Kissing contest on carnival menu
A kiss is just a kiss, but at Rio de Janeiro's Carnival, collecting as many pecking partners as possible at one of the 650 massive street parties that hit high gear this weekend is truly a competitive sport.
Wearing a pink bikini top, flower-print miniskirt and a face dabbed with silver glitter, Taline Pereira was not shy about getting to the heart of what drives the parties - known as "blocos" -- that in some cases draw upward of one million people.
"I travelled thousands of kilometres to come to my first Rio Carnival," said the 18-year-old student from Brazil's northeast. "Of course I'm going to kiss as many boys as possible."
Yet Brazilians don't want anyone to get the wrong idea about the widespread kissing known as "ficar," which literally means "to stay".
It is an innocent game, they say, in which touching a woman anywhere outside the small of her back draws a red card - if not a slap.
Like the most intricate of courtship rituals, it involves rules and subtle, nonverbal cues that an ambitious man or woman must understand to have a successful outing - defined by Ms Pereira as "maybe kissing 12 boys - or just one if he is a really good kisser".
There are no winners, official or otherwise, though many play for bragging rights.
Informal polling found members of both sexes claiming to have kissed more than 10 partners at least once during Carnival.
Rafael Salathiel, 18, standing with a group of pals at a bloco aptly named "Come to me, I'm easy," said he has long history of "kissing as many girls as I want during Carnival".
For most of the 700,000 tourists who invaded Rio, the blocos are the focus of Carnival leading up to the flamboyant samba parades later on Sunday and Monday.