Doug McLean World Tour 1999-2000
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Date: Thursday, January 27, 2000 11:06 AM
Subject: Jan. 6-8, 2000: Rio / Maracana and Mangueira

Current Date/location: Thursday, January 27, 2000. Florianopolis, Brazil.
Current Itinerary: Leaving tonight on 8pm bus to Rio...visiting friend Gabriela in Rio this weekend...then probably Minas Gerias and then Brazilia.

JOURNAL:

Jan 6, 2000 (Thur) -
Woke in hostel in Rio...breakfast...collected money for soccer/futball match...it all, I collected money from about 14 people...we were going to have a big group going to the games! Went with Kate/Australia and
Rafael/Brazil to buy tickets at Maracana Stadium. Now this sounds like an easy process...but there were lots of people around and it was very confusing...and secutity is always a concern when money is around...but Rafael thankfully is Brazillian and speaks the language, so we navigated the affair pretty easily and left with tickets! They were only 15 Reals apiece (less than $10 usd...quite a bargain to watch 2 games in Maracana Stadium, eh?).

Kate and I then wandered around downtown...went to an outdoor market...she bought skirts and stuff...I bought a new shirt, one of my few purchases on the trip...then headed for the beach!

We went to beach in Urca (under Pao de Azucar (Sugar Loaf) called Praia Vermiliah (spelling is probably horrible...but basically, Praia is beach and Vermiliah is Red so...Red Beach)...met lots of locals and had lots of fun...talked to lots of folks...met lots of kids and generally had a superb time...the only downside was that I stubbed my toe pretty darned bad on a rock...no kidding...hurt like heck...and I am one loath (sp?) to complain...but I have been a walking wound these past few days...oh, well...

Returned to Hostel...gave out tickets to everyone...the entire group was fired up, and we all left for stadium! Then, about 10 blocks away from the hostel...after we are on the bus...Kate realizes that she has left her ticket back at the hostel (aussies!) on her bed...now, I give her much shit about this...but the long and short of it is that she and I returned to hostel for the ticket. We told the others we would try to meet them at a certain place in the stadium (we were in a general admission area that seats roughly 80,000 people...I figured, no problem, eh??!!!). Anyway, we got the ticket and took the metro to stadium.

We started to get into the vibe of the event while on the metro...met a guy who had on the Vasco (Team from Rio) jersey, shorts, socks (no kidding) and had a gold necklace with the team emblem...super-fan, eh??? NO...we would later learn that this guy was barely fan compared to some of the fanatics who we would encounter!

OK...if you know nothing about soccer/futball, you must learn one thing...it is EVERYTHING here in Brazil. Literally, the entire country shuts down for big games (during the World Cup, the day of the final was a National Holiday...companies closed, and the entire nation watched the game...seriously!). ...all that said, Maracana Stadium is the temple/church/center of it all in Brazil. Maracana is world-famous, and so
are the fans. It was truly an electric feeling walking up to Maracana...fans were intense...everyone was yelling VASCO!!!

Before entering, we decided we were hungry...so we stopped for a hotdog from a street vendor. What we got was like nothing I have ever seen! I got the most collosal hotdog I have ever eaten! It started with a bun and a hot dog...but then, the lady added the raisins, potatoes, corn, peas, mayonaise, catsup, you name it, it was on the hotdog! (I would later learn that this is very common for hotdogs in Brazil.) It tasted great!

We went into the stadium...the first game (Nexaca Mexico versus Manchester United) had started and the place was only half full, but it was going nuts!  The crowd was firmly in Mexico´s favor, and cheered like it was a home game for them. Kate and I looked for the group, but unable to find them we went and found a place along the front railing to watch the game. We ended up next to 3 other Australian guys, some Americans, and ofcourse an ocean of Brazillians to watch the games.

It is pretty obvious to anyone that Maracana Stadium is built for one purpose...soccer! ...and knowing the intensity of the fans, I was amazed to notice the secutity measures that had been built into the stadium. There are in essence, 2 moats between the fans and the field. Immediately below our location on the front railing was an immediate dropoff of about 15-20 feet down...and about 15 feet across! Then, there is a concrete perimeter around the field where the police are setup...and then another moat with a severe dropoff and 15 foot span across before you actually reach the playing field...an amazing place, really! ...and looking around me I realized the necessity for this design...the crowd was going nuts...and that was only for a game where Manchester United tied Mexico Nexaca 1-1...the real action started when Vasco De Gama hit the field.

Vasco de Gama is a Rio club and their fans were there in force...by the time they appeared on the field, the fans were going beserk! Probably the most amazing sporting event (does not include running of the bulls in Pamplona, Spain) that I have ever attended! The fans were jumping up and down in the stands, yelling, waving huge flags, setting off fireworks and flares...it was truly nuts. We were around a good group of folks...and we all cheered for Australia in a good natured way...but the fans around us were intense about their loyalty to VASCO!!! The lady infront of me wore a Vasco team jersey (number 10...Edumundo!...which she was proud to show me was signed by him). We talked smack with the Brazillians all night...but, needless to say, all the fans went to a new level of craziness when Vasco scored! People were jumping around and hugging and kissing eachother...and kissing their team jerseys (really.) in allegiance to the team. Vasco scored twice (second goal by Edumundo, much to the delight of the lady infront of me!) and the final score was 2-0...Vasco! We were probably pretty happy that Vasco had won...if Australia had won, we probably would have been killed. It had been a truly spectacular event...one that I will never forget...if you ever go to Rio, you owe it to yourself to go to a game at MARACANA!

Kate and I ran out of the stadium with 2 minutes left in the game...just infront of the wave people exiting the stadium. When we hit the ramp out of the stadium, it was empty...within 30 seconds, it was full of running fans and we were swept along with the wave of people!

We took a bus back to hostel area...we sat in an outdoor restaurant and had chicken in the big patio area with lots of people. We seemed to be directly below the Corcovado (Christ the Redeemer Statue)...it was very serene...after the craziness of the soccer game it was nice to be sitting,
relaxing with Christ the Redeemer watching over us...wow...Rio is wonderful!

Back to the hostel...Kate crashed...I got a coke and enjoyed about an hour of quiet time on the terrace infront of the hostel, just looking up at the stars and reflecting on the world...I was in one of those tranquil moods and enjoyed the time...I also noticed that my stubbed toe was now incredibly black and blue like I had hit it with a hammer...I hope it isn't broken...oh well...goodnight.
 

Jan 7, 2000 (Fri):
Woke...breakfast... then hit the town, looking for money. I had heard that my ATM card (which doesn´t work in any ATM in Brazil) might work in Citibank´s machines. So, I found Citibank in Copacabana and was able to get cash from my cash card!!! This was a major victory...so, for all of you American Airlines Employees with AAEFCU ATM Cards, know that your cards only work in Citibank machines here in Brazil...so either bring enough cash to change...or be prepared to searchout a Citibank.

Now, happily laden with money (you can bet I got as much cash as my daily maximum would allow...these darned Citibanks are hard to find!) I found an internet place and spent several hours trying to catchup. NOTE: I have found it harder to discipline myself to write here in South America...maybe
there is not as much access as I had found in Europe...or I have been lax...or preoccupied with lots of people to see and many things to do...but whatever the reason, I was happy to use the internet and to try to catchup on my journals...these things actually do take some time to write, and are portant to me personally...as important as the pictures I take...maybe more so...pictures are merely a reflection of the person´s image...writings
are reflections of the soul.

After the internet, I decided to go to the hospital. NO, my recent injuries were not bad enough to warrant a trip, but rather, I am in need of my 6 month booster shots for Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B. Now, I am here to tell ya´ll that a trip to a Brazillian hospital is not a walk in the park, and I am hoping to stay healthy while I am here and avoid other visits. I arrived, asked one of the security guards about seeing a doctor to enquire about my booster shots...I was escorted up into what seemed to be a semi-emergency room (no gunshot wounds, but lots of saw lots of folks in various states of disrepair to be sure). I felt quite bad as I was introduced to the 3 doctors on duty and the entire staff stopped everything to try to help me...I felt somewhat strange...I certainly deserved less attention than the 8 people were trying to provide me...their time would certainly be better spent with the really sick patients...but since I was a foreigner, my needs seemed to these folks to be somewhat more important...go figure. Anyway, I finally found an English speaking doctor who said that the Hep A booster shot was not given in Brazil...and he gave me a
prescription for a Hep B booster shot which I could go buy at a pharmacy and give to myself!!!

I returned to the hostel and met up with a big group of folks going to a local club called The Ballroom (Hard for me to remember names...Catia/Sao Paulo, Aaron/Australia, Karen/Finland, Kate/Australia...and many others.). We had thought it would be Brazillian music, but the band played all American music...what can you do??? We danced most of the night until 4am...had another huge hot dog from a street vendor and collapsed into bed.
 

Jan 8, 2000 (Sat):
Absolutely lazy day...didn't leave hostel until 4 or 5pm...spent most of the day in the hostel talking with various folks and lounging about. I met a lovely girl from Limeria, Brazil named Iara...she was interested in studying oceanography and was in Rio to take an exam with the University...this time of year is when many tests are taken to gain admission to Universities. The system here is much different than in the USA...they take a different Exam for each University...not like in the USA where we take a single exam (the SAT - Scholastic Aptitude Test) and the scores are accepted as valid by all Universities in the country. Another major difference here is that the Public Universities are free for all students...the downside is that there are only spots for about 10 percent of the applicants...so it is very
competitive to get accepted into a University. I wished Iara well and good luck on the test that she would be taking tomorrow morning. She is the type of person who you really want the best for...I hope she will pass and be able to follow her dreams.

Finally felt the push of motivation around 5pm when I went to Ipanema and enjoyed the beach with (Aaron/Australia, Bryan/North Carolina, and Karen/Norway)...we didn´t do much...but had a great time doing it! It was a nice evening...watched the sunset over the Atlantic...ahhhhhh...

We returned to the hostel so we could go with a group of folks to an Escola do Samba!!! Just like I had coordinated the trip to Maracana Stadium, another girl (Catia/Sao Paulo) had organized a group of 10 of us to go to a Samba School. Now, I must explain...these Samba Schools are not for you to learn how to dance...it is where the Samba bandas play and the crowd dances and responds to the music...but it has much less to do with learning how to dance, than actually just feeling the music and dancing accordingly...

Escola do Samba-Mangueira:
Took taxi because it was bad part of town...arrived...paid 10 reals each for entrance (about $6usd)...and entered the madness that is SAMBA!!! I can't even describe it...and, again, calling it a school is somewhat
misleading...just envision a big hall with balconies above (much like a big gymnasium)...the band (correction...) the BATTERIA was playing in the center balcony above the dancing area...and the dancing had just begun when we arrived...we all went in circles dancing more or less to the beat (the
Brazillians more...the Gringos less) and tried to learn some of the Mangueira specific moves and ceremony...we were all exhausted within 10 minutes of entering at midnight.

The place seemed to exude energy that was being supplied by the aptly named Batteria (the samba band that almost entirely consists of drums of various sizes). I love the name Batteria...to me it has many connotations, all of which are correct: 1. Battery like a Duracell...and certainly this drum Batteria was providing lots of energy! Tangible, palpable, electric currents of energy that was charging everyone in the room into a dancing
frenzy 2. Battery like artillery...and these drums were pounding out the sounds and the beats. 3. Battery as in assault...the sounds and force of the drums truly was an assault on the senses...it was incredible!!!!

...I am telling you, it was the mose intense musical experience I have ever attended (and I have attended everything from James Taylor to Metallica to Nine Inch Nails/Marilyn Manson), and nothing else compares to this type of Samba School Batteria!!! It was spectacular! There were people dancing
samba and also dancing some of the styles of Manguiera which was almost a spiritual thing...the way people were dancing and the way the moves were orchestrated you could tell that it was touching a deeper part of these people´s soulds and psyche than merely just a dance...it was touching a part
of their lives and wellbeing that I was honored to witness, but don´t thing I will ever be able to fully appreciate. Brazillians love their music and dancing above most things in life...it may be because many are poor...and have gotten to a point in life where they merely accept their station in life as unchangeable, so they focus on the enjoyable things which include the beach, music and dancing.

...and then we saw her...the Queen of the Samba! She was an absolutely beautiful black girl all dressed in white who was dancing...NO, LEADING...the crowd in Samba. She danced on the balcony above the crowd, infront of the band and was stunning to watch. We were told that she had won the contest to lead the Mangueira Escola do Samba in the upcoming Carnival Parade...she is probably one of the top 10 Samba dancers in all of Brazil and she is dancing like none of us have everseen! All of us (men and women...no kidding) stood there like zombies with our mouths hanging open in awe of watching this amazing girl dance the fastest, most intricate, dazzling Samba we have ever witnessed...we were all stunned. We all danced the night and were swept up in the moment...it was like nothing I have ever been to before...one of the true essences of Rio...the Corcovado and Pao de Azucar get more tourists...but the I think that we got more of an experience from the Escola do Samba Manguiera than we had imagined.

Outside the Escola, while waiting for the taxis to arrive, we were surrounded by curious children who where wanting to talk with us and get to know us. It was another touching moment...these are the children of the favelas that are so close to the Escola...some of the poorest children in the world...and they were not begging for things from us...but rather, merely wanting to touch us (literally) and hear us talk. We sat and talked with them (probably 15 of them) for about half an hour...and were sad to leave when our taxis arrived.

We arrived back at the hostel around 5:30am...just intime to see Iara
leaving to go take her University Exam...while we had all been out partying at the Escola do Samba, she had been resting up for one of the most important exams/days of her life. We hugged her and wished her the best of luck...kinda brings things back into reality...I enjoyed the Samba School...but here Iara was, going off to make or break her future.

There certainly is a balance that must be reached in life...one cannot always be concerned with the long term, because you will miss out on many things in the short-term. And to only be short-term focused will only result in a disappointing Long Term...

Watching Iara walk down the street that early morning made me pause to think before I headed into the hostel...

Doug McLean
Texas Nomad