Rio de Janeiro: I am the island, I am the main course, says the chorus I am to learn by heart by 11pm.
On it, and on my singing of this year’s theme song – a convoluted 30-verse original – rests the classification of my samba school.
Come taste this carnival. It’s to leave you salivating. It’s to leave you wanting more.
The forecast is for 40 degrees. And thunder.
We prepare the table for tonight is party night. We serve a banquet, in costume, a recipe impossible to forget.
I’m unsure whether to hope for rain (it could keep us cool), or for dry (since my wish is for our costumes to stay as pristine as when they came out of their bags this morning).
We bought them online, through seasoned carnival operator Rio-Carnival.net. I chose them for their look and perceived lightness given we had no previous allegiance to any particular samba school and did not wish to cart around several kilos of polyester.
Our dress represents cocoa, a flavour of Brazil, depicted in the theme song of the same name. There were representations of pumpkins and limes too, but we opted for what turns out is stylised cupcakes and melted chocolate head and shoulder dress over a stylish chef’s outfit complete with apron and shoes.
The outfit is hot and complex, and far from the skimpy feathers we see adorning celebrities atop floats on TV. We will be out in the Tropical section, in front of the fourth float, along with 100 other cupcakes, among 3500 people.
Samba schools are traditional member associations of larger clubs in Rio, and their followers as serious and devoted to their flags as footy tragics are to their team colours in Australia.
We find ourselves – your correspondent, her husband, younger son and best friend – supporting the Uniao da Ilha do Governador – the team native to Governor’s Island in Rio, a 36-square-kilometre home to 500,000 people in Guanabara Bay, just west of Mount Sugar Loaf.
Our instructions – only in Portuguese – came with the outfits. Among them, strict guidelines as to how we must dress (no accessories, no cameras, phones, bags), how we must behave (judges will be looking for singing, dancing and cohesion) and how we must respect the hierarchy of the school during the parade.
“No arguments,” it said. And should any participant be drunk beyond self-control, that will be grounds for ejection too. Thinking of the $400 we paid for each costume, we are definitely not risking this one.
Uniao is one of 12 samba schools in the Special Group, the A-League of carnival championships. It won the competition in 2009, and came eighth last year, so the pressure is on.
We parade on Monday night local time, the last day of the four-day festival.
Each school has 80 minutes to put on their best show. Any fraction of a second delayed past the end of the famous Sambodromo avenue, and we will lose points.
We can’t run. Must only dance. We’ve been learning our song off YouTube.
It was in the high 30s at the beach in the morning where locals and tourists keen to tick the famous Rio Carnival off their bucket lists came for a refreshing dip before the big night.
Rio Governor Luiz Fernando Pezao promised 17,000 extra police on the streets to keep carnival-goers safe this year, but the police presence is visibly less frequent than during the Olympics. Asked about the persistent robberies of bags and mobile phones, police spokesman Major Ivan Blaz said more than 200 people had been arrested by Monday morning.
It’s 6pm and we are about to don our outfits, ready for an Uber to take us to the tourist collection point by the Hilton Rio Hotel in Copacabana.
We must arrive three hours before our allocated time for a full dress rehearsal. No bags, no accessories, just some money, tucked into our underwear, like the locals, to buy some beverages.
Two pinches of love, you and I. We put together our hunger and our desire to win tonight.