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"Rio de Janeiro is a beautiful city...."

assured the Argentinian woman sitting next to me as we prepared for landing, and it is true!
Planted between lush, forest-covered mountains and breath-taking beaches, the place richly deserves the title, "Cidade Marvilhosa" (Marvellous city)...

Although joie de vivre and the bikini may have been invented by the French the cariocas (residents of Rio) have managed to make them uniquely their own!
The glorious white sandy beaches appear to be everyone's playground!
And (almost) everyone seems to enjoy partying - whether on the beach, at the family bbq, watching a key football game (the other religion?) or gathering in a circle on the pavement for an impromptu samba - fiesta ( and carnival, of course!) appears
to be the order of the day....!

It has been a joy, staying in an hotel overlooking Copacabana beach, to master the metro ( thank you Olympics!) and take the opportunity to explore some of Rio on foot. ( Got to keep those steps up!!)

The beaches ( Copocabana, Ipanema, Leblon, Vermelha) each had their unique characteristic and it was clear that different parts of the seafront catered for both different social groups and / or activities. ( football, volleyball, sandcastles, rugby, swimking, surfing, body boarding and, of course, flirting!)
I hadn't expected surf and the related currents when I took to paddling in the Atlantic and, like many contries, the beach provides a captive market for Hawkers of all sorts - beachfront bars and people selling everything from bikinis to coconuts...
A spring breeze ( and some cloudy days) made the experience (at 28°) all the more pleasant....

Looking up from the seafront one is confronted by the other natural phenomenon Rio is blessed with - beautifully rounded hills decorated with lush forest. Sugarloaf mountain (and its cable cars) and the world famous statue of Christ the Redeemer ( and its narrow gauge train to the top) - both surrounded by dense woodland - were also high on my 'to do' list - and both ( despite the vast crowds) didn't disappoint. In both these places there were small chapels ( not necessarily visited by all the tourists!) which were a quiet reminder of our amazing Creator God at the heart of all the beauty we beheld...

I even got to 'top up' my quota of art galleries and colonial buildings ( as well as visiting some sumptuosly decorated Catholic churches!) whilst visiting the city centre and rejuvinated port...
The one thing I didn't do was venture in to the city centre at night to attend any cultural performances - horror stories of knifepoint robberies ( in books and shared by some travellers I had met in Argentina and other parts of Brazil) plus being shattered after a day exploring on foot put me off! ( I had to make do with a nice meal instead!?!)

The stark truth is that beautiful Rio is also (in-?) famous for its violence and poverty - often both related to drug and gang wars which go back years. Like any big city (as visitors to London, Birmingham or Manchester will confirm) the numbers of people falling below the poverty line and forced to live and sleep on the streets, is on the increase....
The gap between rich and poor, those 'in' and those 'out' is getting wider and I was reminded, in Rio, of the Graham Kendrick song ( based on Ps142?) Beauty and brokeness...

Beauty for brokenness
Hope for despair
Lord, in the suffering
This is our prayer
Bread for the children
Justice, joy, peace
Sunrise to sunset
Your kingdom increase!

Shelter for fragile lives
Cures for their ills
Work for the craftsman
Trade for their skills
Land for the dispossessed
Rights for the weak
Voices to plead the cause
Of those who can't speak

God of the poor
Friend of the weak
Give us compassion we pray
Melt our cold hearts
Let tears fall like rain
Come, change our love
From a spark to a flame

Refuge from cruel wars
Havens from fear
Cities for sanctuary
Freedoms to share
Peace to the killing-fields
Scorched earth to green
Christ for the bitterness
His cross for the pain

Rest for the ravaged earth
Oceans and streams
Plundered and poisoned
Our future, our dreams
Lord, end our madness
Carelessness, greed
Make us content with
The things that we need

Lighten our darkness
Breathe on this flame
Until your justice
Burns brightly again
Until the nations
Learn of your ways
Seek your salvation
And bring you their praise

Graham Kendrick 
Copyright © 1993 Make Way Music, 

Rio has it all - beauty and brokeness and, viewed from most places in this amazing city, Christ our Redeemer urging us to help make His kingdom come...

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