Sightseeing in Rio

So here in Brasil, “Hello” is “Oi”

It’s pronounced like you’re about to say “oink”
Also in Portuguese, “2 o’clock” is “dois” and “12 o’clock” is “meio-dia”. This is important for the story.

On Monday we went to our first sightseeing stop, El Cristo. We called a taxi driver, to take us there. Communicating here is pretty difficult. While there are many similarities to the Spanish language, it always seems like Brasileros can comprehend my Spanish, but I can’t understand their Portugese. I end up being the designated translator on trips with my friend Mide so getting to El Cristo was on me.

Me: oi! (hi)
Taxi: oi! (hi)
Me: Queremos ir al Cristo. (We want to go to the Christ)
Taxi: Cristo? (Christ)
Me: hoy (Today)
Taxi: oi (hi)
Me: hoy (Today)
Taxi: oi (hi)
Me: uhhh, today. Este Lunes? ( uhh, today, Monday)
Taxi: ahhh, sí. A que hora? (Ok, what time)
Me: Doce (12)
Taxi: dois? (2)
Me: Doce? Diez, once, Doce? (10, 11, 12….)
Taxi: -bunch of Portuguese-
Me: En una hora (in an hour)

Hopefully you are following the fact that we want to go at 12 noon which was one hour later then the time I called, but “Doce” in Spanish is noon while in Portuguese, it’s 2pm….

Well, we were waiting outside at noon but he didn’t show up so I called him again.


Considering we were running out of time, and realizing our mistake on the translation, we ended up hailing a cab and getting to the spot where you get tickets to take a shuttle to the Cristo.

The statue is awesome. It’s beautiful and picturesque. It’s the best view of Rio.





Interestingly enough, the statue is facing south east (same direction as Muslims pray to cabbah). This massive statue was molded in Paris and pieced together in the city of Corcovado where the mountain top is located. It is one of the “new” 7 wonders of the world and is quite a sight! Afterwards, we hung out in Copacabana and enjoyed fried chicken, caprihinas and shopping.




Lesson learned: use google translate.


Chica from Ipanema

Today was our first World Cup break. Time to explore the neighborhood a little.

Morning jog


Rehydrate with coconut water




A short, 20 minute walk opposite the direction of Fan Fest, you find yourself at Ipanema beach. It’s picture perfect! The ocean crashes into a large cliff that people can walk to and take pictures of 360 degree views. The current is strong but it doesn’t stop tourists and locals from swimming or paddle boarding in the waves. The blue water, while cold, is refreshing after laying around in the hot, Brasil sun.




There are huge bins of ice water holding freshly cut coconuts, just waiting for me to stick a straw in.



At the Copa, Copacabana

Her name was Chica…..
Kidding. No feathers in the hair nor a dress cut down to there. So we are staying at Copacabana Beach. It’s a cross between Las Vegas, Miami, and Pier 39 but it has a spirit and energy I haven’t experienced before. It’s awesome to see babies to senior citizens dancing in the street. The bands differ from cafe to cafe: Pop, Bossa Nova, Samba…all to the background track of ocean waves.


The goal here is to watch soccer and that’s exactly what we’ve done, all four quarterfinals. You don’t have to try too hard to find a place to watch it, and with practically every citizen of the world here, it’s easy to find a group of fans rooting on their team. The FIFA Fan Fest is the place to be. Masses of people walk through the gate to get to a spot to get a glimpse of the gigantic screen.


What you don’t see from the aerial TV shots are all of the activities inside the gates: a huge stage with live music, ziplining across the towers, family tent, huge billboards of soccer players. It has something for everyone.




Luckily, my travel buddies are also Brasil fans so we fit in with sea of yellow taking over Copacabana.


Two lessons we learned the first day here was one, stick together and two, have a full iPhone charge. Well, when you’re in the mix of a large crowd, it’s bound to have its miscommunications. Here was ours:

Our apartment is so old we have to light the water heater ourselves. After the Germany vs. France game, I realized we left it on in the apartment. Nervous it would burn the building down, I decided to walk back to turn it off. My friend Mide insisted I bring someone along, so I took her daughter with me. Meantime our other friend Sandra went to the restroom and had yet to return so our entire group was in three completely different locations. Remember the second lesson? All three of our phones were less than 5%. Also, there were so many people when Bija and I were exiting, we noticed the entrance was blocked off. A wall of people were being held at the entrance and Bija and I realized we were on a one way street out. Did I mention the Brasil game was 1hr away from starting.
Priority 1 walk to the apartment and shut off the gas. Priority two, charge the phone and text Mide, we couldn’t get back in. Priority three, make this happen before the game whistle. We had an hour and the walk back to the apartment was 20min at a speed walk, so we were running out of time. Long story short (sort of), our apartment was still standing, we communicated an appropriate meeting spot, and we saw the game from another big screen TV, (not Fan Fest), but just as crowded and patriotic.



Brasil won and that’s all that matters! Semifinals here we come!


Oi Brasil!

Happy July 4th from Rio de Janeiro! Time to dust off the blog, it’s been awhile since I’ve written! There have been a few trips since El Salvador last year, but the trip I was waiting and saving for was this one. Brasil for the 2014 World Cup experience!

I love soccer. I grew up playing it. Growing up, my Dad’s team was Brasil. So when it was announced that Brasil would host the World Cup, it became a destination. Fast forward 4 years and I’m writing this in Rio de Janeiro.

The flight here is long…SF to LA, LA to Miami, Miami to Rio. It’s nearly a 20 hour trip. I was lucky to have an empty seat next to me on the LA to Miami leg, not so lucky to have a little girl kicking the back of the chair the whole time. I was so tired, I didn’t care. It was her first plane ride and she was stoked to have a mini tv in front of her.


When we arrived in Miami, the World Cup energy was going strong. Miami international is very proud to be the gateway to the World Cup. There are flags and stores with shirts and jerseys, even our gate was festive.


We arrived this morning at 6am in Rio. A beautiful mist and a refreshing breeze hits you when you walk outside. You feel the humidity in the air from the moment you get off the plane. Rio is beautiful in the morning.




The city is just waking up. Stores are opening up, putting up there Brasil flags, getting ready for the do or die game this afternoon against Columbia. We were early so we stopped at a cafe for my first of (hopefully) many acaí breakfasts.


My travel buddies this trip are Mide, her daughter Bija, and two friends Sandra and Lisa. Our apartment is a spacious with vintage charm. The owners group here as kids and still live here in the neighborhood. My room:

It’s almost game time! Look for us at Copacabana Beach where we will catch both games today. Do you think we’ll fit in?!

Go Brasil!


The Chica Explorer

I have yet to mention the pilot and co-pilots on this trip: my Grandfather and Dad. They are truly something else. They are also part plumber, part electrician, and part mechanic and I’m convinced there isn’t a car or house problem they won’t try to fix. So when they are navigating, you just sit in the backseat and enjoy the ride because they will always look for the route that is the shortcut to the shortcut.
Playa Tunco, La Libertad

My folks read about El Salvador’s first microbrewery established in La Libertad and we had to check it out. La Libertad is a popular surfer destination. It is affordable and friendly with good food and drink and direct access to the waves. This is where Brew Revolution is. The owner is from San Francisco and gives back to the community by hiring single mothers from the town to conduct the brewing and run the place. There are currently four of them on staff. Did I mention that my dad was part brewer too?




So the “brewery” part of microbrewery is a bit of a stretch. Or maybe it’s exactly the definition. We drove up with my American definition of brewery but as we do, it ends up being literally a bar stand on the street. The beer was different, I think some of my beer buddies back home would appreciate the flavors that are used to make the beer unique to El Salvador like a pineapple finish to the IPA and the coffee flavor to the Porter. I liked it and it was a nice atmosphere and it was great to support a budding brewery with Chica brew masters!
More of La Libertad at a family members restaurant:






My grandparents hometown is Usulutan, a very hot little pueblo, surrounded by volcanoes in the southern part of the country. My dad and grandpa and I took a long drive there this week to look around and see where my grandparents grew up. My great grandmother has a house there and we visited some other family including my cousin Ivanna again (yea!). On the way, just off the road is a little lunch place where we had some brunch, Salvadoran style.







Yesterday, we went to a little pueblo that showcases how El Salvador used to be, Suchitoto. It was quaint and quiet. We had lunch there and had an amazing view:





This last picture is a close up of a little sign painted outside of most houses in this town. It’s really beautiful and speaks to the spirit of this little town.

And what is a trip to El Salvador without talking about Pupusas? This small little food item is basically a tortilla stuffed with cheese that you eat with salsa and cabbage. It’s delicious and worth 50cents a pop. Would you believe my final night, (last night) was when I finally had a chance to eat Pupusas?!

I had to take one of my grandpas grease removing pills after that one, (did I mention that my grandfather is part doctor too?). I went there with my new friends from this trip Sara and Melanie. Sara’s family is family friends with my grandparents. They are the sweetest people ever! Sara wanted to take me out como “chicas solteras” so we went to a salsa studio for dancing lessons which was super fun and then to Antigua Cuscatlan to eat pupusas! These ladies are the sweetest and we promised to stay in touch hasta la proxima…

And now I’m packing to leave for the airport, leaving almost as soon as I came. It ended being a lot shorter than I thought it was going to feel, but even you can see that it was filled with fun, sun, and family time. There is no way it will be another 11 years before returning, it reminded how important it is to return to family roots to re-establish your foundation and clear your head. If you haven’t done so, check in on where your family is from, make a trip, take time out of the hectic American life and just leave if only for a bit. Maybe you’ll find that you are part explorer, like me.


Birthday Chica

Saturday March 30 was my birthday. It was also the hottest day in El Salvador since arriving. The day after my arrival, my folks and I packed up and went to my grandparents beach house about an hour away in Costa del Sol, where we spent 5 days doing everything from laying on the beach

To watching beach soccer

To attending local mass

To going on the boat and jet ski



Costa del Sol is a beautiful beach. During Semana Santa there are a lot more people than usual, because like I mentioned before, it’s vacation week. My grandparents invited their very good family friends, Familia Avalos Pineda, to join us Saturday at the beach house, for the “reunion” where I get to eat a ton of food and a big cake. I was also stoked to see my cousin Ivanna and her new husband who married and moved to El Salvador two years ago.
When you go to a beach house party, you: eat, nap, go to the beach, eat, nap, go to the pool, nap some more, and then go to the pool, order and eat late night pupusas and then go home.


Pool time


Ivanna is one of my Chicas. Our moms are cousins and we grew up together. She met her husband on a trip to El Salvador and a year later they married. She started living in El Salvador about a year and a half ago to wait for her husbands visa to come to the States. Other than her immediate family, my parents and I were the first ones to meet them as a couple in El Salvador. It was so great to see her!



One thing I LOVE about native Spanish speakers is how they say my name. In English, it’s pronounced “Justin” as in Bieber. If you say the translation of my name in Spanish it is pronounced “who’s Tina” which I don’t like at all because my sophomore Spanish teacher insisted on calling me that all year. Now a couple of friends call me that as a joke. The pronunciation I love and it only comes out of the mouths of native Spanish speakers is for them to try to say my name the English way, but by default it comes with a certain accent. When they say it, it’s more like ” yo-steen” with a little more “j”sound in that first “y”. I heard a lot of “yo-steen” that day, I loved it!
Well the birthday party was great, everyone was happy and full. I’m excited for another year of traveling and exploring and making memories with my family.