“When you talk, you are only repeating what you already know. But if you listen, you may learn something new.” – Dalai Lama
We have a lot to learn from the places we inhabit. Cities are the greatest of teachers. Sometimes they whisper, sometimes they shout; all we have to do is listen.
During my first stint in Rio, I did more talking than listening. I was enamored by her beauty and energy, but I could never hear exactly what she was trying to say. For whatever reason, I was a little out of tune.
One of my primary objectives this time around is to become an attentive listener, for I know the cidade maravilhosa has a lot to say if I lend her my ears.
After a 22-hour journey to get here, during which I got in my last southern food fix, consoled my mother at the airport, attempted to construct a makeshift bed at JFK, and awkwardly squeezed between two heavy-set Brazilian gentlemen trying to enjoy the latest installment of Jurassic World, I am exhausted.
For months leading up to this trip, all I could think about was getting back into the swing of carioca life. Now, all I can think about is the family, friends, dogs, and bed I left behind. What am I doing here?
I heave myself into a taxi and begin the trek from Galeão International to my friend’s apartment. As if waking up disoriented and remembering the details of a bad dream, I begin to recall what traffic is like in Rio.
Cabbies in Rio drive like maniacs in an effort to get ahead of traffic, yet somehow nobody seems to get anywhere on time. According to traffic monitor Waze, Rio is the second most congested city in the world. Sounds about right.
The ride into town from the airport goes against the postcard image Ipanema and Christ the Redeemer I’ve come to associate with Rio. The mix of factories and favelas that occupy my first few minutes in Rio serve as a reminder of the often conflicting nature of Rio de Janeiro. As I ponder Rio’s complexities, the question again arises: What am I doing here?
The question plagued my mind for the first 24 hours in Rio, swirling in the back of my mind like the gales of the Atlantic Rainforest. I knew I came here in search of something, perhaps a piece of truth I had once held onto but let slip through my hands. What is Rio trying to tell me?
Brazil works in mysterious ways. As if to answer the thoughts I had racing through my mind, I pass a group of older gentlemen playing choro on the street corner. Instinctively, my American mindset kicks in and asks, “Why are they not working? It’s 11AM on Friday morning.”
Then it occurs to me, “Who cares if they are working? They are playing choro!” They are doing what they love and it is beautiful.
The whispers of Rio turn into shouts: be authentic, be yourself.
Rio exudes authenticity in every conceivable definition of the word. Now that I caught it, it is ubiquitous. Everywhere I look, I see people being true to themselves.
Everyone I meet is whispering, “The good life is a life lived in alignment with one’s values.”
Nowhere is this message more apparent than in the scene before me on Ipanema beach. My roommate is playing futêbol with a group of little kids. A group of hefty older men wearing sungas are playing with a pug. A gaggle of gringos is attempting to flirt with young Brazilian girls. And me, I’m drinking a coconut and journaling. To each his own.
Rio has a lot to say. I’m sure the message I get from her will change over time, but right now she is telling me to be authentic. She wants me to live out my truth and have the persistence to see it through. I look forward to seeing what else Rio has in store for me. Valeu, Rio.
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