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Postcard from Brazil: Road to Recife

Dedicated to my mother Patricia Ann Karle, teacher, school board president, attorney, magistrate. June 26, 1942–Dec. 3, 2000

We got quite the fauna surprise on our final day in Praia da Pipa when cousin Drew discovered a baby timbu (white-eared possum) hiding in our bathroom. The pousada owner Rafael was able to cage the little guy and we hoped he wouldn’t end up in the next soup for lunch.

As Drew waited for our much-needed laundry to be done, I left to try to get us a spot at the same place where we watched the U.S. game for Brazil’s match with Cameroon. I arrived two hours before its start and the place was already wall-to-wall packed with yellow-clad Brasileiros.

Having recognized me from the night before, the bouncer allowed me to perch on top of a long wooden bar in a corner at the back of the place that was open air out to the street like the Wrigleyville bars of Chicago. There were about a dozen local surfers on the street next to me who were drinking from a bottle of cachaca and getting all fired up for the match.

A live samba band came on and entertained with an hour to go before the game.

Then suddenly–BANG! “What the Helen of Troy was that?!”

The hooligans had blown off an M-100 firecracker in the street a few feet behind me and the sound was deafening with smoke pouring into the place. This then went on regularly for the next two hours straight as Drew joined me and Brazil marched to an easy 4-1 victory.

The band returned post-game and we danced in celebration there and all about Pipa throughout the rainy night.

On Tuesday we took a taxi to the small town of Goianinha where we were told we could catch a bus from a restaurant to head for Recife. But after we got there, we learned that all of the buses were sold out until 11 p.m. We were stuck and scrambling for ideas on how to get out of there, but then the next bus arrived and miraculously had two open spots!

We were riders on the storm as our speeding bus bounced down the freeway through driving rains alongside tall verdant forests, grassy medians, and cattle farms.

We arrived after the three-hour ride and took a cab to the high-rise apartment I had booked from Vegas, which was located in the Boa Viagem beach area of Recife.

Gutsy, historic, cultural Recife began life as an important port to export sugarcane produced from the labor of African slaves in the 16th century, and it became South America’s biggest city in the late 17th century.

The northeast part of Brazil declined to backwater status with the abolition of slavery in the 19th century that led to the floundering of the sugar economy.

The balance of population, power and money tipped to the Southeast, and many from the area migrated there in search of a better life.

Much has changed in the 21st century due mainly to the policies of Luíz Inácio da Silva, who was the country’s president until 2010.

The Brazilian economic boom along with aid for the poor and investments into the Northeast have brought much better times. Unemployment has dived, and the middle class is growing fast. Even the traditional flow of migration is changing direction, with Northeasterners returning to their roots, and some Southeasterners moving north in search of a better life.

Coastal tourism is very much a part of this boom, and is a definite growth industry. As I type this on the open roof of our high-rise, I can see and hear construction work on other development all around me.

Recifenses are passionate about their football, even though their most successful teams, Sport and Náutico, both have a history of yo-yoing between the national Série A and Série B leagues.

Náutico plays at the Arena Pernambuco, 12 miles west of the city center in São Lourenço da Mata–a stadium built for the World Cup, in which it was slated to host five matches, including one round-of-16 game.

It will host the USA-Germany match on Thursday, and we plan to be there to cheer on our Yanks!

Brennan Karle is a Las Vegas teacher who covers prep sports for the Review-Journal. He’s in Brazil for the World Cup and will be sharing electronic postcards on his experiences. You can see photos of his trip on Instagram at brennankarle.

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