When coming to Brazil in January, I knew that 2014 was going to be a year of change in this still developing country. After living here for a few months, my eyes have been opened to “growing pains” that Brazil has faced, and I feel fortunate to be able to live here and see this beautiful city through different eyes than the typical tourist coming to Rio for a week or two. I have enjoyed hearing the many different opinions about the hosting of two gigantic events in a short amount of time, and my classes were also cut a little short due to the cup. Professors technically are able to still hold classes up until June 27th, but all of mine have been done since last Tuesday. This is great for me, so I can enjoy the last few weeks exploring and revisiting my favorite sites, and the whole exam process was different here. There is not an exam week, so my exams and projects were a little bit more spread out. This was not the same for everyone, though, some students had three exams in one day and others had no exams at all.
There was one day in between my last exam and the start of the World Cup. Before the first game last Thursday I was curious about a few things: Would Brazilians be more excited when the games start? Would people still be protesting? What the atmosphere would be like?
People are definitely excited; there are Brazil flags and streamers lining the streets, loud chants at any hour of the day, and people from all over the world on the streets wearing their country’s jersey. Packer fans would fit in well right now because Brazil’s colors are also green and yellow, and when Brazil has a match, Rio shuts down. Offices close early, restaurants without TV’s close, and the streets have much less traffic. I visited the city of Salvador, which is in the northeast region of Brazil for a long weekend, and my flight was late returning, so I landed about 15 minutes before the Brazil match. I met some Australians that were staying at a hotel a block away from me, so we were all going to split a cab, but when we went outside there were no cabs. I asked the receptionist at the cabstand what was happening, and she explained that most drivers took off to watch the game. She was extremely grumpy that she had to keep working. We ended up taking the bus, which is pretty slow, but it was entertaining for me because everyone on the bus was from somewhere other than Rio, so I got to answer everyone’s questions. I met people from Canada, Australia and other parts of Brazil. I was half joking about coming back during the Olympics to have a temporary travel business. Most people in Brazil do not speak English, so it is quite challenging for American and English tourists at times.
Salvador: I travelled with my roommate, Carlos and I was able to go to the Germany Portugal World Cup match. The game was very intense, especially because most of my section was cheering for Portugal, who eventually lost 4-0. During the game I learned some new Portuguese profanity. I did not have a preference for either team, so the whole experience was entertaining to me. The city itself is a lot different than Rio because there is a lot of African influence, so I tried some new foods and saw some beautiful street art. One way that the city is similar to Rio is the extreme economic disparities. The estimated stadium cost was $260 million, but right outside of the stadium there are favelas, where thousands of residents live. There was an enormous amount of security around the stadium to ease concerns of spectators because Salvador is known to have a very high crime rate.
I am only in Brazil for about ten more days. These six months have flown by so quickly, and I have learned a lot. The classes themselves were not necessarily as hard as they are at Madison, but the semester still challenged me in different ways. My Portuguese was very basic when I arrived, so I had to learn the language quickly to effectively communicate with others, and also adapt to a different culture. I feel extremely grateful and thankful to everyone who made it possible for me to have this experience, and I look forward to enjoying my last days in South America.