Week 2 in Brasil: Rio de Janeiro

Apologies for the late update: I have fallen behind on my blogging since I returned from Brasil a few days ago. Towards the end of my first week in São Paulo, I began developing a cough/cold/throat/nose condition, which put a damper on the Rio portion of the trip. My immune system is not the best. Fortunately, I did not get anyone sick, and as of today, I have finally recovered.

We flew from São Paulo to Rio two Mondays ago. While at the airport, Renata received a phone call from her uncle insisting that she go to the Spain-Chile game with her sister, Fernanda. [[Back story: we had not fared well with securing tickets for World Cup games. Lottery and first-come first-serve didn’t work to our advantage. Renata’s uncle (who attended the opening game in São Paulo) gave four tickets for the Spain-Chile game to Fernanda and Renata. Fernanda was bringing her friend, Anila. Renata had three friends though and planned to give her two tickets to cousins on the other side of the family]]. We decided that the fair way to pick who goes to the game amongst Morgan, Olindi, and myself was to put names in a hat, literally. I read my Air Force Officer’s Guide on my Kindle while all of this was happening, as if touching anything would jinx my luck. Olindi and Renata wrote names on papers while Morgan crumpled them into Olindi’s American top hat. Renata pulled out a name, and I thought my heart was going to drop. Even after Renata said “Afsoon” and Olindi and Morgan smiled at me, I couldn’t believe it and continued reading my book. Really, I wanted to jump up and down and hug all three of them. Worst part though, I wished that Olindi and Morgan could come too.

We missed the first half of the Iran-Nigeria game, but we arrived at our hostel in Copacabana for the second half. Both sides played well enough by my account with a 0-0 score, the first tie of the World Cup.

I skipped over a quick detail… when we arrived at Copa Fun Hostel, I could visually see Olindi and Renata’s jaws drop as low as mine. I do not want to be a hostel snob, but maybe I have been in more upscale hostels in Europe. At Copa Fun, the receptionists and staff were lovely. The living area with the television was decent enough. The wi-fi would occasionally work. Our room, however, was possibly the smallest space you could fit three bunk beds. Our sheets were worn. Lumps of cotton formed what was supposed to be a pillow. We had no blankets, which turned out okay because it was too hot in the room for blankets anyway. Only two toilets in the hostel flushed well. Of the three showers, one had cold water, one had mostly hot water but would drip on you as you’re trying to change clothes, and the third had no hooks to hang your things. It was not very functional for the number of individuals staying there. Bright side: the hostel was quite clean. I grew pretty comfortable with the environment by the second day, but my first shower back home was absolutely luxurious in comparison. In the end, Copa Fun Hostel was a fabulous experience with lots of hilarity mixed in. “Copa fun”, being a ratchet version of regular fun, will now be a commonplace phrase in that group of friends.

Because Morgan was leaving early, we spent our first day seeing the big tourist sites. We signed up for an all-inclusive tour of Christ the Redeemer, a walk/drive around the city including Escadaria Selarón and the cathedral, and cable cars up Sugarloaf mountain. Copa fun began at the very start. After already driving up to the line for Christ the Redeemer, the tour guide and driver returned down to the city for a casual one-hour detour to pick a person who signed up last-minute…and NEVER showed. A good chunk of people were getting horribly carsick from the cobblestone drive; I was especially concerned for Morgan. The tour group turned hostile when the tour guide said we didn’t have time for the city tour and that there would be no refunds. In addition, we were previously told we could cut the line to see Christ the Redeemer – no such luck! We made the best of it though and took pictures galore. Although we only had 20 minutes to enjoy the top, the view was fabulous.

Christ the Redeemer

Christ the Redeemer

The tour began to redeem itself a little (heh heh) when the tour guide gave us 70 reais back, due to Sugarloaf Mountain’s closure that day (womp womp). We got to complete the city tour and conclude the day by chanting, “this is copa fun!” That evening, we enjoyed the beach at Copacabana and watched the big screen for the USA-Ghana game (2-1). GO USA!!!!

The next day was the Spain-Chile game. It was an experience I will never forget. The energy of Brazilians and especially crowds in Rio for the World Cup was unbelievable. Chileans made up the vast majority of attendees, and Brazilians clearly outnumbered the Spanish. Sitting six rows away from the action near the goal post, I was rooting for Spain but witnessed the previous World Cup champions be the first country officially out of this World Cup, losing 0-2. The stadium constantly chanted for Chile: “Chi Chi Chi, Le Le Le, viva Chile”. I could see both goals so clearly. I didn’t even need to zoom my camera to take pictures of the action. We were lost in a sea of red and specks of yellow.

Renata and I at the Spain-Chile game

Renata and I at the Spain-Chile game

Interestingly enough, I later learned that a group broke a window at the stadium during the game and tried to break in. I imagined it began from the enormous crowd of Chileans out front begging for tickets, but I never looked up the full story. Throughout the entire experience, I felt really safe, even with protests nearby. The police and military force were strong in the streets and near the stadium. I never encountered individuals disrespecting one another’s countries. The crowds were positive and excited.

Renata’s cousin, Renato, and his girlfriend joined us in our last few days. For the rest of the trip after Morgan had to leave, we enjoyed the beach (where Olindi and I won Miss Boom Boom and ended up on Panama TV), going out in Lopa, and food. I must say my favorite is drinking coconut water straight from the coconut. We met awesome people at our hostel, including three Argentinians who joined for meals and the beach, a German, an Australian/American, a French girl, and a group of college kids from Boston. We also met a couple nice guys from Chile who helped alleviate my feelings toward Chile (the streets of Rio were packed with obnoxious Chileans). Rio had an energy about it, and it is definitely the city to visit during the World Cup.

Gorgeous shot of Rio from the airplane [photo credit goes to Fernanda]

Gorgeous shot of Rio from the airplane [photo credit goes to Fernanda]

We flew back to São Paulo last Saturday. Timing worked out perfectly because we ate at a nice restaurant at the airport during the Argentina-Iran game (the game that our three Argentinian friends from the hostel attended in person). While eating yet another Brazilian buffet, I enjoyed the company of a varied group supporting either side, with my immediate friends supporting Iran for my sake and rooting against Argentina as competitors challenging their prospective favorites. Alas, it was a loss for Iran (0-1), but I was proud to be Iranian American! They kept the tie up until the final minutes of the game. Even though they didn’t make it to the final 16, nobody had anticipated Iran would do so well during the group stage.

Our last couple of days in São Paulo were relaxing before heading home. It mostly consisted of watching games and eating all the Brazilian food we could get. My two weeks in Brazil were copa fun! I had a great time, memorable experience, and enjoyed the fabulous company. Time to get back to reality and start a new journey at home.

Excited for the USA game and for returning back to the states soon :)

Excited for the USA game and for returning back to the states soon