I was ready to get robbed. I knew the moment was coming after hearing so many stories from locals about their experiences getting robbed. Written down in my apartment in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil was the list that I checked every time I left the house:
Tip 1: Always carry some money because if you don’t have any cash, the thief will be pissed.
Tip 2: Don’t wear a gold watch unless you want to lose an arm.
Tip 3: Make sure your purse is always at your side, cross body purses are great, and preferably wear a purse that you don’t mind getting stolen.
Tip 4: Don’t take your iPhone out.
Tip 5: Make copies of EVERYTHING.
Tip 6: Wear your backpack in the front; that way you can guarantee not making any friends and you will most definitely be robbed.
The weather had finally cooled off and walking around Rio de Janeiro was no longer a sweaty task so Emma and I decided to take this opportunity to go on an adventure. We walked from Copacabana to Ipanema to Leblon and then all the way back to Copa, a good six miles in a balmy 70 degrees. The neighborhoods are all joined by one main street that separates the apartments from the beach. We had read about an Instagram exhibition “366 Razoes para Amar o Rio” displayed at the Leblon Shopping mall, my favorite hang out spot since no other place in Rio had air conditioning. Since being in Brazil, my instagrams have never been more awesome and I was looking forward to getting inspiration for my next picture. If you studied abroad and didn’t post it online somewhere, did you actually study abroad?
The “exhibition” was incredibly underwhelming. The display consisted of books about Rio de Janeiro opened to feature instagrams from random Cariocas, the local people of Rio. The instagrams were beautiful images of Cristo Redentor, beaches, local shops, but I could have just tracked #366razoes to see them. We were expecting legitimate reasons explaining local and tourist love for Rio as well as clues to what else we should be doing in the city instead of bumming around the beach and spending way too much money on beer. Disappointed, we left the exhibit and made our trek back home.
Once in Copacabana at around 7:30pm, we took a little detour and instead of continuing on a busier street, we decided to cut through our favorite street. Emma and I love cutting through this street because it’s one of the few in Rio that doesn’t smell awful. Rio has a horrible issue with their sewage system and big parts of Copacabana reek of garbage. The street vendors hang around selling fruit from big wooden crates. The fruit from their crates perfume the street, greeting us with smells of papaya and passion fruit. We grabbed our favorite Brazilian ice cream cones from a street vendor and continued on our way. The street is by no means quiet. Apartment complexes and restaurants (like my personal favorite “China In Box”) line the street and people are constantly stopping to chat with friends they run into. One of the metro station entrances is on the corner of the street and multiple taxis are constantly passing by.
Maybe it was because we’re obviously American and we were speaking in English but the next thing I knew, I felt a tug and my purse strap broke. I watched the leather strap of my purse fly in front of my face and by some primal instinct; I hugged my purse tight and bolted. I heard a young boy scream “pega,” grab in Portuguese, and saw three boys chasing after us. Emma started screaming no in Portuguese and then “ladrao,” thief. The little boy that tried grabbing my purse was probably no older than 10 and the two that began chasing after us were no older than 15. They immediately stopped chasing us when we started screaming ladrao and everyone around us just stared. An older man asked us if we were all right and if they took anything but thankfully they had not. We calmed down after we were back on the busier street and just burst out laughing. You can laugh or you can cry but we could not stop laughing. We finished our ice cream cones while still laughing nervously and got to my apartment to sit down and relax.
So I almost got robbed in Brazil, which was to be expected. I got to my apartment and started freaking out about how much worse the situation could have been. I had broken my rules and had my iPhone, my camera, my i.d., and all of my credit cards. The situation was funny but I am so grateful nothing bad actually happened: I didn’t drop my ice cream cone.