In the end I DID parade with Salgueiro on the Sunday of carnival. The costume was indeed hot, and heavy, but it was all manageable. The trick is to drink pots and pots of water beforehand, and not to put on the thickly padded cloak, or the hat and shoes, until the last possible minute.
There was a certain amount of unease at having a foreign gringa in the ala, but in truth I was far more experienced at parading in the sambodromo than many of the others in the Ala, who were largely Brazilian tourists and rich first timers from Zona Sul. And parading in an ala is much shorter than parading in a Bateria. And parading so many times in baterias gives one excellent training in how to behave in a Grupo Especial samba school parade.
Theres 3 important jobs an ala member has to do. The first is to sing the song, which is achievable even by foreign gringos if they are persistant. The second is to be animated and to keep dancing, or at least moving around, throughout the parade, without losing your place in the line. The third is to look ecstatically happy throughout.
Jobs 2 and 3 are hard to do if the costume is too hot and heavy and the shoes too uncomfortable. Even the Salgueiro veterans in the ala were having problems looking as if they were enjoying it by the end. By a third of the way down the sambodromo the burning pain from the simple flat shoes extended from my feet up past the knees. Still, had to keep moving, smiling, singing and dancing.
But as a veteran of the sambodromo I was prepared. I drank enough water before the parade to avoid dehydration, despite the liters of sweat produced by 40 minutes of dancing in that sweltering costume in nearly 40 degrees of heat. There were paracetamol and light clothes in a bag hidden inside the voluminous padded trousers. And a pair of super comfortable sandals strapped to my back, completely hidden under the huge padded swirly cloak. Immediatly after the parade, whilst others stood there, sweating, it was off with the costume, on with the clothes and sandals and down with 2 paracetamol.
Things get crazy over carnaval, and its hard to keep up with a blog. But its Friday after carnaval, which was supposed to end on Wednesday, and I´ve just got back from Lapa, where the party is still going strong.
Tonight there was the bloco ´So Tamborins´, which I have always been curious about. And Afroreggae, who I adore for their philosophy, their work in the favellas and their funky, tight music which forces me to dance.
It´s hot in Rio this year for carnival. Really hot. Record breaking hot. One day last week Rio was officially the hottest city in the world. The shopping area of Saara has been hotter than the Sahara desert after which it is named.
Every where you go there is just one topic of conversation, Oh, What heat! Some people have taken to sleeping on the beach. Even in Copacabana, where the influence of the sea makes the temperature cooler, temperatures have topped 40 degrees. Inland in Bangul it reached 50 degrees one day. But the worst has been in one state prison where the governor invited journalists in to see for themselves - and the temperature registered 56 degrees!The governor is trying to persuade the state government to close the prison and move the inmates elsewhere before people start to die.
This year Rio de Janeiro´s City Hall is working hard to clean up the streets during carnival. Literally. Many males here habitually urinate on the streets, because of the very large amounts of cold beer people drink, especially in hot weather, and the very small number of public toilets.
Recent scientific study has found that public urination is physically damaging the Arches of Lapa and many road viaducts, which are showing signs of erosion caused by uric acid. And trees are suffering.
During the next few days hundreds of thousands of revellers will be following the many street parades that run along Copacabana and Ipenima beach, consuming many thousands of cubic liters of beer - which all has to end up somewhere. Traditionally, given the almost total lack of toilet facilities, people have urinated on the beach and in the water. But the volume of liquid involved leads to contamination of the sands and sea.
After 10 days in Rio and a week staying in Copacabana, I finally managed to make the two minute walk to the beach. It wasnt easy.
Firstly there was the excellent pagode going on on a table outside the bar on the corner. All the better for not being amplified - most pagodes here a ruined by appaling amplifiction. And the Mandolin player and the singing were actually in tune! But no - on to the beach.
30 seconds later and across avenida atlantica - and half way across this multi lane highway running along the beach there was the samba school Alegria da Zona Sul, getting ready for a parade down the beach. BUT NO!!! - on to the beach.
Parading in Salgueiro
For complicated reasons I am supposed to be parading in the samba school Salgueiro at about 3.30am Monday morning, in a sweltering hot padded costume several sizes too big for me. Currently its averaging 45 degrees in Rio during the day, near the sambodromo.
The two big problems this presents are the strong possibility of dehydration and the long hard slog I´ve had to put in to learning the samba. I didnt even like the samba when I started but fortunately it has grown on me.
Yes, the Rio carnival samba school Mocidade will be laundering money this year. But not in the way you think.
The carnavaleso of Mocidade, Cid Carvalho, has designed a float on which there will be washing machines, laundering paper money mixed up with normal laundry. It´s a visual joke, referring to the recent scandal in Brazilia where senior state government officials were caught in a government sting.
The float itself represents an economic paradise.
Just one week before Rio Carnival, and the samba schools of Grupo Especial are well ahead in their preparations. Last year at this time some schools were in a state of panic, with no money left and many floats and costumes still to prepare.
This year there has been an extra injection of money which has smoothed things along. Petrobas, the Brazilian multinational, has donated 12 million reals - thats one million for each samba school - in their project `Samba Carioca is a cultural inheritance of Brazil´
The money is partially for the samba school parades, but part of it is marked for use in the cultural and educational activities that every samba school carries out in its home district.