I have read some news that only 20% of the volunteers actually show up for work – they collect the uniform, goodie bag and that’s it. So I was very intrigued to actually see it – I couldn’t imagine it would be worth flying down here just for that. Last time I wore a uniform was in my 5th grade Russian school, so this will be fun!
The pick up was in a Samba warehouse – it was in an old, about-to-be-revamped City Center area of Rio. Samba warehouse, you say – what is it? You read my mind – well apparently, the Carnival parades and competitions are very intense here – so there are Samba schools that have followings, competitions, practices and a whole warehouse of “stuff” that goes in the parade. It felt a bit creepy walking through it – a bit of a mix of old movie sets for Clash of Titans and Silence of the Lambs.
So now to the uniforms – I read that it can take up to 2 hours of waiting so was anxious. We ubered over, got shuffled to a table where someone took my picture – then next table – wait for 5 minutes. Michael? Here is your accreditation – now go to Building 7 for uniform. In less than 10 minutes I was out.
Here is where the language fun started – Lavinia had to stay out as she was not accredited (because that paper on my neck makes me very official and now I am just a scan of my barcode). And again – table 1 – panic in the Brazilian volunteer eyes as she realized I speak zero Portuguese. After her desperate attempts to call out for any English speaking help, I decided to just wing it and do my hands/eyes/motion language. We figured it out – next step was changing room. Here – another volunteer lady eyed me and announced that I am Small on top – clearly not as busty as some of the locals, she winged at me. M for pants, good Eastern European hips gave me an approval nod and Small for jacket. It feels good being sized for small sizes. I tried it on, it fit – she clearly has been there for 4 months doing this daily and knows her stuff. Next – shoes, fit. Next – belt, bottle, hat, clip, fanny pack, rain poncho, booklet – all thrown in large bag. Then collect it all, check out and we were done. I was impressed by the operational speed here – it was flowing. Granted, there were no English speakers anywhere so every interaction was a lot of “sh, zhs, sh, zsh, falo, nao, etc.”, my blank stare “Nao falo portuguese, English?”, then smile. End of conversation. One of the volunteers assured me – nao falo portuguese YET! No kidding, immersion here I come…
And tadaaa… here is the final product! Mind you, I am green because I am events services – yellow is operational and red is medical. 3 polyester shirts, 2 unzip-to-shorts cotton pants, sneakers, 3 socks, nice fanny pack, poncho, nice jacket, hat, belt, water bottle and a buckle. Really nice, actually!
Final assessment? Surprised it went as smoothly, relieved I didn’t have to wait for 3 hours in no air-conditioned warehouses, wondering if I will be the only English speaking volunteer there and ready to polish my Spanish – better than nothing.
You will have a chance to see me dressed in it by tomorrow!