i arrived in the fairly run-down rio international airport after my two flights from chile, wondering if customs still photographed and fingerprinted visitors from the USA in reciprocity for the USA doing the same thing to Brazilian visitors. luckily this wasn't the case anymore, and i quickly passed through immigration to enter the country.
despite the fact that i'm staying in 13-bed dormitory room for a week and a half (and paying US$60 per night for 7 of those days because its Carnival), the people in my dorm are remarkably quiet at night and snore-free, which means i can ACTUALLY GET A GOOD NIGHT'S SLEEP for a change. my hostel (aptly named Walk On The Beach Hostel) is only a few blocks off the beach in Copacabana, is run by a really friendly bunch of people, and most of the people staying at the hostel are a good bunch of people.
the first few days in rio i spent doing my usual settling-in routine for a new country: exchanging the money from the last country, withdrawing enough money from an ATM to cover me for several days, buying a SIM card for my phone so i can make calls locally (i choose the Oi network for their nifty little orange blob logo), taking my laundry to the local laundromat, and dealing with any other pressing issues (which for me meant getting a haircut. haircuts overseas are always fun for me because i insist on getting my hair cut where the locals go, which means minimal communication at best, and lots of questions as we go, but i usually end up with a pretty good haircut when it's all done).
crime is definitely an issue here -- i've already had people try to pick my pocket several times in the last few days, including a quite sketchy attempt this morning by two favela kids to actually stop me in the street and grab my arm out of my pocket where i was hanging onto my (nearly empty) wallet. i got out of it without losing anything, but it's definitely a sign of the amount of opportunistic crime in rio. but i'm preparing to have my pockets picked at some point - i don't carry more than enough money than i need for the day with me, but it does mean that i won't have that many photos of rio, since carrying my camera around with me entails a fairly high risk that someone will steal it (especially when going out at night). one of the girls in our hostel has already had her camera stolen by a pickpocket, so it's not uncommon that these things happen, especially with all the chaos of carnival. from what i've been told, the key is just to not bring anything of value with you when out on the streets, keep your hands on what you do have to avoid pickpockets, and if you get threatened with a weapon, give them whatever they ask for.
after that it's been pretty much nonstop parties with the good people of rio and the other folks staying in my hostel. you can definitely feel the pressure for carnival building up, even in just the 3 days that i've been here for. today the streets were thronged with the first people selling masks and costumes for carnival, and trucks blasting out samba music are rolling down the streets. last night we were up until dawn partying in the streets of Rio, and i'm sure tonight will be more of the same. and carnival hasn't even started yet!