Rio+20 – Day 2: Seeing the Beach and Meeting New Friends

Copacabana Beach

Friday in Rio is now drawing to a close, and what a Friday it has been. I explored a little bit of the city, stood face-to-face with my fellow Future Influencers for the first time, and met many friendly students from all over the world. Yes, my first full day in Rio certainly turned out to be a pretty exciting one, and judging by my itinerary for the next three days, the excitement level can only rise.

I started off my day pretty slowly, waking up at 8am and heading down to breakfast at around 9. The hotel I’m staying at had a pretty interesting array set up for breakfast, there were pastries, toast, eggs, hot-dog like things, fruit and even desert items such as chocolate cake and what could have been flan. After a quick breakfast with Rashiq, the two of us decided to head out and explore a little of Copacabana Beach which is just down the street from our Hotel. From what I understand, Rio has many beaches, and Copacabana is just one of many beaches that stretch far along the city’s border.

Gas station in the middle of the road.

As this was my first morning in Rio, I made sure to try to remember all the observations I made during the walk along the beach. The first thing I noticed was the vast amount of buses on the street. Almost every street had at least two or three buses going by. It appears that Rio’s bus transit system is very regular. The second thing I remember was that along the main street running parallel to the beach, there were many gas stations. But these gas stations weren’t located on the sides of the road like I expected, they were located right in the middle of the road, separating the two lanes. These small gas stations were almost built like pit-stops at a racing track where a car could drive up to the gas station right from the road, fill up, and then keep going on the same road without making any turns. The third thing that really stuck out to me was a man who was running (we saw many runners, bikers, walkers and beach-volleyball players) along the road. At random points of time, when the street cleared, he would swerve off the sidewalk and cross the street and start running along the opposite side of the road, and then once the road cleared again he would swerve back, making a squiggly path as he ran. I’m not sure why he was doing that, but I’m pretty sure he got a lot of strange glances.

Sand-sculpture welcoming us to Rio!

Where there’s a beach, there’s plenty of sand. Along the beach, there are sand-sculptures of intricate buildings and landmarks of Rio. Apparently some took 5 days to complete, and some took 20 days. By each sand sculpture there would be one of the artists sitting there and a sign listing all the facts about the construction of the sculpture. I’m not sure how or why they do it, but they were certainly admirable. After we hit a fish market, we turned around and headed back, the entire beach-walk taking about an hour or so. It was a good experience, seeing Rio’s beach front and some of what it had to offer. I also remember passing by two schools on the way to the beach. The schools were located in gated buildings, it was almost as if the fences were meant to keep the students inside, not keep intruders out, kind of a depressing sight actually.

After the beach walk was lunch. When I reached the lobby to attend lunch with Rashiq, I was met by Kali, the third member of our Future Influencers Team. Kali was supposed to be the first one of the three of us to arrive in Rio, but because of a missed flight, Kali just arrived, making her entire trip 30 hours long. But she finally made it, and the our team was finally united in person. I should probably also say a little bit more about my fellow Future Influencers on this trip, they are both incredibly talented and marvelous people. Rashiq founded and heads an online community collaboration forum called Future Cape Town for the city of (you guessed it) Cape Town, South Africa. Kali is a founder of a non-profit called Student Energy, which brings together the world’s youth to tackle the energy issues of our time. Both of these people have day jobs along with their busy lives making the world a better place (although both are taking that step to become fully dedicated to their respective causes). I can only hope to one day become someone like them.

Due to a very slow lunch service, Kali stayed behind at the hotel while Rashiq and I were picked up by Christian in a van to go to the Students for Sustainability debate briefing. Unfortunately, Kali had the wrong address to the location of the briefing and was unable to find us for the briefing and for the dinner afterward. Apparently, we – the Future Influencers – are presenting our idea at another Siemens-sponsored event called Students for Sustainability, where student teams from universities all over the world present their sustainable-related solutions to different problems. It’s not so much a debate but a presentation format, with questions being asked by a panel of judges and the audience. Our van included the Stellenbosch Team (Stellenbosch is in South Africa), the Beijing Team and the Munich Team. When we reached the location of the briefing, we met the other two teams, Team Cambridge and Team Rio de Janeiro. All teams were made up of PhD’s and Masters students (with the exception of Cambridge, they were made up of undergrads) but nevertheless, I quickly realized that I was definitely the youngest in the group. The briefing was shorter than expected, so we had time to chat and get to know each other and I got to meet a lot of friendly people who were very passionate about the issues they worked on. It was very cool to hear all the different accents around the room, especially since I was the only person in the room that lived in the US.

Afterwards we were shipped to a bar where all the student teams and Rashiq and I relaxed, got to know everyone more and enjoy plenty of hors d’oeuvres and alcoholic beverages (yes, I even dared to have one Caipirinha, the drinking age here is 18). I got to know plenty of the folks better and look forward to seeing them again tomorrow at the debate and afterwards.

Copacabana at night

The night ended back at the hotel, with Kali, Rashiq and I meeting for around and hour to review our presentation for our idea and anything we should add. I should probably write down some key words and notes that I want to touch upon for the presentation tomorrow on a notepad, but I think I can put that off until tomorrow morning. For now, I am going to go to sleep and enjoy the fact that I have an even more exciting day coming up. Tomorrow, the big day: The Students for Sustainability debate/presentation at the United Nations Environment Programme Pavilion!

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