04.08.2016 - 04.08.2016
The Rio adventure began when I received a text saying Erin and Kyle got upgraded to first class on their Dallas to Miami flight. Meanwhile, it took Alyssa and me three Ubers to get to the Bush airport in Houston. Talk about juxtaposition. Sheena didn't have room for two suitcases in her tiny Lexus. Then another driver picked me up, realized he had the wrong ride when he said "you're Pat, right?" and then had to turn around to drop me back off. Then Timothy came in his SUV to save the day. Timothy and I picked up Alyssa and made it to the airport with plenty of time.
While waiting for my flight, I spotted a female of athletic build wearing an official team USA backpack and head to toe USA gear (literally to toe-- super cool red, white and blue sneakers). The tell tale sign she was a real Olympian though was the navy blue hanging back with a Polo logo on it. Inside that hanging bag, there is a red, white and blue striped shirt, navy blazer, and white cropped pants aka the official Olympic opening ceremony outfit of Team USA. Of course, she was in first class, and I was in coach so we didn't have a chance to become best friends. However, I did have an open seat next to me, so it was still a win win situation on the flight for me.
We landed in Miami and sat on the plane for 30 minutes due to a traffic jam. After deplaning, we asked an old security guard how to get to terminal J, the international terminal. The trek involved a tram with poorly labeled destinations, a few thousand stairs, leaving the terminal, an elevator, and about 5 kilometers of moving sidewalks- one of which did not work and almost resulted in Alyssa taking a tumble. Seriously, whoever designed this airport had no logistical sense. We finally arrived at the terminal where I needed to get a boarding pass and Alyssa was informed she needed a new one. Our reservations would not show up in self check in machines, so we waited in the most unorganized inefficient line behind the Papua New Guinea tae kwon do team. FYI: Papua New Guinea is near Australia, not in South America as we briefly thought. We finally got boarding passes and discovered even though we updated our TSA Pre Check information in the American Airlines system, it did not transfer to LATAM's system despite them being One Alliance airlines. So we stood like the peasants in the regular security line. Alyssa had not been through regular security in quite some time, and the security guard noticed. He joked with her and made her basically do a little dance while waiting to through the scanner.
After over an hour of trying to get to the elusive terminal J, we got through security to find out that we still weren't there and had more of a trek to go. We decided to get food before our long walk. Much to our dismay, all of the restaurants were closed in the terminal. The Ray Ban and Coach stores were open, but there wasn't any food. So we started walking to terminal J where we found a sandwich shop-- the only place offering food. So we stood in line for 15 minutes to order. They somehow forgot to make Alyssa's sandwich, and after 20 minutes, they finally made her one.
We met up with Kyle and Erin, and we took off at 11:30 pm. On the flight, I sat right behind a Jamaican Olympian. I wanted to tap him on shoulder and say "hey monnnn" but decided he probably needed to rest before his event. Fast forward 8+ hours, and we landed safely in Rio right when the entire USA track and field team along with some other miscellaneous Olympians landed. We stood behind them in customs trying to act cool while stealthily taking pictures of them. There were separate lines for tourists and athletes, but the lines kept merging at various points. We tried so hard to blend in and identify the athletes by googling Team USA over the free airport wifi. We exited the airport right behind the USA team. Athletes had to exit to the right, while we had to take a left hand turn to distinguish us as peons. The paparazzi were going crazy as team USA exited. The moment we stepped out of the airport, they stopped taking pictures immediately.
We took a cab into the city and nearly collided with a thousand vehicles in route. On every corner, there are police with automatic weapons and armored vests standing guard. So I guess the government started paying the police force again. We arrived at our apartment which is a block from Copacabana beach and next to the Ritz. David, the owner of the apartment, met us and directed us to what he said was a good restaurant. We decided to eat lunch at his recommendation and immediately regretted it. Alyssa and I tried the pizza which had Brie cheese flavored spread stuffed crust. Yes, Brie cheese flavored spread stuffed crust. That detail was not included on the menu, and it was the most horrid crust combination ever. We gave up eating it, just as Erin gave up eating her cheeseburger that looked like t came from the St. Anne Catholic School cafeteria circa 1997.
We walked along Copacabana, freaking out every time we saw an Olympic athlete and marveling at the Cariocas (local Rio citizens) play volleyball and footvolley (volleyball+ soccer hybrid). Rumors are true- Olympic venues are not 100% complete. We saw construction workers putting final touches on the beach volleyball stadium this afternoon.
After our stroll along the beach, we were exhausted and returned to check into our apartment. Then, the payment fiasco happened. Prior to arrival, David told Kyle he would pay the remaining balance upon our arrival via PayPal. We arrived and inquired about payment, and David was acting width washy about us paying via PayPal because it charges David a fee and tax. David was worried about getting shortchanged, so Erin, Alyssa, and Kyle worked out the math while I was on the phone with my bank informing them my purchase of official Olympic gear in Rio was not a fraudulent transaction. Fun fact: Brazil is a known fraudulent country, so some banks won't set travel notifications for your credit cards including mine.
I finished my call and noticed Erin and Kyle were missing. Alyssa informed me they went downstairs to see David's friend Bob to get Bob to translate for them. Bob owns the travel agency called Blame It On Rio located below our apartment. Bob is from New York and is a talker. Alyssa and I thought Kyle and Erin would return momentarily once they settled up with David. 20 minutes passed, and Alyssa and I voiced some concern, but we just brushed it off. 15 minutes later, we started contemplating how long before we contact the US Embassy about a potential kidnapping and how to file a missing persons report with the local police. We kept watching soccer and learned that RSA doesn't stand for Russia but stands for Republic of South Africa making us feel really dumb. 15 more minutes passed, and Alyssa asked where they were. I was on Instagram stalking the Today Show cast, so I responded with "well, it looks like they were at Copacabana playing footvolley today." To which Alyssa replied, "are we talking about the same people? I am talking about Erin and Kyle, and you're talking about Matt Lauer." So I decided we should go look for Kyle and Erin, but we shouldn't stray too far from the apartment. An hour and ten minutes after Kyle and Erin initially disappeared, we were lacing up our shoes when we heard their voices in the hall. THEY WERE ALIVE!
Now, here is Erin and Kyle's story of what went down during this timeframe:
Bob was luckily missing from Blame It On Rio, so Kyle used the local internet cafe's computer to log on to his PayPal account while Erin finalized the number crunching and reassured David the math was right. Kyle had to learn how to master a Brazilian keyboard, so seven minutes later, he finally logged into his account and discovered he has to receive a text message to verify his login. Kyle doesn't have an international phone plan, so of course, he can't receive the text. His account gets locked out. Erin then logged into her PayPal account and changed her contact information so the verification text was sent to her brother who then iMessaged the verification code to her. Erin entered the code but discovered her account waslocked too, likely because she was using a public computer on a sketch internet network in Rio de Janeiro. David started panicking. Kyle suggested using Venmo but then learned David has an old school flip phone so Venmo won't work. David suggested going to Citibank to get money. Erin explained she wanted to go to a Chase bank or affiliate so she would not have to pay a withdrawal fee. As they were following David through the street, a random person came up to Kyle and said he was David's friend who worked at Citibank. Thus, Erin and Kyle get dragged to the Citibank. They discovered the withdrawal limit is 1,000 reals plus a $25 withdrawal fee. We needed 7,000 reals. Finally, Erin decided to call her mom Barb, and Barb saved the day. Barb logged into her PayPal account and sent David the money. Then Barb realized she accidentally used her work credit card; however it still went through. Erin and Kyle returned and explained this whole debacle. Alyssa informed them she works at an international bank and could have assisted, and I informed them I had just used my PayPal account without any problems. Of course, the two people with working PayPal accounts and banking assistance were just watching soccer in the apartment and wondering when we should file a missing person report while all this happened.
To end our long day of travel, we went to Santa Teresa (Rio neighborhood nestled in the hills with lots of winding cobblestone roads) for dinner. My friend suggested Aprazivel for dinner. It feels like a tree house. There are multiple levels of outdoor seating amongst the trees with a great view of the city. After our failure of a lunch, we were thrilled to have a delicious meal of steak and Brazilian wine. We have decided we will only eat at places that serve pão de queijo aka Brazilian cheese bread. Three times during this meal, we were served another table's food. The waiters tried to convince me I ordered a chocolate cake for dessert when I knew I ordered the ice cream with roasted banana. Erin's dessert called love strawberries was given to us originally, but then, the waiter realized it too belonged to the other table. For some reason, it cracked Erin up that the little boy ordered the love strawberry. She laughed so hard and spewed wine on Alyssa's eyeglasses. A few moments later, I realized I had received some of the spray. Good thing, I wore my rain jacket. They sorted it all out, and the meal was delicious. When we were leaving, we saw a lady with a Deloitte name tag. Knowing Deloitte had sent professionals to the Olympics, we struck up a conversation with her. After all, Erin works at Deloitte, and I recently left the firm. This lady had zero interests in talking to us, so we wished her safe travels and headed home so we could rest up for day two of Rio!