Filled with fear, I watched every face as it passed by, looking for a killer or thief hidden in the expression. My mind was filled with concern at every step. More than cautious, I was becoming close to paranoid. What had done this to me? Stories abounding with thefts and robberies, of muggings and other frightening events that had occurred in Rio de Janeiro.
I moved about the city, checking out the sites, but never allowed myself to become adventurous. There was too much risk in this place… too easy to become one of the “statistics”. I did not want that, as much as I wanted to see things and look around, my panicked mind reasoned that there was a balance between adventure and foolishness. That was my first time here.
Now I can see that the line I had previously drawn between adventure and foolishness was very unrealistic and restrictive. Life in South America is very different to the life that I had come from. The things that frightened me back then are now just every day scenarios.
The dark and ominous looking streets that looked highly dangerous back then were actually just industrial sections of town that were no more dangerous than the beaches. The groups of boys hanging around were never gangs but just a bunch of friends in this relationship oriented culture. The tough looking men walking down the street and checking me out were actually just workers who had finished their shift that were looking over this stranger in their midst who had so much fear in his eyes.
Of course there is always a very real danger in any big city, and Rio is not infamous without cause. There are always general rules to follow and wisdom principles to apply when in any unfamiliar city. But now that I am back here in Rio again, I can see how tiny the “boogy monsters” were that plagued me during my first visit.
Everything is different the second time around.