SG
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Carnaval is just complete madness. People running around, eating, dancing, shaking it, getting it on, peeing on church walls, and swapping spit. It’s hot. The music is loud, samba is blaring, and you are pretty much forced to like it. It's like sex. This is CARNAVAL.

Carnaval is to get all of the world's sins out of the system before the 40 days of Lent. In a largely Catholic country like Brazil, the sins are on tap and it brings tears to your eyes. It is beautiful, a bit nasty, exciting, tasteful, lovely, excessive--it is whatever people need before they give it all up like good Catholics Brazilians and "suffer" for 40 days. Nowadays most people conveniently forget or set aside the suffering part.

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We headed to the historical, peaceful town of Paraty. Its streets are paved with stones. It rains. At night it turns into a raging party. People line the streets, eat junk food, beers in hand, and follow the blocos or samba brass bands and drums marching up and down the streets. Kids make out on the corners, the elderly too. Everyone sings, dances, as the party moves through the city.

Dealer of sin:

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Sweets, cakes, and a root canal in waiting:

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Lemon pie in hand and ready to rock:

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From Paraty we headed to Rio de Janeiro. We picked up Milena and Luis and went to the restaurant Aprazivel to celebrate CH’s birthday and gorge on rich foods before Lent.

Grilled palmito pupunha, wild palm heart:
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Wild palm heart with light olive oil:

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Mushroom lasagna:

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Chicken and sausage rice with beans, fried banana and kale:

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Beans and spicy sauce:
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This is a species of duck called a Common Teal. It tasted like soft duck:

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Baby goat:

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On the way to the big Carnaval parade we see hints of what lies ahead. Here we are in the subway:

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In Rio, Carnaval is a little more intense than in Paraty, since they have the largest desfile (a massive parade of samba schools, pronounced dess-fee-lee) competing for the country's top awards.

The desfile is so powerful, like getting whacked in the head with a baseball bat, but with color, song, and dance.

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In a competition that continues every year, the samba schools each produce a parade. Each samba school is allowed up to an hour and 15 minutes to parade, sing, and march their members from start to finish. It is like watching a parade in space curated by the Flaming Lips. It is overwhelming, your feet begin to hurt, you are starving... but you can't stop watching. It is mesmerizing.

This samba school had a disease theme. A bit far-fetched, but they say that samba is good for your health and combats diseases:

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Soccer player Ronaldinho was on-hand to dance and flirt with various women:

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We saw three samba schools in three hours. 12,000 carefully choreographed and costumed people smiling and celebrating all the effort they have put in for a year.

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This is the samba school Tijuca's opening act:

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Tijuca had a movie theme for their show, that started with horror films. These guys danced and sang and did this gimmicky head-dropping thing that had the crowd baffled.

It is difficult to imagine the magnitude of 4,000 people parading in the most unique costumes, dancing and singing all in unison. Here's a video I shot of a section of one school.



People pass by in sections, a drum-line here, old ladies in big dresses there; women with large feathery sequined g-strings and bikinis, in eight-inch platform heels dancing the fastest samba I have ever seen.

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Madness. Madness. MADNESS!

This is CARNAVAL.