Friday finally arrives. My flight’s at 10pm so I have one more full day to soak up this beautiful, amazing Brazilian energy before the long flight home. I spend as little time as possible repacking my backpack then escape out into Lapa. I pay my R$.40 fare (that’s .25!) and jump on the Bonde, the last of Rio’s historic streetcars. Brazil had one of the world’s first electric tramways and the world’s largest fleet of open streetcars. It’s a must ride! I step off into the St Teresa neighborhood atop a hill is full of restaurants and shops as well as artist galleries and magnificent views of the city. I wander the curvaceous cobblestone streets and visually feast on exquisite views, homes and gardens. All is awash with color. Brilliant blue homes to fiery sunset skies spark the natural energy felt among the streets and establishments here. I leave begrudgingly to see my final, famous piece of Rio, the Selarón stairs.
After a quick Bonde ride back down to Lapa, I wind down a few streets and come upon these most famous steps. Selarón began to tile these steps, in front of his house, in 1990. 250 steps measuring 125 meters long are covered in over 2000 tiles collected from over 60 countries around the world. This constant work in progress, he claims, will only end upon his death. He encourages people to send him tiles from around the world, and he will use them as he replaces tiles often. I heard he still lives in the same house along the stairs and works on the mosaic each morning while telling tales at night. Sadly, I didn’t see him while I was there, though I secretly hoped to thank him in person for his beautiful art.
5pm. No escaping. The end of my trip to Brazil lingers, awaiting the final moments to tick away. I return to Rodrigo’s to say goodbye. He greets me with the broadest smile and fullest hug. Somehow thank you isn’t enough but no other words seem more true. He tells me we have to take a Couchsurfing picture. It’s tradition! And so my last memory of Brazil is of Rodrigo and I surfing on his couch. It captures everything Brazil is: fun and silly, generous and alive, and mostly, openhearted. It feels like home. Is it the real people? The simple joy of dancing? The food? Maybe it’s the authentic me that feels most like home. Maybe that’s why so many of us call the playa home. But like the playa I do not leave home when I leave Brazil. I carry home with me, everywhere I go. My home just keeps growing bigger the more amazing people and places I experience, and for that, I am most humbled and grateful.