No other part of Brazil puts on a Carnaval show like Rio de Janeiro. Salvador da Bahia and Olinda, cities to the north, are reputed to throw incredible parties and massive street parades, but the heart and soul of Brazil is the most energetic, thrilling, and relentless festive debauchery in the land. The samba from the morros (hills and slums), the national drink, caipirinhas and the Cariocas' (locals) happiness, friendliness, open arms to foreigners, and genuine love of their country, food, natural beauty and each other, are the stereotypes of this city. However these notions generally hold a powerful truth.
There are lively drum-heavy parade bands. There are drunken fools in ridiculous costumes, often cross dressed in wildly creative outfits and banging on bus walls and windows while chanting popular samba songs. There are many Cariocas who prefer to escape the commotion and masses during Carnaval to relax in the countryside, island towns, or visit California, Florida (always Orlando to see Disney World) or New York City. But to those who stay, Rio is a land of love and opportunity, and, in my opinion, the greatest place on Earth. It's revolution to prepare for the World Cup in 2014 and Olympics in 2016. The preparations might not be going perfectly according to plan (instead, they're running on Brazilian time: 45 minutes to 1 hour late), but if there's anything they can do, people from Rio always acham um jeito (make it happen). They will put on the greatest show on Earth; so, save your money and start learning Portuguese so you can go to Rio and meet the most beautiful, enticing people in the world. Beleza pura! (Wonderful!)
See Ted Somerville's photos from Bloomington's Carnaval celebrations here.