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 mugging, a football match, and a gang of transsexual prostitutes.

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I’ve now completed my third week in Rio, three weeks that I have absolutely loved, enjoyed and will cherish for the foreseeable future. I have decided to extend my time here by an additional two weeks, and am keen to remain at my current project where I feel I am progressing in building a relationship with the children and staff there. Though I will be spending a greater amount of time away from my family, friends and the comforts of living in England, I greatly look forward to spending more time here and celebrating my 22nd birthday with the new friends that I have made here, in the city that I have come to love. Who knows what could happen?
This week has been definitive in my appreciation of Brazilian lifestyle and culture, deep recognition of the problems that exist here, and the impact that all this has had on my outlook on everything. I’m sure I’ll go into depth with this a bit later on. But first, I’ll give a brief update on how what I’ve been getting on this week.
I experienced my first, if a little pathetic, mugging on Monday afternoon as a fellow volunteer and I were waiting for our bus to Take us home from the project. Though quite terrifying at the time, my stubborn personality clearly proved a success after I bravely, or more likely stupidly, continuously refused to hand over more that the bus hey that I was holding in my hand. Still, the petty criminal was clearly satisfied with his single figure earnings, politely thanking us with a smile and a thumbs up before moving off on his getaway bicycle. I will never forget the image of Jesse, my fellow muggee, returning the thumbs up and smiling at the man as if he had done us a favour, I will also never know why he did this. Immediately breaking into into a nervous laughter, I think we were satisfied with how well the situation was endured, though it is something I would most definitely not like to experience again any time soon. I’m quite certain that others would not give in so easily, or indeed be quit as polite as this gentleman thief.
On Wednesday evening I was fortunate enough to have attended one of the quarter finals of the Copa do Brasil between Flamengo and Botafogo, a true Rio derby. I realise that in attempting to accurately illustrate my experiences in Brazil I have consistently referred to atmospherical features and differences, and I’m sure that it’s repetition in my writing has irritated some readers. Those readers may just have to bare a little more, as my initial thoughts upon entering the Maracanã stadium greeted by the sight and sounds of 60,000 fans, revolved entirely around the astonishing atmosphere of an almost full stadium. Surely I can be forgiven? We had bought tickets for the Botafogo section and opted for standing in the midst of the loudest and most lively supporters. Even an hour before kick off there was more enthusiasm from the fans than I have ever witnessed at any English football game, and these were enhanced by the accompaniment of drums, horns and flags. Though the Botafogo fans were easily outnumbered by their Flamengo counterparts four to one, songs and chants were constant and deafening. The sight of the packed stadium was impressive alone, and I was impressed by such a large proportion of female supporters around the stadium. I was equally as surprised to witness the gladiatorial Seedorf and his Botafogan squad thrashed 4-0, with a significant chunk of the Botafogo crowd disappearing as the third Flamengo goal hit the back of the net. However, it is impossible to discredit the fans any further – such was there excitement and hooliganism infectious, I may or may not have been jumping up and down on my seat, swinging my t-shirt above my head whilst singing words I did not understand at the top of my lungs. A truly enjoyable and unforgettable experience.
Completing plans that had been repeatedly postponed, on Wednesday evening myself and two others began our journey to the peak of Corcovado, forming the platform for the statue of Cristo Redentor. I for one was eagerly anticipating the iconic views across the city and Ocean, my anticipation only enhanced by our plan to reach the statue in time to watch the sunset. I was not disappointed, the panoramic views and Cristo himself greatly exceeded my expectations. It goes without saying that we ticked the bucket list boxes in pulling the most touristically possible poses with the statue behind us and had fantastic fun doing so, why be embarrassed? We definitely chose the best time to go, managing to catch Cristo in daylight, sunset and illuminated by spotlights in the dark. My only regret is that I think I would have enjoyed the views a little more had I made the hike through the national park to the top of Corcovado instead of getting a minibus. There’s always next time.
I think I will publish a separate entry regarding my thoughts and realisations that were mentioned at the beginning of this brief update, as I believe it may become a lengthened post. I shall leave you with the delightful news that on Thursday night I was approached and caressed by not one, but two transsexual prostitutes. Clustered like packs of gender confused wolves on almost every corner of Lapa, a nightlife hotspot, a degree of skill is required in avoiding the attention of the wo(men), a skill I am learning and developing the hard way. Still, all in good fun.

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