5. Free

The bed is no bed as I know it; it is hard as wood. The room feels worn and old, with dirty cream walls, weird blue cornices and ceilings, one bare light-bulb and dusty, wooden slatted floors. Besides me, this bed and my few bags, there is nothing but an ancient, bulky fridge, which buzzes constantly. I’m not confident to keep much food in it, just basics in sealed containers and some bottled water.

The room has two doors: one to the corridor and one through to my next door roommate’s. She has to pass through my room to get to hers, and only hers has a tall window overlooking the street below. A welcome breeze comes in, if this adjoining door is open, which it often is, as she doesn’t spend much time here. Who would?

Below is the noisiest street imaginable. Sunday to Wednesday there’s the regular passing hubbub, but on Thursdays, it properly explodes. Live music pulses from bars and street performances, there are crowds, food and drinks sellers, hotdogs, caipifruta, salty corn on the cob. It goes all night and into morning. Samba, reggae, choro, forró.

Outside in the hall, before the narrow, musty stairway down and out the front door, a ceramic Jesus leans out, his blue eyes following me accusingly.

The place is scruffy and scraggy and by far the worst room I’ve ever stayed in. I can’t stop smiling. I sleep late, shower and climb colourful, tiled Escadaria Selarón to Santa Teresa to wander, aimless, soaking in its views, people, sunshine and life.

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