I left my heart (and cell phones and camera) in Rio…


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My last blog post came on April 17th, 2013 from Saint Petersburg, Russia and I have some work to finish before I blog about my current trip.  This was our second-to-last stop on my around-the-world trip with my friend Kyle.  Technically we also stopped in Paris but this was only a long layover – just enough time to remember how great walking around the city can be on a beautiful summer day.

I had planned to add a final blog post from our final city – Rio de Janeiro – but lost my enthusiasm (and didn’t want to cause any worry) after we were mugged at machete-point on our walk to the National History Museum.  We had made it all the way to the museum before we were mugged at the corner.  Precisely at this location:Rio Mugging.

Just picture two guys with their phones out walking around Rio on what we would later learn was a national holiday – Tiradentes Day.  This meant downtown was empty and crime was easy – more specifically we were easy targets.  Earlier in the day we witnessed cops chasing kids at gunpoint and spoke with a fellow traveler who said he witnessed a mugging and warned us to be careful.  We were careful and used extra precautions as we had to exit a rough neighborhood.  In retrospect we let our guard down as we neared the museum as we were walking next to a major road that was directly across from Rio’s domestic airport.  

Two guys with large machetes suddenly appeared as we turned the corner and kindly requested we give them our phones and bags.  Luckily I had my wallet in my pocket but I ended up losing 2 cell phones (iPhone and Android), camera and accessories and a bunch of other smaller things.  Kyle lost his phone, wallet and bag.  We both backed up our pictures the night before so we didn’t lose many.

I don’t remember much about the muggers other than how large their machetes were and how close they were to my face. But it was almost a business transaction.  I wasn’t afraid, just upset, as I got screwed in this transaction.  In a few seconds it was all over and within another few seconds a car pulled over with a family who had witnessed the mugging.  This Brazilian family tracked down a police officer and drove us to our hotel. So a random act of violence was immediately followed up a random act of kindness.  All hope in humankind (or Braziliankind) was not lost.

After we frantically changed passwords to our accounts (we both had laptops in our room) we went to the tourist police station where they have English speakers in order to report the crime.  By getting an official police report I was also able to use Visa’s purchase protection for the new camera and related items I had purchased for the trip (and were stolen) and ended up getting a $500 check in what was an incredibly easy process.

Brazil and especially Rio struggle with a huge income disparity.  This has been covered by the media extensively with the country hosting both the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics.  But to see it in person is still eye opening.  Favelas (slums) compete for space with over-the-top mansions.  And Rio is also one of the most expensive cities in the world to live in.  So this obviously does not help their crime rate.  The important thing is that they just wanted our stuff….not our lives.  That’s understandable.  Not justifiable but understandable.

Aside from this incident or maybe in a weird way because of it we had a great time in Rio.  The beaches (and people on them) are beautiful and the city has an energy that is probably unique to Rio.  I refused to let the mugging change my habits and it added some adventure to the end of our journey.  I didn’t have much left to lose anyway so the next day and night I walked the streets without a phone or much worry. Most things in life are independent events…like slot machines…but most people fail to emotionally (and sometimes intellectually) grasp the concept of independent events.  I think I have this one down…that’s why I’m not afraid to go back to Rio and why I’m boarding the first of 4 Malaysia Air flights in two days.  I hear the flights are empty so maybe they will put us in the nice seats…