Me: “So Jack, how do I meet a Brazilian girl?”
David: “It’s pretty simple. Here in Rio, the locals are called Cariocas. You wanna meet a Carioca girl, just make eye contact, go up to her and say hello.”
Me: “But won’t that be too forward?”
David: “Are you kidding? Rio is the flirtiest city in the world. If the girl is interested, she’ll go on a date with you. If not, she’ll still be happy you tried.”
I’m 26 years old, back from my first stint in Japan and visiting my buddy David down in Rio de Janeiro, where he’s completing a Watson Scholarship in Brazilian jazz guitar. Rio is a gorgeous city, and nowhere is more iconic than Ipanema Beach, made famous by the song The Girl From Ipanema, by Antonio Carlos Jobim. As I sit on the beach, stunned by the sight of the remarkable Sugar Loaf Mountain in the distance, I’m having one of those travel moments when you wonder, “How did I come to be so far from home?” Foreign travel wasn’t something I did as a member of the Blum household. My family was solidly middle class; an annual trip from San Francisco down south to Disneyland was about as adventurous as we got.
And yet, there I was on Ipanema beach, catching a few rays, when I spot a beautiful Carioca not far away. Should I do it? Should I get up and go say hi, even though I don’t speak a word of Portuguese? As I summon up the courage, the woman notices me staring at her. She stops, looks at me, raises her sunglasses so I can see her eyes, lowers her glasses and keeps walking. I drop my bottle of Brazilian beer and do a spit take. What do I do now? Was that an invitation to engage? Should I get up and talk to her?!!
In the end, the moment was lost. As I cleaned beer off my chest, I couldn’t help laughing at the insanity of the situation. David was right – Rio de Janeiro really is the flirtiest city on earth. Wow.