach my friends. She fed me breakfast, let me use her internet and even showed me her family albums once she learned I was a photographer.
After a couple of hours of still no answer from my friends, my kind hostess had to leave, so I went down to my friends apartment again to wait outside their door. After a while, the neighbours across the hall, an elderly retired couple, started to take an interest in the situation. Once they understood what was going on, they, too, invited me into their home, sat me on the couch, fed me again, offered me to use their shower, and when I told them I would be working in the afternoon, even suggested I sleep in their bed if I needed a few extra winks. While we waited on my friends, we watched a soccer game together and discussed Brazil and its situation, and even though their English was about as good as my Portuguese, we did have a very good conversation. All through this, my hosts were the most warm and welcoming, never ever giving me the sense I was intruding on their lives or daily routine. They welcomed me with open arms like a long lost friend and did everything they could to make me feel welcome. I did my best to thank them profusely for every kindness they extended to me, but I’m still not sure I did their friendliness and generosity justice.
After a while even they had to leave, but, and here comes the most incredible part, they insisted I stay in their apartment, take a shower, take a nap and just make myself at home. Until a couple of hours before that they had never even met me, yet they offered me the run of their house while they were out meeting friends to watch the Brazilian soccer team play in the World Cup.
Fortunately, around 3pm, a short while after my hosts had left me behind in their apartment, one of my friends contacted me, having just awoken from his sleep. All this time they had been inside the apartment fast asleep after a late night’s work. But while part of me was angry at the whole situation, I also think that without my friends’ dopiness I would have never met all these extraordinarily kind people and had such a deep insight into Brazilian hospitality.
The protest in the afternoon was mostly a non-event after police raided a bus with protesters before the march could even start. Part of me was thankful for that, as I realised that I really wasn’t in the mood for getting teargased on three hours of sleep.
Back at the apartment I finally fell asleep halfway through filing my report for the day …