Bieber Fever, Backstreet Boys, Beer.

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It’s definitely been an interesting and somewhat spontaneous penultimate week in Rio. An unplanned stay in a Copacabana Beach hotel on the 1st November with two friends has provided an unforgettable and unexpected story to share with others. After dropping our bags at the hotel, the three of us set upon what would become by first Copacabana adventure – a search for something to eat and a suitable alcoholic beverage vendor somewhere along the globally iconic section of coastline. Not entirely sure of what to expect, a feeling that has become all too familiar during my stay in Rio de Janeiro, we almost immediately stumbled upon a substantially sized group of girls looking rather excitable and tremendously happy. A find that at first stimulated our hopes of an enjoyable and interesting night soon sunk into a feeling of temporary disappointment, as we walked closer toward the group their median age suddenly plummeted whilst various areas of their bodies appeared to be draped in an impressive array of memorabilia endorsed by a certain 19-year-old Canadian heart throb. I am proud to admit that I do not keep myself updated on Justin Bieber’s latest touring destinations, yet we had walked straight into the middle of an agitated and hungry pack of Beliebers that had collected outside the main entrance to the Copacabana Palace Hotel. How did this happen? Suddenly, an outbreak of screams rivalling the fans of a Rio derby at the Maracanã forced me to protect my ears and look skywards. Sure enough, there appeared the cause of the teenage commotion that we had found ourselves in the center of. I can’t say that I wasn’t tremendously excited by the whole situation and I have confidence in saying that the two companions that I was sharing this moment with also shared my emotions. Even more regrettably, I also can’t say that I didn’t charge through the large group of girls like a lion amongst a herd of zebras after hearing rumours that Bieber was plotting an escape from the rear entrance to the hotel, because I did, smiling extravagantly whilst doing so after realising that my half marathon training had not gone to waste. Somewhat amusingly, a google search of Justin Bieber the following day revealed an interesting insight into his Rio experiences, the links are below. The remainder of my night seems relatively tame in comparison, though we did unintentionally find ourselves in another prostitute filled bar, though didn’t stay long after receiving the bill for our drinks and meeting an overconfident Texan toting an iPad and a girl on each arm who, presumably, he had planned to pay for.

Waking up on Saturday morning to the view of Copacabana Beach felt extremely surreal, despite having to battle for covers with two male friends throughout a relatively uncomfortable nights sleep. Though, realising that I didn’t have to pay for the room soon made everything worth while (Thanks Anton’s mum). This was the first time that I had experienced Copacabana in daylight, and it was absolutely amazing. The beach was beautiful and absolutely packed all day long, with the familiar, welcome sight of Brazilian bottoms owned by the many beautiful women occupying Rio’s beaches. Having been fortunate enough to have experienced both Ipanema and Copacabana beaches, falling in love with them both, I have come to understand that there is something extremely special about the latter. It could  be the picturesque and luxurious reputation that it has earned through its portrayal in literature and on the big screen, or the many spectacular hotels that create an astounding backdrop to the 4km of infamous coastline, the beautiful promenade or even the history of the area. Whatever the reason, I fail to believe how anyone could formulate a negative view of Brazil’s most iconic piece of coastline. I ended my day at Copacabana fort, a defensive structure completed in 1914 on the southern peninsula of Copacabana to protect the entrance to the harbour of Rio de Janeiro. As a history graduate, learning about the fort’s historic significance was obviously fascinating but it was the views that the fortification provided across the Copacabana coastline that were truly breathtaking, an image that will be difficult to forget.

I celebrated my 21st birthday last year with a drunken University night out followed by the second worst hangover of my life, and a visit to Ipswich to watch Burnley lose 2-1 from the directors box. This was a fantastic birthday celebrated with my nearest and dearest and I enjoyed every minute of it, but I couldn’t have even begun to imagine that I would be celebrating my next birthday in Rio de Janeiro. Due to a number of volunteers having premeditated plans to travel to Florianopolis and Salvador on my birthday, Thursday, I had planned my main celebrations for Wednesday evening. After a fun, lively and loud pre-drinks at the volunteer house beforehand, we travelled to Botafogo to attend the Casa da Matriz club well aware that it would be a karaoke themed night, arriving feeling sceptical and doubting how successful the night would turn out to be. I’ve never really attended a great number of karaoke nights, nor have I particularly enjoyed the few that I have been to. This is most probably due to a lack of singing talent and a missing quantity of confidence that is needed to display my broken vocal chords in front of a crowd, however intoxicated they may have been. Shockingly, however, Rio’s nightlife continued to impress and astound, and I enjoyed one of the most memorable nights of my life, definitely celebrating my 22nd birthday in style. Singing questionable nineties and noughties chart toppers with my adopted Rio family definitely proved to be a fantastic method of celebrating my birthday. Now, I’m not saying that Brazilian beer provided a temporary fix to my obvious lack of vocal ability, but I can proudly confirm that we did indeed receive an extensive applause and yells of appreciation from the other party goers after successfully performing an absolutely brilliant rendition of ‘I Want It That Way’ by the Backstreet Boys. A career option to pursue upon my return to the UK? Perhaps.

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A little slice of heaven.

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Heavy rain showers on Wednesday and Thursday provided a good mix up to my daily routine, a welcome change as I always enjoy a different environment and a challenge. The rain flooded our football pitch in the Favela, meaning that the children needed indoor entertainment in the community centre classroom. I could no longer rely on my gift of exceptional football skills, or more likely my height, weight and age advantage in entertaining the children, and would have to incorporate a much wider vocabulary than yelling gol, passe and chuta in order to successfully communicate with the next generation of Ronaldinhos and Neymar Jrs. Facing a classroom of cheeky 10 year olds armed with nothing more than a whiteboard and a marker pen isn’t up there in my top five all time favourite situations, but their enthusiasm to learn and their ability to ease my nerves with giggles and smiles resulted in the time passing quickly and left me wanting to spend more time with them to help teach English. After spending a few hours teaching various groups of kids the English for exotic fruits and types of clothing, I’m pretty sure they’re experts. The challenge also improved my Portuguese – I am now fearless should I be faced with the challenge of ordering a pineapple and orange smoothie or a pair of trousers in a Brazilian shopping center.
Perhaps heading out for drinks on Thursday night wasn’t the best of ideas considering we had to be awake at 6:30 On friday morning to travel to the bus station to catch our coach to Buzios for the weekend, and attempting to pack after having too much to drink the night before only made matters more entertaining. The three hour journey was probably the most enjoyable bus ride I’ve ever had, driving uninterrupted through the most picturesque landscape you could imagine, with forest and the continuous rolling hills and mountains providing the most magnificent roadside entertainment. We were to be spending the next two nights in a hostel, and it looked pretty good, too. It’s just a shame it was managed by a group of very moody and disorganised Argentines that had overbooked the hostel for the weekend, resulting in a lot of unnecessary moving around. Once we had organised all eighteen beds to accommodate our group, we left the hostel in search for food and to explore the town centre. Restaurants and upmarket but touristy shops lined both sides of the main streets whilst botequims (bars) occupied the available spaces between them. The coastline was amazing, and just as in Rio it became clear that the ocean and sand provided a valuable income to many of the locals of Buzios. Boat taxis were prevalent, as were the cart vendors selling anything from coconut water to barbecued chicken.
Friday evening, similarly to every other project-free evening, was spent in the bars. The botequims are generally fantastic in Buzios and in most areas of Rio, service is good, the beer ice cold and relatively cheap, whilst the atmosphere is almost always calm and enjoyable. In the smaller bars, it is often the case that drinks are accompanied by an impromptu and spectacular performance by a three or four piece samba band, always a welcomed sight and sound! All this information instantly becomes useless and irrelevant as soon as football makes it’s way onto the television however, with the local music being replaced by shouting and intemperate body gestures aimed toward dissatisfactory shots, passes, and appalling decisions made by the referee. In either scenario patrons often spill onto the streets, giving great indication toward the most popular venues to drink and socialise in town. Anyway, several beers later we were hit by the biggest rainstorm I’ve been caught in since I arrived in Brazil, the streets appeared to flood almost immediately and our plan to venture a few hundred meters from the outdoor bar we were at to the nearest club grew less appealing as our feet began to disappear under the rai water. Okay, it wasn’t quite that bad but it was very wet, and luckily for us a restaurant took us in and we could enjoy a few more drinks without getting any wetter.
Saturday was a good day. On Friday afternoon we had booked tickets for all of us to go on a boat ‘tour’ around a the coast and small islands around Buzios, it was definitely the best £15 I’ve spent since the warmest trench coat I have ever purchased from asos last winter. Setting off at 12, it was a two and a half hour trip in the most amazing weather, and though we took a few beers with us the boat crew provided us with a steady stream of freshly mixed caipirinhas every time we anchored to allow all the passengers off the boat to swim. Caipirinhas seem to be a staple in the Cariocan diet, and after consuming my fair share I can best describe them as a stronger and even sweeter mojito, though I’m still not quite certain of its ingredients. Whatever was in them, they certainly made jumping from the boat into the water a lot more fun. Music, alcohol, the ocean and sun? An afternoon well spent!
Saturday night was much drier than Friday, and after refuelling after the boat trip with fajitas at a Mexican restaurant we headed out to a crêperie/sports bar (?!) to start the night. UFC is hugely popular in Brazil, and as I enjoy watching one man spin kicking another man in the face as much as the next guy, watching 5 fights in a row whilst sat at a bar with a beer and a chocolate crêpe is my idea of a great Saturday night. The atmosphere in the open top bar only made the experience much better, with the noise in the bar during the heavyweight championship bout easily rivalling the noise heard in any packed out botequim in Rio during a local football derby. After the fights had finished at about 1am, we headed to one of the local clubs. It really was a local club, a fact that became immediately obvious by what I can only assume were the stereotypically large derrières of the many Brazilian women that appeared to act as an obstacle course on my way to the bar. Though I was feeling confident after a few caipirinhas and a few more Brahmas and thought I was dancing brilliantly at the time, in hindsight I am doubtful that I came close to rivalling the feet and hip movements of the other club goers. But, I had a brilliant time and I loved the music, I only wish I could have stayed there for another night.
So, the weekend in Buzios was a holiday away from what many would call a holiday in Rio. Though, as I hope these blog entries have established, my time in Brazil has so far rewarded me with far more experiences and challenges than I could ever have seen or done on any holiday that I have been on, and I’m sure there will be many more surprises to come.

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