Ever since Brasil (pronounced Brazil) was awarded the 2014 Fifa World Cup I have been preparing to get to Rio de Janeiro or some match-hosting city like São Paulo.
I had to be among the first real-life Kenyans to witness the event cara à cara like the Brazileiros say. Face to face. Why? Because Brazil is the greatest footballing nation I know, that’s why!
They hosted the World Cup competition in 1950 (won by Uruguay), and Brazilian teams have subsequently won the championship (campeonato) in 1958, 1962, 1970, 1994 and 2002.
Like the construction companies charged with building new stadia (estàdios), restructuring and/or rebuilding old ones, I swiftly went into top gear learning all there was to know about Brazil and her neighbours.
First, the language- which I understood to be a version of Portuguese that sounded like American English as opposed to Queen’s English.
English and Kiswahili were not going to be the lingua franca at Brazil 2014? How come? Anyway, that was the story and I had to believe it.
And where could one learn Portuguese? I talked to a friend who advised that I see the Ambassador of Angola or Mozambique (Moçambique in Portuguese) and ask for help.
The Brazilian Embaixada would obviously be too busy. I got as far as the reception but that proved to be enough.
I came out armed with a small ‘dictionário’ and it has proved priceless. Within days I could meet and greet in Português. Or so I thought.
I went back to the Embaixada de Moçambique and attempted to introduce myself but nobody understood. My pronúncia was awful, they said.
Learn the alphabet first and then come back. We might be able to help, then.
That is how I discovered that like some of our languages, Português does not have all the 26 letters of the alphabet.
They do not use k, w and y except for some adopted foreign words and names.
For k they use c or q. For w and y they use a combination of letters. Try Quenia for Kenya or Nova Iorque for New York or Paquistão for Pakistan or Oeste for West.
I was by now thinking of Pele and Ronaldo and Ronaldinho, Bernadinho, Gervinho, Paulinho and all those Brasileiro football stars that I might meet there in 2014.
I learnt that Ronaldinho, Bernadinho and Gervinho are the fond names for Ronaldo, Bernado and Gervasio.
Like Ciku, Ciru, Teddy, Robie and Willy are fond names for Wanjiku, Wanjiru, Kennedy, Robert and William. In Portuguese the longer the name the fonder it is!
Why would they not write Ronaldinyo, Bernadinyo or Gervinyo as they pronounced them? The answer is there in the alphabet.
Analfabetismo (illiteracy) was my number one enemy as I strove to get ready to conquer Brasil. But determined to conquer I was; more than ever.
But where is Brasil? I asked myself. It is the largest country in South America- covering more territory than all the other countries combined: Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Uruguay and Venezuela.
I didn’t know then that Argentina, Brasil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador and Uruguay would qualify for the 2014 world event. Little did it matter. I knew something; and I’m not disappointed.
Actually I found out that Brasil and Kenya had a great deal in common. You remember the coffee boom of the 1970s? It came because there was a coffee blight in Brasil.
You see, Brasil produces the bulk of the World’s coffee. When Brasil coffee coughs, the whole World sneezes!
But perhaps not so; for we in Kenya would then experience a bonanza! Not to say I’m praying for that. No. Just plain fact.
There is something else we have in common.
When the Portuguese came to our coast in the 15th and 16th centuries, they came to plunder and extract.
They were mercantilists come to increase their treasures through vigorous brutality and rapacity, which disrupted the basis for local prosperity. Fort Jesus still stands out as evidence.
But they introduced new crops like maize (milho), banana (banana), chilies/peppers (pimentões), cashew (caju), cassava (mandioca), pineapple (ananás), sweet potatoes (batata doce), tobacco (tabaco) and tomato (tomate) which they had found in Brasil.
They had also introduced oranges (laranjas) and lemons/lime (limão) and pigs (porcos) from China and India. I wonder what our forefathers were living on.
Were they all Morans living on meat, milk and blood? Or hunters living off the antelopes? I wonder!
Anyway, from a historical point of view, I had already made lots of friends to my mind and I was going to make sure that Brasileiros understood where I was coming from.
Apesar tudo, estamos juntos. Despite all, we are together. For centuries.
I’ll tell them that when I get to Rio, sitting at a churrascaria in the favelas, drinking cerveja and eating churrascos (mishikakis) and pretending that I was actually at the Carnivore Restaurant.
Or leaning on a banco in a palhota (hut or masandukuni) drinking and eating carne-de-sol (sun-dried meat) or cozido à portuguesa.
So you will see me (if you haven’t already) at the Maracanã Stadium in Rio de Janeiro (River of January also known as the Marvelous City) or at Mineirão Stadium in Belo Horizonte (Beautiful Horizon).
You might even see me at the Arena Fonte Nova in Salvador (Saviour) or at Arena Corinthians in Sao Paulo (Saint Paul).
Or look me up at Estádio Plácido Aderaldo Castelo aka Castelão (Grand Castle) in Fortaleza (Fortress) or at Arena Pernambuco in Recife (the Brazilian Venice).
I might even appear at Estadio Beira-Rio in Porto Alegre (Happy Port) or at Arena das Dunas in Natal City (home town) or in the environs of Arena Pantanal (the swampy one) in Cuiaba (The Green City) in the Mato Grosso (thick bush) State or at the Arena de Baxaida (lowland) in Curitiba (Best of Brazil Cities).
If you do not see me in any of those places it will be on account of my having gone to visit the Amazon and will be found near Arena d’Amazonia in Manaus (Mother of the Gods of the indigenous nation of Manaós).
I have to teach them the difference between kandanda (which they play) and kabumbu (which we play)! Nao estou a brincar! I’m not joking!