Throughout the volleyball team’s trip to Brazil, various players will be writing about their experiences.
Day 4 – Giulia Gávio
Our fourth day started really good. We had breakfast at the hotel and then we headed over to the downtown center of São Paulo. We walked through one of the most famous market streets in the city called "25 de Março". There were a lot of stores with cheap things to buy.
After there we walked to the Central Market which is a huge place of food. As soon as we got there we stopped at a fruit tent and tried different fruits. Most of them we have never seen before. We also had lunch at the Central Market and some of us ate a typical food in Brazil called "Pastel" (it is similar to an empanada) with different fillings.
In the afternoon we went to the club Pinheiros to play against one of the strongest teams in the country. They are in the first league of volleyball in Brazil and they have many players who played in the national team. We lost the game by 4x1, but it was definitely a huge opportunity for us to be able to compete against the best. We overcame hard serves and big blocks and it was really good to have our family and friends on the stand cheering for us. After the game we had dinner at the club, where all the players of the club eat and then we got on the bus to Rio.
Days 1 & 2 – Summer Avery
Day 1 - Hello Spartan Family! I am so honored to have the opportunity to describe the details of our trip to Brazil, it truly has been one of the most amazing experiences of my life. Our team departed for the San Francisco airport in the morning on Friday June 23rd and flew to JFK airport. From JFK we flew overnight to our destination at GRU airport in São Paulo. My teammate Thaliana (Grajeda) and I spent the time sleeping and watching movies.
We watched the sun rise over the Amazon River, and when we reached São Paulo, the city was bright and buzzing with the daily tasks of a Saturday in Brazil. I was blown away by the towering structures and every time I thought the city would fade away, another cluster of highways and high rises would appear. Our team rolled through customs where we met Fe, our newest addition to the Spartan family, and we immediately started discussing the differences between the three Portuguese accents on the team.
Our Brazilians are from three different cities: São Paulo, Rio de Janiero, and Minas Gerais, and they all have accents that are particular to their geographic location (you'll have to ask them about it sometime). From there we boarded the bus, with our water bottles filled and drove to the hotel for lunch.
After lunch we packed up our backpacks and loaded up to Paniero's club which is a huge country club equipped with pools, basketball courts, an open air volleyball gym, dance rooms, and beach volleyball and tennis courts that Mariana Mantellato (we call her Ma) has been going to since she was little. We played really well for our first practice in Brazil and got to feel for the first time what a cohesive team we are all together.
Ma's father treated us to pao de quejo, aqua de coco, and coxina's (which is basically shredded chicken deep fried in a think breaded crust- delicious) and gave us a tour of the beautiful club. We took the bus through the city of São Paulo at sunset and the sun peaked through the busy streets of the city. Ma's family lives in a beautiful condo, which is common for people in São Paulo, and they had a beautiful set up of food on their balcony overlooking the setting sun. Even though Ma's mom doesn't speak English very well, she showered us with abrajoes y bejos (hugs and kisses), proving that love is expressed in more ways then words. We ate, sang, danced, and attempted to grow our Portuguese vocabulary by listening to Brazilian country songs. For dinner we ate filet mignon with garlic, bananas, rice, beans, and more farofa. We drank fresh passion fruit juice (suco de Maracuja) and for dessert we had mangos and my two favorite dishes brigadeiro and bolo de paçoca which is a sweet peanut butter cake (sooo good). After a long and eventful day we said our goodbyes and traveled back to the hotels to get ready for another amazing day in São Paulo.
Day 2 - Today is game day! Breakfast at 8 a.m. meant another early day in São Paulo but we were all excited for our second day in the city. By bus we traveled to a gymnasium in the middle of a tropical neighborhood in São Paulo where the trees peaked through the skylights of the gym. The gymnasium we played in housed the men's team of SESI, a huge volleyball club in Brazil that has trained Olympic athletes. Practice was successful and we had another great opportunity to practice some of our lineups and offensive plays for the game in the afternoon.
One of the biggest differences about practicing in Brazil was the different volleyballs. The volleyballs in São Paulo are a little bit smaller and have and thicker pad along the outside. It almost feels like the ball is sticking to your hand when you hit, but we all really like them! It's a new feel and all of us are adjusting to the way it comes off our hands but we are embracing the challenge.
After practice we drank fresh aqua d coco straight from the coco. For most of us, it was the first time we've ever tried anything that fresh and delicious (way better then the coconut water that we buy in the store). After practice we stopped at the hotel for lunch and a quick nap. For lunch we feasted on chicken, meat, salad, and thankfully some páo de quiejo (cheese bread). I love how many flavors there are, and I have discovered my new favorite seasoning. It's called farofu, and is described as a seasoned crumb that you top your food with. Luiza Andrade (aka Lu) told me that it is best served with beans and rice and I must agree, it's downright delicious.
Afterwards we loaded up in the bus for our match against the women's professional team SESI. This gymnasium was even bigger, and we had some fans cheering us on (thank you to Lu's and Ma's family and friends for cheering us on). We played a tough 5 set scrimmage against 3 different teams. The energy on the court was amazing, and we all felt really good after the game.
Brazilians play a little different style of the game so the set is really high, giving our middle blockers an opportunity to get some stuff blocks. Our opponents were all so nice and are very skilled for their age. It was an honor to play in their gym in front of our teammates families.
Afterwards we celebrated at a pizza place called Giulia's. The restaurant was all you can eat, and all of us practiced ordering drinks and pizza in Portuguese. The people in the restaurant were so friendly and after some song requests we got the whole place up and dancing. The vibes here in Brazil are addicting and you can't help but smile, sing, dance, eat and play your heart out. I love it. I'm so grateful for this adventure, and I can't wait for more this trip.