I suppose one of these days my luck will run out but it wasn’t today.
My benefactor only made it into Salvador early this morning after attending the opening match in Sao Paulo. So, to pick up my game tickets, I needed to get myself to his hotel out near the airport. After weighing my options I decided a taxi would be best so I checked with my doorman as to where to hire one.
Unfortunately, my doorman’s English is as bad as my Portuguese but I got the sense that he was concerned about my plan. Fortunately a lovely Spanish woman who knew English happened by and she helped translate between us.
Doubly fortunate a guy who owns a couple of apartments in this building which he rents out to tourists also came by. Domenico was his name and he frequently does runs to the airport and was more than willing to take me. He speaks excellent English and we had a marvelous conversation driving along the Atlantic coast on the way to the airport.
My benefactor surprised me when he provided extra tickets to some of the matches. I was instructed to “make friends” something I generally don’t do but, fortunately enough, I had a new friend waiting drive me back into town.
Since it was match day, traffic approaching the Arena Fonte Nova was very heavy even though it was still three hours before kick off and the streets near the stadium itself were blocked off. Domenico had to drop me off a way’s away so I followed the crowd, trusting they knew where they were going.
I always enjoy arriving early and two hours before kickoff the volunteers were still relaxed and enjoying themselves so it was easy to communicate without feeling rushed even with no common language. The stadium itself is quite nice though it feels more renovated than the new construction which it is.
The match itself was a joy to watch since I was cheering for the Netherlands. Robin van Persie’s first goal, a magnificent loping header, was right in front of me. After Holland’s second goal, another beauty by the way, a young boy sitting behind me who had been rooting for Spain felt the crushing weight of falling behind and began sobbing. All the adults tried to comfort him but he wouldn’t have it. I think a lot of the Spanish fans wished they could cry without shame too but, like the tropical afternoon rain, it passed quickly. I just wish I could have seen the unabashed joy in his face when Spain scored, but it was not to be.
After the match I followed the crowd to where the buses were waiting to disperse us. I knew which bus to take to be delivered directly to the shopping center less than a block from my apartment but when I climbed aboard and offered the conductor my money he indicated that only a special card was accepted for payment. It seems that one can only take these buses round-trip. Unfortunately none of the stewards spoke any English but they seemed concerned for me and I certainly was for myself. How would I get back home?
Fortunately there were lots of people in the same proverbial boat. I latched onto four Swiss guys also wanting to go to Shopping Barra. Between us we spoke Spanish, French, German and English but no one spoke enough Portuguese to be useful. When wandered around looking for a taxi and even found a stand with a few other people hanging out but all the taxis were already engaged. We waited for a long while and discussed our options.
Eventually we decided to return to the bus stop to see if they’d make an exception for us and, sure enough, a valid bus was getting ready to depart and there was no conductor. We just climbed aboard and sat down relieved.
I’ve had enough vacation for one week. I think I’ll take tomorrow off.