All the health warnings about Rio de Janeiro really do apply.
Back home you’re told to mind your wallet and phone when you’re out in public, not to walk alone at night and to keep an eye out for anyone using a plastic bag to transport electrical goods.
I like to think that I’m pretty vigilant.
I once circumvented around the forecourt of an empty petrol station because I could see a man holding his Staffordshire Bull Terrier on a lead at 2.30 in the morning.
Turned out it was actually just a stack of bin bags next to a taller stack of bin bags – but it stands that I take precautions.
As it happens though, I don’t take enough of them.
On Friday night, in spite of my circumventing abilities, a pickpocket managed to nick my phone.
Waking up hungover and without a phone is not a nice experience, and I headed off to the police station feeling like this was just about the worst thing that could happen to a person.
Since the Olympics ended the city of Rio seems to have settled back into its own rhythm, with the hoards of American and European visitors here for the games an ever thinning minority.
So, sitting in the metro hungover, it arrived at the next station and about 45 rowdy teenagers got on, three of whom piled into the seat next to mine and started a very expressive conversation,
(I’ll stop whinging here in a second) So… sitting there having a shit time, I looked up at the screen they have on the metro that shows the news, and who did I see? Only the director of THG Sports Kevin Mallon.
And that got me to thinking – even though he isn’t the most sympathetic character – doing a bit of bird up in the Bangu Hilton is definitely a lot worse than losing a phone (this was on Friday when it wasn’t clear that he was getting out).
And do you know what else is worse than losing your wallet? A good lot of the stuff people in Rio seem to have to go through everyday.
I’ve was there for less than two weeks, so without claiming any authority on the subject, here are a few observations.
Firstly, my friend Max explained to me that the geography of the city works like this: the south zone is where most of the tourists go and you have Ipanema, Copacabana, Christ the Redeemer and Sugar Loaf Mountain… and then you have north of the city, and that part isn’t in the Lonely Planet.
And he wasn’t kidding either, here is the tourist map they had for Olympics:
And here, courtesy of Google Maps, is the entire area that the city covers:
Another thing was that I thought that there were a handful of favelas and that – what with all the favela-themed tours and parties that are advertised in the hostels – they were probably mostly pretty safe, with drug dealers still ruling the roost in the worst of them.
But no, there is actually bloody thousands of them, and their unifying feature is that public services like sanitation, electricity and water aren’t extended out to them – although many provide these services within their own communities.
And – this is pretty staggering – the average monthly wage here is around €500, with the minimum being around €300.
Things aren’t that much cheaper here. Granted, you can get a packet of fags for two quid, but meals and and rent work out pretty similar to what you might pay in the UK.
Website Expatistan puts the price of a studio apartment in what it calls a ‘normal area’ at €530, and I got an omelette in a restaurant that wasn’t too flashy earlier on and shelled out around €6.
So yeah, surrounded by those teenagers and sweating bricks from the night before, my phone-less condition seemed considerably less worse – all thanks to Kevin Mallon.
And as it goes, Kevin Mallon is a free man again, and the police report to help claim on my insurance will be landing on Monday – so it’s all good.
(Sorry, no pictures for this entry. As I said, I lost my phone.)