My morning workday routine starts with a 6:10am wake-up call, followed by an SSS (shit, shave, shower), a yoghurt with protein powder, and a wait for my ride into work. I wait outside in the morning sun, looking out over the sea beyond the stunning beach of Barra, the longest beach in Rio; it’s a relaxing way to start the day. Waiting for the minivan that is sent by work (and picks up multiple employees) normally gives me a few minutes of self reflection, which I try to use to appreciate life and the beauty of where I currently live. The sky is not yet fully lit and the whisper of the sunrise can still be seen in the orangey hue of the normally clear sky. Some days I just gaze and let it wash over me.
“To Gaze is to Think” Salvador Dalí
I have been using my smartphone more and more, especially anytime I have a few moments like I do in the mornings here. The consumerist urge to buy one came later than most for me, but the attraction of the brightly lit comforter is slowly seeping its way into my daily activities. It’s just dawned on me on this winter August morning, just how much time I spend looking down at this device, reading about news occurring around the world rather than just focusing on the here and now and the beauty in front of me. This is made even more true when living in Rio, the most beautiful city I have ever been to.
At the time of writing, I have less than two months remaining in Rio before I return to the UK. This reality has hit home now that a contract extension doesn’t seem possible, and it has forced me into a new mindset. One of trying to soak it all in for fear of missing out on something or not remembering the details I may wish to recall in the future. Hence my writing this blog post and taking a deeper look into my obsessive urge to try and capture, bottle, and share life, rather than just experience it.
It’s funny because having a deadline in life really forces you to get up off your arse (and phone) and take full advantage of everything around you. Of course we all have the ultimate deadline hanging over our heads, we just don’t live like we do, clasping onto the lie that things will never change. It is only when change is staring you in the face that you really grasp the present and start to live and enjoy the moment. Of course I am not dying, just leaving a city that has entertained me for the past 8 months.
Back to my average working day. My journey to work starts with a three mile drive down the beach road, flanked on one side by towering expensive condos and the sea on the other. The sea today is very flat and calm in a pathetic fallacy way, which seems so obvious in the moment but is just a great example of confirmation bias. The sea can be vicious and uninviting but today something about it is welcoming and unassuming. The rest of the ride into work involves some obligatory traffic, a few more pit stops, a wicked view over a lagoon with the sun rising above the mountains (see above), cyclists going the wrong way down a dual carriage way, a speed bump at high speed, construction work from Ilha Pura (the future home of the Rio 2016 athletes), a glimpse at the mountains with a blue sky background, a broken conversation in Portuguese, a more repaired conversation in English – it’s an endless list of opportunities...
The site where I work is unique. Palm trees welcome you in and there is a coffee shop and garden area which staff can use in times of stress or just when they can’t find an empty meeting room. I receive a free breakfast of fruit, coffee, bread, and sliced meats/cheese and a huge banquet is on offer for lunch, which is truly splendid and has contributed to some weight gain. Today I will not be “working” but training, meaning I don’t have to produce anything, just bundles of enthusiasm. I will save my creative energy until I get home, so I can concentrate on my personal projects, not personal profits. I will be able to focus more on writing / planning / thinking about things – my favourite of non-in-the-moment activities. I send myself emails full of jumbled words on a white background, attempting to capture some idea or gist for my writing. My email signature is on the bottom but often when I come to read them, the words make no sense to me. The connection isn’t there to the mindset that created the idea and the insight is lost. It was too abstract and poorly defined. I’m annoyed at the effort I put into my writing at that moment, too constrained by an illusion of a lack of time to effectively capture the moment and glimpse the experience at a future date.
I go about my morning with the odd “Bom Dia, tudo bem / bom?” and share smiles with my colleagues. Everyone always seems so happy in the mornings – the power of a smiley greeting. I check my emails and receive some bad news regarding future vacancies and where I will be working and living in two months. Another avenue is shut off and my choices narrow. Not the best start to a Monday morning but as the coffee does its job and my stomach grumbles, I can be distracted by more pressing bodily matters. This is a full rundown of my daily activities if you hadn't realised by now. The idea of not knowing where I’ll be in two months has me a little anxious, however the good vibrations of the weekend keep me going.
The training today and lack of proper graft means the morning flies by, with my free buffet lunch keeping me going in the afternoon.
Before I know it, it's 5:20 and I am back in the van and heading towards my condo. The traffic is significantly worse in the afternoons because of the construction for the Olympics and all the workers leaving around the same time as us. I don’t normally go past the Olympic Park but a few days later I went past again and took this photo. It doesn’t look too ready.
The drive back goes past one of the lagoons and a nice green area where there are often capybaras grazing. These huge animals are the biggest rodents in the world.
Before I know it, I’m at my apartment with Katie. This wonderful holiday home opposite the beach is truly the place to be. We have a little Skype chat and a bit of food before going to the gym, and then head out for a walk along the beach on the warm winter evening. We stop for our favourite treat – agua de coco – at our local quiosque.
I am going to really miss just being out in the heat at any time of day. I have never lived in a place where it is just so hot all year round. It only goes below 20 degrees at around 3-4am in the “harsh” winter. It’s not just the heat as well, it simply doesn’t rain that much here and there are only a few overcast days. It is common for there not to be a cloud in a sky. It happens 25% of the time I’d say.
As a typical working day in my #RioLife draws to a close I can’t help but feel sad about the coming change. I invested a lot of time and money into learning Portuguese and was beginning to see real progress and that, along with a million other reasons, is making me feel a little low. Another much larger part of me is hugely grateful to the work colleagues who helped me get here, and the new friends that have made us feel welcome. Know that you will always be welcome in the UK as our guest.
I am a very fortunate person who has experienced enough culture and countries for two lifetimes... and I don’t plan on stopping now. I know my next adventure will be back in the UK... but who can say for how long? The adventure after that might as well be decided by launching a dart into a spinning globe at this point but rest assured, there will be another adventure. For now I will look back on my #RioLife with a lot of happiness and no regrets. Okay one regret: I didn’t get to stay for the Olympics.