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Brazil basically equals carnival. So what would a trip to Brazil be without attending the carnival in a proper manner? I could just have taken the easy way and bought a ticket to see the amazing parades of the samba schools in the sambódromo. However, I wanted to take it that extra mile and be in the actual parade with a first division samba school, entertaining all the Brazilians on the spectator stands. That is the way to do it!
Luckily I am not new to Brazil. Brazil is definitely NOT for beginners. First of all, only very few people speak English in Brazil, so that complicates things quite a bit. Luckily I learn myself Portuguese so I can get by rather well. I also have obtained some amazing friends here and have some contacts at the samba schools. So I was in luck.
I got in touch with a friend whom I knew arranged participants for a samba wing at the samba school Acadêmicos do Tucuruvi. She got me on a Whatsapp group for the samba wing and we started to make arrangements. I gave her my shoe size, which is 42 in Denmark, but 40 in Brazil. Then I made a payment for the costume and the participation to her bank account. It is also mandatory to attend a few practice nights at the samba school, before you can enter the parade.
Unfortunately, I did not have the opportunity to choose my costume. I had to go with whatever theme the section of the samba school I was in had. But on the other hand, I got to attend pretty cheaply for a first division school. Some samba schools can be a bit expensive. My costume turned out to be rather hilarious. To say the least. Due to the recent political corruption scandals in Brazil, my costume was a marionette clown, with a big inflatable duck around my stomach. WTF? Well, there turned out to be a good reason behind the insanity of the costume. There is a saying in Brazil, that if you take the blame or pay for something you are not supposed to pay for, you ‘pay for the duck’. As the people eventually pay for the political corruption, they were marionette clowns paying for the duck. Here are some of the beautiful pictures of me in my costume
I arrived with an Uber to the sambódromo about 00:30, 2 hours before our school was about to enter the sambódromo. It was raining, what a treat, as we were not allowed to use any kind of protection against the rain. I was already tired and the hat for the costume had to be strapped on very tight, as dropping the hat in the parade, would result in penalty points for the school. I did not want to be the gringo that dropped the hat!
The sambódromo is enormous and there was no fixed meeting point. But finally, I found some other clown-ducks. We got a few beers and got our costumes in order. One guy had the wrong color shoelaces, so they had to be changed. Another guy tried to go pee in full costume, in one of the temporary festival toilets and of course he could not fit in there. It was all pretty fun. As we lined up and got closer to the entrance to enter, we could hear the music and the singing. When a samba school performs, everybody sings the same song again and again. I have to admit, that I just memorized the most important part and lip-synced the rest. It worked out fine. The spectators and a singer from the school sing the song as well. Of course everything in Portuguese. This really puts you in the mood and you automatically start dancing around a bit. You can hear the song from this year in the video below.
In the below video from o Globo, the main tv station in Brazil, you can see the whole performance of my samba school. We have 65 minutes to pass the sambódromo. We just made it in time! If the school is late, the gates will close and the last dancers will be trapped inside the sambódromo. What shame! I was in the last wing, so that could have been me. Fortunately, that did not happen and the gringo made it out alive, with all dignity intact, subtracting the shame of being in that costume of course. If you look closely, you will be able to see me at 47:52-47:55 in the video and again at 55:20-55:22. 5 seconds of fame! Comment below if you see me.
The samba drummers or baterias were right in front of us for the last half of the desfile, as it is called. That was really awesome, as you can really feel the mood and power of the samba school. Our school did not win the carnival this year, but all in all, it was truly a great night! I did not see as much as the spectators, but I felt the power of it all being right in the middle.
Coming out on the other side, everybody took off their costumes and left them on the ground in big piles. It was hot and my forehead had clear marks from the hat. It had been an interesting experience and all of my heart goes out to Brazil and the amazing people that live here for letting me attend the festivities.
If you would like to have a unique Brazilian carnival experience like this, tell me about it below. Would you like to attend some day? What did you think of my costume? Have you ever been to the carnival at the sambódromo, even just as a spectator? Please feel free to comment or ask questions below. If know someone who would like to attend the carnival with a sambo school but don’t know how everything works, have them contact me and maybe I can help them.