Thursday, July 3, 2014

In closing; once a blog, now memoirs.

After 2 strong caffeinated cups of coffee, I am compelled to finally share my feeling of the bittersweet, mostly bitter, loss of the USA match versus Belgium. 
The bitter part was obvious, but what I can take away from this entire experience as a whole? Looking back on the entire adventure? I watched nearly every game, except maybe 2 because I was in transit. People around the world love futbol. They absolutely love it. And not always is the beautiful game perfect but the spirit, the spirit of humanity through a game... I am evidence of this existence. 
Having been at 2 of the USA matches, it did magnify the way how I truly felt all of the emotional investment I had for the US team to win each game. The camaraderie of Americans supporting futbol, thousands of miles away from home, in an analogous succession of chants that "We believed that we will win!" I still believe it... The last minutes of the match versus Belgium, I caught myself literally holding my breath, gasping for a tying goal. I fell to my knees when Belgium finally broke through the staunch gatekeeper Tim Howard. Having been to the matches live, being able to recall vivid moments from the entire experience, is priceless. But along with the other fans cheering for their respective countries too, as fans of futbol we are united again when we share the somber emotion of elimination from the tournament. Mexico, Chile, Switzerland, all those games could have gone the other way. Truly, the feelings of highs and lows are the price of being the champion of raising the World Cup. How amazing if must be for a country to celebrate a victory to be on top of the sport that the whole world loves. 

Lastly, I'd like to close with a quote I heard from Anthony Bourdain, whom heard this from a friend of his.

"The more I travel, the more I see the world, the less I know." 

Monday, June 30, 2014

More itchy than sticky slash hashtag It's more fun in Rio.

Yes, that is the look of pent up joy. Waiting to exhale. Something's gotta give. The notebook. All of which are movies that you can watch, that will put the same look on your face. 
I've said it before, I'll say it again! WHAT A GAME! As you may already know the US lost to Germany with a respectable score of 1-0. The soccer pitch was wet, the air was thick, and the arena was filled with tens of thousands of cheering fans from all around the world. My seat at this game was a category 3, which usually puts you in the upper section in most other arenas but here, I was 10 rows back, behind the goal, in the German section? No way. I was in the Portugual cheering section last game with only 3 Americans. So after some contemplation, another American and I decided to move to the AO (American Outlaws) cheering section on the opposing side. You guys asked for me to cheer loud @jack crane, I cheered louder! Standing the whole time, shouting for the team to get a goal! After 2 close chances in stoppage time, USA had qualified 2nd out of the group, advancing them to the round of 16 versus Belgium taking place today, July 1 at 5pm local time, 4 pm est. 

So more details about this leg of my trip, where do I begin? On this day, a Sunday in Brazil. 630am: Breakfast at this lovely beachfront hotel in Joao Pessao, 2 hours north of the city Recife where the USA vs Germany match takes place at 1pm local time. 7am: my friends, who I met at breakfast the day before, were to leave headed south to the arena. I had met this couple, Aaron and Melissa, who were from Cerritos, practically neighbors! Super super cool people. Shoutout to Melissa, belated Happy Birthday! I had told them that I was planning to rent a car to head down to the match, but they offered to ride down with them. I am so fortunate to have them take me along for the ride down. We had took 2 cars to the match, met up with another group mixed with Brazilians and 2 Germans. The rain was relentless, pouring at times. On the way there, I had realized what kind of civil engineering this city was lacking, that could have been fixed with the FIFA funding. The streets were scattered with potholes where water has collected. Intersections that connected to busy highways were flooded. That day, it took us a solid 5 hours to arrive to the stadium parking lot, which has also not been completed. It's like in the middle of the construction, they just said 'fuck it. Big props to Aaron for driving the entire trip, in the rain, in a 5 speed Fiat, with 3 Americans, a Brazilian, and a cheeky German, Dieter. What an awesome road trip, despite all the rain, traffic and detours.

On the the hashtag part. So Rio. I had originally planned to finish the rest of my trip in Brazil in Joao Pessoa with the intent of training jiu jitsu like I had done in Rio. But the town I was in was not like Rio. There weren't many things within walking distance of eachother like places to eat, or being able to watch World Cup matches at every corner. I wanted to go back. So I moved my flight to get back to Rio on Fiday, leaving me an extra 5 days in Brazil. Best decision I've made since leaving for Brazil. Friday was ideal to travel because there were no games that day, setting up to the next day, the round of 16. On Saturday, I had reconnected with some other cool people I met in Manaus, from California. We watched the Brazil vs Chile match outside the Fan Fest, which was a packed house. 20k inside the gates and probably another 5 in the general beach vicinity. The game went past extra time, into a shoot out. Now, could you have imagined the pandemonium of a loss to the host country? We sure hoped not. Instead, Brazil was able to celebrate a shoot out victory to move on to the quarter finals versus Columbia. In my return to Copacabana, I could rejoice by having Starbucks for the first time in over a week! Places to eat at every corner, the city still bustling with World Cup fans, the amazing beach and weather, saudade Rio. 

To wrap things up, Rio, is amazing. Brazil, your people are amazing. USA takes on Belgium, where I'll be watching at the Fan Fest on the beach. Hopefully celebrating a win! Cheers. Obridado, valeu. 

Stadium in Recife.
Fck' traders.
First half
Posing 101
Early exit to headed back to Rio.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Supplemental photos only from last post

Copacabana Beach
Ipamema Beach
Fight Zone
Cervantes Late eats
Yanks at the FIFA Fan Fest

Tummy pains and taxi lanes.

The adventure is finally setting in. I am writing this entry on my flight from Manaus to the next destination where I, or we American fans, await the next match versus Germany. Firstly I'd like to thank the audience for giving me a 2nd, or first reason to have a diary a all. So thank you.
For those of you that watched the USA Portugal match Sunday night, what a game!!! The massive support from the American fans in the area was amazing. Rivaling the fans cheering for Portugal and in respect to the brazilians, America let it's presence be known. Now, had it been an American victory party instead, than a split decision, I think this plane flight filled with Americans would have a different demeanor. In my opinion, the small Amazonian city of Manaus would not be prepared for a USA victory party. The build up before the game had an attitude that spoke for itself. I BELIEVE THAT WE WILL WIN!
As I look out the plane window watching the Amazon pass below, I can't help but think of all the facts the Amazon holds. All the wildlife and plant species that can only be supported here. And how much oxygen production the rainforest contributes to the whole Earth.
Briefly, I would describe my 5 nights in Manaus as a semi solitary test of my own resolve. I say that for a few reasons. Only until the night before I arrived did I have a reservation for a place to stay. There was an advertisement on for a cabin on a boat docked at the marina. This boat is primarily used for transporting people to different smaller cities along the amazon. (It still amazes me that people live among these regions.) So this boat, was docked to sell space for people that needed a place to stay. Hammocks for $45 and cabins for $160. I booked a cabin for a night. The stay was interesting, it led to a few benefits. As I arrived from the airport to the boat, people were leaving to go to the match that night, Croatia vs Cameroon. They had an extra ticket for $100 us, so I took it. So these English blokes that sold me the ticket, I had found out that they had gone to the last 7 world cups! Since 1990 and this trip the guys have been to a game every day! Just hopping in and out of cities every day and night. Amazing to be in the presence of, what I called them, World Cup hall of fame fandom. So for me, that game was a great experience to check out a game earlier than planned. Croatia won. Leaving the stadium, helped me later on to have a geographical knowledge in relation to how far things were from each other in the city. The next day I spent lunch time going to the city square where Teatro de amazonas, an opera house, that was the focal point of the arts and nightlife in Manaus. I had found a place for a single, for consecutive nights, the rest of my trip. Great success. I had a tip to try the local fish while in the amazon. Tambaqui was the name of the popular fish, among others which I can't remember anymore. That night I had ordered it at this restaurant on the top story of a hotel. This restaurant was round and the floor revolved slowly around the window glass, so you could have this 360 view of the city. The dish was good, real buttery, cooked asada style. Great tip from my lonely planet book to dine there. The next day I had the same thing for lunch at a different place, because it was so good the first time, at an outdoor seated restaurant in the city square. Later that night I had pizza too. Now this set in motion future for the next 48 hours because I had the worse heartburn in the middle of the night, followed by the usual symptoms of the, latter determined, food poisoning. I use the term latter, because I had become paranoid, that because I came to the Amazonian city with no vaccinations or shots at all besides my tetanus shot like 3 years ago, @Joe Fuertsch know why. So yeah, I was scared that it was worse than I thought it was. Upper abdominal cramps that lingered, no appetite, some sweating, nausea. Maybe I was hallucinating? Just paranoid? At some moment, I thought i had malaria? I do naturally attract mosquitoes anywhere I go, bitten countless times where ever I travel through nature. So in my mind, curled up in my hotel bed like, "fuck." So much that I didn't even want to google malaria symptoms, in case whatever I read happen to match with the indicators. I stayed in all day, just trying to relax and sip water. I felt better somewhat the next day but still worried I had something unknown. In the afternoon, I mustered enough courage to go to the Fan Fest to watch the Germany vs Ghana game, which ended up as a 2-2 tie. I was determined to fight the sickness but retreated back to my room for the rest of the evening on an empty stomach. The next morning I woke with no cramps but still weary about what I could introduce to my gastronomy. Since I had not eaten anything in over 24 hours I had to be careful. Tea, good. Fruits, good. Later on, a small ham and cheese sandwich. Ok, not bad. This was game day for the USA so, I was feeling good slash better. I went on to the American Outlaw pre-game rally and didn't have any sign of the upset stomach I had. Success! I had a couple beers at the game, and pizza for dinner. So, I think we made it out of the jungle just fine, fingers crossed.
Lastly, I want to comment on how much soccer I've watched in the last 2 weeks! Crazy, or in Portuguese maluco.
Finally, landed now waiting for my connection in Brazil's capital, Brasilia where for 2 hours, stop working because it's a holiday to watch the home team play. Cheers.

Waiting for the rain to pass: Day 1

Teatros de Amazonas

View from atop the revolving restaurant 

Croatia vs Cameroon sitting up top.

Some architecture in the city square

Now you know how to say it in Portuguese.

Arena from the sky

At night

Where you can find me on your DVR

That's supposed to be all green right? Do you think that's the deforestation that people are fighting against? 

Mini Fan Fest at the airport

Friday, June 20, 2014

Rio: looking back.

Rio was a blast. Looking back on my trails blazed, what an amazing time. It was nice being away from home and making a much more simple schedule of going about your day. World Cup should also be called; World Holiday time. Everyone is on holiday. And a holiday it is indeed. For many of us here in Brazil, we're still on holiday.

On average my days were like this. Wake up aroun 8-9, Starbucks to have the usual.
Now, at this point I had a choice to make: train jiu jitsu at 1030am, or wait for the 7pm class. 1 day I did both, and that was brutal. At every class, there would be at least 5 black belts training, not teaching, but practicing with everyone. The first day there, honestly, I was nervous, my Portuguese comprehension was tested quickly. But not only that, I was out of shape to say the least. Even the lower belts had amazing technique that seemed effortless. But I tried hard, I persisted to show up, I took a lot of beatings, disguised as lessons, and learned. Everyone had different styles, and strengths that I realized could help my jiu jitsu game immensely.
It was also tough to train 2 a days because I only had 2 kimonos with me so I had to plan my laundry accordingly. Which brings me to my next task, laundry. I had made friends Bobby, an expat, that runs this tourism office/money exchange/laundromat owner from queens New York. His business was called Blame it on Rio 4 travel, (dot com, where applicable). They got to know me well I'd say. After i would square away my housekeeping, I would walk down copacabana beachabout 1.5 miles, or a 25 min walk (1 way), to the FIFA fan fest. Somedays I would walk there 2 times a day. I got a little jaded from the sun and sand after the first 3-4 days of going there straight. Actually I felt sick for about 72 hours, probably because I've been getting so much sun and not drinking enough water. Just an achy and stuffy nose illness. After the 3rd day of being sick, I took some tylenol which made me question why I hadn't taken it sooner. Kicked my symptoms out of bounds. #soccerpun. Anyways, that's what my days were like.
Food? The only thing memorable was this late night sandwich joint called Cervantes. The night of the Italy vs England game, the crew I was with had got lost and found this place. Which was great because I've been wanting to try his place when I read about it in the lonely planet guide. You may have already seen it pictured on ig and fb, the filet, cheese and pineapple sandwich I had devoured not 1 but 2 of those bad boys. It was pricey though, about $12usd each. They're about the size of 2 Hawaiian host squares. Nice tho.
The last night in Rio, I had the elusive churascharria where they bring the carne out on the swords. The picanha, was really good. Just as good as fogo de chau in LA but still nice to have while in Brazil.
I had acai quite a bit. I did learn, that like olive oil, there are different grades of acai. First press, to some basic, "here ya go" kinda of stuff. Usually if it's too sweet, it's no good. I will continue my acai trials, so far no winners yet.

For now, you're gonna have to do with out photos. The amazon is not so high speed internet friendly. I know, first world problems. I'm having a blast! I'm going to split this up into 2 but, what you can expect in the next blog is Manaus where I am at now. I'm awaiting the USA vs Portugal match taking place on Sunday here. I hope all if you will watch, I'll be wearing my Team USA Olympic jersey that Kobe wears.  Hope all of you are well as a bid you boa noite.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Tourist? That's all I got.

I'm becoming more comfortable around the city. I cant say enough how freeing it is to be able to walk everywhere. My Portuguese is improving, which I'm happy about. I can pick up small talk and formalities heard as I pass by.

The streets have been gaining pedestrians. World Cup, in Rio, is here. The fan fest is where fans from all around the world can watch the first game, Brazil vs Croatia on the beach. Earlier in the week, I was intimidated to wear any USA garb. Mostly because I was trying to be incognito, weary for pick-pockets and riff-raff. I cant say the same for any of the patrons from other countries, flaunting their respective countries colors proud! Oh yeah you bet ya, I'm rocking USA gear from here on out.

Wednesday (6/11) I went on a tour, the first stop was Christ the Redeemer. Very epic sight to see. I'm proud to have checked that off the ole bucket list. After, we took a twisty one way road down to the Painted Steps in this very artistically affluent neighborhood. From what I remember the tour guide saying, the artist committed suicide on the very steps he designed about 2 years ago. I took a pic of a tile that had a photo of him. No disrespect but its hilarious, as in, you wouldn't believe it, but you would.

After that we took a short ride to the Cathedral de Rio de Janeiro. -Did you know that Rio de Janeiro means river of January? yup, so back when the Portuguese were conquering, they thought the bay led into a river. But it didn't. And the foley made it so anyway. This also taking place in the month of January, many many moons ago. And there you have it. Okay so back to the Cathedral. The architect had a meaning to its industrial, ghastly exterior. I would describe it as an unfinished cement honeycomb. But on the inside, its so vast and tall. It has beautiful mosaics of paned glass on 4 sides from bottom to top. The seating of the church was 270 degrees surrounding the jesus above the ceremonial area. A very spectacular view to hold mass. The meaning intended by the architect of the Cathedral was; no matter how the outside appears, it's what's on the inside that counts.

Finally we went to Pao de Azucar which means sugar bread or what was translated, sugar loaf. To me, it looked like one of the hills you would pass by when you play Super Mario Brothers on OG Nintendo. It was a nice view of the water. I had a GuaranĂ¡, my favorite drink ever.

PS, if y'all got any questions, comments or requests? Things you want from the World Cup. Leave a comment, send me a message and I'll do my best to make it happen. Cheers.

this dude lit himself on fire, the artist who made this

like out of Judge Dredd or something

inside of the Cathedral

Tram ride to Super Mario Brothers mountain

Columbia representing. 
-See that dude on the left sneaking the Bosnia-Herzegovina flag? 
That guy was comedy because a bunch of Argentinians were taking picture with him. 
-They are playing eachother for their first games.

this was a random ad that had markers dangling to tag with.

i left my mark

Sunday, June 8, 2014

     In the year 2010, a man set forth on a journey to 3 continents, and over 20 countries, with 1 goal at hand, the FIFA World Cup in South Africa. For this trip to Brazil for the 2014 World Cup, I must give credit to my original travel Capitan, Jeff Hintz. I've followed his tracks many a times to places I've never really considered going to, well, except Amsterdam. In 2000, we spent a semester terrorizing Oxford university, where it all began. On the weekends we would try random trips where ole' Captain Travel would take us; Edinburgh, Munich, Brussels to name a few. (5 mins pass as I flashback...k)  In Jeff's trip to World Cup 2010 he passed through Peru to see the wonder and energy of Machu Picchu. I followed on my own trip shortly after in November that same year.
     Fast forward to now, Eu sou aqui (I am here) in copacabana. In true form, my Dad asked me if I've met Lola yet...
My first day, Saturday the 7th, I arrived at 830 am. I was picked up by a taxi driver that knew the host's place where I would be staying at. It took us about 35 mins from the airport to get to the apartment. After getting settled in to my top floor apartment where I am renting a room, the view from the penthouse is nice. I can see Av. Nossa Senhora De Copacabana below, which is 1 block from praia (the beach).
I did not waste any time to head to the 11am jiu jitsu class just 2 blocks away at Fight Zone.
     I was early to the class, where I saw a black belt rolling with kids 1 at a time. It turned out that Saturday had no instruction, but open mat aka sparring. I was timid, using what Portuguese I knew, to introduce myself. Meu nome e Jemell. I was able to get by more conversation with gestures and talk to those that knew engles well enough to fill me in on what I didn't understand. After 4 rolls, I was done. Next class is Monday at 1030am.
     Later after my nap, I met an ex-pat living in the same building as me. I tagged along with Thomas to a posh shopping strip, literally equivalent to the Beverly Hills of Brazil. On the same street as Louis Vitton, Gucci, Armani, the dude needed to buy Nespresso cartridges at the Nespresso Store. This store was dedicated to selling Keurig like packs for his machine. This machine, which I brought with me from the US, costs $100 at home. In Brazil, it costs $645 Real or $285 UDS. That mark up is consistent with all things sold here. Anyways, the place was packed, we had to be called up like the DMV, only you're buying boutique little cups of coffee. I found this amusing, only because of course it's something I would get into, but also it's a good way to find my bearing with a somewhat local.
     Sunday: acai for brunch. Woke up late, I slept for like 14 hours. I think it's because of the combination of jet lag, and Benadryl to combat my growing number of mosquito bites. After finding a Starbucks, ordering the usual, I walked to the craft market or as they called it "hippie fair". I bought about $20 worth of trinkets and put them in my nap sac. I headed to to the beach and walked aimlessly for about 90 mins to the end. To where they're erecting a venue where people can watch the matches on the beach, along with a fan expo to buy shtuff. Along the way home, I grabbed a slice of pizza and a guarana (gwa-rah-nah) which is pretty much the best soda in the world! @ Evan Kiley! Walking on, I also stopped at the market below my building to buy ingredients to make sandwiches, which, I am enjoying at the moment. And that leads to the now where I await to watch Game of Thrones. No land is too far for young Gibson to watch the last 2 episodes. I bid you ta' bom. ( well/good) 
copacabana beach

                                       behind those bars are where they make jiu jitsu beasts

hippie fair

spot that badass crossing the street

acai com banana