Copacabana Beach.

Voices of all heights and tones offer you whatever you fancy; drinks, fruit, clothes, earrings, hats, popsicles… Anything and everything you might want whilst tanning under the Brazilian sun. The Copacabana beach is anything but relaxing; people selling everything and anything scream out to advertise their products, portable radios play samba songs, the conversation is loud and lively and the roaring of the sea blends it all together. The countless parasols crowd the beach, uselessly attempting to shade people from the sun. Everyone is so close to each other, it is impossible not to feel included. Everyone is part of the atmosphere.

There is a quaint sense of mixed culture all around, but it makes you feel like you belong. Foreigners and locals share the sand, the sun and the sea; there is an unspoken understanding that everyone is welcome here.

In Rio de Janeiro the rich live on the bottom and the poor live up high. At night, when looking up at the hills, millions of lights can be seen across the slums. They shine in the night, illuminating the people who live up there. These people, so far away from the bottom yet so close to it, are probably resting from a hard day of work, spending time with their family, having dinner. But, from down here, they look like nothing more than stars, glowing from far away, decorating the skyline.

Down here, where it is safe to take a closer look, it seems like poverty is slowly being hidden with each step Rio takes towards modernization. The shops have the latest fashion and the restaurants offer five star food and service. Brand new buildings tower over the shattered streets and sidewalks. The modern cars in the deteriorating streets clash with the old buildings that are falling apart and covered in graffiti. All around there are signs of progress and change to make the city look better and richer. The slums, however, seem to stay where they are and so do its inhabitants.

The beach seems to be the only place where both worlds meet at peace, where all classes, races and nationalities co-exist without clashing or embarrassment. Everyone is there for the beach; they all want to enjoy the heat, soak up the sun, swim in the angry sea. It seems to be the only place where everyone speaks the same language; the language of freedom.

No matter where you’re from, you can do what you like. You can lie underneath a parasol, or tan under the scorching sun. You can play volleyball with whoever is around, or play football with your friends. And anything you might want or need is available.

The voices are loud and there is no silence, but Copacabana beach is not a beach for tranquillity; it is a beach for belonging.

Originally submitted to Just Back – Travel Writing Contest for the Telegraph.

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