On a humid night along the shores of Copacabana, what could an Indian, Australian, Lebanese, German, French, Moroccan, American, and a Filipino possibly share in common? For one, we are all members of CouchSurfing and a more obvious is: We are all Gringos (foreigners) and we are all in Rio. Hence, Gringo & Rio.
A quick shower after that tiring day at the favela, I went out of my hostel wondering where else can I eat. I’ve been eating a lot of empada and pastel since I arrived. A few blocks away, I found yet another pastelaria and decided to try their local pizza which is always in promotion. I was feeling famished from tiredness and the humidity. Of all the pastelarias that I have been to during my stay, this is the only one that offers free wifi. I pulled out my phone and checked if there’s any CouchSurfing event nearby that night and bingo! There’s a meet up in Posto 3 for foreigners and locals so why not give it a go. After downing my pizza and the complimentary soda, I continued walking.
It didn’t take that long to reach the place that the website mentioned. In one of the kiosks in Copa, I saw a small table with a group of Cariocas and a laptop with a familiar sticker.
The small group of 4 or 5 quickly grew into a sizable group of 30 and more. People are flocking in two or bigger groups, each coming from different city or country. I was asked to register and where I am from. With such pride, I said I am from the Philippines but I flew in from Qatar. Most of us present were travelers. Some are backpackers like me while some are there for internship or business trip. A lot of interesting personalities; all unique.
There was a guy from the US who quit his teaching job to travel and explore the world outside the four corners of his classroom. A French couple from Normandy just arrived in Rio and in search of a hostel to stay for the night. They will embark on a year-long travel and Rio was their first city. Another French guy was there who came to Brazil with his ferry boat and traveled by land since then. A young lady from Germany was completing her internship at a university in Rio while another guy from India left his job in Australia to backpack in Argentina, Uruguay, and Brazil. There were also other locals who came from far Brazilian cities looking for job opportunities in Rio. These are just some of those that I remember. There were a lot more. The night went on exchanging stories and learning new things completely different from mine.
Despite our obvious differences, music and our passion for exploring and learning kept us all on one page. The night was filled with smiles (and occasional laughter) and music. One of the things I learned while traveling is that no matter where you are and despite the huge barrier (whether language or culture), a smile is a universal language to communicate and connect.
After a few bottles of 51 (sponsored) and caipirnhas, Alu (one of the local organizers) started playing his guitar and as if it is we were all programmed in automatic mode, everybody just started singing and moving our bodies to the beat. Locals and Gringos alike, all swaying in unison; all of us embracing the common vibe Cariocas are known for. Music is a language spoken by heart more than the ears. It transcends boundaries and that night, I’ve just experienced it again. To see all these people (of various race and colour) dancing in one beat is pretty amazing.
I went back to my hostel (by foot yet again) with my happy face on even at 2AM. The stories that I heard and the characters that I met are one for the books. They say the world is our oyster and that night, I am happy I did grab the opportunity. It is through these meet ups that I learn to appreciate diversity even more. We don’t need to act or speak the same language. Our very own differences makes the world a more interesting place to live in. We may all be Gringos that night and Rio was our common ground. The city has welcomed us warmly (literally and figuratively) and we have just embraced it back.
Have you been to any Gringo and Rio event lately? You can check their page over at https://www.facebook.com/GringosandRio/ and don’t miss the warm Rio welcome.
(All photo credits used on this article is from Tibo G of TiboFotografia https://www.facebook.com/TiboG.fotografia)