Letter to the Editor, by Paul Fenna-Roberts
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – A few years ago I had what I thought was a wonderful opportunity to return to my home town of Rio de Janeiro.
Work commitments required me to travel to Brazil to go offshore to an FPSO. I flew into São Paulo and had to stay overnight due to the Rio flight being cancelled. By very weird coincidence, when I went through immigration and security, it was noticed that it had been exactly thirty years since I departed from Brasil. I had actually gone to the non-Brazilian desk and was told that even though I was using a British passport for entry, I should have gone to the Brazilian desk since my passport stated I was born in Brazil.
The next day I flew to Rio and landed at Santos Dumont airport being met on arrival by a taxi company arranged by our client and taken to the hotel on Avenida Atlântica on Copacabana beach.
Before I could go offshore, I had to wait two days. Since I was staying in a hotel in Copacabana, I walked over to Leme to see the first apartment I lived in as a young child as well as the location of my kindergarten “Jardim da Vovozinha”. This incident was when I first felt very uncomfortable.
The hotel staff had told me to not go on the beach after dark and not to wander anywhere unescorted. I did say that since Rio was my birthplace and my city, no one was going to stop me going anywhere at all.
I then walked to Ipanema to another apartment we lived in when I was in my pre-teen years and was horrified to see security fencing and razor-wire on top.
I was flooeded with memories of Arpoador that was just around the corner from our apartment, my youth riding strange bicycles with a motor on the front that rubbed on the front tyre to move the bike at what seemed like an incredible speed. I recalled later years and memories of driving my “FUSCA” Volkswagen beetle, Teresopolis, Niteroi cricket club, Gordini Interlagos sports cars (similar to a Renault Alpine car), surfing at Arpoador, and hanging out in Barra da Tijuca at Macumba, playing golf at Itanhanga, Gavea and Teresopolis, my trips to Manaus, and going inland up the Rio Negro, seeing Bahia, Iguaçu, among so many other memories.
Walking further still, I went to Leblon and found two apartment buildings that we lived in and both had double security fencing, CCTV cameras, security guards and other measure enhancing security. One of the security guards was actually armed. The beautiful marble entrance steps were enclosed in the security fencing and I felt that it was a completely different place to the one we lived in so happily many, many years before.
Once back in the hotel and after a couple of beers, I felt really terrible and absolutely heartbroken since Rio was just a different place compared to my adored memories. A person in the hotel, having discussed Rio “then and now” showed me photographs of the pollution in the Guanabara bay and Barra da Tijuca that was never there when I lived in Rio.
I also had the impression that no one really cared much about anything but their own cocoon wrapped life.
What a terrible feeling!
I really feel horrible about the whole experience and so broken-hearted as a result. Much that I do want to, I have not been back and do not think I will ever return.