Sao Paulo, Brazil
Another 4.30am wake up to farewell another sister in another hotel foyer in the same pyjamas. Saying goodbye to Rebecca was hard, I’ve learned so little Portuguese! After several ‘one last hugs’, she drove off into the sunrise…
…then there was one!
I scurried back to the room where I slept like a baby for a few more hours – you know, crying a lot and sleeping a little. I packed my bag, checked out of the hotel, triple checked the map, took three deep breaths and stepped out into to world.
I had a rough plan of how I might spend this first day alone starting with the Art Gallery, then perhaps a little lunch, some window shopping, maybe a coffee and a read, a wander and then back to the hotel to check my emails and pick up my bag and head to the airport for my overnight flight.
Luckily the gallery was only a few blocks away which meant I only needed to check the map about 37 times. I felt a great sense of achievement and relief as I bought my ticket and passed through the doors. Being the third biggest city in the world, my expectations of the gallery were high and I wasn’t disappointed. The top floor hosted three exhibitions – portraits, religious icons and romanticist paintings – all featuring all the great masters (I won’t list them because to do so would only highlight my ignorance – you know who they are – think of your favourite artist … yep, they were all there!). The next level down had an incredible collection of more modern prints. I took my time, even stopping to scribble in my book for a while to fill in time and empty my mind.
I headed down to the final floor thinking my work there was done, just a quick lap of this last little display only to find myself ensnared and enthralled for the remainder of the day. It was a multi-media project by Yann Arthus Bertrand who you may know might know from his previous project, the awe inspiring Earth from the Air (if not, seek it out at your local book shop). This project is Six Billion Others and is the result of Yann coming back down to earth and engaging with hundreds of thousands of people all over the globe. Participants were posed the same 20 questions in an attempt to illuminate our differences but more importantly, our overwhelming similarities, our humanity, our shared responsibility to each other as inhabitants and custodians of the one planet.
Ultimately, I can think of no better way I could’ve spent today, my first alone at the beginning of a long journey, than to be immersed in the stories of shared humanity, to be reminded of our connectedness, to be saturated by the sense that we each have a responsibility to participate in the greater good. I laughed, I cried, I snuck a couple of photos. No doubt this exhibition will travel the world as Earth from the Air did – keep an eye out for it.
Just enough time to rush back to the hotel to get a taxi to the airport. On the way in, our taxi had been about R$35 (AU$20), I was expecting the same for the return journey. R$105 (AU$60) later, I realised I was leaving from a different, further airport! Had I known that, I would’ve made other arrangements so I’m secretly glad I didn’t! I’d had such a nice, clean, safe time in Brazil, no need to end it otherwise.
After surviving the obscenely long check in queue, I settled in at my boarding gate with my last South American supper – coffee, pao de queijo (favourite cheese bread from Brazil) and an alfajore (favourite sweet treat from Argentina).
Today was always going to be difficult but not only was I not brutally murdered by marauding gangs, I’m actually leaving with a sense of … everything, feeling very much alive! For better or worse, the journey has begun.