I’ve been living in Brazil long enough to have second-guessed my decision to walk down a particular street or two. I hear the stories from tourists and some Brazilians but I think it won’t happen to me. During the instances when I am passing someone who isn’t seemingly dangerous-looking, I always imagine (in an American blockbuster film kind of way) how I’d react if he tried anything. My mind goes as far as to imagine me taking the robber’s gun in one swift movement. Highly unlikely and rather stupid but these are what-ifs.
Last month in Lapa, I left my friends at 2AM and walked to catch the bus. As I was about to turn down a certain street which would have led me to the ‘Central’ (the same Central Station from the movie), an old timer told me not to go down that street, that it was dangerous. I thanked him and continued on my way, thinking a little feeling of danger would be ‘fun’. Again, stupid. Nonetheless, I walked down that street and then eventually missed the last bus of the night, having to wait another 3 hours for the next one, luckily along with many other people.
The next night, same dark street in Lapa, same time, I read the news that someone tried to shoot another person and got off 15 shots before dispersing. Police didn’t catch him.
Thus far, I can say that I’ve only ever seen one, maybe two suspicious characters in my entire time here, and suffice to say I’ve never been robbed.
Spending a good 30 years in the US and living all over the country, I only once felt uneasy at night. I was living in New Orleans and walking through the 9th Ward, where I’d heard of people being robbed, even during the day. It’s strange to think that three decades can go by before someone has their first uneasy feeling about walking down a street in their own country, but it just goes to show how much of a bubble we live in.
As a side note, the other night my Brazilian friend who has been living in the US for about 5 years was held at knife-point walking down a Californian street she knew well.