A Travellerspoint blog

Thanks for the adventure, Rio 2016!

We slept in a little, laughed at Kyle's face abrasions he has from scrubbing off his USA face tattoos, and ate a real breakfast before we leisurely made our way to fencing this morning. On our way to the subway station, we noticed new Olympic signs pointing you toward the subway station had appeared. A few days late but better late than never. Alyssa and I had to buy one day Rio Passes for Olympic public transportation. Of course, you cannot buy the Rio Pass at every public transportation station even though the Rio Pass is valid on every form of public transportation except ferries. After all, it is Rio. We figured the Rio Pass out and had no transportation mishaps the whole day. Mastering the Rio public transit system took a little entertainment out of our day.

First on the Olympic sampler today was fencing which was very entertaining. What made fencing even more amazing was the three random food trucks outside of the arena. They served real food not the "rubbish" as the Kuwaiti guy behind us in line for the food truck said. After the fencing match (game? Competition? Dual? Not sure of the correct terminology), we rushed to the food truck line and were the last ones served before the Olympic volunteers shooed us out of the arena. Well, Kyle almost didn't get any real food. He had to explain that his three friends had just ordered before the food truck got shut down. Discovering the food trucks was like finding manna falling from heaven.


We had five hours in between fencing and basketball. We went to the ticket booth and listed every possible sport under the sun to see if there were tickets available. Swimming, diving, tennis, and handball were allegedly sold out. In all events we have been to, the stadiums have been about 70% full, maybe even less. In fact, there has been a lot of criticism toward Brazil's ticket sales in the news lately, and the Brazilian Olympic Committee has started huge advertising campaigns featuring Usain Bolt to encourage locals to fill the stadiums. I really doubt those events were all sold out, but the ticket seller insisted. Thus, we ended up at table tennis.


Ping pong is what you play for fun with friends. Table tennis is a serious sport. We watched Germany verse Belarus, and it was intense. The guy from Belarus sustained a chest injury which required the game to have a ten minute break so he could seek medical attention. Yes, an injury from table tennis. This was real life. Also, there is a break during the match so the competitors can change shirts since they work up such a sweat during the match.

Last on the agenda was basketball between Lithuania and Nigeria. Luckily, there was a food truck called "I Got the Balls" outside of the venue. The name was off-putting, but the food was better than the Olympic concession stands. We met Carl at basketball and watched Lithuania beat Nigeria. The basketball game had a DJ named DJ M.I.L. who was the one of two Olympic music directors at the various events we attended who did not play "Cheerleader" by OMI. Seriously, the Brazil Olympic Committee is obsessed with that song.


Today, we successfully made it on time to our events today, avoided transit mishaps, and ate real food for all three meals. In other words, it was a perfect way to end our Olympic experience. We attended nine events over four days, and despite the inefficiencies and confusion inherent to Rio, we had a great time. Erin and Kyle have a couple of more events on their Olympic sampler, but since Alyssa and I have mastered the transportation here, it is time for us to move on. We head to Argentina in the morning to conquer a new city.

Posted by lsto90 19:30 Comments (0)

Day 3 of the Olympic Sampler

Big news: we have mastered public transportation well enough to lead other confused Americans home. It's a huge feat for us, but let me start from the beginning of our Monday.

We left our apartment around 9 am expecting our journey to Barra Olympic Park to be as arduous as a trek up Mount Kilimanjaro. We took a subway and transferred on to the brand spanking new subway line 4. Subway line 4 opened on August 5 (the opening ceremony). You must be a ticket holder to use this line. Essentially, Brazil is using tourists as their Guinea pigs on this subway line. How economical.

We boarded line 4 and transferred to a direct bus to Barra Olympic Park. It only took us 1.5 hours to arrive this time! Success! We also noticed the vast differences between the local bus we accidentally ended up on last night and the nice tourist bus today. Mainly, on the local bus, there are creaky turnstiles to board the bus and locals who appear to be ladies of the night.

The fifth event on our Olympic sampler platter was judo. We wandered around the stadium trying to find our seats for a while, and we are pretty sure we got flagged as suspicious individuals. Later when I went to get popcorn, I got pulled over by a military police holding his automatic rifle, and I had to explain that I was just looking for the pipoca (popcorn). Judo gets rowdy, especially when Brazil's favorite Rafaela Silva is competing. Rafaela won her quarterfinal, and tonight, we saw on TV that she ended up winning gold. We also watched a couple of Americans who unfortunately did not advance to the semifinals.


We had four hours between judo and boxing, so we got some McDonald's ice cream because that is all that McDonald's, the official food sponsor of the Olympics, serves at the actual Olympics. Oh, you want some fries? Not available. A hamburger? Ha. You can only buy ice cream. Then, we had another less than delectable meal from the Olympic concession stands. We opted for the penne pasta today. It was slightly burned, but it was better than the "double cheeseburger." I kid you not. Double cheeseburger is in quotes on the packaging of the "double cheeseburger."

We sat by a gate that served not only as the dumpster disposal sight but also as the VIP entrance. We saw an Italian Olympic swimmer scream at her precious parents for 15 minutes. We have decided we need to be consultants at the 2020 Olympics. We have so many improvements for the Olympics. For instance, the giant outdoor space where the concession stands are and the fans wait in between events should have TVs showing what Olympic events are happening and some awnings to shade fans from the sun.

We headed to boxing two hours early since our averages transit time is 2 hours to anywhere in this city. Boxing was right next door to Barra Olympic Park at the Rio Centro Pavilions. From the official Olympic transit map, it looks like it is one stop on the bus. We walked to the BRT (Bus not-so-Rapid Transit) and couldn't figure out what bus went to the Riocentro stop. So we walked back over the temporary scaffolding walkways and chose a different unmarked direction. A. This temporary walkway scaffolding will definitely collapse before the Olympics are over. We are happy we are here at the beginning while it is still somewhat structurally sound. B. The walk to Rio Centro is next to a "scenic river." I am sure it looks picturesque on the NBC prime time coverage, but in real life, it smells like raw sewage. After about a 20 minute walk, we arrived at the pavilions and were impressed by our travel time. Then we stood in line for an hour to get into the venue. They have a dozen security tents, but they only had 3 open.

Before entering pavilion 6 which was not noted on the map by the entrance, Erin got trapped by an Olympic reporter and had to give an interview saying she was interested in the sport of weightlifting.



We finally arrived at the unmarked pavilion and ran into our friend Carl there. We watched Nico Hernandez (USA) beat Russia, along with many other boxing matches. Also, we have noted the Olympics has a playlist that includes "Jump Around" by House of Pain. It makes us nostalgic of our childhoods and Mrs. Doubtfire.

At both judo and boxing, we chanted USA USA USA when USA was competing and got booed. Not cool, other fans. We cheer for their teams and then get booed when we cheer our own... Even after taking pictures with you so you can post on Facebook with a caption that says "dumb Americans." As the War once said, "Why can't we be friends?" However, I will admit that Americans look the most obnoxious in their patriotic gear.


After boxing, we started our trek home. First Alyssa stopped to use the restroom that had a slightly opened window. Kyle threw a piece of cardboard into the window while Alyssa was in the restroom. Alyssa was convinced a squirrel dropped it on her. We let her believe that for about 5 hours before letting her know the truth.

The transit home is when we learned we had graduated from being the blind led by the blind to being the blind leading the blind. We met Hansel, a physical therapist from Florida who is volunteering at the Olympics, on a bus that had a pool of blood on it. This was not the result of a casual nose bleed. Instead, it looked like a scene from a Quentin Taratino movie. Hansel commiserated with us over the pool of blood. We informed him that last night on our local bus home, there was a girl who puked 3 times. The bus driver didn't even have any of that sawdust powder stuff that elementary school janitors throw on top of students' vomit. Kyle said he should have gotten a Hepatitis C vaccine with all the bodily fluids we have been around on public transportation. We then led Hansel safely back to Copacabana via public transportation. Proud moment.

Boxing was over early compared to our other nights, so we decided to go out for our second real meal of the trip. We ate at Balada Mix simply because they had a tv showing Olympic coverage. Manioc flour was a side dish served with our steaks. Manioc flour looks like sawdust, taste like garlicky cardboard, and would have definitely absorbed the fresh vomit on our bus last night.

Alyssa and I have one more day in Rio before we head to Argentina. We just hope we don't encounter anymore bodily fluids on public transportation.

Posted by lsto90 20:21 Archived in Brazil Comments (0)

Transportation Troubles

This morning, Alyssa and I woke up, ran some errands, and found an adorable coffee shop named Boulangerie Guerin to make up for our Starbucks visit earlier this week. Kyle and Erin slept in since our first event was not until 12:30 today. We brought Kyle and Erin flakey croissants that left a trail of crumbs through our apartment. Kyle said it well, "I just pulled a Hansel" referring to Hansel and Gretel and their crumb trail.

We left our apartment at 11:30 to get to the Deodoro Extreme Park for canoe slalom. As I mentioned before, Rio is huge, and we have no idea how long public transportation takes to get anywhere. We took a subway, and then we transferred to a train where we met two Americans. One was from California and worked as an "imagineer" for Disney, specifically on the new Star Wars attraction. We got to know the guys pretty well after a 2 hour train ride and fifteen minute walk to Deodoro. The imagineer must have taken some philosophy of Olympics seminar because he kept going on tangents about the Olympic schools of thought. We didn't know there were Olympic schools of thought. The Olympic transit map doesn't align with the maps in the stations or on the buses, subways, and trains; so we never have any idea where we are going and just hope the strangers we ask for directions are correct.

We finally arrived at the venue over an hour late. Deodoro is what I imagine Tijuana to look like. Luckily, the weather was great, and canoe slalom was very entertaining to watch; thus, the forever long transit process was worth it. At canoe slalom, we befriended an American girl from Philadelphia who recently graduated college. She has been here all summer teaching English and trumpet lessons in a favela. She said she didn't have much money since she was a recent graduate and thus had not planned on attending any Olympic events, but she received a free ticket for canoe slalom. I had two extra tickets to boxing so I gave them to her so she could experience more of the Olympics while here.


After canoe slalom, we started our trek to Barra Olympic Park. We took a train to a bus, and during the transfer, we met a nice volunteer who provided us the official Olympic spectator guides that tell you how to get to all the venues. Where was this lady yesterday? She should be standing outside the venues with the Jehovah Witnesses who are pushing free bibles and instead pass out the spectator guide. Seriously, this guide is fantastic. It provides a history and overview of all the sports, the schedules, and the transit routes. It's gold.

It only took us 1.5 hours to get to Barra which was a relief. We had time to roam the Olympic Park, get food (which they luckily had today), and make it to women's gymnastics on time. We watched the full Canada, Japan, and France teams and individuals from Mexico, Portugal, and Cuba participate in the qualifying rounds. USA was in the session before us and had the highest scores which they maintained through the lays qualification rounds. I had never seen a gymnastics meet before, but it is a lot to watch. Competitions on each apparatus (uneven bars, beam, floor, and vault) happen simultaneously, making it difficult to focus on all of them. At the Rio Olympic Arena where gymnastics is held, there are no soap or toilet paper dispensers in the bathrooms. They are all sitting on a pallet by the entrance waiting to be installed. Just another instance of Rio not being ready.



Figuring out our transportation home was quite a feat. We played a game of guess and check, and just prayed a bus would stop in Copacabana at some point. After two hours, it finally did. On the bus, Erin met a lady from New Zealand who knew our college professor. Small world. We're slowly figuring out the public transportation system. A few other things we have learned this week:
-Bring your own water bottle lids into the venues since you can't keep the lid on the water you purchase there.
-Brazilians treat their elderly nicely. There are preferential lines everywhere for elderly, pregnant and disabled people. The buses even have special seats reserved for the elderly.
-The sun goes down so early here. Obviously, this happens because it is winter down here, but it is hard to adjust coming from summer in Texas where the sun stays up until 8.

Now, we're off to bed to prepare for day 3 of the Olympics.

Posted by lsto90 20:13 Archived in Brazil Comments (0)

Ole, ole, ole, ole, Marta, Marta!

We have decided every day of this trip will include a minor kerfuffle. Today, we went to the Cosport (authorized ticket seller for USA and some other countries) ticket pick up which our Canadian friends from the Christ the Redeemer van said it was a nightmare of a process. They waited in line for 4 hours to pick up their tickets they had purchased online after the deadline for Cosport to mail the tickets to you. Yesterday, the Cosport pick up office randomly closed at 3 pm. Today, they said due to increased volume of customers, they changed their hours to be open for fewer hours. From that information alone, we knew this morning would be a kerfuffle.

We arrived at the Cosport office at 9 am, an hour before they officially opened. There were no signs anywhere. A man directed us through a parking garage, and we followed blindly. We then entered an outdoor patio where other disgruntled fans were gathered. The only signage to indicate you had arrived at the right place was hand written in sharpie on printer paper. We got in a random queue full of equally as confused fans as we were. At the front of the line was a Cosport employee with a tiny notebook who has hand writing down your customer ID number and order number. Then, nothing happened for 45 minutes. Pure and utter chaos. It was like church camp check in.

Finally, a Cosport employee emerged with a box lid of envelopes. She stood on a bench in the middle of the crowd and yelled a few names out. People who were on the same handwritten list as we were received their tickets. We did not. We waited some more. Another handwritten list was generated, and another employee served as a runner to retrieve the tickets from what we imagine was an unorganized storage closet. Ten minutes after running upstairs, a volunteer would return with fewer envelopes than names on the handwritten list. They would call or in some cases, whisper the names on the envelopes to the mêlée of people. This process repeated and did not improve until a man who looked somewhat authoritative appeared. He starred promising individuals he would bring their tickets down immediately which started more chaos. We befriended a mom and daughter from Nashville, an Olympic doping committee volunteer who had drug tested Ryan Lochte and Katie Ledecky this week, and British girl named Priya who insisted no Cosport employee had common sense or initiative in her adorable British accent. We agree, Priya.

Alas, Kyle started kindly harassing the Cosport employees, offering to be the ticket runner, asking when the tickets would come down, etc. After 1.5 hours, we received our 4 gymnastic tickets and immediately caught a cab to take us to the Barra Olympic Park.

Rio is a huge city. Barra is at one end of the city and where most of the Olympic venues are located. We took an hour long cab to Barra. Then we switched to a bus. The buses are surprisingly efficient since there are designated bus lanes. However, the public transportation stations are confusing. Signage is seriously lacking, and there aren't any Olympic volunteers in the stations. Luckily, the locals are so friendly here and have helped us find our way. Once the bus drops you off at the Olympic park, you have a good 10-15 minute walk in the incredibly hot Rio sun to the venue.

We finally arrived at the tennis center an hour late. We had center court tickets. The stadium was very nice, but we noticed a few things that could be featured on a "Is Rio Ready?" segment. First, the seats had numbers duct taped on them. Guess they ordered the wrong numbered seats. Secondly, the bathroom sink faucets were too short and did not reach over the sinks, so water was spewing all over the counters. Most importantly, the entire Olympic Park did not serve food. There were concession stands with full menus; however, the only things you could purchase were ice cream, beverages, chips, peanuts, and biscuits. Since there was no real food in the entire Olympic park, we settled for the mysterious Brazilian biscuits. These biscuits were ring shaped snacks that looked like pork rinds and tasted like air. That was all we ate until 7 pm. As my dad said, "I was worried about you getting Zika or mugged in Brazil, not starving." We also really appreciated the exposed wiring behind our seats that we could tether our American flag to. Was Rio ready today? Not quite.




The first tennis match (tênis in Portuguese) was female singles between Ana Ivanovic (Serbia) and Carla Suarez Navarro (Spain). Carla had a huge comeback after the first set and dominated the next two sets, winning the match. The second match was male singles between JW Tsonga (France) and Malek Jaziri (Tunisia). It was an awesome match, and Tsonga ended up winning. The MVP of the men's match goes out to the ball boy who kept missing Jaziri's signal for his towel. Fans started catching on to him missing the signal and started cheering for the boy when he did anything. He really should get the hustle award. He may not have had the best ball boy skills, but he had a lot of heart. Another fun moment of the match was when a fan started the wave, and it went around the stadium five times while the players got annoyed with us.


After the match, we headed to the Olympic Stadium for women's soccer. On our way out an NBC news anchor overheard us speaking English and asked us if we knew English. Yes, you just heard us speaking English... She asked where we were from and was thrilled we were Texans. She got even more excited when Alyssa and I said we were from Houston. It turns out she was Dominique Sasche from Houston's NBC affiliate KRPC 2. Dom (as I now call her) isn't a morning news anchor, so I have only seen her on the news commercials that interrupt the Today Show. Dom was just chit chatting with us and out of nowhere switched to her broadcasting voice. The camera turned on, and a microphone was placed in front of Alyssa. She proceeded to interview is and asked about our safety concerns in Rio. Alyssa said we felt very safe which is 100% true, but then Kyle mentioned yesterday's peaceful protest on Copacabana and how it still felt very safe and calm. That was Dom's cue to segue into her breaking news topic. She asked if we heard about the suspicious backpack that was detonated on Copacabana today. We don't have data plans here nor had we had wifi all day, so we all got that dumb look on our face like "what?"


We found wifi and had friends in Houston record the news. Alyssa made the cut for two seconds saying "we feel so safe" during the bomb story. Hilarious. It turns out the backpack was a homeless person's unattended baggage with no signs of explosives in it. Better safe than sorry though.

We then traversed Rio to the Olympic Stadium to watch women's soccer. First was South Africa against China. South Africa has an Aggie, Stephanie Malherbe, on the team, so we rooted for them. Unfortunately, China won 2-0. Second match started at 10 pm against Brazil and Sweden. We bought Brazil shirts to blend in with the locals. Alyssa's yellow shirt had a giant pi the of Christ the Redeemer on it, while Kyle, Erin and I opted for the Brazilian national soccer team jerseys. The majority of the stadium was filled with Brazil jersey wearing fans. They were so loud and excited. Brazil dominated Sweden 5-1. Marta Vieira da Silva scored two goals. The crowd burst into a chorus of "ole ole ole ole Marta! Marta!" which is now my new favorite tune.


While searching for the bathroom, Alyssa and I met the nicest Olympic volunteer from Virginia named Bre. Bre was surround by Brazilians asking her questions in Portuguse. When Alyssa and I finally asked her where the bathroom was in English, a wave of relief hit her, and she asked us to speak with her for a while. We chatted with Bre and learned she signed up to volunteer in 2014, completed an assessment, had an online interview, and then waited for her assignment. She was assigned to the Olympic Stadium for soccer and track and field. To be an Olympic volunteer, you must complete the aforementioned assessment and interview, commit to being at the Olympics for ten days, pay for your flight and lodging, and take an online Portuguese class. Originally, Brazil promised volunteers free housing, but that promise fell through when Brazil ran behind on construction. Every day, Bre volunteer she gets a gift and free meals. Also, public transportation is provided free to volunteers. Tokyo 2020 will be a few months after I turn 30 years old. I think volunteering for the Olympics will be a perfect 30 year old crisis. See you in Tokyo.

Other things we learned today, when you buy a bottled beverage in Brazil, they take the lids off and won't let you have them. Also, an American family we met went to London and Sochi and promised we would become addicted to the Olympics after this one. As I said above, see you in Tokyo.

Posted by lsto90 20:13 Archived in Brazil Comments (0)

Tourist Day in Rio

We started our day as any typical Americans would--with a trip to Starbucks, of course. To be fair, Starbucks is right around the corner from us, and we didn't see any other coffee shops. We overcame the language barrier to some extent and placed our coffee orders. We then took a cab to Praça do Lido. Bob from Blame It on Rio travel agency said the quickest way to Christ the Redeemer was by taking a van from Praça do Lido yet failed to provide any other details because we turned down his full day tour to Christ the Redeemer. Thankfully, Google helped me out, and I discovered the van Bob spoke of was not a random unmarked vehicle parked in the praça (Portuguese for square). Rather, there is a company called Paineiras Corcovado that runs efficient vans directly from Copacabana to Christ the Redeemer. Travel tip: buy tickets online to save yourself from a length queue (vocabulary word brought to you by our new Canadian friends). We bought our tickets online the night before for 68 reals each and bypassed the queue. Another pro tip: buy your ticket for the 8 am time slot. We waited for a few minutes to board our van with our new Canadian friends and German flight attendant friend who said Americans are always so friendly. The ride took around 30 minutes to get to the top of Corcovado mountain where Christ the Redeemer is. We walked up a few stairs and took shameless tourist pictures. When we arrived, it was already a little crowded, but we noticed it got more and more crowded with each photo we took. We took a picture with the A&M flag Erin brought, and like a true Aggie joke, we were holding it up backwards until our Canadian friends informed us to change it.


Once we took our pictures, we headed down, got on another van, and traveled directly back to Copacabana. On our way out, we noticed there was a huge line of cars trying to get to Christ the Redeemer. When we arrived around 8:40, we zoomed right up without any traffic. We also noticed about 10 cars marked as NBC. I later found out via Instagram that the NBC convoy held Shawn Johnson and Bela Karolyi. Had we stayed a few more minutes, we could have been on NBC. I also discovered via Instagram that Natalie Morales, Billy Bush, and the whole Access Hollywood crew ate at the same restaurant we ate at last night. Had we just wandered around the restaurant a little more, we could have met them. Missed opportunity, but at least, I know my restaurant choice was a super trendy one.

On the ride back down, Kyle befriended the van driver who only spoke Portuguese and had the opportunity to be DDDDDJJJJJJ KYLE. He surprised the driver by choosing a Portuguese song off of his phone to play. The driver loved it. After we got dropped off at Copacabana, we walked toward the Olympic rings set up on the beach for another photo op. Today, there was a large protest surrounding the rings with signs that said "Fora Temer" (out Temer (the interim president of Brazil)). We got our picture and then scampered off to Parqe Lage. Parqe Lage is a beautiful park in the middle of the city with a mansion that has a cafe overlooking the mountains. Google "things to do in Rio," and this gorgeous picture of the mansion shows up. We took a cab to the park and saw signs that said "Great Britain House." We got out of the car and discovered Great Britain rented the whole mansion, thus closing the cafe to tourists. We were annoyed and strolled around the park before heading back to Copocabana for lunch. Thanks a lot, Will and Kate, for closing a major tourist attraction.

We ate at a tiny lunch counter called Hiper Mate that, per our new dining guidelines, offered pão de queijo. After lunch, we went on a 4 hour bike tour with Rio by Bike. Our friend Carl from Houston joined us for the bike tour. The tour was 29 km around Rio. Rio is a huge city full of traffic and narrow bike lanes. There were times, we were worried about our survival, but we luckily made it alive. Thank goodness, we visited Christ this morning. We needed all the help we could get on the bike tour. On our tour, we met a family from Holland whose son Maarten Brzoskowski swims for the Netherlands.

Stefan, our Star Wars t shirt wearing tour guide from the Netherlands, did not provide too much insight into the history of the city, but we picked up a few items to note:
- John the Baptist Cemetery is where all the rich and famous are buried, including Aberto Santos-Dumas who was the first pilot to fly around the Eiffel Tower; however, everyone gives that credit to the Wright brothers.
-The government previously did not recognize the existence of the favelas (slums), but lately, they have started recognizing them (see Olympic opening ceremonies as evidence). The government stayed out of the favelas and let them rule themselves.
- 6% of Brazilians live in favelas. Those who live in favelas often work as teachers, construction workers, cab drivers, and even police. Due to anti-government sentiments, those who serve as police serve in areas far from their favelas so no one knows that they work for the government. One favela has made some progress and even has Brazilian police stations within it.
-Rio de Janeiro means January river. Amerigo Vespucci mistook Guanabara Bay (where the super bacteria now lives) as a river when he arrived in January 1501.
-The older buildings have French influenced architecture because they were the first to colonize Brazil.
-Escadaria Selarón (the colorful mosaic steps in the Santa Teresa neighborhood) were created by a Chilean artist as a tribute to Brazil.


After the tour, we headed the Heineken Holland House. Many countries have hospitality houses at the Olympics. Some are invite only, and others are open to the public. Holland's was open to the public for a $40 ticket fee. There was food and drink (Heineken was the beer on tap obviously) for purchase, a giant tv screen, and tons of orange wearing Dutch people. We met a Dutch guy and his girlfriend who now live in Germany and learned not all Dutch like Heineken. We also saw the family from the bike tour at the Holland House because it's a small world after all. We bought burgers and beers and found seats in front of the big screen to watch the opening ceremonies that lasted a lifetime. We learned that in Portuguese, the Netherlands is called Paises Baixos which threw us for a loop because we kept waiting for them to process into the stadium with the other H's or N's.

After the ceremonies, we bid farewell to Carl and headed home. We are excited the Olympics have officially started and can't wait for our first Olympic event!

Posted by lsto90 18:57 Archived in Brazil Comments (0)

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