(part ten of Thirty Days in Brazil: Fiber in a Faraway Place)
Cold. Sand all over me. The wind is blowing in, salty and unwelcoming, the sky is roiling with blue-grey clouds, and my pillow is hard. Up. Up. Where am I?
"I feel like a bum." says the ops manager as we stumble blindly down the beach. I can only grunt, shielding my eyes from the grey morning. Hotel might be ready. Must be ready. We're tired. All tired, all four of us.
We sneak into the hotel room two at a time to avoid extra charges, all of us wiz-kid sysadmins with our twenty-thousand dollar expense accounts and our root access on a good chunk of the Internet. Don't look at me like that, do you know how much beach-fronting hotels cost down in Rio de Janeiro?
Wake up at night again, for the first time in months. Briefly confused that I'm not in Virginia.
Eat Brazilian barbecue. Drink cachaca. Roll from bar to bar to bar down the strip, swallowing sangria, swallowing mixed drinks, getting increasingly shit-faced in the balmy night. Rub elbows in a crowded bar, confines almost tighter than the dresses on the working girls. Palm trees are nodding and swaying along to the bad Eighties music.
Late at night, the ops manager folds over on the table in the eatery, snoring gently into cheese pasties. We take pictures, prop him up, order another pitcher of beer. Stumble hotel-wards at the end of the night by way of the beer stalls, all the way down the black and white waves of the Copacabana strip.
Pull from the remains of the Hennessy, because we're young and dumb and expensing that too.
Lights out, into the hotel bed. Too tired to notice the other tech snoring like a freight train.
Morning. Breakfast at a corner shop, beach walk by the sea. Waves crashing up as the clouds think about parting, getting gradually warmer and warmer. Old fort on a high cliff. Guards say: steps closed, too slick from the rain yesterday. Pack into the car. Back into the car, roll on down towards the market for bamboo-carved tourist toys. Then on to Corcovado and the massive Christ the Redeemer gazing over the city.
The ride up the hill is exorbitant, over bumpy streets, in a van that has clearly seen better days. It wails and gives off the smell of burning all the way up to the halfway point along Corcovado, where we disembark for the officially sponsored bus to the top of the stone.
Then steps and gift shops and steps, to the top. The jungle landscape all around us is becoming redundant.
Christ the Redeemer stares blankly out over Rio de Janeiro as the tourists take pictures, posed below with arms spread. My coworkers emulate their fellows as I wander about, taking in the view and considering overpriced rosaries from the gift shop. On the way back, we pass a small, disapproving cluster of monks in full frock. The coworkers ogle the hot Brazilian women, and consider conversion to Catholicism.
I am tired, and beginning to be sick. I do not consider reconverting to the Mother Church.
I pass out in the car on the way back to Rio.
I therefore manage to miss the ops manager and my coworker pushing our efficiency shitbox car to speeds at or above one hundred and sixty kilometers an hour as they blithely ignore the signs proclaiming the highway to be riddled with speed cameras.
$200 on the corporate expense card later, my coworker is no longer allowed to drive in Brazil.