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A Flavour of Rio by Rhiannon Ball

Whilst searching the internet for information on Rio de Janeiro during moments when I should have been revising for end of year exams but instead was too consumed with excitement for my upcoming Frontier project to concentrate, I came across a quote describing Rio as a ´´hot, sweaty mess´´. At the time this struck me as quite unusual and it is true that it is. But Rio is probably one of the most unusual cities I have ever been in. Lush green mountains and a bustling business district; heaving higgledy piggledy favelas and perfect security guarded luxury apartments- it could be said that Rio de Janeiro is a city of contrasts, but this is what makes it so wonderful and gives it so much character. As you sunbathe on the beautiful Ipanema beach with the postcard perfect Dois Irmãos rocks to the side of you could be forgiven for forgetting that you are also in a major city; until that is that you realize that the birds patrolling the beach are not seagulls but the notorious city dwelling pigeons! The mixture of these different elements combined with the sweltering heat (which even during winter when I arrived regularly hit 30 degrees plus) gives weight to that quote about it being a ´´hot, sweaty mess´´.

Rhiannon in RioRio is also a city in which you can witness a lady dressed in the latest designer threads stepping around a shoeless homeless man sleeping on the street under a threadbare blanket as she collects her dog from having a blow-dry at the dog beauty parlour. It is hard to escape the realities of the financial gap here and this is why I feel that the work of Frontier and their volunteers is so important. My project involved working at a crèche and I enjoyed every moment of it. The best advice I think that I could give anyone thinking of becoming involved in a project here is to learn a little Portuguese before you arrive.  Whilst it is possible to get by using hand gestures I feel that I got so much more out of my project because I could communicate with the children and the women that worked there. By choosing to be a volunteer rather than simply a tourist passing through you are choosing to learn more about the culture and the best way to do this is to learn the basic phrases of the language so you can talk to the Cariocas, who are possibly the friendliest people on earth. To put it simply, imagine how much more you can teach children if you do not have to waste half the lesson trying to explain the simplest English word because you do not know the Portuguese equivalent.

If you are going to do a volunteer project here then give 100% of yourself to it because I can guarantee that Rio will give back even more of itself! Before coming here I had my heart set on spending six months studying in São Paulo but after just two weeks in Rio de Janeiro I found myself extending my stay here for another 6 months. I challenge anyone not to be bewitched by ´´a cidade maravilhosa´ just like I was.      

Rhiannon Ball's placement was arranged through Frontier