New Places, New Experiences

you know, this scenery ain’t half bad for a run… copacabana beach at night (photo courtesy luizfilipe on flickr)

Apart from my favela adventures, I’ve been trying my hand at some other new things here in Rio as well.  Running along the beach for one, right after sunset, when it isn’t too hot and the night lights provide a pretty distraction from the obvious–that I’m doing something that I hate (okay, it’s a love-hate relationship with running).  I run by kids having soccer practice on the beach (a soccer practice setting that certainly beats the Wellesley Recreational Center’s fields…), and lots of older, presumably less fit Brazilians run by me.  Ha.  But if I had an ipod, with songs that I could rock out to, the experience would be much improved.  Unfortunately I got that jacked from me the second day I was in South America.  In fact, getting robbed at gunpoint was another new experience.  Add that to the list.

yea... i can't do that.

I also tried a lil’ something called capoeira, an Afro-Brazilian form of martial arts that incorporates music and dance.  To get a sense of what it’s like, watch this.  I went to a class with my friend Matt, who also decided to up and move from Buenos Aires to Rio de Janeiro.  It was pretty much a lot of guys with ridiculously sculpted bodies (capoeira is a great workout) who had already been doing capoeira for a while, and me, being taught the basics, which means doing a lot of squats and kicks over a chair (my opponent).  I have to admit, it wasn’t really my thing.  Wrestling around with sweaty guys with cut bodies might seem like a ball… but not when they’re trying to fight you by doing all sorts of crazy flips and aiming fast-flying kicks at your head.  I think it’s definitely more a guy thing to enjoy play fighting… but hey, maybe it’s just not a me thing.  One thing I did love about the class, though, was the community feel of it.  During the capoeira roda, the group gathers in a circle and sings and chants African-inspired songs while group members take turns and spar with each other.  The tempo of the music is set by a string instrument called the Berimbau.  You can get a sense of what capoeira music is like here.  And since I love all things associated with African music, this was my jam.  While in the circle, group members encourage each other to get in the circle to fight, and at the end, the master, a sort of wise yogi leader figure, says some inspirational, feel-good things and everyone claps for the time we’ve had together.  Definitely was a very cool experience, and I’m glad I went.

BO-TA-FOGO! The crowd goes crazy with flares and flags.

Another one of the more unique experiences of my time in Rio so far has been attending a football game (that’s soccer to you American chumps) at Maracana stadium, one of the biggest stadiums in the world.  My god do Brazilians love their football teams.  The game I went to also happened to be the state championship finals, between two of the city’s most beloved teams, Botafogo and Flamengo.  They’re both neighborhoods in Rio of about the same size, but for some reason, Flamengo probably claims 60% of all the football fans in Rio–and there are four major teams.  So of course I have to root for the underdog.  I went with a few Brazilian friends who were die-hard Botafogo fans (though casual football fans here are a bit of an oxymoron), and stood in the stands with tens of thousands of other very-emotionally-invested Botafogo fans.  I saw grown men cry, I heard little girls yell long strings of profanities, I watched as fans held their breath and gripped their faces in fear/hope/prayer/crazed football fandom as they watched the outcome of a penalty kick, and had beer (which must have been snuck in, because they don’t sell alcohol in the stadium) poured all over me.  Not intentionally, but when the guy next to you suddenly has to get rid of what’s in his hands in order to jump up and hug everyone around him, it’s what happens.  Anyway, Botafogo won–because it was the better of the two teams, of course. : )  After the game, everyone flooded out of the stadium and made their way to the Botafogo clubhouse, where a big street party raged until late into the morning.  Unfortunately my digital camera decided to die on me towards the end of my trip through Brazil, and has yet to be revived, but check out the video my friend took of the stands after the big victory: [sorry! wah wah… video to come asap…]

Finally, I caved and started doing what I told myself I would never do: teach English.  I had tutored a lot in college, and quite frankly, I didn’t really enjoy it all that much.  But there’s a big difference between inner-city kids who can’t read and don’t care at all if they eventually learn to read at a third-grade level, and grown Brazilians that are trying to learn English because they need to for their jobs.  And even more frankly, teaching English pays, and there ain’t a whole lot else gringos like me who don’t speak fluent Portuguese can do to make that green.  So I started a class this past week, and it’s actually going pretty well.  Ha, don’t know how much I’m actually teaching him, and the guy could not for the life of him understand the difference between “to sleep” and “to sleep in” but…. baby steps.

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2 thoughts on “New Places, New Experiences

  1. what an ambience in that football stadium! well am not that surprised 🙂 they are going to go wild for the world cup… and that pics of Copacabana is fab.

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