World Cup Brazil 2014: Part 3 – Manaus-Sao Paulo-Natal for USA Portugal, Chile Netherlands and Italy Uruguay

Note: This is part three of a series about my world cup trip. Read part one here about Natal and USA/Ghana, part two about Porto de Galinhas and Costa Rica Italy here, or the entire series here.

After relaxing in Porto de Galinhas, I left my group to travel 5400 miles in three days to see USA/Portugal, Chile/Netherlands and Italy/Uruguay in Manaus, Sao Paulo and Natal, respectively. I left Porto de Galinhas with flip flops, shorts, a USA jersey, a sweatshirt, USA sunglasses and my tickets to the games, nothing more. My plan was to wake up at 4am, get to the Recife airport by 5 at the latest, then fly to Brasilia, then onto Manaus. But I almost didn’t make it.

We’d arrived in Porto de Galinhas two days earlier, but hadn’t filled up with gas. We’d planned to fill up upon arrival, but beach and caipirinhas got in the way. Instead, we decided to fill up at 430am on the way to the airport. But nobody told us that gas stations aren’t open 24/7 in northern Brazil. The first station, a half mile from our house, was closed. We asked the people partying (yes, partying at 430am in a gas station parking lot) where the next closest one was. They said there was one down the road. Closed too. The next one was closed, with all the lights turned off.

Enrique was accompanying me to the airport so he could use the car while I was gone, so the two of us continued until we got to a toll booth, already riding below empty on the gas gauge. I asked the toll booth operator if she could sell us a few liters of gas, but she said it wasn’t possible. I even offered to pay 3x the normal rate, but alas, no dice. I asked if there was roadside assistance and got an affirmative, so I asked if they could call now and have them bring me gas, but they said that they couldn’t call until we were fully out of gas. We decided to press on, against the warnings of the toll operators. They said that if (when) we ran out of gas that we had to stay on the highway and not get out of the car, as we had to pass favelas and other dangerous areas. As we pulled away they asked “first time in brazil?” and just smiled and shook their heads. Silly foreigners, expecting the gas stations to be open 24/7!

About a kilometer later, Enrique had the idea to go back to the tollbooth and have them call us a taxi. His idea saved me. As we pulled into the toll plaza again, an unoccupied taxi materialized out of nowhere. I jumped out of the car before he could pay his toll and asked how much it would cost to get to the airport. He quoted me a fair price and much to the shock of the toll operators, I jumped out of the car and into the taxi and was on my way. As we pulled away, I heard the toll operators yelling in a confused voice, “but where’s your luggage!”

Enrique turned around and made it back to within 2 blocks of our beach house and promptly ran out of gas. If I hadn’t turned around, I would have missed USA/Portugal and Chile/Netherlands. Two lessons learned: gas stations close early and there’s always taxis in Brazil!

Manaus – USA vs. Portugal

I needed to sell two extra tickets to the game and had been anyone wearing US colors if they needed tickets. Luckily the girl sitting next to me on the plane from Brasilia to Manaus needed a ticket, as did another guy she had met in the airport. Turned out the guys she had met were recent UW grads (Badgers are everywhere!) and I now had sold my extra tickets and had friends to hang out with before the game.

Manaus Spider

Manaus Spider

It made absolutely no sense to have Manaus be a world cup city. Although its a city of a few million people, it’s completely in the middle of the Amazon. You can’t arrive by road. Just boat and airplane. It’s 90% humidity and 90+ degrees. There’s mosquitos. Spiders. Crime. Hotels are incredibly expensive. And the local soccer team draws about 1000 people per game. But FIFA and its corrupt Brazilian partners decided to make Manaus a venue. They spent at least $300m on a stadium that was used four times and might be used as a jail afterward.

Flight into Manaus

Flight into Manaus

The flight into Manaus is extremely beautiful. You can listen to people describe the Amazon, but until you see it, you can’t appreciate just how big it really is. Swampy wetlands as far as the eye could see. A 1-2 mile wide river. Bright colors. Incredible clouds. But Manaus itself is just another past its prime big city. Manaus was one of the richest cities in the world during the rubber baron era, but when synthetic rubber was invented, it began its first precipitous and now slow decline. The Brazilian government wants to keep its hold on the Amazon, so Manaus is a tax incentive zone where manufacturers can produce products with little to no taxes.

The Amazon

The Amazon

The first thing that you notice when you land is the humidity. It hits you like punch in the face as you leave the airport’s strong air conditioning. You’re sweating immediately. Otherwise once you’re in the city, you’d have no idea you were in the middle of the Amazon.

It was all a bit surreal when we arrived at the American Outlaws party to find 500+ US fans drinking beer, caipirinhas, eating some of the saddest pizza I’ve ever eaten. There was a live band playing patriotic songs and every so often the national anthem would break out. We proceeded to drink beer and hang out with US fans from all around the country that had made the trek to the middle of the Amazon to watch the national team.

Manaus, USA Portugal, Bodypaint

Manaus, USA Portugal, Bodypaint

We piled into a taxi and were dropped off close to the stadium. We were so hungry that we stopped at the first shack/bar we saw that had food. It didn’t matter that a 13 year old was manning the grill and that the owners didn’t tell me what kind of meat it was until they sheepishly said “beef” after I asked for the 4th time, but in the moment it tasted amazing. You can’t do much better than mystery street meet on a stick in the middle of the amazon! Shockingly, I ate an incredible amount of street food in Brazil and only got mildly sick on my last night from a dodgy “dogao”, or street hotdog, in Salvador.

Manaus

Manaus

The stadium itself in Manaus might have been my favorite stand alone stadium. It’s small enough that you’re right on top of the action and the outside design looks like something that could be floating down the amazon. Really beautiful. A great place to see the game. But it just made no sense to build it just for four world cup games. What a colossal waste of money and resources, not to mention making four games nearly impossible for most people to go to.

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We had second row tickets in the US section and had a blast. Even though the US went down 1-0 inside five minutes, the fans were into it and screaming the entire game. When Jermaine Jones equalized with one of the best goals of the tournament, the entire US section went crazy. When Dempsey put the US in the lead a few minutes later, people really started to believe the US would qualify. When the ref showed 5 minutes of stoppage time, we booed mercilessly, but didn’t really think Portugal would muster much of an attack. After the first five minutes of the first half, the US really worked Portugal from end to end. But Cristiano wouldn’t be denied and made one of the best passes I’ve seen in person to a diving teammate who scored in the 95th minute. Even though the US had just tied Portugal and had 4 points from two games, it felt like a loss.

We were deflated and left to drown our sorrows in more brazilian churrasco, or steak, rice, beans and farofa. After dinner, we went to a bar for a beer, then I bid my new friends goodbye and went back to the airport to continue my adventure to Sao Paulo to see Netherlands vs. Chile twelve hours later. Manaus was a strange, expensive city in the middle of nowhere, but I’m glad I made the trip.

Sao Paulo – Netherlands vs. Chile

I slept a few hours in the airport, then the entire three hour plane ride and arrived in Campinas, about an hour from Sao Paulo at 6am for a 1pm game. I was still in my same outfit that I’d left 85 degree Recife and 95 degree Manaus, but arrived in 60 degree Sao Paulo in my flip flops, body paint stained US jersey, shorts and sweatshirt. I slept the entire bus ride into Sao Paulo and met up with some Chilean friends.

The look on the my friend’s face was priceless, but all he could muster was “you have something in your eye…” I knew I looked like a wreck, but I had to push on. I met up with another friend a few hours later and took a shower in his hotel room. As soon as I looked at myself in the mirror, I realized I must have scared my friend half to death! Some of the body paint from the night before had gotten into my eyes and had created a white streak across my entire eye. It looked like a big white cut across my eye or some strange tropical disease.

Chile Netherlands

Chile Netherlands

After showering, we took a taxi to the stadium, which is about 45 minutes outside of the main part of the city and met up with Enrique (who had a new Chile jersey for me). He’d had his own adventure, flying in from Recife that morning for the match. The stadium itself is really cool looking, but it was one of my least favorite venues because it’s hard to get to, isolated and there’s nothing to do around the stadium, as it’s located in a poor area of town with no bars, restaurants or really anything around it. And probably 30% of the seats (the ones behind the goal in the upper deck) are really, really far from the field. At least the stadium will be used after the world cup by Corinthians, one of Sao Paulo’s biggest teams.

 

Sao Paulo - Chile/Netherlands

Sao Paulo – Chile/Netherlands

Sao Paulo

Sao Paulo

Chile’s fans were the most impressive and most passionate of any that I came across. There were at least 100,000 in Sao Paulo, many of whom were paying whatever price they could to get into the game. They cheered loud and long during the game, even when they got scored on and even when they ended up loosing. The national anthem was worth the price of admission.

Marea Roja, Chilean Fans

Marea Roja, Chilean Fans, Sao Paulo

I wish I had taken better photos from our seats in the fourth row, but Chile looked like midgets compared to the Dutch. Chile was the smallest team in the world cup and the dutch were the second tallest. It looked like the u12s were playing the u18s, but the u12s were somehow holding their own. The game featured the two most impressive players I saw in person: Arjen Robben and Alexis Sanchez. Both players change the game just by being on the field.

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Natal – Italy vs. Uruguay

After the game we went back to the airport to catch our 3am flight back to Recife. I was so tired and promptly fell asleep beneath a bank of phones and slept until they called our flight and then the entire flight to Recife. Still wearing my same clothes, we got off the plane at 6am and were on our way to Natal for the 1pm Italy/Uruguay game that afternoon. We arrived in Natal at 1030am, parked in the mall, had more gaucho food and then walked to the stadium. We drank a beer while we watched the crowds and met up with a Japanese friend of mine from the Japan/Greece game.

I had two extra tickets to sell and sold to two Uruguay guys who kissed me on the cheek they were so happy to get into the game. I saw one of FIFA’s henchmen directing the police to arrest ticket sellers and then the police taking people away. The saddest was when they arrested a ~25 year old Uruguayan guy with face paint and a flag draped around his back for selling his one extra ticket. He started crying knowing that he would miss the match.

The professionals mostly knew how to avoid the police and never got arrested, as far as I could tell. I saw the same scene at other matches, even when people were selling below face value. It would infinitely more ridiculous a week later when Rio police busted an illegal FIFA ticket selling ring worth a reported $100m per world cup. FIFA’s disgusting corruption really knows no bounds. It’s bad enough that FIFA were reselling their own tickets at 10x face value, but to have the gall to tell police to arrest fans selling single tickets and tickets for below face value is just too much!

Italy Uruguay

Italy Uruguay

The Uruguayan fans were really impressive. They got to the stadium early, chanted and sang though out the game and stayed late. It was a pretty boring game until Italy’s red card, but then the game opened up. Luis Suarez’s bite was right in front of us, but we could only see that he’d done something. I speculated that maybe he bit him, but nobody could believe that he would be so brazen in a world cup. The entire stadium erupted into pandemonium when Uruguay scored to put them into the knockout round and eliminated Italy in the group stage for the second straight world cup.

After the game we had lunch and then made the long drive back to Porto de Galinhas through a driving rain. We had two near death experiences on the road leading into Recife which again drove home the point why Brazilians were mad about spending money on the world cup when basic things like “this lane ends” signs were non existent.

After traveling 5400 miles in three days, sleeping in airports and airplanes for three nights, I was ready to get back to the beach and stay put for awhile. In past world cups I’d never done anything like this and I don’t think I will in the future. It was worth it, but just barely!

World Cup Brazil 2014: Part 2 – Recife-Porto de Galhinas for Italy Costa Rica

Note: This is part two of a series about my world cup trip. Read part one here about Natal and USA/Ghana or the entire series here.

On the morning of 20th, we left Natal at 6am in our rental car, hoping to make it to Recife in time to grab a bite to eat and have a few pregame beers before the 1pm kickoff. We drove through sugar cane fields and beautiful rolling hills and made it to the outskirts of Recife by 10am, but quickly realized that things would be different as we got closer to the city.

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Traffic stopped, so we took a local road, speed bumps, potholes and all, across the city to get closer to the stadium. We’d finally made it through what we thought was the worst of it, but all the sudden, traffic just stopped completely. We were within 6km of the stadium, but we just weren’t moving. I shut off the car. Brazilians got out of the their cars in the blazing heat to sit in the shade. Food vendors appeared out of nowhere. We sat for a good hour and then were finally moving again. It was the first time I’d ever seen black on google maps traffic.

We finally got to the front of the line and realized the holdup: the police were blocking the road and letting the cars on the road we were trying to merge with go. We were unlucky and had to wait another 30 minutes. A side note about the police. They’re scary guys. They have massive automatic weapons, battle armor and look like they know how to use it. And that they want to use it.

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The policemen at a completely non threatening road block had their fingers about a half inch from the triggers of their guns and brandished them at anyone who dared ask what was going on. It’s no wonder that at least 2000 people are killed by Brazilian police each year. The ultimate reason for the blockade was that the Italian team bus was running late, so they needed a traffic free route to the stadium.

The bus finally passed and we were on our way again. The Recife stadium is beautiful, but it’s about 30 minutes outside of the city, really in the middle of nowhere. Even though there’s nothing around, we had to park about 2 miles from the stadium and take a bus to the stadium. Why? Because FIFA mandated it. Some Brazilians just pulled over on the highway and walked to the game rather than pay $20 per car, plus $5 per person to park and ride.

The stadium itself is beautiful and a great place to see the game. We had tickets in the 2nd level in the corner and watched at Costa Rica picked apart Italy, leading to a beautiful goal. The Costa Rican fans could hardly believe it and continued to sing the entire game. Games like that are one of the reasons I love the world cup. A tiny country of about 4.5m can take on a world soccer power like Italy and dominate.

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After the game we drove to Porto De Galinhas, but had to do some offroading to even get out of the stadium. Brazil hadn’t finished all of the onramps, so we had to go under a bridge on a dirt road, through a quasi favela, and then pull onto the highway via the shoulder. This entire maneuver took at least an hour, but we were finally on our way. We were running out of gas as we got to Porto de Galinhas, but were too tired and hungry to stop. Instead, we checked into our Airbnb house and went out in search of food.

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Offroading to get home from Recife

Nearly everywhere we went, we found “gaucho style” dining: a salad, veggie and potato bar, plus all kinds of cuts of meat for a fixed price. It was a great way to eat well without spending a ton of money. We had our first experience in Porto de Galinhas, where we paid $15 for all you can eat meat, plus fejoada (black beans), farofa (a grain that you put on meat, rice and beans), veggies and salad. We’d have variations on this meal at least 10 more times on our trip. It’ll be one of the things I most miss about Brazil when I’m back in Chile.

The next morning we explored the beach. It was an absolutely beautiful day on one of Brazil’s best beaches. We set up shop under a beach umbrella and ordered a caipirinha, Brazil’s national drink, and laid back to take it all in. One of my favorite parts about Brazilian beaches in the north are the food vendors. They bring full lobsters, crabs, fresh fish, meat skewers, fresh fruit, coconut waters, tapioca fried cheese and more. You never have to leave your seat.

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The water was warm, tropical blue, with just the right amount of waves to play in. After multiple caipirinhas and a full day at the beach, we headed back to our house. The car still needed gas, but we weren’t going to drive that night, so we didn’t bother. That decision would be very important about 10 hours later on my way to Manaus and the USA-Portugal game.

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Lobsters on the beach

World Cup Brazil 2014: Part 1 – Sao Paulo-Recife-Natal for USA vs. Ghana and Japan vs. Greece

I started my world cup trip flying from Santiago to Sao Paulo on June 14th. I planned to see some friends and then fly onto Recife, then take a bus up to Natal to arrive in time for the USA game on the 16th, but as I got off the plane in Sao Paulo, I realized I didn’t feel well. After the hour trip to the hotel, I was really feeling it and decided to take a nap. I woke up an hour later with the chills in my 75 degree hotel room. I pumped the heat up to 90 and proceeded to not leave my hotel room for the next day and a half. I really thought I wasn’t going to be able to make it to the USA/Ghana game, but thought to myself, there’s only a world cup once every four years, you have to go.

I pumped myself full of aspirin and water and left the hotel at 130am to fly to Recife. Luckily the medicine started to kick in and I slept the entire flight. I arrived in Recife at 6am, feeling a bit better, but still very weak. I needed to get from the airport to the bus station to get one of the three busses that would take me to Natal in time to meet my friends before the USA game.

Open in test mode!

Open in test mode!

The fan assistance staff told me to take the metro, but as soon as I walked over the 90% completed new bridge that was “open in test mode” and saw a packed metro, I decided I was going to take a taxi. Luckily I negotiated a price beforehand instead of going by the meter, as there was massive traffic. Recife, Brazil’s 5th largest city, with a population of about 5m in the metro area, has an amazing coast line, but the interior of the city is very poor.

I immediately could see why Brazilians had been protesting the world cup. There’s no highway that goes across the city. The roads are pocked with pot holes that are big enough to eat your car. There’s a decent homeless population living in the streets. And you can tell people are struggling to get by.

Because traffic was so bad, the taxi driver asked me if we could take an alternate route. I agreed and we went through neighborhoods instead of the main road. I saw feral pigs eating trash, kids wearing shorts and nothing else, dilapidated houses and people with just their basic needs being met.

Recife’s new stadium, located in the middle of nowhere, about 15km outside of the city, cost taxpayers $250m and probably another $100m on infrastructure to get people there. With the conditions away from the rich areas, it’s easy to see why people are mad.

730am. I finally got to the bus station and got in line for a bus ticket. I had tried to buy my ticket online at least 10 times, plus asked Brazilian friends to buy for me, but nobody succeeded. I was greeted by a 25 person line, but wasn’t worried because I was only a “3 hour bus ride” from Natal and the game started at 7pm. The line barley moved. Two of the three people who were working, decided they didn’t want to work anymore and left their posts, so the line moved even slower.

When I finally got to the front of the line, the clerk told me all the tickets were sold out for the 830, 9 and 1030 busses. The only one available was at 330. Which would mean that if there were any delays, I’d miss the game. There were hundreds of other people in the same situation as I was. Except almost none of them spoke Portuguese or spanish. None of the workers spoke English.

My new friends and I started planning the hour long taxi ride back to the airport and then renting a car, or taking a taxi the three and a half hours up to Natal, but just as we were about go back to the airport, a family behind me in line told me they had an extra ticket for the bus at 9am. I was the only one traveling alone, so I was saved! Or so I thought.

I asked the bus company if I could use the ticket and they said no. Apparently there’s a Brazilian law that says the name on the ticket needs to match your id. Great. I decided to try to get on the bus anyway. I had to “tip” the id checker, but I got past the first obstacle. He warned me that if the police stopped the bus for an “ID control,” and my name didn’t match the ticket, I’d be taken to jail (or have to pay a big “tip”). It was worth the risk. I didn’t want to miss the game. To be extra safe, I gave my passport and my ids to another guy from the US and planned to tell the police that someone had stolen my ID.

330pm. The three hour bus ride turned into a 6 hour bus ride. All the people who’d taken later busses would miss the game. I finally got to the bus terminal and took a taxi to our apartment and finally, after almost 15 hours of traveling, I met up with my friends. A guy offered us a ride to the stadium, but the traffic was so bad we had to get out and walk. The stadium is right in the middle of the city, but the city just isn’t made for lots of traffic. Our driver told us that the city’s traffic is “chaos” normally, but on gameday it was insane. It was 15 minutes before the game and we decided to make a run for it. We arrived just as the national anthem was starting.

After 15 hours of travel, running the last 10 minutes, we made it.

After 15 hours of travel, running the last 10 minutes, we made it. USA-Ghana, Natal.

There’s nothing like singing your country’s national anthem at the first game of the world cup. And the US had at least 20,000 fans belting it out. Thirty seconds later, Clint Dempsey beat a Ghana defender and scores a goal. The crowd erupts. A few minutes later, Jozy Altidore’s world cups ends and you can see Jurgen Klinsmann say “shit” on the big screen. The next 80 minutes the US is handing on for dear life and finally Ghana equalizes. We were devastated.  Five minutes later, John Brooks scores and the party is on. This was probably my favorite game of the tournament for the US.

USA Ghana Natal

USA Ghana Natal

We stayed the next three day on the beach in Ponta Negra, playing soccer on the beach and relaxing. The beach was an all day party of music, soccer, beach food, beers and caipirinhas. In Natal you don’t need to go to a bar or a restaurant, you can just wait for the vendors to come by and sell you food. Crabs, lobsters, shrimp, skewered meat, fruit, whatever you want. At night, the beach promenade turned into a party, as guys pushed “mobile juke boxes” around playing whatever songs you wanted for a bit of money.

The crew in Natal

The crew in Natal

I was still really sick, so I went to a pharmacy to buy some drugs. I quickly realized that you can get pretty much any drug in Brazil without a prescription. I got a super strong inhaler and some other drugs to help me get better and within 2 days I was pretty much back to normal! It was clear that Natal was just getting to be a tourist destination, as many of the hotels and attractions were pretty new. It didn’t make much sense as a world cup city, but I would go back to the beaches!

On our 4th day in Natal we spent the morning at the beach, then made the trek across town again to the stadium to see Japan take on Greece. Although it ended 0-0, the game was highly entertaining. The greeks got a red card in the first half and the Japanese pushed forward to try to get a goal the rest of the game. We were in the middle of the Japanese supporters section, which was a real treat. The fans stood the entire game, chanting, singing and waving their blue plastic bags. After the game, many of the fans used the blue plastic bags to clean up the stadium.

I had a great time in Natal, but was ready to move onto Recife and Costa Rica Italy the next day!

World Cup Brazil 2014

Brazil was my third straight world cup. It’s a trip I look forward to for four years. It’s the best time to travel to a country, as everyone is happy (at least to start), people want to show off their country and you get to meet interesting people from all over the globe. I saw more matches and travelled more this world cup than the previous two and had an amazing time. All that said, I now completely understand why many Brazilians were angry about having the world cup. FIFA’s corruption really knows no bounds. See the rest of the posts below for the full story!

Games Attended: 10

  • USA-Ghana – Natal
  • Japan-Greece – Natal
  • Italy-Costa Rica – Recife
  • USA-Portugal – Manaus
  • Netherlands-Chile – Sao Paulo
  • Italy-Uruguay – Natal
  • USA-Germany – Recife
  • Costa Rica-Greece – Recife
  • USA-Belgium – Salvador
  • Netherlands-Costa Rica – Salvador

Distance Travelled: 14,676 miles (23,615km)

Cities Visited:

  • Sao Paulo
  • Natal
  • Recife
  • Manaus
  • Salvador
  • Brasilia (just the airport)

Best Matches: 

  • For a neutral – USA-Portugal, Italy-Uruguay, USA-Belgium & Costa Rica-Netherlands.
  • For a USA fan – USA-Ghana

Favorite Stadium – Fonte Nova – Salvador

The Fonte Nova stadium is a historic stadium in the middle of Salvador. It’s a short walk from the old city, the beach and has easy access from four directions. It’s a unique stadium, as its located on a lake right in the middle of a favela. On game days it seemed safe. Many of the locals came down to buy and sell tickets, beer, water and street food.

The stadium itself is a little big for my taste and some of hte seats weren’t that great, but the overall combination of the location, design and history makes it the best stadium I went to.

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Favorite City – Salvador

Founded in 1500 by the Portuguese, Salvador was the original capital of Brazil. It’s got miles and miles of beaches. An old city filled with bars and live music and an historic, downtown stadium.

Most impressive individual player

It’s a tie:

Arjen Robben - A complete game changer. I saw him in person in 2010 and felt the same way. Say what you want about diving, but his skill, speed, passing and shooting really stand out as the best player on the field in person.

Alexis Sánchez – He’s only 5-7, but he makes things happen. The ball just sticks to his foot. He gets the ball, backs into defenders a foot taller than him and somehow keeps the ball and gets around them. really impressive player in person.

Most Impressive Fans:

Chile – Per capita, Chile had the most fans at the world cup, or so it seemed. They were the loudest fanbase of any that I saw. Plus finishing the national anthem a capella is impressive.

Chilean fans in Sao Paulo

Chilean fans in Sao Paulo

Best Beach:

Porto de Galinhas, a small town about 30 minutes south of Recife, has everything you want in a beach town. Beautiful, warm water, good restaurants, bars and close enough to a big city to take a day trip if necessary.

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My Trip

Part 1 – Sao Paulo-Recife-Natal for USA-Ghana

USA Ghana Natal

USA Ghana Natal

I started out flying from Santiago to Sao Paulo on the 14th. I planned to see some friends and then fly onto Recife, then take a bus up to Natal to arrive in time for the USA game, but as I got off the plane in Sao Paulo, I realized I didn’t feel well. After the hour trip to the hotel, I was really feeling it and decided to take a nap. I woke up an hour later with the chills in my 75 degree hotel room. I pumped the heat up to 90 and proceeded to not leave my hotel room for the next day and a half. I really thought I wasn’t going to be able to make it to the USA/Ghana game, but thought to myself, there’s only a world cup once every four years, you have to go.

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Part 2 – Recife-Porto de Galhinas for Italy Costa Rica

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On the morning of 20th, we left Natal at 6am in our rental car, hoping to make it to Recife in time to grab a bite to eat and have a few pregame beers before the 1pm kickoff. We drove through sugar cane fields and beautiful rolling hills and made it to the outskirts of Recife by 10am, but quickly realized that things would be different as we got closer to the city…

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Part 3 – Manaus-Sao Paulo-Natal for USA Portugal, Chile Netherlands and Italy Uruguay

Sao Paulo - Chile/Netherlands

Sao Paulo – Chile/Netherlands

After relaxing in Porto de Galinhas, I left my group to travel 5400 miles in three days to see USA/Portugal, Chile/Netherlands and Italy/Uruguay in Manaus, Sao Paulo and Natal, respectively. I left Porto de Galinhas with flip flops, shorts, a USA jersey, a sweatshirt, USA sunglasses and my tickets to the games, nothing more. My plan was to wake up at 4am, get to the Recife airport by 5 at the latest, then fly to Brasilia, then onto Manaus. But I almost didn’t make it…

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Part 4 – Porto de Galinhas for USA Germany and Greece Costa Rica

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After recuperating in Porto de Galinhas on the 25th, it was game day again. USA. Germany. It had been raining off and on on the 25th, but that night, the skies opened up with a torrential, tropical downpour. We called it an early night so we could leave early the next morning for the 1pm game, 70km away in Recife. We left Porto de Galinhas in a torrential downpour at 9am…

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Part 5 – Recife-Salvador for USA Belgium and Netherlands Costa Rica

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After watching Costa Rica advance to the quarterfinals, we set out to the south, aiming for Salvador, about 750km away. Every Brazilian we’d told we were driving south to Salvador looked at us like we were crazy and tried to convince us to change our plans. They said the road was terrible, there were frequent robberies, potential kidnappings, random objects in the road to get you to slow down so that people could rob you, and that many of the police were so corrupt that you weren’t even supposed to stop for the police if they tried to stop you…

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Tips to For Your Startup Chile Application

The startup chile application phase is open again and that usually means a blog post offering startup chile consulting and help with applications. Even though I’ve gotten emails from 10 companies wanting my help and I still have a 66% hit rate for the companies that I help, I won’t be offering my services this time. I just don’t have enough time this time.

Instead, here’s my tips for writing your application and getting into startup chile:

1. Public description, video, website

The most important parts are your public description, your website and your video. I know many judges who read your public description, then go to your website and watch your video. If they’re bored, they’ll skim the rest of your app and toss it in the no pile.

The judges are reading a huge quantity of applications, so make sure yours stands out.

2. Don’t write to fill space

Say what you need to say as directly as possible. Don’t write like a college term paper. That’s the opposite of business writing. Write directly and clearly.

3. Native speaker english

If you’re not a native speaker or aren’t a great writer, find someone to help you edit your application. It’s completely worth it.

4. No passive voice

It’s weak. Doesn’t inspire confidence. And it’s boring to read.

This: We make money three ways:

Not This: Money is made three ways by the company

5. Use present tense as much as possible

This: Our company sells sunglasses online

Not this: Our company will sell sunglasses online

6. No business buzzwords

Be direct. Buzzwords make you look weak. And they generally don’t mean anything.

7. Write like you want a 10 year old or your mom to be able to understand it

It’s not impressive to write in jargon. It doesn’t show that you’re smart. Clear, direct writing does. I’ve read countless applications where I truly don’t understand what the entrepreneur is trying to say. But it sure has lots of big words! And buzzwords.

8. Use Lists

You should answer a question about revenue model like this:

We make money three ways:

  • Selling products via our online store
  • Charging placement fees to vendors
  • Logistics fulfillment for partner vendors

This way you save words and go right to the point. Then add a few descriptive sentences and you’re set.

9. Start with your niche, then go bigger

For the target market, scaling plan and your plan, start with your niche, then describe where you’ll be in 6 months or a year. Something like:

Our first clients will be young males between the ages of 18-24 who go to our university and study engineering. They have the biggest pain point for the problem we’re trying to solve. After we win our niche, we’ll expand to the rest of the university, then replicate the model at other universities in our city, then expand internationally following the same model.

10. Tell a story and don’t be boring

Tell a story. Make it fun. The judges read a ton of applications. Stand out by not being boring.

Conclusion

At the end of the day, there are about 2000 applications per round. 100 make it in. Probably half will get thrown out quickly. Your job is to get into the top 300, where it’s going to be a crapshoot. It’s the luck of the draw that the three judges assigned to you will actually like your project.

You just never know. My favorite project ever didn’t make it. Some projects I’ve helped are decent, but not great and have won. Good luck and happy applying!