BLOG: How to get lost in Rio de Janeiro

I am a student attending Ball State University and recently had the opportunity to travel to Brazil for the 2016 Olympic Games to write stories, conduct interviews and share what it is like in a country hosting the international event. 

The other night, I traveled to a field-hockey game located in Olympic Park in the Deodoro neighborhood. That meant, from my location in Botofogo, I would have to walk to the metro station, take a metro, switch lines, take a train, switch lines, and then walk to the park from the station. Having completed this trek once before, I knew it would take around two hours.

I suppose that was optimism.

A friend and I hopped on the metro, went the wrong direction, turned around, and then hopped on the wrong metro. That was aggravating (but apparently I really need to learn how to read subway maps).

Not quite speaking more than a few phrases in Portuguese, we fumbled with asking for directions—blurting out the few words we did know. A kind officer somewhat understood, and pointed us towards a step-by-step sign on how to get to the park. (Note: The sign was super helpful, the trek was just way longer than I could have ever imagined.)

For some reason, the metro then had to stop at every possible station for at least five minutes. I was so glad I had a book downloaded on my cell phone!

Different from my experiences on the metro in Chicago, Boston and New York City, street vendors walk up and down the train car, while it’s moving, trying to sell things. I’ve seen dog bones, hair ties, snacks, drinks, brownies, post cards and more. It’s incredible! I can barely hold my balance on the train car by myself, let alone carrying a giant bag/hanger of items!

Anyway, these vendors were shouting about prices and items, in Portuguese, the entire time. We both started to get a headache. But after getting through the metro attempts, we made it to the train station.

In Brazil, you have a metro card, and you have a specialty transportation card. This specialty card is good for metro, bus and train. In attempts to get on the train, our specialty card decided to stop working.

We grabbed a worker’s attention. She didn’t speak English, so we got passed off to a guy who did. After explaining our problem, he passed us off to a different non-English-speaking girl, and she showed us a booth to wait in line at.

We waited in line for easily 20 minutes before we were told there was a different booth for English speakers. So we went to this next booth, waited in line, again, for 15 minutes, and finally spoke with someone. The English-speaking guy came back to us, explained we needed to buy a new card, but I think he realized how exhausted we were from our adventure.

He was so nice! He ended up just talking to a few officers and sending us through the gate, overriding our situation. We were so thankful!

We got on the train, chilled and chatted with one another for around an hour, and then we got off on the wrong stop.

Go us.

We waited for the next train, waved as we passed the field-hockey stadium, and then got off at the soonest stop we could. We waved to the field-hockey stadium because the train didn’t stop at the stop directly next to the stadium since it was a base for military personnel.

When we got off the stop we were allowed to, we had to walk around 25 minutes to get to the security checkpoint of the venue. Once we got past the security, we had another long walk down to the stadium, just to realize we walked to the wrong stadium.

We turned around, walked through another security checkpoint, and finally got to our field hockey. I almost cried when we sat down at the stadium after our three-hour adventure.

We took an Uber home.

It took 45 minutes.

Madeline Grosh is a Ball State University student and writer for Ball State at the Games, a group of 50 journalism students traveling from Muncie, Indiana, to Rio for the Olympic Games.  Follow  them at, @bsuatthegames  on Twitter and Instagram, and  on Facebook. 

Madeline Grosh

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