Ipanema Beach

As some of you may know by now, I made a flying visit to Brazil earlier this month. A year or so ago, I made an intoxicated promise and well, I don’t really like to break even drunken promises.

That is why I put ” Writing the word ‘Courage’ on Ipanema beach” as one of my challenges.  It was short, sweet and incredibly needed. In fact, the trip turned out to be quite well timed, in terms of increasing stress-levels and melancholic reflections. See, I am very aware that I have not finished all 12 challenges and with only six days until the New Year I doubt very much that it will happen. This would bother me,  because even though I always insisted that this project was a detour, a sideline as life happened: I like to finish the things I start. This can be a great trait or just a bit stressful and unfortunately I always seem to lean a little to the latter…

What better place to take a break than the country in which they seem to live life in a completely different pace than the rest of the world. Let me introduce you to ‘Brazil time’. Whether it is getting ready to go out, waiting for the bus, indicating distances, or making plans for the day: everything has an element of ‘more or less’ to it. Examples: “Are you nearly ready?” “Yes, more or less” ” Will the bus be here soon?” “Yes, more or less” “Is it close/far/walkable.” “Yes, more or less.” Enfin…

As I didn’t speak Portuguese and Rio is not super English, I was glad to have a personal guide in the form of my dear friend. As she took care of directions, places and times I suddenly felt all tension slip away from me. Nothing to worry about, no place to be, and with only two things that I wanted to see in five days the goals were reachable, even in Brazil time.

Screen shot 2012-12-24 at 16.26.55So I had time to make some observations:

    1. Sandy beaches like caster sugar do exist.
    2. Flaunt your body, body hang-ups are for losers.
    3. Be an appreciative audience of point 2. Even if you are out with your spouse/partner, guess it is the   ol’ adage “Don’t mind where he gets hungry, as long as he comes home to eat.”
    4. Point 2 and 3 do not justify eating my face.
    5. Use sunscreen. Even when cloudy.
    6. There is no point in time planning when traffic dictates your speed.
    7. Point 6 really is a metaphor for life.
    8. Friends in every place, shape, form and point of life are priceless.
    9. Birthdays are awesome.
    10. Really: do use sunscreen. It saves you a lot of peeling.

Bonus: Buy and wear gorgeous underwear. It just improves point 2, 6, 9 and 10.

Now I’m back home for the holidays, I know I still have five challenges to meet. However, there is no panic, it’s ok: it will happen, more or less… in Brazil time.

Happy Holidays everyone! x


The 12 Challenges I purposely chose to be achievable with a bit of will power, organisational skills and sometimes (if not often) a little help from my friends: with life already being as surprising as a box of chocolates, there is no use buying a box of sugar free ones and thus setting yourself up for failure from the start.

However, there is one challenge that seems a little out of proportion and random in its specifics: ‘Write the word Courage on Ipanema in Brazil’

Today, a two part explanation:


LSD by Damien Hirst

Today I saw Damian Hirst’s exhibition in the Tate Modern (incidentally, I would highly recommend it especially to those not ‘getting’ Hirst, like myself. It’s a great documentation of the evolution of an artist and his pieces are understandable  in context of his whole overture. This as an aside.) In the booklet that comes with the exhibition, Damian’s quoted:

“There [are] four important things in life: religion, love, art and science. At their best, they’re all just tools to help you find a path through the darkness. None of them really work that well, but they help. Of them all science seems to be the one right now. Like religion, it provides the glimmer of hope that maybe it will be alright in the end…”

Personally, I believe the most important thing in life, bypassing the four mentioned is: courage. Without courage there would be no religion, love, art and science. They would perhaps exist but they wouldn’t flourish as they should. Religion needs courage for its nature is unquantifiable and inexplicable; there is no use in love, if there is no courage to express it; no use in art, if there’s no courage to share it; and science would mean nothing, if no one had the courage to explore beyond known limits.

Courage is not (self)confidence: it only comes into existence when surrounded by doubt and fear. I don’t even think it is ‘the glimmer of hope that maybe it will be alright in the end’: courage is almost the acceptance that even if it isn’t alright in the end, you’ll deal with it.

It is perhaps the more eloquent, more mature, less angry and less aggressive version of: Fuck You. For a start it takes the ‘You’ out of the equation, ‘You’/The Other doesn’t matter: Courage stands by itself.

And I like that.

Ipanema. Brazil. That’s about friendship without borders.

It’s about travelling to an airport to see an old friend after six years for only six hours and a drunken promise in the back of a cab.

It’s about reuniting with a new friend, who is also carving out the life she desires.

Both friends I shared wonderful crazy times with, in different times and different places – the kind I will look back on when I’m 97 and less able to travel, but when I’ll remember that during those periods I laughed out loud each day.

The logistics are still a challenge but today I received a reminder through the post to keep on going.