From the end of the world, I crossed over and made my way through Chile. I wasn’t at the hostel for very long before I hit it off with another traveller, a fellow Chilean. She is so full of life, enthusiastic and kind. We talked about everything and anything and what’s so amazing that it was so easy. I shared more of life with her in 5 days then I have done with people back home that I’ve known for years. We made some great connection and it just meant everything flowed – pretty amazing.
Inside one of the many beautiful churches in Santiago
We talked about courage, being courageous for following your dreams, pursing goals despite all the obstacles and dis-encouragement from others. We all have courage somewhere, deep within us but we don’t always see it and many of us don’t believe in it. I have meant many a great people but the people whom I admire, the ones that really inspire me are those who are bold enough to be themselves no matter where they are or who they are amongst. That right there is courage. We are all so busy wanting to fit in and following the crowd that we lose what we are really about. If we just stopped and did what we wanted, showed our true colours, shared are true opinions wouldn’t that be amazing? I truly love genuine people, those that will stay true to their word and do what they want regardless of what others think, that for me isn’t easy so I admire all those who don’t just merge into the crowd.
Part of this courage comes from losing this fear we all have. This fear of falling, failing, being a disappointment, not living up to expectations, letting others down, getting lost or not being successful. My biggest fear? The more I travel, the more I meet these amazing people, the more I realise that my biggest fear is not finding the true meaning of my life. Many people I’ve met have some idea, some plan, this sense of direction of where their heading. Me – well I’m planning my venture as I go along, I modify parts but pretty much go where the wind takes me. Yes, it is amazing, never felt more free in my life and it’s truly been a liberating experience. However, I eventually want to uncover the purpose of my life.
I appreciate that this is process and I may not make any such discovery on this trip. I also am aware that many people don’t know and may never know the purpose of their life and their fine with it. For me, these last 9 months have enabled me to do a fair bit of soul searching and I have meant many others who are out doing the same. There was a period that I was fearful I would find what I was looking for here, in South America. I realised that what I was searching for was this sense of belongingness, I don’t really feel like I belong at home and arriving to this part of the world, I found that I may just feel that I belong someplace here. I was worried of course that if this was the case then that could have many implications, things that I haven’t thought of or prepared for.
Part of this realisation made me want to stay in a place for longer than a mere 4-5 days. Time is of course of the essence but to really know a place, appreciate all it has to over and to meet locals, I feel more than a week is needed. I also found that I wanted to volunteer again, having enjoyed it so much in South East Asia, I wanted to try and find a organisation in South America. There are plenty but most require at least a few weeks to process the application. However, I applied to several and got lucky with one organisation in Rio. With Brazil hosting the World Cup, I knew the atmosphere would be an experience so I left Chile sooner than planned and landed in Rio.
There are many differences that are evident first of which is the language, unlike the rest of South America, Brazilians speak Portuguese. I was not prepared, so arrived with no language guide and not a word of Portuguese. Whilst the programme offered 2 weeks of intensive Portuguese, it was during the world cup so many of these lessons were missed plus they were after project. It’s no excuse and ideally I want to leave being able to speak some of the language. I knew very little about Brazil before I came but one thing I knew was Brazilian people are amongst the friendliest people around. This is true without a doubt which makes me feel all the worst when I can’t converse with them. Noting being able to speak the language doesn’t stop them communicating with you, rather they are determine to continue the conversation by using signs and gestures which I love.
Inside one of the famous bakeries in Rio
All of the Brazilian people that I have meant have been so warm and welcoming. They have this spirit, energy and kindness which is contagious. Part of this happiness shines through when their dancing the night away to live music on the streets. Life isn’t all pink and fluffy here though, there numerous problems; the poverty, trafficking of children and violence against women. There were several riots both before and during the much contested and loved world cup. Volunteering in a favela, makes the everyday struggle for people much more evident. Many of the favelas have drug problems and so have armed police patrolling the streets. The hardships endured by many here takes me back to streets of Mumbai and roads of Cape Town.
I can’t change the world, at least not single handedly and certainly not right now. So while each day I feel frustrated and wish I could do more, I try and think about everything I and the other volunteers do every day for communities here in Rio. I meet many Christians, part of the church volunteering programme who have also spent weeks working on my project. We were able to discuss differences in our culture and who ultimately is responsible for social issues like poverty. Interestingly enough, we agreed that it was us as a society, we as individuals needed to do more because we are letting down humanity. Not just here but for many of the crisis that we encounter all over the world, the wars, the endless sufferings and deaths of innocent people.
So my next question is, what more can I do? I have volunteered here in Rio for a month and would love to spend another 6 months here or so. Many of the volunteers in the house share this sentiment. I have once again meant some great people and made some amazing friends. But once again, many of them are leaving this week and I am left having to say the word I hate the most – goodbye. It is never really a goodbye because I always feel sad as does the other person so really it is a sad-bye. Goodbyes are inevitable as is change. As soon as I get used to someplace or someone it’s time to move on. Whilst I hate these moments and in some cases avoid saying goodbye altogether, I have learnt to accept it, I don’t like it but I accept it.
I taught these women English twice a week in Borel, Rio
I will leave this project, leave Rio, knowing I did something which is better than having done nothing. I will leave knowing I made a difference to the lives of some and I offered everything I had. I shared my love, wisdom and kindness to some amazing people whom I hope to meet again someday. I may not speak the language but have learnt to communicate in other ways which makes the experience just as worthwhile. Essentially, I know I will leave feeling humble and grateful for the great memories, stories and laughter. I know for sure that for me, it’s not where I go, it’s who I go with. I value people more than ever, for all they have to offer and share. I have gained this new, renewed faith in humanity. So hey ho with saying goodbyes, I would much rather look for the silver lining.