Postcards From Rio: Part 3
Brazil: Day 4:
Wednesday, June 17
This is difficult to start as I know there won't be a way to summarize the day properly or keep it to a reasonable length, but I will try.
It was a full day to be sure as we left the hotel at 8:30 a.m. and returned at 7:30 p.m. An impression of what happened in those 11 hours would depend upon which of the 30 people in our group you asked as it would be different for each one.
I'll begin with impressions and then I will tell you where we went.
Sophomore, Hannah Greig on the day: "I loved it. It was complete culture shock for me and I realized how fortunate I am. The kids today were absolutely adorable."
Sophomore, Carli Cearnal reflects: "It just made me so appreciative of my life."
Sophomore, McKenna Waitley, always a woman of few words: "Surreal."
Junior, Chelsea Bumbaugh had this to say: "It was very ... uh, eye-opening. It actually made me feel selfish for previous times in my life when I've felt like I've had it rough."
Assistant Coach, Jim Thomas' perspective: "I feel thankful towards those I met and saw today for showing me what it takes to be happy. It isn't very much. I did not see one person frowning when under the circumstances you think you would."
Trainer, Mike Dillon had this to offer: "You wish every athlete could see the amenities that the people and athletes here DON'T have but how they manage to still prepare and compete and enjoy sport. It would certainly make them more grateful for what we have at UW."
Strength and Conditioning Coach, Rose Baker's observation of our student-athletes: "I enjoyed watching the behavior and perspective of our women change before, during and after the day. It was cool."
As mentioned before, Associate Head Coach Amy Griffin was in Brazil in December of 2007 with the U-17 National Team. She gave me a great perspective on the activities we should try to schedule for the team while we were here in addition to playing matches. One thing we all spoke about as a staff was finding a way to connect with the "real" people of Rio. Through our contacts at NIKE we were able to connect with Alice Gismonti, head of Nike's Global Organization which handles all of its social outreach projects and programs. Alice made a special trip to meet us flying in from Sao Paulo. She came to escort us to one of the "favelas" or Brazilian slums, which is also home of Instituto Bola Pra Frente, a type of sport school within the favela opened by famous Brazilian soccer players, Jorginho and Bebeto. I had the opportunity to see both of the win a World Cup at the Rose Bowl in 1994. Jorginho open the institute here because this is the favela in which where he grew up. There was nothing like this for him growing up which makes it even more amazing to see what he has achieved in his life.
So we took the bus ride to the outer part of Rio and saw many other favelas along the way. We arrived at Bola Pra Frente and entered the cement confines of the institute. Here we met Ana Julia, the director of the Institute, Eduardo, another instructor in charge of outreach to the surrounding favela to get children to the institute and Anya, a visiting Norwegian working at the institute as part of her graduate study in social work. We viewed an informational video on Bola Pra Frente and got a good feel for Jorginho's passion for this place. We then toured the classrooms, met with children of the institute which range from 6-18, observed them in different environments: dance class, computer class, job training class, and playing soccer outside on their "sand turf" field.
We then left the institute to tour the surrounding favelas on foot. Eduardo is the community connector for the institute and it was cool to see the locals come to great him. To say that the conditions in the favelas are substandard wouldn't begin to describe the environment. However, with that said, it is amazing what human beings adapt to and tolerate when there isn't another choice. The people we saw and met in the favelas were happy and welcoming people. There were areas we did not see where it would not be safe for our large group because drug trafficking is so prevalent that when the police come they are indiscriminant about who they go after and we would not have been safe.
We were able to go inside a new "sport and leisure" center in the favelas where old and young alike were taking dance lessons and enjoying themselves for a few hours. A few of our players joined in the dancing.
I am not doing it justice, but the few hours our team spent walking the streets of this favela changed them forever.
We then went back to the bus, left for lunch nearby and returned to the institute for our game, our second of the trip. This time, knowing what to expect, the players were much more at ease and the students of the institute were enthusiastic and supportive of our players, as well as anxious to watch us compete. Brazilians love their futebol!!!!
We played Team Chicago, a local team sponsored by NIKE and an acquaintance of ours, Hudson Fortune, from Chicago. He was born in Brazil as his parents were missionaries living here and the time and he also visits and gives back to the people here. Very cool.
This team was comprised of 17-25 year old women and they weren't not quite at the level of the previous team, but they were Brazilian: skillful, tactical and passionate players! The game began with our own Kendyl Pele, Hannah Greig, and Chelsea Bumbaugh singing the National Anthem. This was a real treat for everyone!
We won the match 3-1 and scored all four goals. Jorde LaFontaine-Kussmann saw her first action in goal as a Husky...action that she won't see on U.S. soil until 2010 as she has to sit a year based on the Pac-10 conference transfer rule. She played outstanding and it was great for her to have this opportunity. Carli Cearnal connected at 15 minutes, we had an unfortunate own goal at 36 minutes, we went back on top for good on a great strike by Nikki Murray in the 57 minute and capped it off with a beautifully built up goal by Kelli Stewart in the 79 minute. Faustine Dufka was dubbed Woman of the Match for her 90 minutes of hard work on both sides of the ball, her superb attacking that lead to the last goal, and her sacrifice of her body as she was run out of bounds on the sideline and wrapped herself around a goalpost. Yes, on the sideline. The "atmosphere" and "conditions" here were unlike anything these players have ever been a part of before. The sand turf field was enclosed in cement walls that were less than 5 feet from the sidelines, and the goals used for small sided games, 6 of them, were cemented in the ground along the sidelines and were actually a part of the sideline. We did well not to incur an injury and it forced our team to adapt, which they did very well. The kids in the stands performed and cheered for us, beat their drums and shouted out names and numbers! Kendyl PELE was popular as you can imagine.
After the game our team presented jerseys to the players and then presented Ana Julia with a PILE of surplus gear (uniforms, shoes) that we had brought from the UW. It was well received and our team felt great about making a small positive difference in the lives of the children and people of the favelas. Again, this is something that will change us all forever.
This was a top 5 day for all!
Day 5: Thursday, June 19, 2009
After yesterday and a lot of road/bus time, we were due for some down town. There was morning strolling, exercise, and beach time for everyone. At 11 a.m. many went to find TVs to watch the U.S.-Brazil men's game live from South Africa. Brazil won 3-0 handily, so the locals were happy and we were happy for them as they take their soccer very seriously and we're on their turf and wouldn't want to have to endure the ensuing depression if Brazil were to lose. They don't like to lose!
In the late afternoon we caught the bus to catch the train that would take us to Corcavado Mountain. This was spectacular. We traveled in the train straight up and the view was beyond spectacular. From here you could see all of Rio De Janeiro and got a feel for the first time how absolutely huge it is! The other attraction here is the enormous cement statue: Christ the Redeemer. This was a virtual photo session frenzy and we were all in awe of this man-made marvel. It was truly moving. We also just happened to be at the top of Corcavado during sunset which only added to the ambience. This was yet another memory that won't leave anyone from here forward. Simply awe-inspiring.
We ended our evening in a circle on the beach at Ipanema reflecting on the past days. We know there are more amazing experiences ahead in the next few days and I can't wait to share them with you all!
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