So goes my favorite song, “Garota de Ipanema”. It’s a whisper to a passing girl by a shy and naïve garoto on the beach. The Bossa Nova born in Rio de Janeiro set New York on fire in the ‘60s until the Beatles took over later. I arrived in NY in 1961, one year after the Brazilian capital moved from Rio to Brazilia.
After 50 years of geopolitical power deprivation, Rio de Janeiro was crowned to host the world’s lst Olympiad del Sur. In 2016, thousands of Olympic visitors and athletes will invade breathtaking Rio of much urban diversity, with beaches, mountains, skyscrapers, and the omnipresent favelas all woven into the fabric of dream landscapes. Most likely everyone will not fail to trek and see the splendor of Iguacu Falls in Parana. What wonderful news!
I missed seeing Rio de Janeiro following a friend's advice to skip it on my solo trip in 2001. I had no intention to visit the favelas, but was warned nevertheless that they are outside the control of the police and neither tour company nor the city police can guarantee safety when entering favelas. It was a hard choice not to include Rio on my itinerary. Thus the last travel week after Buenos Aires and Iguacu was split into Sao Paulo and Curitiba equally. Curitiba was highly recommended by the same friend who had spent years in Sao Paulo.
Curitiba, "Pine Nut Land", however, was a happy surprise, thanks to the excellent advice from my friend. I was awarded with the winning choice. Kitakyushu, the city where I live, and Curitiba, have one thing in common. Both cities were recognized for the “UN Local Government Honors” in the “Earth Summit”, of the UN Conference on Environment & Development held in RJ in 1992. Yes, remember that? That's the Summit where a Canadian Japanese teenager Severn Suzuki delivered a legendary speech that embarrassed all grownups.
Kitakyushu had spearheaded and succeeded in regaining the beauty of water and set to help Asian nations with its anti-pollution control technology through training and exchange of engineers. Curitiba enjoyed international recognition for its excellent urban planning, now followed by cities like Bogota, Seoul, Portland, San Jose, Obihiro and others. I’ll write about my Curitiba visit next time.