Well another Carnaval has come and gone and I made it through with little hassle and stress and some fun to boot. But I was pretty shocked on Wednesday when I took the bus from the edge of one of the Carnaval routes through the other Carnaval route to my student's house. It looked almost like a war zone!
Imagine what you would feel like if you had spent the last 6 days drinking beer non-stop, not eating much, drinking little water, possibly ingesting other illegal substances, standing on your feet and/or dancing for several hours per night, then being in the super hot sun all day, then not having money to get home and having no place to sleep.
Now imagine a large group of people all in the same situation who all decide to lie on the sidewalk for about a quarter of a mile along the Carnaval parade route, some sleeping, some just sitting there, some appearing dead. That's the sight I saw from the bus yesterday. The bus came around the corner and I almost couldn't believe my eyes...I had never seen anything like that before, and frankly I was scared and very glad to be on the bus and not walking around out there. It was almost like a scene out of "Night of the Living Dead" or something. Except that it was during the day.
Then the bus passed this area of beach where the Carnaval party had decided to continue and was filled with mostly drunk, shirtless men, drinking beer and yelling to each other. I was really hoping that the bus would quickly pass this area when 2 drunk guys stood in front of the bus, motioning it to stop. About 8 guys all got on in the part of the bus reserved for older people where you don't have to pay, despite being well under the age of free bus transport. The driver didn't say anything, I'm sure out of fear of getting hit. The worst case scenario was going through my mind that they were going to pull out guns and rob the bus, but luckily they just wanted a ride and didn't bother me or any of the other passengers, both on the bus and as folks got off the bus. I was so thankful to get off the bus and to get inside my student's apartment! What a relief!
The newspaper today was boasting about how the crime rate for Carnaval this year had dropped almost 8% and that there were no homicides in the area of the Carnaval parade routes during the 6 days of the festival. However, 55 people were killed in other parts of the city during the same time frame. I think all the cops were in the Carnaval areas trying to cut down on crime and protect the party-goers.
All I can say now is that I'm glad that Carnaval is over and I hope that there will be a little more peace on the streets, at least until the lead up to São João in June!