A Team of Refugees

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The Rio 2016 Olympics and Paralympics and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) have been getting a lot of negative press in the last few months. People have been urging the IOC to call off the Games, but the IOC has decided to let the Games go on. In less than 2 weeks, I will be in Rio ready to volunteer, meet people from all over the world, and watch athletes overcome the odds to proudly represent themselves and their countries.

In addition to the spectators, volunteers, staff, and athletes who are there to participate under their national flags, Rio 2016 will have a Refugee Olympic Team.

Ten refugee athletes who had to flee their home countries will compete under the Olympic flag. If you watch the Opening Ceremony, look for them marching under the Olympic flag right before Brazil at the end of the Parade of Nations.

Created as an Olympic response to the worldwide refugee crisis, the IOC formed this team by first asking National Olympic Committees (NOCs) around the world to identify refugee athletes with the potentials to compete at the Rio 2016 Olympics. Forty-three candidates were identified, and these ten athletes were selected.

  • Rami Anis (M): Country of origin – Syria; sport – swimming; host NOC – Belgium
  • Yiech Pur Biel (M): Country of origin – South Sudan; sport – athletics, 800m; host NOC – Kenya
  • James Nyang Chiengjiek (M): Country of origin – South Sudan; sport – athletics, 400m; host NOC – Kenya
  • Yonas Kinde (M): Country of origin – Ethiopia; sport – athletics, marathon; host NOC – Luxembourg
  • Anjelina Nada Lohalith (F): Country of origin – South Sudan; sport – athletics, 1500m; host NOC – Kenya
  • Rose Nathike Lokonyen (F): Country of origin – South Sudan; sport – athletics, 800m; host NOC – Kenya
  • Paulo Amotun Lokoro (M): Country of origin – South Sudan; sport – athletics, 1500m; host NOC – Kenya
  • Yolande Bukasa Mabika (F): Country of origin – Democratic Republic of the Congo; sport – judo, -70kg; host NOC – Brazil
  • Yusra Mardini (F): Country of origin – Syria; sport – swimming; host NOC – Germany
  • Popole Misenga (M): Country of origin – Democratic Republic of the Congo; sport – judo, -90k; host NOC – Brazil

 

The video above doesn’t work on this blog post, but if you click the play arrow and then you click “Watch on YouTube,” you’ll be able to watch it on YouTube.

The IOC’s Olympic Solidarity program will provide funding for these athletes to cover their preparation, travel, and other expenses for the Olympic Games. The IOC will continue to support the refugee athletes after the Olympics.

Thomas Bach, President of the International Olympic Committee, said, “These refugees have no home, no team, no flag, no national anthem. We will offer them a home in the Olympic Village together with all the athletes of the word. The Olympic anthem will be played in their honor and the Olympic flag will lead them into the Olympic Stadium. This will be a symbol of hope for all the refugees in our world and will make the world better aware of the magnitude of this crisis. It is also a signal to the international community that refugees are our fellow human beings and are an enrichment to society. These refugee athletes will show the world that despite the unimaginable tragedies that they have faced, anyone can contribute to society through their talent, skills and strength of the human spirit.”

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IOC President Thomas Bach with the Olympic flag

For faster updates while I’m at the Olympics, follow the Olympics of Blogs on Instagram @theolympicsofblogs.

The Armless Archer

Matt Stutzman won a silver medal at the London 2012 Paralympics, broke the Guinness World Record for longest archery shot (230 yards or approximately two football fields), and  then broke his own world record at 310 yards. He is ranked the eleventh best archer in the world and is called the Armless Archer because he has accomplished everything without arms.

I was lucky enough to interview him about the upcoming Rio Paralympics, London 2012, and his family!

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The Olympics of Blogs: What are you most excited for in Rio?

Matt: I am most excited about the opportunity of competing in my second games and for another shot at a Gold Medal.

The Olympics of Blogs: Why did you choose archery as your sport?

Matt: I chose archery because it is the only sport that doesn’t stereotype against any athlete. Anyone can pick up a bow and be the best in the world at it with enough practice.

The Olympics of Blogs: What has been your favorite moment at a competition?

Matt: My favorite moment in a competition was back in 2014 when I competed at indoor nationals, which is the largest competition in the US. I became the first person with a physical disability to shoot a perfect score, I did not miss any points. I was one of only eight athletes to do so.

The Olympics of Blogs: What has been your proudest moment as an athlete?

Matt: My proudest moment as an athlete was representing Team USA in the 2012 London Paralympic Games and being part of something bigger than myself.

matt-stutzman-article.jpgThe Olympics of Blogs: Have you ever thought about competing in the Olympics and the Paralympics as some athletes have done? Would you do it? 

Matt: I would compete in the Olympic Games, but as of right now they don’t allow the use of compound bows, which is what I shoot. Until the they allow compound in the Olympic Games, I will compete in the Paralympic Games.

The Olympics of Blogs: What were you thinking as you stood on the podium after you won silver at the 2012 Paralympics?

Matt: I thought about where I had left my gloves…. lol. But in all seriousness, I just thought about how proud I was to represent the United States of America.

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The Olympics of Blogs: What inspires you?

Matt: My family inspires me because they look up to me and I want to show my boys that with hard work, you can overcome anything.

The Olympics of Blogs: Is it difficult to balance training for the Paralympics and having a family?

Matt: Yes, it is difficult. I have to budget my time wisely and have a good dose of family mixed in with training.

87 More Days to the Olympics!

It’s so close now, and I’m even more excited because I received my invitation to volunteer over the weekend.

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I will be working Press Operations, which means I’ll be at the center of everything! My job description is to provide official operational information to clients, prepare documents and signs, distribute press kits, certificates and medals, and provide translation and support services for lost and found operations. I can’t wait to volunteer!

Yesterday, I also bought a ticket to the Closing Ceremony. The Opening Ceremony tickets went so fast at the very beginning of the process, so I was extremely surprised to see Closing Ceremony tickets still available. Going to the Closing Ceremony will be awesome for so many reasons, but especially because I’ll get to see Rio 2016 pass on the Games to Tokyo for 2020!

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Here is a photo from when London 2012 passed the Games to Rio 2016 during the Closing Ceremony.

My GoFundMe is still going strong! I have reached the 25% mark, which is absolutely amazing! Thank you so much to everyone who has donated and who is following along on my journey. I definitely couldn’t do it without you.

Here is the link (https://www.gofundme.com/carolynroadtorio) to my page if you are interested in how I’m doing. 😀

I’m almost done with school, so I will be doing a lot of catch up on events with this blog soon. Keep an eye out for them!

100 Days to the Olympics!

Only 100 days to the Olympics! That’s really only a little more than 3 months… Wow! When I started this whole process of applying to volunteer during the Olympics, it was 2014 (2 YEARS AGO!), and now it’s only 3 more months! I am so excited!

I still don’t have my volunteer placement yet. The new date on when they’ll have all of the volunteer placements assigned is May 31, which is very close to the Games! However, I have completed the available training on the Volunteer Portal so far. I’m ready!

Because the Olympics are so soon, I started a gofundme page a week ago to help me cover the cost of going to them. I’m so thankful for everyone who has donated and shared it so far! Here is the link to the page: https://www.gofundme.com/carolynroadtorio. Anything you are able to give helps! Even sharing it on social media goes a long way! Going to the Olympics in a little more than 3 months will be a dream come true. Thank you everyone for your support!

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Today is the Road to Rio 100 Days Celebration in Times Square, and as soon as my class gets out at 2:45 pm, I’m sprinting over to Times Square to celebrate! I will write a blog post about it in the coming week! 🙂100days.PNG

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The Olympic Museum

Here is a really amazing blog post written by my friend, Lili. She’s been studying abroad in London since January, and she’s been going on such amazing adventures! Recently, she journeyed to Lausanne, Switzerland, home of the Olympic Museum, and from what she wrote, it sounds like such an awesome museum! If you are interested in reading more about her travels or about any books she’s reading, check out her beautiful blog at http://lilisreflections.blogspot.com.

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Thank you so much for having me on the blog today, Carolyn!

I went to Switzerland in the beginning of March to visit a friend, and she just so happens to live in Lausanne… the headquarters of the International Olympic Committee! I took advantage of this awesome opportunity by spending a day in the Olympic Museum.

When you first walk in, you are greeted by a test track with the 5 rules of the Olympics listed: Fair Play, Excellence, Respect, Friendship, and Peace. This sets the tone of your entire visit because it symbolizes what the museum is all about. If you come from the opposite direction, you’ll climb a staircase full of dates and locations, which end up being the hosts of all recorded Games in years’ past. Pretty cool.

The museum starts you off by teaching you the history of the Games, bringing you through exhibits of what the original Games were like all the way through an exhibit on the life of the father of the modern Games. This entire first floor is very educational. I think the coolest fact that I picked up is that in the original Games in Athens, there were twelve Zeus statues on the ground to inspire athletes. Each of these statues was bought and paid for by a past Olympian that was caught cheating and exiled from the games. Their names were often etched into it, so they forever lived in shame.

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This exhibit also took you through the history of the Olympic flag. Originally it was not the five ring symbol we know and love today. And, on top of that, when it eventually became the five rings we know today, the regulations of the time prohibited the rings from properly interlocking. So the symbol we know today is still relatively young in the grand scheme of things. It was really cool to see one of the first and oldest surviving Olympic flags with today’s modern symbol.
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What stood out to me, though, was the torch exhibit. They have an actual torch for every single Games displayed and watching them transform and become more intricately detailed with each passing year was astounding. Plus, they have a Rio torch on display that I excitedly touched just to be able to say I did. Let me tell you, she is a beaut.

The next floor has some crazy history exhibits with so many interactive opportunities that you can spend hours here. Everywhere you look you could find famous outfits and equipment belonging to athletes that revolutionized their respective sport. You can then scroll through iPads at each station, select an athlete, and read in-depth bios and watch record-breaking videos of Olympians who I wasn’t alive to view myself on television.

The best part of this level, however, is the video screen. They have every single Olympic Games on it, and ten different ones can be viewed at once. You pick an Olympics, and you can view a 5 to 10 minute video about that year’s importance…the athletes that revolutionized sports, new sports introduced, any historical controversies—I found the video of the Games hosted under Hitler to be especially fascinating for this reason. I must have spent a solid hour there, scrolling through every year I have been able to watch on television, a few historically important ones, and the Games hosted in any city I’ll be visiting in the future out of sheer curiosity.

The third and final level of the museum is all about the athletes. You walk downstairs and there’s a ton of mannequins dressed in the old workout clothing of each country. There are simulators for you to test balance, reflexes, speed, etc. at the rate of an Olympic athlete, and they make you feel like you are so out of shape you should never get off the couch. There are interactive booths that let you sit down and view special interviews set up with famous athletes that simulate an environment where it feels like they’re talking directly to you. There’s an entire section on doping where I learned I’d be a really bad judge of character because I took a test just to be told I have no idea how to properly spot people doping. It’s all so interesting really.

But the best part is at the very end. They have the medal room. An entire room featuring a silver, bronze, and gold from every Olympics ever. It’s so fascinating to see the basicness of Athens 1896 (the gold was unfortunately missing to be cleaned) to the intricacy of Sochi 2014.

Right before you exit, you stumble into an actual Olympic podium from Sydney’s 2000 Olympics. Naturally, I needed a picture, and you know, I obviously went for the gold. Do you blame me?

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This museum is one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen. I love museums and often wander off on my own when exploring them because my friends aren’t as into them as I am, but this is a museum that even the most reluctant museum goer will be interested in. Heavy on interactive experiences, you decide how long you spend in there by indicating what you are interested in and exploring with that in mind. I would go back if I ever find myself in Lausanne, Switzerland again. I will say this: Lausanne is a one-day kind of trip. While it holds such importance to the Olympics it’s a very small city with not a lot to do, so the Olympics Museum is more like a stop-over on a larger journey to, say, Interlaken or Bern, but it is a stop-over that is so, so worth it.

151 Days to Rio! (Road to Rio Update)

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Here’s my Rio update! I’m still on the Road to Rio, and the final destination is getting closer every day! Only 151 days to go! Here is where I am in my preparations:

Housing:

I booked my housing Saturday on airbnb. Even though I’m still a little nervous about using airbnb, I think it has security measures in place to deal with all of my worries. I’m renting a room in a house in Recreio dos Bandeirantes (which is near Barra da Tijuca, where the Olympic Village and most of my events are located).

Where I’ll Be Volunteering:

I still don’t know. 😦

Volunteer Meetup:

I met other volunteers who are going to Rio and who live in New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania on Sunday, February 28. We met at a restaurant called Vonda’s Kitchen in Newark, NJ. After some trouble trying to get to the location, I finally made it, and it was amazing! Everyone was so sweet, and I loved meeting people who are doing the same thing as me. We all love the Olympics so much, so it was fun to share stories about our different Roads to Rio!12794835_1981753342050865_4669878640739798368_o.jpgThat’s the update for now, but expect more updates on my Road to Rio soon! I can’t believe it’s only 151 days to go! 😀

If you know of any fun and exciting places in Rio de Janeiro that I should go to while I’m there, let me know by commenting! Thanks for reading!

My Road to Rio (So Far)

I began my Road to Rio in November 2014 when I applied to volunteer at the Olympics, and then on November 30, 2015, I was approved! YAY!!! I couldn’t believe it!

Here’s what happened before I was chosen as a volunteer:

To apply, I filled out an application on their volunteer portal. It was short but also difficult because only a small amount of characters were allowed for each answer. For example, I had to say why I wanted to volunteer for Rio 2016 in only 200 characters including spaces. That’s hard!

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Submitted my application!

After applying, I did two language tests and an online dynamic (that tested how I would act in situations I might experience while volunteering at the Games). The online dynamic made me extremely excited because they did a really good job of simulating the Games! It’s crazy to me that in under 190 days, I will actually be there!

Until October of 2015, I didn’t hear anything about volunteering, but I was determined to go to the Olympics anyway. The United States sells Olympic tickets through CoSport, and since last spring, they have been selling them in a variety of ways. At first, it was a lottery system. People chose what events they wanted to go see and entered the lottery for those events. At this point, all of the events were available. I managed to get a ticket to the final of the Men’s 10 Meter Platform Diving! This event is always really exciting because I used to dive, and also because it’s really hard to predict who will win! David Boudia from the U.S. won it at the last Olympics.

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Sports of the Rio Olympics and Paralympics

Since the huge lottery, CoSport has been releasing tickets sporadically, and I’ve been buying them. So far, I have tickets to nine different events (although I may try to sell some of these based on times). They are for Diving, Football (AKA soccer), Archery (two different events), Handball, Table Tennis, Badminton, Fencing, and Athletics (AKA Track and Field).

Surprisingly, my most expensive ticket was $123, and my least expensive was $20. That’s not bad for the Olympics!

In October, I had an online group interview with someone from the Rio 2016 Organizing Committee, which only built the excitement. I was so nervous during it, and then on November 30, I was picked!

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Now, I’m waiting for my actual assignment, but I’m happy that I’m going! I bought my plane tickets this past week, and I’ll be renting a place to stay very soon.

Only 186 more days!

Hello 2016!

Happy New Year! I can’t believe it’s already 2016!

2015 was an awesome year for me. I volunteered at the Special Olympics World Games, started interning at Special Olympics New York, created this blog, met two of my heroes, made a lot of amazing new friends, and was accepted to volunteer at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro! 2015 made me really excited for 2016!

In honor of 2016, here is a list of 16 things I am excited about for 2016.

  1. VOLUNTEERING AT THE RIO OLYMPICS!!!!!!! 112414-OLYMPIC-2016-MASCOT-AS-PI.vadapt.620.high.55
  2. Watching the Olympics in person!
  3. Going to the Olympic Village in Rio.
  4. Exploring Rio de Janeiro.
  5. Trading Olympic pins with people from all over the world.
  6. Continuing to intern at Special Olympics New York.
  7. Growing my blog and updating it more frequently.
  8. Meeting more people who love the Olympic Movement just as much as I do!
  9. Graduating from Pace University in December 2016.
  10. Getting my first full-time job!IMG_4864
  11. Volunteering around the city (and writing blog posts about it!).
  12. Writing my senior thesis on the Olympic Movement.
  13. Turning 21.
  14. More Special Olympics New York competitions!
  15. Learning Portuguese.
  16. Summer ❤
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Happy New Year in Portuguese

 Happy 2016 to all of my followers! Here’s to another gold medal year!

My Interview with Greg Louganis

12179421_10205593663180662_723909234_n-1On Sunday, October 25, I traveled to the Bow Tie Cinemas in Chelsea to see NewFest’s premiere of the HBO documentary, Back on Board: Greg Louganis. Greg Louganis is one of my favorite Olympic athletes because of his true commitment to the values of the Olympic Movement. He is actually one of the reasons why I began diving.

I don’t want to spoil the film, but here’s a short bio of his experience with the Olympic Movement. According to his website, he “is widely considered the greatest diver in history,” and because he won a silver medal in the 1976 Games, two gold medals (on 3 meter and 10 meter) at the 1984 Games, and two gold medals (on 3 meter and 10 meter) at the 1988 Games, I would agree. Most people remember his bravery after he hit his head on the board, continued diving within the hour, and won gold at the 1988 Games.

After the 1988 Games, he retired, and then in 1995, he and Eric Marcus wrote his autobiography, Breaking the Surface, where he came out as gay and HIV+. Back on Board is about his experiences while he was competing, at the Seoul Games, after he came out, his advocacy, and his current work as a mentor for USA Diving.

Incredibly, I was able to meet and interview him on the documentary, preparing for the Rio Olympics, and many other things. Below is the interview. You can watch the documentary on HBO GO and HBO NOW.

The Olympics of Blogs: What do you hope people walk away with from your film?

imagesGreg: Well, you know, it’s interesting because I’m just the subject matter, and it’s the director, Cheryl Furjanic, and [producer/writer] Will Sweeney who really chose what to focus on, how to tell the story, and what story to tell. We were together for three and a half years in the process, so they really had a lot to choose from. They focused on the diving and my entry back into the sport of diving. There’s some current day stuff mixed in there as far as challenges I’ve been through and so, I think what I found people take away from it most is that no matter how much you achieve, we’re all human. We all make mistakes. We all make good decisions and bad decisions because we’re human. That’s what people come away with. It’s the humanity.

It was interesting because it’s been focused on the LGBT film festival, but I’ve been getting responses from [many people]. One, which is very meaningful, was from a straight black woman, and she wrote that after viewing the documentary, she found the courage to come out to her friends and loved ones about her HIV status. She has two daughters who I’m assuming are HIV-.

And [the audience will come away from it with] how challenging it is in various communities – you know, the stigma surrounding HIV/AIDS and the stigma of being LGBT. You know, all of those things. We’ve come a long way, and the advances in treatments since I was diagnosed in ’88 are wonderful. That I’m still here is truly amazing because when I was diagnosed in ’88, I didn’t think I’d see 30. Everyone was dying.

Even when I saw the film for the first time, I learned a lot because in a part of the film, I said that, “An atomic bomb could have gone off, and I never would have known.” That’s how focused I was on being successful in my sport and doing my homework, getting ready, preparation, and all that. I heard about AIDS, and that was kind of out there. I had friends who were dying, and it really brought home the gravity of what was happening at that time. I find that people are coming away [from this film] with its persistence and tenacity of hanging in there and believing things will work out.

The Olympics of Blogs: What are some of the differences between writing a book and being involved in this film?

Greg: Well, I worked with my coauthor, Eric Marcus. We started back in ’93, and that was a whole process. I knew that I wanted to share my story, and the only way I felt that I could do it justice was through a book. Eric is incredibly thorough, and working on it was very cathartic. But at the same time, there were points in the process of our working together where I wasn’t ready emotionally to deal with it. He really forced me to revisit and examine areas of my life where I just really didn’t want to go.

Eventually, I got there, and I think that was what was so telling. It was a New York Times bestseller for five weeks because it was so revealing and raw. I thought that I was sharing my weaknesses, but on book tour, I realized by sharing my weaknesses, I was actually sharing my strength. That’s kind of how I perceived this process of doing a documentary when I was approached by Cheryl Furjanic and Will Sweeney. I felt confident that I was in good hands, and my story would be treated with love and respect.

The Olympics of Blogs: How did it feel to go back to diving after such a long time?

Greg: It was nice. I like the capacity that I came back in as athlete mentor. That’s been so meaningful. I feel impactful.

We are going to be in a tough spot in Rio. The state of diving right now globally is the entire world is chasing China. Mexico has poured millions and millions of dollars into their diving program, and it’s showing. They’re really coming onto the scene strong. Canada has a wonderful program. They know that they can’t support all of the elite athletes, so they pick and choose the athletes they feel have the best shot at success. Then they pour their resources into those athletes. It’s a very different model from what USA Diving is using. They [USA Diving] disbanded the National Training Center, which I feel is a huge mistake. I’d really like to see much more coaches’ collaboration and more of a sense of a U.S. team. I love what Canada does with their One Team campaign.

Right now in the states, it’s a little bit more about this club against that club against that club. If they [the club] have a talent, their tendency is to hold onto that talent to gain recognition. It really should be a collaborative effort in order to be successful. We have some tremendous talent, but we need to share resources, especially since many of the facilities are limited. There’s not that many full on dive facilities around the country. They are few and far between. To share resources, to share knowledge, and to share experiences is the only way we’re going to be successful.

The Olympics of Blogs: How will the U.S. men’s 10 meter platform diving be in Rio?*

Greg: David Boudia is still continuing. He gets it, which is exciting for me to see. They teamed him up. His synchro partner is Steele Johnson, who is a young kid, and he can mentor Steele through the process. Also, being teamed with a diver who is better than you elevates your performance. You rise to the occasion. I think that is very powerful and impactful.

*Greg won gold for the 10 meter platforming diving at the 1984 and 1988 Olympics. In 2012, U.S. diver David Boudia won gold. I’m also going to see this event in Rio, so it was interesting to see what Greg thought about it.

The Olympics of Blogs: How did it feel to carry the Special Olympics flag in the World Games’ Opening Ceremony?

Greg: It was great. It was a great honor to be with all those guys. I had a lot of fun.

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Carrying the flag

My Road to Rio: Brazilian Day

Because I’m going to the Olympics in Rio in 2016 (yay for 7 tickets so far!), I’ve started preparing by learning the language, trying to figure out where to stay, and learning the culture. I don’t know a lot about Brazil besides the basics, but I’m working on it.

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Last weekend, I learned that there is a Brazilian Day festival in NYC, so I went! It was on sixth avenue from around 42nd Street to Central Park. It was part street fair, part Brazilian cultural festival. There were so many people dressed in the Brazilian colors of yellow and green. They had tents selling beautiful yellow and green clothes. Tents were also selling lots of meats, Brazilian food, lemonade, and random things like cell phone cases and bowls made of chopsticks. There was also a tent where you could kick a soccer ball.

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IMG_6474It was a very fun day. I saw Brazilian people dancing and singing, and I even saw Miss Brazil 2015! I met some people from a The Legion of Good Will, a nonprofit that works in Brazil and NYC and could help me in Brazil if I need it, won a t-shirt from Delta Air Lines that says “I survived Brazilian Day 2015,” and tried an arepa (I didn’t like it). Mainly, I just really loved the feeling of being immersed in a different culture.

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People dancing

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Miss Brazil being interviewed

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An Arepa, which is kind of like a pancake corn bread

TIMG_6513he experience was amazing, and it just made me even more excited to go to Rio in 2016! The sign to the right says “Show everyone how you’re enjoying the #BRDAYNY,” and with this blog post, I just did!

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