Augie: Brazil’s Olympic Village

GoofyThe Augustana basketball teams are heading to Brazil this week and will be blogging on the trip. Chaney Tambling is blogging for the women’s team and you can catch their blog posts on the Daily Dose. Mark Roth is blogging for the men’s team.

Today is a day that will definitely be remembered as a highlight of this trip.

After being able to sleep in a little bit, the team got to go to what the Brazilians call an Olympic Village. These complexes are in areas of Rio that are very poverty-stricken. The people from these neighborhoods, called favelas, go to the Olympic Villages to get exercise, socialize, and have the opportunity to participate in other recreational activities.

The complex offers many different sports including karate, ballet, soccer, volleyball, swimming and basketball. When we first arrived we got to see the soccer field and then went into a building where a lot of younger kids were participating in ballet and karate. We got the pleasure of seeing them play and enjoy while also being able to join in ourselves.

After playing with the young kids, we went to an outdoor basketball complex. The court was surrounded by stairs and if anyone had been an onlooker, you would have thought celebrities walked into the building. The kids cheered and clapped as if they were meeting famous people.

And the appreciation didn’t stop there. They wanted to watch us play, so we played 5 on 5 for a while and then we were able to play against some of their teams. They even gave us jerseys to play in and keep. We will be returning the favor when we return home and will be sending them T-shirts. These kids are very poor, so this was probably the only time they will ever get to interact and see Americans. It was a pretty humbling experience to say the least.

Because we all wanted to get an opportunity to play against the local teams at the village, we would sub in and out often. But while not playing, we definitely weren’t bored. Many of us were bombarded by children asking us questions and trying to learn English. So many wanted our Facebook names and many of us already have friend requests waiting. Others wanted us to sign their arms, or shirts, or whatever they had with them. It was so cute to see the little kids come up to each and every one of us and be truly excited and happy to see us.

Many little boys were asking Jessica Baids, Molly Etheridge, Natalie Tomerlin and many others for kisses. They especially loved the blonde hair of Jenna, Andrea McNally, Amy Hicks and me.

Valerie VanRoeyen, Marissa Pezzopane and Kayla Boers were always being asked for pictures and signatures along with Dominique Hartsfield, Maddie Kerr and Britt.

Overall we thoroughly enjoyed being able to play against them and interact with them. It shows us what trips like this are truly for. As Coach Beinborn says a lot, it is really bigger than basketball, but through basketball we were able to bring smiles and joy to children who probably don’t get to experience the best things in life. We couldn’t have asked for a better experience here in Brazil and I can honestly say that it will be hard to top the fun, joy, and experience that I had today. It truly was amazing.

After the Olympic Village we returned to the hotel and went to dinner at a restaurant down the street from our hotel. We ate typical Brazilian cuisine. It consisted of a prepared fish not even on the menu (our guide Joseph hooked us up) and a cut of beef that is not even sold in the US. For many of us it was the best meal that we’ve eaten yet. It’s only been 4 days and we are already having the time of our lives. We can’t wait to see what else we can find in Brazil.

Tomorrow we are off to visit the Christ the Redeemer statue in Corcovado and tomorrow night we will be going to Lapa with our guides to see what typical Brazilian nightlife really is. To say we are excited is definitely an understatement.