Monday, 5 July 2010

C'mon then!

It' sweet and funny how little kids look at you sometimes. They have that innocence and benign suspicion in their eyes, the curiosity. And they almost beg to be noticed. They pretend they're cool, they're just checking you out, they're not really bothered and couldn't care less. They stare at your camera and at you, camera again and they almost whisper "ask to take a photo of me, I'll make out that I'm thinking about it and then I'll reluctantly agree. Just try it, it'll be fun."

It was one of these fleeting occasions today, three of them, one bolder than the others. I deciphered the whisper, I almost never miss it by now, asked, he thought about it and nodded "sure, I thought you'd never ask". I snapped the photo, the others just smiled shyly. But the catch was still to come. The brave one, walked casually to his mum, and returned even more coolly, grasping proudly her own little camera. He asked us "where are YOU from"? And on our reply, foreign, distant, tiny countries, not sure whether he'd heard of them before, asked to take OUR photo! It was the first time ever. We were truly and utterly equal! Best friends ever, fellow travellers on the same ferry towards the same mystical destination. My brain buzzed and my heart melted. That was something special.

The ferry by the way was taking us leisurely to the island of Paquetá, in the bay of Guanabara. We had to negotiate a forest of steely giants, tankers and self-washing ships, cities-of-vessels. But the sun, hot peanuts for R$0.50 and an enthusiastic bunch of youngsters playing Samba kept our spirits sky high. Paquetá used to be a top destination for the Cariocas but since the massive development (see pollution) of the bay has somehow faded. It's a gem of a place though! Beaches and forests, a park and dirt roads, no cars and hundreds of bikes in all shapes and colours. A queer array of oblong shaped rocks litters beautifully the tiny bays and the little dark specs on top of them I took for prehistoric birds. In fact were it not for the oil refineries and oil tankers in the horizon, you could have mistaken it for an earthly mini-paradise. This was a beautiful Sunday out and the huge swan-shaped pedalos gave it a pinch of sweetly kitsch nostalgia.

(Oh, I almost forgot. The brave kid and his gang stormed back to their family after our pic exchange and couldn't stop laughing. There was obviously a bet as to where we were from. There were no other gringos in the ferry, nor the whole island.)