Eu Tive um Bom Carnaval! (I had a good Carnaval)

Carnival 2014 has come and gone.  It was unlike anything I have ever seen, and it seems like the whole city was on vacation to help celebrate and join the festivities; even banks and stores were closed, so thankfully my host mom told me to go to the ATM before it started.  I was lucky to have only one class the entire week, so I had the opportunity to attend many blocos (street parties), the Sambódromo competition, and some beach festivities.  Also, this week, my twin brother was on his spring break, which coincided well with my schedule because we had a lot of time to hang out and experience carnaval and some natural beauties of Rio.  I was able to take a lot of amazing photos at the Samba competition, but not at the blocos.  Residents of Rio explained that during carnaval that there are a lot of robberies of cameras and phones, so I did not want to take the risk.  To try to illustrate one bloco with words, at the Simpatia é Quase Amor bloco at Ipanema Beach, there were an estimated 150,000 attendees, many in costumes, dancing and having a good time for an entire afternoon!

Another major aspect of carnaval in Rio is the competition of the numerous samba schools.  Each school parades for about 75 minutes with floats, dances and a band, and there are judges located at several different parts of the venue.  I attended the parade one night, and the show lived up to its slogan, which was, “O maior show da terra,” (The best show on earth).  The floats had an incredible amount of detail and the costumes and dances were also fascinating.  Unsurprisingly, the schools spend several months preparing for the parade.  Each night, six schools perform, so the show did not end until 6:00AM, but I left at around 4 because I was exhausted.  The parade was located at the Sambódromo, which is a 700-meter long venue with bleachers on both sides, so the venue was built exclusively for parades.  One not-so-positive thing that I noticed while at the parade is the stark inequality between locations literally right next to each other.  The venue is very nice, but right outside there are many favelas (slums).  I read online that many favela residents are involved in the samba schools and parade, however.

Besides Carnaval, I was able to spend a lot of time with my brother and other friends exploring different parts of Rio.  I went to my first soccer game at Maracanã, which is the location of the 2014 World Cup final match.  I went to a match of one of the local teams, Flamengo, whose colors similar to Wisconsin’s, so I just wore one of my many Wisconsin shirts.  Also, some of the cheers were similar to Camp Randall, but the wave is still better at Badger games!  The game was a lot of fun, so I will definitely attend as many as I can while here.

Furthermore, I also hiked up Morro da Urca and the Corcovado trails with my brother, and they were pretty steep trails, but worth the struggle when we got to the top.  The views were amazing, and I even saw a monkey eating some cheese bread that it found on the ground on the top of Urca.

Finally, this past Friday, I went to one of the Chabad centers in Rio for Shabbat, and that was nice because in Madison I went to Hillel for Shabbat fairly often.  They were very welcoming to me, so I want to return in the future, especially to their Purim part next week.  The melodies for the prayers were completely different than the ones that I am used to, and the sermon was in Portuguese, so I did not understand everything, but it was a good experience, and something new.

Escadas do Lapa (Lapa Steps) Float futebol My brother and I at the Sambadrome Pinocchio Float Sambadrome VenueMaracan Stadium