I have had one of the best and longest birthday celebrations you can ever imagine.
Starting with The live Oprah Show in Toronto and ending on the Copacabana Beach Resort in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Please be aware that the word Gringo applies to any non-Brazilian and does not hold a negative connotation in Rio.

Advice:  From a  Canadian who has just come back… as of June 2012…VERY LITTLE  ENGLISH IS SPOKEN.. very, and I mean very few people speak English. Portuguese is the language spoken.

Secondly, Be Safe…Be aware…Do not  look like a Tourist . Do not wear any jewellery not even a  WATCH. This is difficult when you have hidden your money in a very private place, close to many personal body parts and then have to  try to get the money out to buy coconut water on the beach!!! !!!!

Thirdly, Check your bank and credit card balances carefully after you get home. Accessing your money from the Citi Bank money machines was no problem, except that the machine decided how much money you will get!!!  Different machines, at the same location, responded with different amounts (depending how much money they had left) regardless of your request.

Rio is hosting the Rio+20 Conference June 20-22, 2012, UN Conference on Sustainable Development, World Cup in 2014 and the Olympics 2016 and therefore many positive changes are taking place.

I visited a  favela which is the generally used term for a shanty town in Brazil. In the late 18th century, the first settlements were called bairros africanos (African neighbourhoods). This was the place where former slaves with no land ownership and no options for work lived. Over the years, many freed black slaves moved in. Even before the first “favela” came into being, poor citizens were pushed away from downtown and forced to live in the far suburbs. However, most modern favelas appeared in the 1970s, due to rural exodus, when many people left rural areas of Brazil and moved to cities. Without finding a place to live, many people ended up in a favela [1]. Census data released in December 2011 by the IBGE (Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics) shows that in 2010, about (6%) of the population lived in slums in Brazil[2]

 Investments, such as the ones to industries, infrastructure, tourism and social assistance appear to be helping to spread todays wealth, developing historic underdeveloped regions  and reducing the reasons to migrate to economic cores in Rio de Janeiro. The fast economic growth which Brazil appears to be experiencing shows that the poor classes are entering the middle classes and the rate of poverty is vertiginously falling. The city is working at cleaning up the city and better controlling the safety issue.

Safety:  This actually happened not far from our hotel on Copacabana beach. Imagine…..Police officers led by an agent from Special Operations Battalion (BOPE) landing two armored police helicopters on Copacabana Beach  (on Wednesday morning June 4th), much to the surprise of passers-by (ME), to come to the aid of a group of tourists who were being robbed.


Police helicopters took advantage of an empty Copacabana Beach to intervene in an assault on a group of tourists.

The officers had been returning from a training exercise on the Niterói side of the Guanabara Bay for Rio+20, to prepare for the Rio+20 Conference , when they spotted the assault taking place on the sidewalk in Copacabana. YES>>>>>> I took off my watch!!!!!!!!!!!Police helicopters took advantage of an empty Copacabana Beach to intervene in an assault on a group of tourists, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil News


Common Sense is UnCommon.

 Rio de Janeiro is a beautiful city. Despite its social problems, the city, like its people, is warm, captivating, musical,  and devoted to enjoying itself. Rio is a city of neighborhoods, each with its own distinct character, and a different unforgettable view of Corcovado, the mountain that is crowned by a magnificent statue of  C’hrist, who appears to be watching  over Rio with his arms spread out in perpetual welcome.

Sugar Loaf Mountain: This boulder shaped mountain at the southern end of Botafogo beach had a magnificent view. The summit was reached by cable car. My birthday was celebrated, by a Sumba band, in the cable car, but unfortunately my age was mistaken due to loss in translation!!!!!


Rio+20 – the short name for the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development to take place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in June 2012 – is a historic opportunity to define pathways to a safer, more equitable, cleaner, greener and more prosperous world for all.

 Twenty years after the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio, where countries adopted Agenda 21 – a blueprint to rethink economic growth, advance social equity and ensure environmental protection – the UN is again bringing together governments, international institutions and major groups to agree on a range of smart measures that can reduce poverty while promoting decent jobs, clean energy and a more sustainable and fair use of resources.

An Earth From Above exhibition is taking place for a few months on the Cinelándia square, in the center of Río de Janeiro. The exhibition, that brings together 130 photos of Yann Arthus-Bertrand, was inaugurated in his presence on the 27th of April, and will continue until after the end of the Rio+20 Summit. While on a walking tour of downtown Rio, I discovered these magnificent  photographs, purely by chance. They were all presented in three languages, Portuguese, Spanish and English. Yann started his work “Earth From Above” after the United Nations summit on Environment that took place in Rio in 1992.  The photos are accompanied by captions and specific figures that help us take the measure of what exactly has changed in these past 20 years.


 Hippie Fair Crafts Market: Like  A hippie hangout in the 1960s, this Sunday market in Ipanema is an entertaining place to browse for arts and crafts, as well as to people watch.

Art for sale at the Hippie Fair

 Other wonderful highlights: National Museum of Fine Arts, soccer game (cheering for Flamengo), Favela Tour, dance lesson (from Samba to Tango), street food and drink(Acai and Cupuacu juices), visting and enjoying tours with Lemon Spirit Hostel, http://www.hostelworld.com/hosteldetails.php/Lemon-Spirit-Hostel/Rio-de-Janeiro/13330?, Arts and Crafts at various markets,  beach walks (Copacabana, Ipanema and Leblon) full of laughter and fun,  jewlery by a local Brazilian artist Maria Oiticica, taxi rides with drivers actually watching soaps on mini television sets while driving, all you can eat pizzas and crepes (birthday chocolate), Incredible “churrascaria” (steak houses), breakfast full of local fruits, tiny elevators, spray paintings, McDonald’s, looking for English speakers, getting used to rain, every single day, rain hair for me, Starbuck’s at a mall…just having fun in the rain with the best company ever!!!!! Thanks for the best birthday ever! Thanks for the Memories.

P.S.  Remembering.. I Love Lucy, Ricky Ricardo’s and Barry Manilow’s hit http://www.thecopacabana.kristinbaggelaar.com/ClassicCopaClips.html

The Copacabana!!!!