Letter to the Editor, by Maria Creamer
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Curving golden beaches, an electric nightlife and tickets to the Maracanã Stadium during the World Cup has sparked envy amongst my footballer friends, college roommates and Instagram followers. Needless to say, I’m in the right place at the right time.
Scrolling down various newsfeeds, headlines of furious protests and violent clashes against the police stirred initial concerns before arriving to Rio. Other than a couple of posters and spray painted walls saying “FIFA Go Home”, the opposition has either dwindled or has not been very visible.
I had expected Rio to be beautiful, but the postcards and videos with Christ the Redeemer looming over the lush city does not give it justice. At night, the lights from the favela sparkle around the bohemian, easy-going city, it is a sight to see.
I didn’t expect the rancid smells that hang around the airport (GIG) and canals. Apparently Rio has a lot of work regarding their sewage system.
Having a lengthy ‘To Do List’ and a very basic command of Portuguese, navigating the streets of Rio during the World Cup is an adventure. The mosaic-patterned sidewalks of Leblon, Ipanema and Copacabana are dotted with the colors and languages of countries from across the world.
Chileans chant ‘Chi Chi, Le Le, Viva Chile!’ alongside rippling German flags and yellow No. 10 Neymar Jr jerseys selling like hot cakes. The fusion between nations has been a friendly, other than a couple of brawls witnessed between Argentines and Bosnians at the Maracanã.
During game time, people flock around the kiosks serving caipirhinas and agua de coco with newly installed flat-screens to watch the sixty-four games.
At Posto 9, my friends and I watched the nail bitter game Brazil versus Chile on the beach. The men who rent out cadeiras (beach chairs) and bahacas (beach umbrellas) installed, admittedly a small flat screen, but were providing excellent service. They served freshly grilled meat, potent caipirinhas and a truly unique game watching experience.
A highlight of my World Cup activities was the inauguration of FIFA Fan Fest, Brazil versus Croatia. My alarm went off at 6:30 AM, I slathered on sunscreen and headed towards Copacabana beach.
My cousin and I found a line of passed out Argentines, and a still totally belligerent Chilean. Like true Carioc’s, we pulled up cadeiras to the Fan Fest line, cracked open some beers and worked on our tans
While in line, a Brazilian woman dressed in typical Carnival fashion entertained us, showing off her heavily ornate headset and glittering bra-like top and skirt. Music vibrated from the Fan Fest speakers, playing official World Cup songs such as “We are one (Ole Ola) and Shakira’s hit song “La La La” while caipirhinas, beer and water were being sold by entrepreneurial salesman.
Being inside Fan Fest is like teleporting to the game. The energy is contagious as it spreads amongst the 20,000 hollering faces.
To dance off the layered calories, Lapa has become a favorite destination. The funky streets are bursting with foreigners and Brazilians alike. Like most streets, music floats from the clubs, but on Rua do Lavradio a glowing football hovers alongside flags strung across the street.
Now almost three weeks old, the Cup is growing with intensity as it nears the final match. I don’t have tickets, but I feel lucky to just be here.