We looked at each other and spontaneously exclaimed in unison “Let’s do this.”
Ten minutes earlier, Roseitta and I had arrived along with the rest of our tour group at the Sambadrome, which is the purpose-built stadium used for the samba parades during Carnival in Rio de Janeiro, and were shown to the “museum”. It was the last stop of the day, following on the heels of our exciting ride up Corcovado to see Christ the Redeemer, and the group’s energy level was flagging. The so-called museum wasn’t all that impressive. It was merely two rooms no bigger than your average storefront, with costumes from last year’s parade displayed on the walls and a less-than-riveting video playing on a small TV at the back of the room. Nobody looked terribly impressed.
On the way here, our tour director, Marcela, had mentioned that you could try on the costumes and have your photo taken for about $5. At the museum everyone else was too cool for school, and the folks in our group seemed to be more interested in where their next glass of red wine would be coming from than samba. For me, the samba parade is the first image that comes to mind when I think about Rio, so the stop was turning out to be a disappointment, especially because no one else seemed to have any interest in trying on the costumes. It was all feeling a bit meh.
But then in a moment of pure spontaneity Roseitta and I just looked up at each other and our body language betrayed what we’d both been thinking but been too shy to say aloud, “I want to wear a costume!” and that is when we made our pact. In the next breath we told Marcela we wanted to do it, and she hurried us over to the attendant. Apparently we were scheduled to leave in a couple of minutes. What happened next was just amazing.
The attendant sprang into action and was simultaneously whipping garments off the wall with one hand while festooning us with them with the other. I couldn’t help but get into the spirit and began moving my hips and shoulders to the rhythm of the samba music. Suddenly there were at least 40 people watching us, and some of them began moving to the music as well. They started smiling and clapping to the beat as we put on a show of getting our costumes on. We sambaed our way through the crowd and went outside for our photo. It all happened very quickly, as Marcela was getting anxious about being late, but as we rushed back inside to return our regalia and pay, I noticed a dozen people putting on costumes. The ice had been broken.
And that is why these 90 seconds were my favourite moment of the whole trip.