Brazil

Monday in Rio

My group arrives later today, so I’m looking forward to meeting them.  Over the weekend we prepared over 1000 backpacks for our various groups then delivered them to a variety of locations.  All of that mixed in with some area recon!  Fun weekend that flew past us as WYD week is upon us.

Some small drama at the hostel two nights ago when I tumbled into my hostel bed only to find it occupied by a small Japanese girl. You can imagine the surprise for both of us!  I ended up with a bed, and it didn’t matter as I was quite tired.  Lots of snorers in the hostels, maybe they should make a snoring and nonsnoring room.  Quick thought on the traffic, it’s always like an advanced game of frogger.  Unlike the movie ELF, where the yellow ones don’t stop, here, ALL of them don’t stop.  One must keep one’s head on a swivel at all times!

Had a great talk with a pilgrim, Michael, from Canada.  He brought up the question, does World Youth Day help bring folks closer to Christ?  After all, that’s the goal of WYD, to encounter Christ.  Good question, remains to be seen.  Several of the local guides have pointed out that Brazil isn’t as Catholic as it used to be, and many have slipped into the secularism of today.  Perhaps this will help change Rio then Brazil.  Again, we’ll see.  My immediate question is how will WYD affect my life.  How will this encounter with Christ affect me.  We’ll see…

Saturday in Copacabana

The day started early with “chainsaw” going at it about 4:30 in the morning.  I’m not sure what the international rules are for snoring in a room with 8 people, but this guy crossed the line.  Everyone was awake…except him.  I politely woke his girlfriend in the bunk above him (still not sure how she ended up in our room), and asked her to make him stop.  Amazingly enough, he did.

Breakfast at the hostel with the other guides was at 0830.  Guides are form all over the world.  Spain, Canada, Mexico, US, and Brazil.  The local guides are so fun and knowledgable, and they are so excited that Rio is hosting World Youth Day.  We travel by metro or bus complete with JMJ flag so you can imagine the stares.  Funny thing is, this is nothing as some 2 million folks will pour into Rio over the next week.  We’ll be staring at them!  We already checked out some of the local churches, and the volunteers are manning their spots for the next week.  My group arrives Monday, and we’ll get right to it.  The opening Mass will be on Copacabana Beach with Archbishop Tempesta of Rio.  That’ll be a huge event!

People spoke about safety prior to my trip, and I have to say that it’s been quite safe.  Of course, I’m not venturing into the unsavory parts of town, and we’re staying in a group for the most part, but the city seems quite safe.  Rush hour is 6-9 in the morning and then again in the afternoon like any big city. There aren’t as many motorcycles as I thought, and it seems that the mortality rate in Sau Paulo is 3 motorcyclists a day, so that may explain things.  Small cars abound, parking is a premium, and it’s tee shirts and shorts in the middle of winter.  The Southern Cross is in the sky above, and the ocean is very refreshing. The beach has sections for beach soccer and volleyball played like soccer (no hands, use only head and feet) which looks easy (ok, it IS NOT easy).  Also, thousands run and bike up and down the beach on the road designated for them.  Seems to be a healthy city although I haven’t seen lots of green veggies and the like at dinner.  Several of us ate a huge lunch today that consisted of grilled meats, rice and beans, and a cous cous of sorts. Delicious!

World Youth Day itself is an actual week, so there’ll be lots going on.  Rigid flexibility will be the mantra.  Here are some instructions:

Breakfast for the group will be distributed at place of lodging

Lunches and Dinners during WYD will be voucher

Weekend meals will be in a box

The schedule may change

The last line pretty much sums it up!

 

Friday in Copacabana

Woke up around 8 then showered and had a pretty good hostel breakfast.   Coffee, breads and butter, cheeses, etc. is apparently standard hostel fare around the world.  The coffee was pretty good.  Today I figured that they had both hot and cold milk, so I added the hot milk to the coffee.  From there our group took the metro into the city center to see the Cathedral, American Consulate, and the St. Benedict Monastery in the middle of town.  We also saw a demonstration in the front of a church that apparently was based on a police killing of 20 folks nearby some 20 years ago.  More so, there are some political hotbuttons in Brazil such as spanking kids, moving street kids into group homes, and moving street people off the streets for more political reasons than anything else.  Like any country, Brazil has it’s own issues.  The metro is modern and easy to navigate, however during rush hour will be quite challenging.  I did have some folks ask me for directions, so that was a compliment.  I think.  The city of Rio is interesting in that it has beaches, hills, jungles, city, and mountains all nearby.  Not many cities can boast that!

 

Thursday in Rio

It’s just after lunch here. I woke and headed to the beach for a quick swim early this morning.  The hostel has a simple breakfast so the rest of the guides met around 1000.  Since then other guides have arrived via car or plane.  We’ll do area recon later this afternoon and evening complete with Mass.  The Brazilian guides add a local flavor, and they have lots of information that will be helpful for the rest of us who aren’t from here.  Fun to see some folks since Madrid!

Apparently, Brazil is set to sign a new law that will make abortion legal.  It’s one of the laws that’s slipped through which makes it even more difficult to stomach.  Brazil had a peaceful separation from Portugal back in the day, and it’s hard to believe that such a Catholic country would allow such an atrocity.  Please keep the country in prayer.

The weather is mild, shorts and tee shirts.  The nights are cool, and Copacabana Beach, while busy with traffic, seems pretty normal.  Like any large city, there are unsafe places.  So far so good!

 

 

Wednesday in Rio

I slept so well last night, I was beat.  Woke and had a breakfast with Nick, Krista, and Corinne who are also guides.  The coffee was delicious!  I headed to Copacabana Beach for area recon.  The altar is at the east end of the beach, and there are huge video screens every 100 yards or so.  This location will host several events along the way, but it’s narrow at points.  Should be interesting for logistics.  The weather was super, so I walked then took a swim in the refreshing water.  In the distance I could make out Christ the Redeemer overlooking Rio.  Wow, quite impressive!  I’ll visit later this week and then again with my group.

The beach walk was wonderful.  I was expecting something a little different than what I saw.  Families, runners, sunbathers, etc covered the beach.  Save the occasional skimpy suit, I thought I was at any normal beach.  Some folks were selling various items and the construction crews were finishing the various screens and altar, so there was some activity.  As I was walking on the beach, the tide was coming in.  Not that the footprints were a negative, but the incoming water washed higher and higher and made the beach smooth and pristine.  It reminded me of going to confession in that my sins are washed clean and my soul made smooth and pristine.

The city of Rio, specifically Rio, seems like any other large city.  As I was walking earlier today, the hustle and bustle reminded me of other large cities.  Yes, there’s a Latin flair, but there was nary a demonstration, the streets seemed safe, and the people seemed positive and helpful.  Ok, so I wasn’t in the rough part of town, but I couldn’t help realize how much other influences, like the media, can influence my perceptions.  I once read “I’ll do anything twice.”  Twice, you mean once, right?  No, twice.  Why twice?  Well, once only gives a perspective, and twice gives another chance to see the experience from another angle.  Hmmmm, great point.  I think I’ll try to see and experience Rio for myself, from my perspective.  How the food tastes, places look, things smell, etc. is one thing to others, but I want that experience for myself.  Same thing in life.  I’d rather let my own experiences dictate how I see things rather than someone or something else.  That perspective is good, but my own will be better.  Twice.

 

 

Tuesday, July 16th

Today is almost done.  I’ll get something to eat then hit the hay bales.  Long day of travel and such.  Most of the guides are in except for the local ones, so we’re getting situated.  The hostel is pretty solid, and we have eight in our room.  They have great music pumping and a young crowd, and they’re supposed to have breakfast tomorrow.  We’ll see how that goes.  We did take a quick walk on Copacabana, the famous beach, and it was pretty tame.  Not much different than the States.  I do plan on taking a dip at some point in time.  So far, the people seem to be just like those in any other large city.  With over 10 million in the urban sprawl, Rio de Janeiro is a huge city.  However the hills and water make it seem less so. Earlier this evening we unloaded boxes of backpacks and books that will later be sorted for the 1000 plus pilgrims that will be in our various groups.  After that we Father Louis Merosne celebrated Mass for all of us which was a great way to end the day.  Tomorrow will be a trip into the city center to find the location of different events.

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