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The Flying Dutch traveled to Brazil to prepare for their 2007 season. The Flying Dutch played matches against competitive club teams. There also had a number of training opportunities with Brazlian coaches as well as team-building activities such as rafting and hiking excursions. This was the second international experience for the Flying Dutch. The volleyball team traveled to Switzerland in 2003.
WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 15
After our boat trip we were able to scope out the shopping of downtown Buzios that we would be able to do later that night. Businesses in Buzios cater to the tourists and don't open unitl 2 or 3 p.m., staying open until 11:00 or so. We figured things out in this cute, little town and then went back to the pousada to nap and lay by the pool.
For dinner we all got dressed up to go out to one of the nicest restaurants in Buzios for the last meal of the trip. We were excited to eat at yet another buffet and enjoyed the squid salad, sushi, "cheesy potatoes", sliced apples with strawberries, steak and chicken. With a need to walk-off all the calories, we explored the brick paved streets, shops and market vendors in this quaint resort town. We were able to shop at souvenier shops, boutiques, surf shops, but the photo place with all our our surfing pictures was closed. After we were excited to hear our guide's son, Bruno, suggest extending the night by testing our samba skills one more time. After arriving at Club Divassi, the live music got our feet moving, but we were quickly replaced by girls dressed in Carnival attire. While some of us were paying attention to their moves, others were wide-eyed in awe of the scene before them. The samba band played a number of fast-paced songs in which we were able to learn different forms of samba dancing. The night ended like the Bachelor, with Bruno and his friend giving two of the girls a rose.
As we packed up our suitcases in realization that our trip is ending, we think back on the memories we've made, the culture we've experienced, and a new perspective on the sport of volleyball, as well as the world. See you in one more day!!!
TUESDAY, AUGUST 14
The difference between life in Brazil and life in Holland, Michigan is becoming more and more evident as each day passes. Today we had the opportunity to enjoy a beautiful Brazilian beach in Geriba just outside of Buzios. Much to our surprise, a man in a wetsuit asked our group if we would like the opportunity to learn to surf. Nine of us decided to take him up on such an amazing opportunity. Four men, two boys, and two young girls instructed us as our boards were stuck in the sand. Finally they let us loose in the Atlantic Ocean for some serious surfing. All nine of us were able to "get up" and ride the waves under the hot sun, while everyone else enjoyed the relaxation of the beach.
After the exciting morning, we grabbed a quick bite at a local restaurant and headed to our final match in Macae, home to a number of Petrobas oil refineries and the recipient of a lot of oil royalties. Needless to say, this upperclass town had a beautiful arena for us to compete in and wonderful hospitality. Each match is a new experience for us because we don't know what to expect from the facility, the atmosphere or the team we are competing against. After losing the first two games by close margins, we battled to win the next three and the match against the Macae Club. We almost feel like celebrities in this town, with fans cheering the letters, "U-S-A" as we scored the game-winning kill. After the game, kids ran up to us and begged us for autographs. We are so surprised as complete strangers beg for our attention while we play the game that we love. We were able to get photos and trade jerseys with the team after the match.
After the match we headed to dinner where we, again, enjoyed an endless array of exotic pizza creations. We have come to understand that, in Brazil, you do not get free refills on your drinks, but you do get endless amounts of food. We enjoyed our pizza on the deck as the ocean waves crashed on the beach below.
As we rode back from our match, our eyes grew tired from the amazing day we had just finished. We are sad to know that our trip is coming to a close, but excited to see what adventures these next 48 hours will bring.
MONDAY, AUGUST 13
Written by Jill Immink and Alli Cole
Although the plan for today was relatively low-key, we still enjoyed every minute soaking up the incredible sights and Brazilian culture. We woke up bright and early in hopes of seeing the Christ the Redeemer statue, but we still had some clouds in the mountains and poor visibility. Th sun was out on Copacabana beach, however, so we ended up spending the morning there. It was great to spend some time playing beach volleyball, watching some professional players practice, and relaxing in the sun. After a stop at the market to buy lunch and snacks, we packed up and checked out of the Luxor Continental hotel, heading for our third match of the trip. We were surprised and humbled to discover that the campus of the private university team we were about to play was located in a very poor part of Rio. Seeing the crowded, run-down houses, broken glass on top of concrete walls (their version of barbed wire), horses being used for work, and a general lack of development opened our eyes to how many of the Brazilians live their daily lives.
From the moment we walked in the gym, we were treated like visiting celebrities. Local fans made us signs, cheered for us when we took the court, and even asked for our autographs after the match. The team from the university was very good, despite missing their three best players (currently playing in the World University Games against the best university players in the world). We felt it was a privilege to compete against one of the best ball control, scrappy, and confident teams we have ever played against. After the game we traded t-shirts, and headed over our to Buzios, eating dinner at a highway oasis. After arriving at our exotic pousada (bed and breakfast style hotel), we went down to the beach - just a short walk away - for a late night dip in the ocean under a sky FULL of stars. It was an unforgetable experience and the perfect end to our day.
SUNDAY, AUGUST 12
Written by Meghan Winer and Kayla Lankheet
Today was a very fun and relaxing day. We set our alarm clock to get up early, hoping to lay by the pool, but the cloudy weather ruined our plans. This allowed us to catch up on some well deserved sleep. After a late breakfast, we went to the opening ceremonies of the Para Pan-American Games. On the bus ride we saw a major contrast between the wealthy and the poor. There were fancy high rises on one side of the highway and on the other side were run down favelas. Rio is known for this contrast between the wealthy and the poor, often living very near to each other.
Rio was the host of the Pan-American Games a few weeks ago and built some spectacular sports venues and an Olympic Village for the athletes. At the Para Pan-American Games Opening Ceremony, it was exciting to see the various countries' athletes and flags walking into the arena. We even recognized some athletes and coaches we met on the plane ride down to Brazil!
There was a big performance that included acrobats, dancers and some Brazilian musicians. It gave us a very good sense of Brazilian culture. Our favorite part was the lighting of the torch, just like in the Olympic Games. Our plans to see the Christ the Redeemer statue in the afternoon was changed due to some very low clouds, so instead, we visited the Hippie Market in Ipanema. We were able to shop around for a little over an hour and picked up some souvenirs. This shopping area was a lot more tourist friendly.
We headed back to the hotel for dinner and packed our bags for our departure to Buzios tomorrow and our third match of the trip.
SATURDAY, AUGUST 11
The children were eager to play with us and though communication was limited, we connected with all the kids and felt the experience was very rewarding. After teaching them skills such as serving, passing, and hitting, we sang some American songs to them, while they shared some Brazilian songs and dances. They made signs and handed out t-shirts as we left, along with blowing many kisses as the bus rolled away.
With some free time in the afternoon we went to a street market in the heart of the city, buying Brazilian jewelery, t-shirts, and dresses for the Samba Club later that night. Before dinner we squeezed in some time to relax, workout in the fitness center overlooking the ocean, and rest by the rooftop pool. Dinner was a buffet at out hotel (much to our liking) and we departed soon after for the samba club. We danced to a live band and attempted to learn how to samba dance from some of our tour guides - this seemed more entertaining to them than to us!!! There was also a live band that played Brazilian pop hits and we danced the night away.
Each day here in Brazil seems to be more exciting than the last so we go to bed looking forward to what we will experience tomorrow!
FRIDAY, AUGUST 10
Written by Kylee Damstra and Andrea Helminiak
Our day began with an excellent breakfast at the hotel which included pastries, exotic fruits, meats, and eggs. After breakfast we took a bus ride to the base of Sugar Loaf Mountain and rode in cable cars up to the top - some of you might remember seeing them in a James Bond 007 movie. The cable cars took us about 2400 feet high, offering us magnificent views of Rio, the ocean, and the surrounding hills. Sugar Loaf has forests of bamboo and is home to some very cute, little monkeys -- some of the girls got to feed them. There were some Brazilian children on the mountain as well who asked to get their pictures with the "Americans."
After Sugar Loaf, we went to exchange our money for Brazilian Reals so that we could start our souvenir shopping. We also walked to the supermarket to get some lunch and goodies for our hotel rooms. After that, we had a little bit of time to relax and some girls took advantage of the roof-top pool to get some sun.
Athletic clubs in Brazil are large athletic complexes with gyms, swimming pools, soccer stadiums, weight rooms, tennis courts and shops. They are very popular for both adults and children, as they sponsor youth programs and teams for the public to enjoy.
Club Flemengo, our second opponent on the trip, has the most popular soccer team in Brazil with close to six million supporters. Their volleyball team recently took 3rd place in the state championships. We were able to improve our server receive passing and hitting consistency to pull-out the victory. The fans were very supportive and did the wave every time we scored a point!!
After the match we went to a Brazilian Churrascaria (Steakhouse), where they served us nine different cuts of beef, along with chicken and fish. Most of the team even tried the chicken hearts!! After stuffing ourselves silly, we wallked back to the hotel where we did our laundry in the sinks. A couple of the girls met a few members of the Brazilian Men's National Volleyball Team who are staying in the hotel and practicing in Rio before the America's Cup. Then it was off to bed to get some rest in preparation for another exciting day in Rio!!
THURSDAY, AUGUST 9
We met our tour guides (Cesar Cavalente and Dick Migas), bodyguard (Marcos) and bus driver (Louis), and checked into the Luxor Continental Hotel in Copacabana. We settled in and then went to eat a large, amazing meal at Sindacato Chop Shop - a local restaurant with ocean views.
After lunch we drove through the city to our first match against Tijuca Tenis Club. The Brazilians served and blocked very well, resulting in a loss, but we learned alot form the experience and are excited for our match tomorrow.
After the match, we had dinner at an all-you-can-eat (perfect for our team) pizza restaurant attached to the Tijuca Tenis Club. The pizza ranged from normal cheese to pizza covered with egg and chicken. For dessert, they served us pizza with chocolate and strawberries, ice cream with sprinkles, and banana and cinnamon. It was a more than filling meal and we were quite ready to go back to the hotel and get some rest, but as we were leaving we came across a spirited group of 20 people practicing a Brazilian tradition called Abada-Capoeira. Capoeira is a dual which involves a blend of martial arts and quasi-matrix dancing to the beat of tribal instruments and song. Not only did they perform, they taught us some basic moves and allowed us to dual them!! It was very unexpected, but so much fun!!
We are all very excited to see what other unexpected events we will encounter on this trip!
THURSDAY, AUGUST 9