Day Three (cont’d) – After the blocos and the beach, it was time to head to Sambodromo to watch night one of the Carnival parade.
The energy of the stadium could be felt from the moment I stepped off the metro as the cheering crowd and beating drums echoed across the night sky.
I found a great “seat” in Sector 4 between a fun group of Venezuelans and a cheerful gang of Paulistas (people of Sao Paulo) who offered up beers and cheers for the entire night.
Samba schools paraded through the sea of people until almost six in the morning, with each more colorful and elaborate than the previous. The dancers moved beautifully, the floats were incredible and the drummers made your whole body vibrate.
The video paints a far better picture than my words could ever do justice.
My personal favorites were Salgueiro and Mangueira. There floats and percussion were ridiculously good and the crowd responded accordingly.
Day Four – I didn’t have to go too far for today’s events because there was a big bloco in my neighborhood of Largo do Machado. I played outside for a few hours with the other kids, singing and dancing in the street, until I needed to get my butt back to Sambodromo for night two of the “grupo especial” parade.
My adopted samba school, Mocidade, was the first scheduled to go at 9pm, so I arrived outside Sambodromo at 6pm to sort out the costume, have a few beers and learn my part.
Most samba schools members spent months learning the song and dance for Carnival, but I was limited to just a few hours of picking up the samba and Portuguese lyrics. On top of that, somehow I got positioned in the front row of my section. Perfect!
Samba schools loose points if judges see you not singing the lyrics or dancing in unison.
Tension rose as each group started lining up and heading towards the bright lights of the big stadium. When it was our turn to line up, we had two section directors to ensure everything was in perfect order and they barked directions every time one of us (me) stepped out of line.
This was the most efficiency I have seen in Brazil yet. : )
We took one big turn down the side street where we’d been waiting and caught our first glimpse of the Sambodromo ahead. We were like fancy mouths dancing our way towards a giant Brazilian lantern.
Faces changed. Lines got tighter. Music and crowds got louder. It was time to shine!
I managed to hide my iPhone behind my costume shield to record some of the unbelievable scene, but nothing could justify the absolute excitement and emotion I was feeling.
We danced down the stadium street for about 25 minutes, with 90,000 people cheering and celebrating as I faked the words and copied the dancers around me.
The costume was hot, the silver shoes were two sizes too small, and it was single-handedly one of the most amazing and memorable experiences of my life.
Day Five – Running on an absolute high after such an incredible night, I ventured off to the Jardin Botanico neighborhood to another bloco around the beautiful Lagoa.
It was awkward at first with Christ (the redeemer) looking down as I sampled a variety of caipirinhas, but I got over it and ended the night stuffing my face at a traditional Brazilian buffet.
Day Six – No rest for the wicked as Carnival continued. My roommate and I went to Salgueiro’s samba school to watch the Carnival parade champion announced.
Salgueiro was a front-runner for the championship so we went with the idea that it would be a sweet sight to capture if they did.
At first, everything went as planned and it was f’ing epic! In a room the size of a high school gym, there were thousands of Salgueiro supporters cheering together as each “10” was announced for a variety of categories.
Unfortunately, Unidos de Tijuca remained close and in the end pulled out a .2 victory over Salgueiro. Everyone was crushed for all of about five minutes, until the band started playing.
This marked the end of my first ever Carnival in Brazil experience and I couldn’t have asked for anything else.
It was a week of chaos and happiness, and I’m just thankful I didn’t know about this when I was 22.
I don’t know if I would have ever returned home.
Watch part 1 of Brazil Carnival Behind the Scenes