Figuring that landing in Rio for the Carnaval season was a once in a lifetime chance, we embraced the whole giant extravaganza. Not that there’s really any way of avoiding it, apart from leaving town. Go about your business and it stalks you in the streets. Bury yourself at the beach and it shadows you across the sand.
Not long after New Year our apartment lobby and the local shop fronts disappeared behind Carnaval masks and costumes. Carnaval commentaries took over TV. Carnaval Queens beamed from the covers of magazines; inside lay page after page of their profiles and beauty regimes. Newspapers bulged with Carnaval supplements. Carnaval speculation dominated dinner table talk – the Samba Schools’ form, their preparations and rehearsals. Carnaval predictions sneaked into casual conversation – the Samba Schools’ performance and rankings, their promotions and relegations, the champion!
Half way through January we understood; Carnaval is to Rio as the AFL Grand Final is to Melbourne. Samba Schools are to Rio as footy teams are to Melbourne. “What’s your school?” is to Carioca (the people of Rio) as “Who do you barrack for?’ is to Melbournians.