very very long story short: that fucking awful agency, gotmyfare.com? apparently decided that answering customers' phone calls and emails was just Too Much Work, and abruptly went out of business. the hilarious part is they did so without, say, contacting any of their customers who were currently in the middle of - or about to embark on - trips with them. trips their customers had, let's remember, PREPAID IN FULL FOR. which is why it was such an especially unpleasant surprise to arrive in Rio de Janeiro, tired and grumpy after a 5 hour layover in JFK followed by a 10.5 hour redeye, and a) not have anyone pick us up at the airport, as promised, and b) get to the hotel and learn that our reservations had been cancelled the day before since no one had ever paid for them. awesome, right? since WE HAD, IN FACT, PAID ALREADY? it was a clusterfuck for about a day, but ultimately we hunted down the local travel agency that gotmyfare partnered with, showed up at their doorstep, and begged for their help... which basically entailed re-paying for the entire Brazilian portion of our trip, in full, directly to that travel agency since gotmyfare had "gone bankrupt" without passing any of our money on to any other vendors.
we ended up meeting 8 other people who were stranded in Rio, in the exact same situation as we were, all having gone through gotmyfare, all who'd had their money taken and pocketed. i can only imagine how many other people in other South American cities were in the same boat as well. so i mean, fine: companies go out of business. these things happen. what you DON'T do is steal your onetime customers' money, and NOT EVER INFORM THEM that the foreign country they're about to show up in? yeah, they'll be stranded there with no accommodations or anything. oopsie! sorry! bankruptcy court, our bad!
i'm actually really pissed that they're already out of business, because i'd planned on so thoroughly ruining their reputation across the interwebs that *i personally* put them out of business. so i'm annoyed i no longer get that pleasure. and, you know, also annoyed that they stole our money and stranded us in a foreign country - where they speak portuguese, remember! i only learned like 10 words in portuguese because i wasn't planning on having to plead with locals to not kick me out of their hotel for nonpayment.
BUT. we did get it all sorted out (ie re-paid for the Brazil portion of the vacation on the spot, and had my very awesome friend in Buenos Aires say we could stay with him in Argentina rather than rebooking a hotel there) and once that was out of the way, we were able to thoroughly enjoy ourselves.
i didn't actually know Copacabana and Ipanema were real places. they are, and they're just as lovely as they sound.
we did so much in Rio - it feels silly just posting 6 or 7 photos to cover everything, especially since i feel like everything requires *explanations.* like that guy selling bikinis up there! there were dudes roaming the beach selling EVERYTHING you'd ever need. during our day at ipanema we bought sunglasses, more sunscreen, water, lunch, and a whole coconut with the top chopped off and a straw stuck in it without ever leaving our beach chairs. it's pretty sweet.
we also went to the corcovado - the iconic Christ the Redeemer statue on the mountain overlooking the city:
the fog even parted for 20 seconds right before we left so we could get a full glimpse of him:
we went to the super-amazing Selaron staircase - this guy has been tiling the street where his studio is located for the past 20 years straight. it's unreal.
Rio is interesting - has a third world feel to it, especially with the presence of the favelas stacked up on all the hillsides surrounding the city.
..and they have some of the most intricate and impressive graffiti i've ever seen - these are not extra special examples; it's like this all over the city:
on flickr here - the crazy modern Catedral Metropolitana, our night out in Lapa, the crazy sand sculptures and the elaborate Sao Bento Monastery - but i start my first day at the new job tomorrow! bedtime for me.