In mid June, I went to Brazil will a merry band of friends. Though some of us had tickets and others did not we disembarked close to each other. One group destine for Cuiaba and the other Rio. I went to Cuiaba.
The funny thing about travel is that it makes too much sense to have direct flights to important (at least to you) places and our trip to Brazil was no different. We left Caracas after the usual Venezuelan wait of several hours in various lines after a longer than should be drive. We tried to make the most of the hours in line, but you can only stand or sit in a study hall sized area for so long before your mind is over it.
We had a red eye which was interesting in the fact I had a) never taken one before and b) still dislike flying. I figured that I should take my usual Xanax prescription and add an additional adult beverage to ease the nerves.
Our flight was nothing out of the ordinary. The other clientele in the plane were either fans doing the same thing we were doing or native Venezuelans lucky enough to escape the dice game of their country for a while. I remember having the weirdest dreams and the worst kinks in my neck. I didn't have one of those dork mandated neck rolls that many people had. I, for one, think neck rolls should be given to middle linebackers or undersized defensive lineman in the late 80's and early 90's- that's all.
Upon arrival to circus de Sao Polo, a huge three story mall of an airport (maybe it was two) we rechecked luggage in (not Morris or I we are on bag travelers; Brittany and Maya...well you know) and got some cash from one of the 10 different ATM machines (a potpourri of language based ATMS at that) we headed up for Starbucks...yep a real life 1st world coffee joint. Jackpot. We'd been talking about it since our line wait in CCS so to achieve caffeinated Americana was wonderful.
We left Seattle's favorite and marched over to another line, then security, and finally to the wing where our northbound flight was departing from. While we were hanging out in the terminal, we ran into Diana our Brazilian friend headed to her home for the summer and some World Cup action. We chatted it up and then parted ways.
The flight from Sao Paolo to Cuiaba was cake. Maya, Morris and I were at the front of the plane- most leg room ever. Brittany was stationed several rows back with some locals. I finished Paulo Coelho's The Alchemist (note: Morris was write, it was a bad ass novel. If you haven't read it do it. Go here and buy it for $2) on the ride and took a nice nap.
Once we hit wheels down in Cuiaba we walked down the steps, across the tarmac and into the terminal (I love those walks). We waited for the luggage and went up for a cab. Naturally, we didn't follow Diana's advice and paid for a cab after the ride instead of before. Which not only left us lighter in the pocket, but also a few blocks away from our apartment (dude couldn't find it). After some Sportugueuse convos lead by Morris and Brittany we found our place. It was sandwiched between a doctor's office and a gas station (no street signs or numbers- I mean why would you?).
The place was solid. Basically it was walk in kitchen, to the left bathroom, to the ride bedroom with a big bed (girl city) and bunk bed (dudesville). Priority one was AC and it was cranked throughout. The odd thing about this place was that there was no shower, rather just to the left of the toilet attached to the wall was the shower head. You literally just turned the water on and flipped an electric switch to make it warmer (electricity and water DO mix). Everything in the bathroom would get soaked and i would get yelled at for not squeegee-ing to approved standards. There was however a grocery store close so that saved us a bunch.
Our first night there was awesome. We went down to the fan fest for the US v. Ghana game sporting our USA jersey's and Morris wearing our Iowa flag. Oddly enough, there was a bunch of US people there. Say twenty. And of those twenty were a good number of Coloradicals (you know: tank tops, flip flops, organic body odor, greasy hair, beers, weird smelling cigarettes...natures people) and they had been holed up in Brazil since the first game of the WC. I'm not going to say what I think their jobs were, but I feel many were self employed botanists. Super nice people (not judging, attempting at humor). We also met Tom. Tom was a solid bloke from Yale (yep, that school). Not only was he soccer fan and super nice guy, but also spoke Portuguese and didn't have any travel friends (his friends bailed on him, but he was there anyway). We befriended Tom after the US game. He had I had deep talks before the match regarding our midfield play and if we could get enough strikes to pressure Ghana.
And wouldn't know you know it, Clinton Drew "Clint" Dempsey sent one into the back of the net within the first minute. All of us US people lost it. High fives were given shot in all directions and beers were spilled. A few people even took off running around the outdoor venue. Our crew was into the match the whole time. It was wild. After Ghana tied it, things looked Grim but our pride stood firm and minutes later when John Brooks put the US up to stay. It was pandemonium. People were going nuts, screaming and yelling. We all stuck around after the game exchanged contact information and while team Colorado went out, we went to sleep. The previous days travel was a lot.
The next day was just spent relaxing and preparing for the big match. We had tickets to Russia v. South Korea that night. It was naturally hot, but we maintained proper body temperature with copious amounts of barely and hops. During our time in Venezuela, Morris and I had an idea to see how many pictures we could get with our Iowa flag and other countries flags (the answer was 30-ish, I don't know how many exactly as my phone was stolen [spoiler alert]. Outside the stadium we were racking up flags. Adding to our previous nights booty (pirate talk for looting). Near game time we started making our way to the screening line when we found out we were on the wrong side. So we had to walk all the way around through a maze of people and stopped into a bar to catch the last 5 mins of another game. Finally, we go in the right line, through security and into the giant concrete structure that will later become a huge rodeo venue (supposedly). Walking into the stadium and seeing people of all shapes, sizes, and colors was awe inspiring.
The Russians (for the most part) were exactly like you'd expect. Cold, stand-offish and brutal both on the pitch and in the stands. They weren't there to socialize, they had other things on their mine (and I don't mean Crimea). The South Korean cohort was lively and passionate. They were chanting in mass from a huge section on the second deck. Wave flags and dressed in the white, blue, and red of their flag they carried their team to a 1-1 draw with the Russians. It was well executed, crisp football (soccer). After the match we went down to the square were people gathered on the weekends and after the matches. It was awesome.
People from literally all over the world were there. Within in five minutes we met people from India, Korea, Canada (not impressive, I know), Ireland, England, and Australia. Oddly enough, some of those stereotypes are true. The latter there were shit-faced upon us arriving, yet they were totally in control. It was a lot of fun. Pretty struck up a conversation with a guy who had his truck parked next to the square and he gave us free beer. So, needless, to say he was cool in our book. The rest of the evening was just meeting to new people, talking soccer, and hearing just how crazy peoples trips were.
An Indian-Brit I spoke with said he was working elsewhere in South American and took a ferry boat down to Brazil and then used various methods to get to Cuiaba. He explained just how unsanitary, buggy, and monotonous the trip down river was.
The more people I spoke with, it became more evident that people from Europe and elsewhere are far more well traveled then most of us Yanks (maybe just the ones I know) so their perspective of the world is much different. The cool thing was that we were all there for the World Cup and that was a great way to strike up conversations and really meet people from literally everywhere. We stayed until close and the hopped a cab back. The next day was just spent hanging out and returning to the Fan Fest for more matches. We hunkered down in the city for a week and took in one more game, but nothing significant really happened.
The ladies went to a nature trial/hike deal one day, and Morris played hoops with some Korean kids while I just hung out, watched matches, and relaxed.
Cuiaba (the exact center of South America!) was one of the smaller and surprising host city's of the World Cup. Apparently, the match before when all the Aussies were there it was an insane party, but with each game the various peoples come and go with their team. We had tickets for the venue due to lack of availability and to save money, but it was fun regardless. Our second and final game, was Bosnia vs. Nigeria. It was a rather boring match that had the Brazilian fans up in arms for the amount of flopping, injury time, and lack of quality play. After that match we had a few beverages, and went home to crash. We had to fly out to Rio soon after for several days of soccer tourism there and most of us were zapped from the heat.
We bid Tom adieu and grabbed a cab for the airport.
Rio was next.
Things About the World Cup in Cuiaba That May Only Interest MeThe lack of completion in this article was true.
The light rail from the airport to downtown or wherever in the hell it was supposed to go was only like maybe 75 feet long. So....where did the money go?
If you don't read anything else in this god forsaken blog besides my captions look at this. Why Your World Cup City Sucks: Cuiaba.
The city reminded me a lot of those Midwestern towns that used to have sound factories and have then seen them move out. It had that industrial has been feel.
The Fan Fest venue was big and well staffed...but no one was really there. I was told that when Brazil played it was a big deal, but it never was really packed when we were there.
Outside of the matches, the square, and a few bars to watch the game Cuiaba was boring... and hot as piss.
We asked some Ruskies to take a picture with their flag (both national and state) and were asked, "Are you American?" Yes, Morris replied. "Then no." Uh...who won in Rocky IV and in the Cold War... WE DID... show some respect. Oddly enough some dude we met from Crimea was really cool and talkative. They took pictures with Ivan, get over it.
Colombians are generally loved, and they had some sweet jeeps. A huge group of them drove down in various jeeps packed with stuff. A few were selling a lot of hippie-ware, I bought a bracelet from a dude that chatted me up about Colombian midfield play.
Drunk, red haired Irishmen are funny as hell. Fact.
Bosnians just looked angry when drunk, they were happy to be there, but just had the look of anger once the alcohol entered their system.
Onto the pictures
|Tall buildings= apartments; Flat, huge building= soccer stadium.|
|Tricky, tricky, but that's not the real one. Also, the dirt in the middle was supposed to be train tracks....|
|Morris, Day 1 ready to spread the Iowa Way across the nations.|
|Fan Fest Cuiaba|
|Family picture. Me, Morris, Fuleco the Armadillo, Brittany, Maya|
|Brazil, South Korea, and IOWA|
|After a US goal. Look close and see the guy going crazy.|
|This Russian promised us better seats and lied. He had to be ex-KGB, but at least he took a picture with us.|
|No wonder people hate Americans. I bet can't guess who is from Colorado.|
|These dudes were solid.|
|Walking into Fan Fest.|
|Russians from Crimea.|
|Ahhhhh, South Korean devil children!|
|The Russian Army. Brute drunken vodka forces unite!|
|No one knew we'd play each other, (Belgium) but this guy was nice.|
|Drunkest Russian we met, but he had been to Ames, Iowa. What the...?|
|View from our seats. Russia v. South Korea|
|The South Korea fan section|
|South Korea corner.|
|Morris, Welsh guys, me, and Tom. Yep, the Welsh have a red dragon on their flag.|
|You from Canada eh? You like Labatt eh?|
|Tom, a pirate, me, and Brian Urlacher!!!!!!!|
|South Americans against Brazil unite! Argentines, Colombians, and a dude in a Germany jersey (besides me).|
|Iowa and Nigeria. Germany played that day and I'm part German, hence the jersey. These dudes were Nigerian living in the US. Cosmopolites.|
|This dude had to be in a Bolivian screamo band. Had to.|
|Nigeria v. Bosnia and Herzegovina|
|Our seats for Nigeria v. Bosnia. FIFA made the Brits in front of us with the flag take it down.|
|Ah za Swvedish!|
|Bosnia and Herzegovina|
|India and Canada.|
Sorry I've been slacking, but I'll explain later.
Have a great Sunday. Make it count.
Until Next Time,