The owl had just woken up and was preparing to brush her teeth, when she heard a squeaky voice calling from behind the front door:
‘Pola, my sweet Pola! Hello! Open up!’
‘Who came to my tree hollow at dawn?!’ Pola was wondering. She put the toothbrush down and walked to the door. A really strange creature was standing in front of the hollow. Its face was hidden behind a mask and it had colourful feathers all around its head.
‘Good morning’ Pola said, standing in the doorway. ‘I’m sorry, but is this a mistake?’
‘Oh Pola, it’s me! Aunt Inga!’ The owl dressed in colourful clothes kissed Pola, pushed the door with her leg and walked into the hollow as if it was her own house. ‘Come on, don’t just stand like that, looking surprised! You don’t want your old aunt to freeze, do you?’
‘Aunt Inga, is that really you?’ she asked hesitantly. ‘Well, I can see it’s you but… what is that thing on your head? And what are you doing here?’ she added more firmly, once she closed the door.
‘What is that? My dear, it’s a mask! We’re flying to the carnival! I wrote to you that I would pay you a visit at the end of January and would take you and your friends to Brazil. The biggest carnival in the world is about to begin there!’ Looking at a startled Pola, she added ‘Oh, don’t be so surprised! You’d better call your friends and tell them we’re leaving! My friend Antonio is waiting for us on site.’
Pola, Tola and Rascal were prepared for the journey an hour later.
‘All that is good, all that is new, take us away, show us the truth’ the owl uttered the magical incantation and the hollow whirled around them. After awhile, they found themselves in Brazil.
Our travellers had never seen so many different species of trees, shrubs and flowers in such a small area. They landed in a park full of tall trees with lianas hanging from them, shorter orange trees and even banana trees filled with fruit. They were surrounded by stunning colourful flowers.
‘It’s so warm here!’ barked Rascal, happily.
‘It’s so green and colourful…’ added Pola, delighted.
‘Oh… Jesus!’ called Tola.
‘Do not pronounce the name of God in vain,’ Rascal wanted to say, but after looking in the same direction as Tola, he also called ‘Oh! Jesus!’
Aunt Inga turned around to see what her little companions were looking at. Suddenly, she started laughing sincerely, because it turned out that they were looking at a huge statue… of Jesus.
‘Hoo, hoo, hoo! I bet you’re seeing the statue of Christ the Redeemer for the first time. It’s not only the cultural icon of Rio de Janeiro, the capital of Brazil, but also the largest statue of Christ in the world! I think it’s 30 metres high… it’s impressive, isn’t it?’
The statue was as high as a ten-storey building, located at the top of a granite mountain and was indeed impressive and breathtaking.
The animals didn’t manage to say anything else because suddenly, a loud music echoed around them.
Samba de Janeiro!
Em cima, em cima, em cima
Em baixo, em baixo, em baixo…
‘Bom Dia, my sweetie!’ Suddenly, a stranger holding a small radio on his shoulder jumped out from behind a tree. He came closer to the group of friends, moving to the rhythm as he grabbed Pola to dance.
‘Wait, stop! I don’t know you!’ cried Pola as she stepped on the dancer’s foot as hard as she could.
‘Ouch, ouuuuch!’ The stranger cried out with pain. ‘My sweet Inga, why did you do this?’ he called.
‘I’m not your sweet Inga!’ snorted Pola.
‘Oh, Antonio!’ squealed Aunt Inga, amused. ‘Did you confuse my niece with me? Hoo, hoo, hoo! This means we haven’t seen each other for a really long time!’
‘Samba!’ called Antonio, recognising the aunt. Now he looked even more cheerfully and immediately began dancing with her. Aunt Inga’s colourful scarf was waving in the wind and her friend, whom she haven’t seen for a long time, was turning her to the right, then to the left, lifting her up and to the sides. After a few minutes of a crazy dance, he did three pirouettes and came to greet the others.
‘Welcome to Rio!’ he called, a bit breathless. ‘I’m Antonio, I daresay the best dancer among the indigo macaws and, by the way, a great fan of our sweet Inga.’ He fluttered his eyelashes, pulled her into his arms and gave her a kiss.
Pola and Rascal looked at each other knowingly. Neither of them wanted to dance with such a crazy bird. Meanwhile, Tola had a different opinion…
‘Oh dear! You are a great dancer!’ she meowed with admiration.
‘Ha, ha, ha! This may not be modest, but I do know that.’ The parrot laughed. ‘Don’t worry, honey, today you will all learn the national dance of Brazil. This is the promise of Antonio Arantes do Nascimento.’
‘OK, we keep on talking here while the carnival awaits. My dear, I have a few gifts for you that you can wear immediately.’ Antonio clapped his hands giving other parrots in colourful outfits a signal to bring multicoloured accessories and give them to Tola, Pola and Rascal.
‘Let’s go!’ called Antonio, almost singing. He took aunt Inga’s arm and moved on, following the crowd of his students heading towards the centre of Rio de Janeiro. The three friends followed him.
Within half an hour Tola, Pola and Rascal grew thirsty because of the heat.
‘Maybe we can buy water?’ asked Tola hesitantly, but no one could hear her due to the radio their guide was carrying. She ran towards the aunt’s friend and yelled right in his ear…
‘Water!!!’ she yelled, making Antonio jump in fear.
‘My dear, don’t shout so loud, I can hear everything’ he said, indignant. ‘We’re not far but if you want something to drink, let’s go to my friend. At Nuño’s you’ll find out how the best drink in the world tastes!’
Tola brightened up immediately and the dancer muted the music for a few moments.
‘Go and prepare for the parade and we’ll drop in on Nuño’ he called to his students.
The parrots looked at him with understanding and disappeared around the corner. Antonio sped up and passed the following blocks with growing energy. Tola and Rascal, although sweating, tried to keep up with him as Pola was flew directly above them. She was very thirsty too…
Antonio eventually stopped beside one of the yards.
‘It’s here. Come in Tola. Coconut water for everyone, my treat!’ he called.
Tola jumped with joy thinking about something to drink. She ran into the yard Antonio showed them but before Rascal managed to follow her, she ran back, crying!
‘Aaaaaa!!! Rascal, help! Someone wants to kill me!’ she was yelling at the top of her lungs.
Without a second thought Rascal barked and went into the yard. He disappeared in the darkness but after a while he ran away with his tail tucked.
‘Watch out, there’s a huge bird with a cleaver!’
‘A cleaver?’ Pola was frightened.
‘Yes, a huuuuge one!’ admitted the scared kitten, who had hidden under Pola’s wing.
Antonio was looking at them with surprise, but after a while he started laughing loud.
‘Ha, ha, ha! Does this bandit look like a pink ibis? If so…’ he didn’t let the friends answer. ‘Then you must have taken my poor Nuño for a criminal. Ha, ha, ha!’
At the same time a big cart with coconuts appeared in the yard – it was pushed by a pink ibis… that was carrying a cleaver!
‘I told you’ Antonio went on. ‘That I invited you for coconut water. Here, in Brazil we drink water straight from a coconut, not from a bottle or a can. Poor Nuño wanted to cut out the top of a coconut so that you could drink the coconut water from it… and you thought… ha, ha, ha!’
‘Nuño!’ he said to his friend. ‘I think it’s the first time you were mistaken for a criminal! Forgive them, they are not from here.’ He laughed again.
Tola and Rascal, startled, grabbed two big coconuts with straws and drank the coconut water. The sweet juice was cold and delicious.
‘Samba! Samba de Janeiro!’
Then, they heard the well-known music just around the corner!
‘Let’s begin!’ called Antonio. ‘Quickly, come after me! The parade has begun! My students must be waiting for me!’
Antonio grabbed aunt Inga and ran towards the source of music and the three friends followed them. When they came from behind the building, they saw a huge parade heading towards them…
‘Oh no, they’ve already started! Follow me!’ called the dancer.
Antonio was rushing because he wanted to catch up with his students and go along with them in the parade. After a short run, they all reached a big platform with indigo macaws. Because of the whole rush, Tola hadn’t even noticed that they were in a strange place. They finally saw that both sides of the wide alley were filled with high bleachers being occupied by an audience. The main attraction of the carnival in Rio de Janeiro is the competition between many samba schools which prepare their students for the show for a really long time. Representatives of different schools were standing in the middle – some dressed up as dinosaurs, others looking like clowns or dressed in beautifully decorated dance costumes.
‘Look! Here are my most talented students!’ called Antonio. ‘Our school is one of the best in all of Rio. Come, join us!’ he added.
‘Maria, Juan, Camila! Please take care of our friends!’
Before Tola, Pola and Rascal realised what ‘taking care of friends’ meant, the three parrots rushed towards them, grabbed their hands and started dancing with them to the rhythm of samba.
The audience in the bleachers was cheering and clapping for the quite a long time while the three friends and aunt Inga danced as if samba was in their blood…