The morning of the USA v Germany match, I laid in bed at the Olinda hostel for a good hour before getting up, hoping the torrential rain outside would stop. (Spoiler alert - it didn't.) Finally I got up, got dressed, and wandered over to breakfast. The dining room was packed, so I headed to the lobby to see if I could find a place to sit. Instead, I found a group of Americans getting ready to brave the elements. I decided to scarf down my pineapple and tag along.
Sunday, July 27, 2014
I have to admit, Olinda isn't anywhere near the top of my list of "Favorite Places in Brazil". I'd made plans to stay in the historic neighborhood the night before USA v Germany, as it was much closer to the stadium than Porto de Galinhas. While this was an excellent decision, given the deluge that flooded roads and prevented people from making it to the game, I had difficulty really getting into the beautiful town.
When I started searching for lodging in Recife, everything was already booked or out of my price range. I had two options - stay in Olinda, a beautiful and historic neighborhood to the north of the city, or stay about 45 miles south, in the beach town of Porto de Galinhas. I went with Porto de Galinhas and its air conditioned hostel, and am so glad I did.
Saturday, July 26, 2014
This is a story about how I'm psychic. Or more accurately, how soccer often follows the most ridiculous patterns possible, and sometimes, when it involves my team, I can be good at recognizing said patterns. I mean really - once Germany (the team that cut short our most successful run in recent memory with a handball) and Ghana (our World Cup nemesis) had been selected for Group G, what other group could we possibly end up in?
(Read bottom to top for twitter.)
I'd done a lot of research on this very important part of my trip - a tour into the Amazon rainforest. Another blogger's detailed post convinced me to go with Iguana Turismo (as well as their reasonable price). Most Amazon tours have similar activities, so I think what really makes your experience is the quality of the lodge, your guide, and the group you end up with. Iguana does a pretty good job with the first two, and I really lucked out with the third.
Stepping through the arrivals gate in Manaus, I immediately got the sense that people were happy to see us. Manaus had been the most heavily criticized host city in the run-up to the World Cup, for its distance from the rest of the host cities, for the hot and humid climate, and for the ridiculousness of building an enormous stadium in a town without a first-division team. Even at the airport, it seemed like Manaus knew it had something to prove to the rest of the world, to show that it deserved to host these games.
Thursday, July 17, 2014
The morning after I arrived in Natal, I was sitting downstairs, peacefully charging my tablet when the whirlwind touched down. Four or five guys entered the lobby, with noise and serious cameras. Bleary-eyed and jet-lagged, most of us already sitting in the lobby just stared, uncertain of what was going on. The guys introduced themselves as a TV crew from Ghana, there to cover the game. Before we really knew what was happening, they rounded up the Americans and interviewed each of us regarding USA's chances in the game the following day. They got three of us to sit on the couch and chant 'I Believe That We Will Win' while holding my USA scarf.
Wednesday, July 16, 2014
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.
It's always fun when there's a feature on the plane you're flying on in the in-flight magazine!
My time in Brazil was opened and closed quite nicely by an airplane - a very specific one. Before the tournament, I'd read that famous twin graffiti artists Os Gêmeos had been commissioned to paint the plane on which Brazil's national team would travel. Even so, it came as a total surprise when, boarding my first domestic flight (São Paulo to Natal), that exact plane was sitting at the gate! A lot of passengers were snapping pictures and commenting on the fact that we'd be flying the national team's plane - I was worried that GOL was going to weigh and gate-check my luggage, and hurried on. I figured I'd snap a picture when we arrived in Natal.