Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Natal

 

Of all the place I visited on my month-long World Cup tour de futebol, I feel Natal got short shrift. Most of that wasn't the city's fault. Okay - a bit of it was. When I landed, it was raining. Like, the mayor declared a state-of-emergency raining. Landslides and flooded-taxi raining. I always start out trips to new places with a bit of trepidation, and the mix of a late landing, the weather, and a brand new country where I did not speak the language colluded, and ended with me paying US $50 for a taxi. The only other place I've ever paid so much was in L.A., under similar circumstances.

Getting in the cab at the airport, I understood just enough Portuguese (via my limited Spanish) to understand that my driver had no idea where my hostel was, but that we would "discover it" together. Despite my Spanglinol directions and super-helpful map, we ended up stopping and asking another cabbie for directions. As my cabbie uncertainly made his way down the dark and bumpy street where my hostel was supposed to be, I finally gave in and went full Spanish. "Hasta el final!" I said, gesturing as I borrowed a phrase from a Real Madrid chant.

At the end of the block, we pulled up to my hostel... it was pitch black. I had a second of panic before opening the cab door and hearing voices on the patio. The electricity was out! After a moment of confusion in the dark lobby, Fabio, the owner, showed up with a flashlight and got me checked in. I ended up drinking my first caipirinha with some fans who were there to watch Japan-Cote d'Ivoire (oops). Fabio was keeping them updated on his phone - of course, within twenty minutes of the game ending, the power came back on. Oh, Brazil.

When I woke up the following morning, it was still raining, ending any delusion I'd had that I'd get to ride a dune buggy up at Genipabu. Instead, I ended up going down to the beach with some Irish and Scottish blokes I'd just met (do they say 'blokes' in Ireland? IDK.). Our hostel was much closer to the end of the beach with the famous sand dune than I'd realized. The water was warm, with good waves. I spent the latter half of the afternoon watching beach soccer.

 



As the sun got low in the sky - in Brazil it sets surprisingly early, year-round - we headed for one of the beachfront restaurants and caught France v Honduras. It was here I had my first GuaranĂ¡ in Brazil, a moment I'd been looking forward to. My shrimp risotto wasn't bad either. The game ended up being a little one-sided after Benzema scored a penalty, a Honduras player was sent off with two yellow cards, and another French shot resulted in an own goal.

 

I was all set to have an early (and boring) night following the next game, Bosnia v Argentina. Luckily, my roommate, Adriana, dropped by and saved me from such a fate. She invited me to come out with her and her friends - being Brazilian, but traveling for the cup, she knew people in town. We went out to a club that played local-style music. The only song I knew the entire night was 'Ai Se Eu Te Pego' - it was great. After being taught how to dance by one of Adriana's friends, I spent the night dancing with people from at least three different countries, drinking caipirinhas (they were so cheap in Natal - about $2.50 US!), and eating street food once we'd decided to call it a night.


The morning of USA v Ghana, I went for a nice walk on the beach. The sky was a bit cloudy, but people were still out doing their thing - especially the hoards of Americans who were setting up base in Ponta Negra for the next two weeks. Sadly, I was leaving the city a few hours after the game. Natal, how little I knew ye...

 

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