Before I begin anything else, I want to explain the title of this post. In Brazil, a common saying is “tudo vai dar certo,” or “everything will work out.” For those of you who know me well, you can understand why sometimes this is hard for me. I like to plan, I like to know in advance, and, let’s be honest, I can be a little uptight. At the same time, this attitude is one of my favorite things about Brazil. Brazilians are so confident that things (be it public works for the World Cup being ready on time or students showing up for a class I’m giving) will work and they’re able to just go with the flow. The month of June has been filled with these vai dar certo moments, and while I’m not giving up my love on planning things in advance, I’ve come to realize that sometimes you just have to go with the flow and trust that everything will work out.
A lot of time has passed since my last blog post but, to be perfectly honest, not much has been happening here. PSYCH! It’s the World Cupe and Fortaleza (and Brazil in general) has been crazy! But before we get to that, a quick wrap up on the end of my semester.
The first week in June brought an end to basically all of my regular activities at UFC. Despite a bus strike on the second to last day of my club, forcing me to decide last minute whether or not to cancel, tudo deu certo and we decided to just meet the next day instead. Conversation club ended with a fun party and a chance to just relax and hang out with everyone. I’m so happy with how the clubs went this semester. I hope they’re just as fun next semester too!
We also held our last movie night of the semester and screened Animal House. Now, for those of you who have never seen Animal House, you’re seriously missing out. It was our smallest crowd, mostly because it was the end of the semester and a Friday night, but the students who came absolutely loved it! It may have slightly skewed their vision of university life in the US, but it was a huge hit. It makes me even more excited about next semester! We were concerned about students showing up so close to the end of the semester but, deu certo and the students came. Again, getting me to go with the flow and trust that things will work out.
Apart from these regular activities, I also visited half of the Inglês sem Fronteiras “mini-courses,” or oficinas, that were happening this month (Laura visited the other half). Most of the oficinas I visited were on oral expression and pronunciation, so I used my workshop on slang and informal language, and the others were on written expression so we talked about persuasive writing techniques. These past few Fridays with IsF have really helped remind me why I love the work I’m doing this year with Fulbright. The students, who represent a huge variety of majors across UFC, are all so motivated and dedicated to improving their English so they can study abroad through the Science without Borders program. They even gave up their Fridays and Saturdays after the semester had officially ended! One of the ways I reshaped my schedule for next semester will allow me to spend a lot more time with the IsF students, and I’m really looking forward to it!
Now for the part of the post you probably care about: the World Cup! It has been absolutely insane! Since Fortaleza is one of the 12 host-cities, there are gringos everywhere. And I mean everywhere. It actually a little overwhelming. Do I speak Portuguese? Do I speak English? Spanish? My default is honestly Portuguese, and that’s kind of worked in my favor (like getting served quickly at a restaurant before a game). Back in November, before the final draw of teams was announced, I purchased tickets to see two teams from Group G, little did I know those teams would be Germany and Ghana! Laura and I also purchased tickets to see Winner B x Runner-Up A, again without knowing that it would be the Netherlands x Mexico, another fantastic game! Outside of that, I just planned on enjoying the FIFA Fan Fest and watching the rest of the Copa from Fortaleza.
That plan started with the abertura, or opening match. Laura’s two friends, Seth and Joben, were staying with us for the week and we decided to go to the Fan Fest. It was amazing! First of all, the two of them are super cool and I loved hanging out with them all week. They’re also crazy about soccer, so it was a blast talking about the World Cup with them!
The Fan Fest was a ton of fun! There was live music, it was full of people who love Brazil and love soccer, and we watched a great game (fine, an ok game with bad refs, but still a win for Brazil!)
If you want to get a little idea of what it’s like in Brazil when A Seleção plays, check out this video from a fellow Fulbrighter!
If this is what Andre’s experience is like in a small city in the Amazon, imagine what it’s like for me in the fifth largest city in the country! It’s crazy!
After spending sime time with us, Joben and Seth headed off to Natal for the USA x Ghana game. A bunch of other Fulbrighters had tickets to the game, and Natal isn’t too far from Fortaleza, but I didn’t consider going because I live in a host city. Why should I travel to see a game? Brazil was also playing the day after in Fortaleza and I didn’t want to miss that! Well, after hanging out with Seth and Joben, who are nuts about USA soccer, I realized how badly I wanted to see the US play. Around 9pm on Sunday night (the game was at 7pm on Monday), I decided I wanted to try and get tickets for me and my friend Joey, an American who lives here in Fortaleza. By 11pm, the tickets to the game were confirmed but we still needed to get to and from Natal. Joey and his girlfriend, Sophia, raced to the bus terminal to buy us bus tickets home (better to confirm our trip home before we bought a flight there!) but it was closed! What now! I woke up the next morning around 730am, called the bus company, and after being told they couldn’t help me over the phone, I raced to the bus terminal to buy us seats. In true Brazilian fashion, I ended up in a slow line at the bus company waiting. And waiting. Finally it’s mine turn and the woman says “sorry, the system is down and we aren’t selling tickets to or from Natal.” Fine, can you send me to bus company who will sell me that ticket? Bus company 2: no tickets available. Finally, I get to the third and last bus company that runs Fortaleza—Natal and was able to get the last two seats on the overnight bus.
Game tickets, check! Bus home in time for the Brazil game, check! Now all we needed to do was get to Natal! I rushed home and got online and purchased my flight, only to find that the airline doesn’t accept foreign credit cards online! I got them to hold my reservation and had until 1245 to get to the airport and pay. Seems easy right, especially with a ride to the airport from Sophia! Not quite. We had to pick Joey up from work at UNIFOR, another university in the city, and there was no way to get to the airport on time for me to make my reservation! Luckily, Sophia saved the day and bought the flight on her card while we were driving to the airport. If that isn’t a tudo vai dar certo moment, then I don’t know what is.
Joey and I arrived in Natal around 5 pm, hopped in a cab right to the stadium, and went on a hunt to find Seth and Joben so we could pick up our tickets. That’s right, we showed up at the stadium without tickets. No proble, tudo vai dar certo. And it did! As the huge crowd was crowded around the gate trying to get in, we found Joben and were able to get our tickets! It was such an amazing atmosphere, being surrounded by other Americans excited about cheering for our team! For those who may not know, the US was kicked out of the last two World Cups after losing to Ghana, and considering that the other teams in our group were Germany and Portugal this game was super important and would determine whether or not the US had a chance of advancing!
I’ve always enjoyed watching professional soccer, and I saw the US play Brazil back in 2012 in DC, but nothing compares to the feeling of watching the US beat Ghana in our opening game of the World Cup. When Clint Dempsey scored in just over 30 seconds, the stadium went crazy. There were drinks flying everywhere, the crowd was screaming and jumping, and the Brazilians in front of us were so shocked and amused that they turned around to film it on their cellphones. So much for Americans not liking soccer…
After that, I admit that Ghana outplayed the US, and eventually tied the game with a goal late in the second half. In order to advance, we couldn’t afford to lose, so when John Brooks scored in the 86th minute (out of 90, for the non-soccer oriented reader), the stadium erupted with cheers again.
What an amazing game! Joey and I headed straight to the bus terminal to catch our midnight bus home, but not without repeating the phrases “what just happened?” and “I can’t believe we made it!” over and over again. After losing to Ghana two World Cups in a row, this is the exact confidence booster the US needed leading into games against Portugal and Germany.
We made it home with enough time to shower, nap, and get right back up to watch Brazil x Mexico, a game that was played here in Fortaleza! I was feeling kind of sick, and it was a tough match, so I was happy to come right home and go right to sleep.
For the rest of the week, I just relaxed, caught the games on TV, and got pumped to see Germany x Ghana at Arena Castelão here in Fortaleza! Laura had four more friends come and stay in our apartment because they were also going to the game. It was crazy hectic (our apartment is not meant for six people!), but they were also fun, and it was nice to have people to go to the stadium with since otherwise I was going alone!
Despite buying the cheapest ticket available, I was seated in Row G, a little offset from the goal. It was an amazing seat! In fact, during the warm ups, the Germans even kicked a ball into our section and we all passed it around before it had to be returned!
I ended up making friends with the Brazilian sitting next to me, and it was an amazing game to watch, but it was a different feeling than the USA game. This game was obviously important since it was the US group, but I didn’t feel that same nail-biting, hair-pulling tension that I felt watching the US game. I was kind of indifferent about the winner (although in my heart I was cheering for Ghana. Sorry Karl), and enjoyed going, but it made me appreciate my experience at the USA game even more.
The next day was USA x Portugal. I went to the Fan Fest with friends and, despite the game ending in a tie, it was awesome! There were a ton of Americans there to sing the Star Spangled Banner, cheer at the good pars, and fall awkwardly silent at the end when Portugal tied. Once again, it was an amazing being surrounded by people who care so much about USA soccer and about seeing the US play well. One of my Brazilian friends even said the next day at the Brazil game that he was inspired by how patriotic the USA fans were, so he went out and bought a flag to use when Brazil plays!
The next brought yet another exciting moment at the Fan Fest! I met up with Patricia and her friends to watch Brazil x Cameroon!
It was amazing! The Fan Fest was packed and the Brazilians went nuts every time Brazil scored! After, we stayed for the concert and had a great time! The Fan Fest has been such an amazing way to enjoy games, and I’m so glad I live in a host city (and conveniently only a short walk from the Fan Fest)!!!
The rest of the week was pretty relaxed. I watched the games on TV, started prepping some presentations for next semester, and took a well-deserved break after two hectic weeks of having guests in our apartment. I ended up watching the final US game in the group stage from a restaurant with Joey, since we were meeting someone at UNIFOR after the game and, not only were we the only Americans in the restaurant, we were also both yelling pretty loudly, for better or for worse. It was still a ton of fun and, despite losing 1-0 to Germany, the US qualified for the Round of Sixteen! Next match is USA x Belgium tomorrow at 5pm! Let’s go USA!
On Saturday, Brazil played a heart-attack inducing match against Chile. Karine, my first friend in Fortaleza and my amazing host for the first month, invited me to watch with her entire family. It was so much fun (albeit incredible stressful). The whole family, including the older members, are nuts about soccer, and the game involved lots of screaming at the TV, especially chants of “tira Fred,” or “take Fred out,” since we can all agree that he’s kind of a waste of space for the seleção. After Chile tied the match early in the second half, Brazil wasn’t able to step up and the game wen to 30 minutes of overtime. 30 stressful minutes where neither team scored. Now, time for penalty kicks.
When I say that this match was heart-attack inducing, I’m only exaggerating a little. Brazil edged out Chile 3-2, and then we celebrated! Everyone jumped out of their seats, screaming and hugging, and then the festivities continued! We stayed until almost 7 pm dancing, enjoying time with the family, and just having an awesome time. What a great way to spend my Saturday!
Sunday the 29th was my last game at a Stadium and, once again, I got incredibly lucky. Laura and I got to see Netherlands x Mexico, two good teams who played a great game! Add that to our great seats, and it was an amazing experience! In my heart I was cheering for Mexico, but really I just wanted to see a good game, and that’s exactly what I got! Although, I still can’t believe the Netherlands one, but that’s a different story….
We had a blast busing to the stadium with bus jam packed full of Dutch and Mexican fans, and were able to meet some extra crazy ones on the way in!
Afterwards, we took the free bus home and vegged. It was a long, but amazing, day, and I just needed to relax.
Now, I’m just enjoying my Monday and writing this! The World Cup is far from over, and I’m sure I’ll have many more stressful days (including all day tomorrow) watching team USA and Brazil, but I can’t wait! I also taught my last class of the semester last week and am officially on vacation! I hope to spend this week getting some extra dance rehearsals in with Oré before meeting Michell, another Fulbrighter, in Salvador for our two-week vacation through the Northeast! I can’t wait for what this month has to offer!