When you take a trip to another land, you never know what’s around the corner.
And in this city of 20 million, and this country of 200 million, there are plenty of corners.
I’ve seen staplers turned upside down and reinvented into hand-held sewing machines.
I’ve spied scallions the size of my forearm.
I’ve walked into a church that looked like a giant waffle cone stuck into the ground.
I’ve been able to enjoy soccer played on the pitch, in the streets, on the sand, in the airport and on a basketball court.
And I’ve enjoyed every minute of it. Here is a small list of the myriad of things that have impressed, disappointed and surprised me during my two weeks in Brazil.
Impressed by: how many Americans are here enjoying their team and the Cup. Many of them have come to the World Cup and don’t even have tickets to the U.S. matches.
Disappointed by: the ticketless fans that busted into the media center at Maracana Stadium to try and get into Wednesday’s match. If they had known the circuitous route it takes to go from the media center to the media seats, they would have picked somewhere else.
Impressed by: Costa Rica. One upset is an anomaly. Two upsets is advancement. Los Ticos have beaten a South American power (Uruguay) and a European power (Italy). Wow!
Surprised by: the security guard at the media entrance taking my bottle of water and tearing off the label before saying to me “propaganda” and then handing the bottle back.
Impressed by: the voice that comes over the PA system before the Metro train reaches Maracana Stadium. It sounds like an overzealous soccer announcer excitedly bellowing out the build up to a goal. He says it in Portuguese and then switches to English, saying “Next stop: Maracana” with the last syllable echoing through the train.
Disappointed by: members of the press who complain about everything from the cost of the food in the media center to how difficult it is to get to the stadium. Sadly, I watched one FIFA worker calmly and politely explain to a balding, heavy-set reporter that he cannot burst into the press conference. He treated her so rudely I felt bad to be part of the same profession. On the same day, the reporter next to me jumped up and down each time Uruguay scored and then stood up on his chair at the end yelling after the win.
Impressed by: how inviting many of the Brazilians have been. Twice I was told my drink would be free. Another time, I asked if the Metro line I was on was the right one and the man offered to go with me to make sure I got there.
Disappointed by: McDonald’s not having a World Cup toy in its Happy Meal. A favorite thing to do on trips is to try and collect all the World Cup toys in the Happy Meals. But instead the toys are for “Chespirito,” a Mexican sketch comedy show, which is known as “Chaves” in Brazil. Que lastima.
Impressed by: the coverage by the Brazilian newspapers. Granted, I can hardly read a lick of it, but each day the sections are massive, colorful and have hilarious drawings of the players.
Surprised by: Magic trick salesmen on the street. During one walk this week, I came across three magic trick salesmen plying their wares. How many rings that magically link and unlink or fake cut-off fingers can one need? Soon it will be my turn to pull off a magic trick and vanish from this wonderful and bustling country. But before I go, let me just say “Obrigado, Brazil.”