At the beginning of our second month here, it was our anniversary.
7 years….! OMG who’d have thought it?
Well we couldn’t not do something special and we had just the plan.
Brasil is famous for it’s Samba Dancing and we thought it was about time we went and saw some.
There is a very famous Samba area in Lapa so we found a beautiful bar with live music and lots of tables on different levels all in a lovely old building. One of the highlights of our evening was a 360 degree photo booth. They had this little cubicle where they have over 50 cameras set up all around it and they took special photographs. Have a look at ours
We had a fabulous evening and a great picture to remember it with.
This was also the month Lorraine arrived. Our tiny shoebox was about to become quite full. The sofa bed got pulled out and the mattress put on top to make quite a comfy little spot for her. Our hope was that as we were all going to be quite busy of the Olympics, we would either be out working or asleep in which case the size of our room was unimportant. And this turned out to be exactly the case and did not become an issue – not for us anyway.
Bryan & Lorraine started work almost immediately and before the Olympics officially started. Apparently the swimmers get to practice in the pool for almost 2 weeks prior so they had to be on hand to look after them. Their roles got them right up close to the athletes and interacting with them everyday by the poolside, which meant they were in their element.
During this time, Jody had still to wait for her shifts to start so she spent most of her time chilling out and doing runs to the launderette. The time on the beach did somehow make up for that though!
During Lorraine’s flight to Rio, she had become friendly with 2 of the other passengers; Ariane and her mum Martine, whom it turned out were also going to be volunteers and were living in Copacabana – just 3 blocks away actually.
An invite had gone out onto the facebook group “UK Volunteers going to Rio” for anyone already in Rio to meet for a coffee one afternoon and the 3 of us turned up where we met Becks, V (Emma V), Benjy and Ariane & Martine. As a group we all got on really well and coffee became dinner. In the end we spent about 5 hours together!
Setting up a ‘whatsapp” group; The Copa Crew (it started out as Brits in Brasil but the name got changed along the way) we all stayed in touch and it was great to have other people around. Many times two or 3 of us would be on the same shifts so would meet up at the metro station to travel in together. Or different ones would be having a day off and meet on the beach. It worked out really well.
Once the Olympics started, it meant that if Bryan had a day off but Jody was working, Bryan could find at least one person to attend an event with and vice versa.
Through the Facebook group set up for UK Volunteers, we had got to know the lovely Karolyn too. From Northern Ireland, Karolyn had been messaging Jody a bit after they had both commented on a particular thread that seemed to continue beyond whatever the thread was about. And when we were sitting down to our lovely anniversary lunch at Copacabana Fort, Karolyn was sitting down to baked beans.
We told her not to knock baked beans as we hadn’t had proper ones for so long, they should not be under-rated! She promised to bring some out for us and that we thought was the end of that.
Karolyn was over here on her own and it was to be her birthday just after she arrived too. So we put another invite out on the group for anyone that wanted to make up the party to come and join us. We planned it for our favourite ‘orange bar’ so named because it’s orange – that’s not the real name of it and we managed to get loads of people, a birthday cake and a few extra drinks from under the table and had a really great evening.
The best bit was when Karolyn produced two tubs of baked beans for us from her bag – Amazing! First an Indian takeaway and now baked beans. Double Amazing!!!
We really hope Karolyn had a great night too.
Jody met with Karolyn again another day. They spent a few hours on Copacabana beach and Jody introduced Karolyn and her friend to her favourite restaurant here – 686 Gourmet. They all agreed it was a hit and we even stayed for pud. OMG how sickly was that cake Karolyn???
Then Karolyn made a confession – she had never had a coconut before! Well Jody quickly set about resolving that one for her. Coconuts all round please.
It’s a shame Karolyn is living on the other side of Rio as they get on so well they could have met up more often.
We did however manage to attend a few meetings with other volunteers. Being part of the facebook group meant there was always somebody organising a get-together somewhere. It’s a great way to meet up with other people especially if you are a volunteer out here on your own as many are.
There were still a few more sights to be seen in Rio and we had been holding off visiting them so Lorraine could come with us when she arrived. So one dreary day we caught the metro further up into the centre of Rio and set out on foot to find them.
First up was the Big Wall oF Names. This is up on the wall of the Olympic HQ and is supposed to have the names of every volunteer on it. It was massive and try as we might, we could not find any of our names – or those of anyone else we knew for that matter. Actually we couldn’t see ANY western names. Plenty of Jesus’s and Marias – even an Elvis, but we don’t think they had our names on it at all!
From there we walked passed the Sambadrome (not like the Velodrome) and onto the sparkly steps. pretty but just steps with broken tiles on them really.
Then onto the Cathedral. This is one huge concrete monstrosity we have to say. One of the ugliest buildings we have ever seen. Until you go inside. The concrete takes on a whole different persona and it actually felt very peaceful inside, very dark but very serene. Built into the roof were panels of stained glass windows that didn’t really let any light in but looked more light paintings on the ceiling. Very clever.
We finished at the arches before the weather got the better of us and we headed home via Ipanema so Lorraine could have a look at that too. As an iconic landmark made famous by the song “Girl from Ipanema”, we didn’t think we could miss that off the list.
One afternoon when Lorraine had a rare day off, Jody & Lorraine set off to watch sunset on Ipanema rocks – this is another iconic thing to do here. Unfortunately they got there just a little too late to see the sun going down between the two peaks, but Lorraine confessed she had never had a coconut before either – not another person who has never had a coconut? We can’t have that. Anyone else need a coconut?? So off they set again and made that their mission instead.
They eventually found a beach bar that had some coconuts, got their sarongs out and settled down on Ipanema beach to a coconut (and a beer for Jody).
They managed to watch the last of the sky changing colour and just had a nice chat. They really hadn’t met properly before only once or twice briefly so it was good for Jody to get to know Lorraine a bit better. (Hopefully Lorraine thought the same) 🙂
Before Lorraine left Rio though, she did get back to the rocks in time and witnessed all the clapping and cheering that goes with the sun set here so her mission was accomplished in the end.
Around this time the Copa Crew (Benjy, V, Harry & Martine plus Lorraine and us two) all got together again and went to the Olympic Opening Ceremony rehearsal. We have written a separate entry for that so you can read about it there.
One day, without Lorraine this time as she was working, we went to visit Japan house. At every Olympics many nations set up a house for people to visit. They have different events on that are typical from their country and you can go around the world in just a few days! Other popular houses here were Heineken House (the Dutch House – you can guess what goes on in here!), Czech House, Austria House (they had a giant snow dome in it you could walk through), French House and several others.
Japan House was set up in another very ugly concrete building – by the bus station on a roundabout. Every time we had to go to the Olympic park we had to pass this so it was nice to go inside for once.
Inside it felt completely different. The modern straight lines of the concrete seemed absolutely perfect for Japan to have their House in. They had a massive display of many things Japanese and all their plans for the next Olympics being held in Tokyo in 2020. We think we shall apply for that one too.
By now, we thought it was about time we went to visit Big Jesus on top of his hill. Lorraine had another day off so we set off towards British House. We managed to get 3 Rio Bikes and set off first around the lake where the rowing and canoeing events were buing held. It was a beautiful day for a bike ride and we managed to see Team GB practicing too which was an added bonus.
Like Japan House, British house had been set up for the period of the Olympics and it was set in a beautiful old colonial building in the botanical gardens. And from here there was a path at the back leading all the way up the mountain to Big Jesus.
So leaving our Rio bikes behind, the three of us set off up the path with a little map the man at the bottom had given us. The path was very overgrown with a narrow track leading through it. Jody was nervous passing every tree, every branch and just about every thing really. Her fear of eight-legged monsters was really playing on her mind.
Then as we approached a particular tree she just lost it. No way – she just couldn’t go on. What had caused this meltdown? An eight-legged leaf of course. It just looked too much like the real thing and she just couldn’t go on. 50 yards we had covered – that’s all!
So off back down the track we went and jumped into an Uber Taxi to take us to the railway line up there instead.
When we arrived there seemed to be a fair amount of chaos going on and it appears that the Olympic committee and a few other important people had closed off the monument at the top so they could have a private party. It would reopen again at 4pm for visitors.
OMG could you imagine it if we had walked all the way to the top, only to be told we couldn’t go in??? We would have been furious. Thank goodness for eight legged leaves we say!
So we booked a ticket for the 4pm train and went off to kill a few hours in a restaurant. The journey up in the train was ok but we didn’t really get many spectacular views as we had hoped which was a shame but never mind. Thinking that as we were on the first train up there after it reopened it would be much less crowded and we would get some fabulous photos, we sat it out and just enjoyed the ride until we reached the top.
We could not have been more wrong.
It seems as if lots of tour buses had been heading up by road and as none of them had been allowed inside, there were now hundreds possibly thousands of people cramming in to see Big J. It was chaos!
Selfie sticks kept whacking us in the face, elbows, backpacks and flags. All jostling for space and that perfect photo.
When we were up there though, we bumped into a few other volunteers which was nice and Bryan & Lorraine even managed to commandeer some staging from the event just held there, to complete their 22 press-ups in 22 days challenge for the day. Joined by another random English person who happened to be watching. Here’s to that chap!
The highlight though had to be watching the sun go down.
Whilst most people were watching the land below us, we were looking out over towards the sunset and managed to get some beautiful snaps of Big J going to sleep.
When the time came for the real opening ceremony, the big screens we had hoped were going up on Copacanaba beach didn’t materialise and we were all trying to work out plan B. Martine & Ariane came to the rescue as they have a beautiful apartment a few blocks from the beach.
We all grabbed some food and drinks and the Copa Crew all congregated to watch it together on their tv. We were definitely impressed with how the special effects we had imagined being, actually appeared on the screen. They definitely had some good ideas.
And we thought there was an obvious lack of money spent on it which we approved of. The Brasilian Government is in such a mess at the moment with prosecutions for corruption, that it would have been wrong we think, for them to spend vast amounts of tax-payers money on the ceremony. We think they got it right.
And the flame which we didn’t get to see at the rehearsal was stunning. So beautiful it was mesmerising. Well done Rio!
Well the rest of our time here was pretty much all taken up with the olympics – either working at or watching events – all of which we have a separate write up for.
Although we did manage to get some time with V to visit the replica Olympic flame in the Olympic Boulevard area. Which although it was pretty, it was a pretty poor replica – it didn’t have all the moving parts which made the proper one so beautiful.
Also at the Olympic Boulevard was a giant mural. This deserves a special mention as it was huge – it probably would take up an entire city block in length and was beautiful too. It had different native people from all around the world depicted on it and as yet – no one had grafittied all over it although we suspect that won’t take long as there is a real grafitti problem in this city – anything that doesn’t move seems to get tagged. What a shame it would be if this mural got disfigured.
The closing ceremony looked good too but as Bryan was working until late we had to watch it on iplayer later when he got home.
The rest of the Copa Crew managed to get tickets and all went to see it together. That was quite sad really as it would have been good to end it the same way it began – together (apart from Lorraine of course as she had flown back by now. Would have been perfect if she was still here!)
Well the time has come for us to leave Rio. We had a farewell gathering with the Copa Crew and about 20 others joining us for the evening. Some of whom we had never met before.
We have had a brilliant time here, met some brilliant people whom we hope to keep in touch with but we are ready to leave. We have been here long enough and any longer will just feel like too long. Although our plan had been to stay for the Paralympics too, plans change and we are now heading off to the capital of the Amazon; Manaus.
Hopefully a jungle trek for Bryan and maybe a boat trip for Jody. She can probably just about manage that as there shouldn’t be too many eight-legged leaves to scare her there!
We shall see….