We've all heard the warnings that Rio is a dangerous city, people will rob you at any opportunity, etc etc etc. I don't know if it's just an exaggeration or if I've just been really fortunate, but I have never had a problem while living in this city.
Well, my bike was stolen, but my bike was also stolen twice and my husband's once while living in Toronto. I don't count that one.
I've heard stories though, of course. A friend of a friend of a friend. A friend of a friend. Even more worrisome, an actual friend. But generally it's perfectly easy to get by with some general common sense and caution.
I always keep my bag close to me. I always look around me while I'm standing at a stop light or while I have my iPhone out. I always lock up my bike, even if I'm just going to sit down in the park with it beside me. I always keep an eye out for weird looking people, people who appear to have a different reason than me for being in any given space. It's just better to be extra cautious than to regret losing something you could have avoided losing.
Yesterday a friend and I went to do yoga in Parque do Flamengo, a kind of notorious place for having sketchy people. I've done yoga there before though, I keep to myself, it's really peaceful. We finished our fantastic podcasts and started on the walk home. I had my bike with me, my iPhone in an arm band and my mat strapped to my back.
I was doing my usual talking and looking around and I saw about 5 weird-looking guys coming up the side of the path (coming from the rocks by the water on Praia de Botafogo). Even though there were a lot of people around and it was daylight, they looked suspicious and yes, I already had my guard up.
Then, my worst fear became a reality as one came RIGHT up beside/behind me. It felt like he was trying to corner me against my bike or something, as he started to grab at my mat (which he probably thought was a bag) and my phone strapped to my arm. My automatic response was to push him as hard as I could and scream. My friend started yelling too and I kept pushing him and there was this, like, scuffle where I later found out my shorts got ripped.
Luckily, my mat bag strap was super tight, and my arm band was wrapped in a way that he couldn't just rip it off and run. UN-fortunately, the only name I could think of to call the guy in Portuguese was seu folgado, haha, probably one of the most unintimidating names possible. It means something like "you ignoramus!" Swearing in English was much more cathartic in that moment...
Anyway, the dummies couldn't get what they wanted so they took off (the fools ran right INTO the traffic almost killing themselves along the way.... idiots).
Just to make it clear: I am ok. I was actually pretty pumped that nothing got taken and also that I stood up for myself BUT I've also been reminded that I was lucky and that I/you should really be careful in how you handle this kind of situation.
This also isn't any kind of burn on Rio or Brazil - I know it could happen anywhere, and I've been fortunate that I've never had this kind of problem before. A friend said to me, "It's not a matter of 'if', it's a matter of 'when'", and even though that's slightly cryptic and fear-mongering, it IS better to be safe than sorry (no matter what country you live in).
This is the reality of the world we live in. Just don't tell my mom...
As for me, I won't let this incident stop me from returning to that park. I've been there so many times before without issue. I know this is a one-off. But maybe next time I'll leave my bike so I'm not such a distracted-looking target. I don't know... I just hate the idea of vagabundo people infringing on my freedom to live!