Not surprisingly, my last couple weeks in Rio have been a whirlwind. I find myself constantly engaged in some sort of activity here, whether I’m volunteering, relaxing, sight-seeing, or hanging out with friends, and before I know it another week has passed by. So this week, rather than focusing on a particular topic, I thought I’d write about some of the experiences I’ve had both in work and in play.
Ilha Grande: Island Paradise (even in the rain)
This past weekend, myself and twenty other volunteers took a trip to Angra dos Reis to visit a beautiful island off the southern coast of Brazil known as Ilha Grande. And here is the thing- if you imagine visiting an island, especially if you have never been to one before, if you imagine what it might be like to live the “island life” many people talk about, you might imagine Ilha Grande. Imagine beaches with white sand, crystal clear water, diving holes, kayaking, seafood, and boat rides with your friends. Ilha Grande has it all. But if you venture outside the view of what you immediately experience when you step off the boat, you will notice the people around you. The people that take your drink order at dinner. The children that are headed to school. The boat taxi driver that takes you from beach to beach. While you might think you are suspended in paradise, there are people all around you that show you their reality.
For several weeks other volunteers and I have been privileged to work with and assist a local artist in her studio. This weekend we were able to experience her work in action. Not far from the studio we call home, the Sao Cristovao community hosted an exhibition where artists of all sorts could come and showcase their work. For a second, I almost felt like I was wondering the streets of East Nashville, admiring the work of local artists, smelling the alluring scents of food trucks, and getting lost in a buzzing festival atmosphere. Fashion designers, jewelry makers, painters, brewers, artisans, and the like gathered to both share their art and workshop their artistic knowledge with the surrounding community and anyone that was willing to sit down and participate. For some odd reason, some crazy coincidence of life, I was able to be a part of this. I was able to sit down with members of the community and teach them the artistic techniques I have learned in the last few weeks. I was able to see pieces that I and other volunteers have made all around me after planning and designing for many weeks in preparation.
In Brazil, something that seems small and insignificant can actually be very valuable. Something that seems like such a small task, especially with a language barrier, can truly have an impact. A singular experience can change your whole perspective. It can seem very cliche, but I think, for me at least, I have to remember that the scale of my experiences are much different here. I have to absorb what every end and odd has to offer-even if I’m uncomfortable with it- because there is always something to take away.
So I’ll leave you with this note-something fun, something true, something I’ve thought about often. Rio is waking up in the morning because you are sweating profusely, but looking out across the city as you brush your teeth. Rio is hearing fireworks/gunshots at all hours of the day and night, but seeing the smiles on the faces of local community members when their team has won a futbol match. Rio is waking up cranky, but passing people on the street that you don’t even recognize saying, “Bom Dia, Tudo Bem?” Rio is standing up on a packed bus that is bouncing across cobblestone while holding on for dear life, but always managing to get where you are headed.
Rio is seeing the sunset from the best view in the city at the end of a really bad day and realizing that you are exactly where you are supposed to be.