Caxias do Sul, Brazil was the host of the 24th Summer Deaflympics from May 1-15, 2022, postponed from 2021 due to coronavirus.
I was fortunate enough to partake in the festivities and what an experience.
Ukraine won 137 medals with USA taking home 55 medals: several in swimming, track and field, men’s and women’s basketball, and women’s soccer with a gold too. See below for top 12 medal winners.
Living in Washington state meant a long trip to Caxias do Sul: four flights and a bus ride to the small southern city two hours north of Porto Alegre, Brazil.
Walking (really speed walking to catch our next flight…causing the flight to be delayed for over two hours, but at least they held it for us Americans huh?) through the airports in Brazil, I passed a lot of people engaged in signed conversation. I smiled and nodded, but realized how much I should have practiced my international sign language. It proved time and again that two people willing to collaborate in sign language can successfully stretch and mold the language to make it understandable for all. It requires patience, effort and a creative mind.
The hotel seemed a bit isolated but come morning time, the streets were much busier. I checked out the local grocery stores; so many delicious homemade pastries with my even foamier latte topped with cinnamon. The hotel had a variety of pastries too, always filled with a different surprise: chocolate, orange, cherry, berries…
The Olympic Center was a short bus ride from our hotel. It housed buffets to feed the athletes, a few souvenir shops, accreditation area, food trucks, audiogram testing room and a large covered area for all bus transportation. It had a great view of the city.
The facilities were fair; the basketball gym, within walking distance of the hotel, had bright, square lights on each corner that flash to notify the players when the referee blew the whistle. Nice cement seating too with a good view.
End of April, beginning of May is the start of Fall in Brazil. Bright lightning, roaring thunder and heavy rainfall caused problems for several outdoor sports. Golf was unable to practice for days; even the driving range was not accommodating for the handful of golfers trying to become familiar with the terrain.
The soccer (or futbol) fields were in fact a small pond, causing the ball to stop dead and adding more challenges to the game. The field locations were tough to find. It was inspiring to see the locals in the stands, supporting the athletes.
Final medal count (top 12):
The spoken language of Portuguese was tough. Another item on my prep list for my next trip: study the spoken language more! I ignorantly assumed Portuguese was close enough to Spanish that I could get by; I did manage, but not through much verbal communication.
There was one particular woman who ran a small corner shop with regulars relaxing all day; coffee and home cooked pastries in the morning, a bar in the evening. Each time I ordered coffee (they make it sweetened…quite delicious), she would pull out her newspaper and show the articles related to the Deaflympics, constantly showing her support for the US teams. She spoke no English, but I did learn an important Portuguese phrase: cafe com leite (coffee with milk).
The Opening Ceremony was beautiful! After each delegation entered the arena, there were a few different performances. One of my favorites was a Maypole Dance with over 100 participants and their ribbons, dancing around two maypoles.
I was able to check out two different waterfalls: Cascata dos Molin and Bondinhos Aereos Parques da Serra (a large park with a tram ride to view the waterfall!). Both were expansive and serene, with lush foliage and fresh air. En route to both waterfalls, the bus driver took us through small towns. I noticed a heavy German influence on many of the buildings out there.
The food was delicious, filling and made with love. Most restaurants are family owned and operated, each employee proud to be serving the food they created. I experienced a churrascaria, a Brazilian steak house. The waiters walked around the table with a variety of meat, serving too much tasty food. A staple for dinner seems to be rice, beans and some form of meat.
Traveling to Caxias do Sul for the Deaflympics was an unforgettable experience and a once in a lifetime opportunity. I would love to go back and continue exploring the vast country that is Brazil.