I live in Rio de Janeiro, in Copacabana, just one short block from the beach. I was lucky enough to find one of the least expensive buildings this close to the ocean, so I can’t boast of a big, spacious apartment overlooking the water with a couple of verandas.
No, my place is a small “railroad” apartment, a studio divided in half by a wall of wardrobes on one side and bookshelves on the other. The kitchen is the size of a small closet, so I can barely squeeze a two-burner stove in it, and the refrigerator is in my bedroom. But I love living here…in fact, this is the third apartment I’ve lived in in this same building. Even though I don’t have a panoramic view of the waves, if I stick my head out my living room window, I can actually see the water.
There’s a lot I could say about the beach (the rest is in my book), but for now I’ll say just one thing: Never turn your back to the ocean. Ever.
One morning I was strolling along the water’s edge, dressed in my purple beach dress, my flip-flops and my white sun hat. The ocean at Copacabana beach is usually pretty rough, a surfer’s favorite, so I’m usually careful to keep my eye out for any big waves as I walk along. But this day, as I was hitting the halfway mark for my walk, I noticed that some men were building a stage on the sand up by the boardwalk. I turned my head for just a split second, I swear, to take a look, and right then a huge wave came in, knocked me down and pulled me right into the water.
So there I was, flailing around in my beach dress, trying to stand up so I could get myself back on to dry land, but every time I tried, another wave would come in and drag me out again. My flip-flops came off, along with my hat, and were floating somewhere out there in the deep. After several attempts to rescue myself I thought, “I can’t do this! I’m gonna drown!” There were a few people walking along the shore, but no one seemed to notice my plight. Finally I started yelling and waving my arms wildly. A young couple stopped and looked at me curiously. I thought, “What the heck are you looking at? Get in here and SAVE ME!”
They finally got the message. The guy waded into the water and pulled me up by the hand. I stood there dripping in my purple beach dress, which now felt as if it weighed around ten pounds. “Oh, obrigada, obrigada!” I said, and I really was thankful that he and his girlfriend had stopped to help me. Just then she emerged from the water…with my flip-flops and hat in her hand! I couldn’t believe that she’d found them! So there I was, all in one piece, nothing missing. I thanked my rescuers profusely again, and then headed back home, dripping all the way.