It is hard to shake seven years of delicate ‘English’ skin when you land in a hub like Rocinha. There are mosquitoes to contend with and if bitten the chomp/swelling if of ridiculous porpotions. First-world stomach sensitivities need to be grappled with (cheese and guava flavoured ice cream is a no-go on day one) and aparently parasites, more commonly associated with cats and dogs, can run riot in us newly arrived pastel cases. Then there’s sub tropic rays to battle with for the first few days – factor 30 usually smothers these into submission. But, what one does’t account for is the delicate nature of our ‘English’ immune systems versus that of a robust, beetle-brown, mozzie-immune, cheese and guava loving 10-month old Carioca gurgling infront of you and with a nose full of thick green mucous. Said infant is joyous, parasite free and has no idea of how dangerous he is to the ‘rosey’ individuals he crosses paths with.
I am said individual and have been laid flat for the last five days with a horrendous cold. Swelling right eye, infected larynx and loss of left nostril functionality has lead me to hunt out antibiotics and, thank the almighty favela gods, Rocinha’s pharmacists provide. Over the counter, beaming faces and no questions asked.
Lack of the Portuguese lingo does, however, require one to abandon their dignity at the pharmacy door and ‘charade’ one’s way through necessary questions; such as:
- Must I take these with food and water?
- How many times a day?
- Is it ok to lug back Caipirinahs during the course of taking these wee pills?
- Exactly what is it I am taking?
- Any idea what the English version of these are?
- Do these cause drowsiness? (No?..oh good, as I will be hang gliding and wish to clearly take note of the experience).
Donning my fragile dignity and heading back out into the maelstrom of Rocinha’s streets, I figured (being fully dosed on the good stuff now and primed for a full recovery) my ‘rosey’ throat could do with an ice cream.
Guava and cheese?.. why the hell not…