I came to Rio for six weeks as part of a volunteer programme to mentor young entrepreneurs, but as I get ready to leave, I am very aware of just how much I have learned during my stay here. It’s fair to say that when I arrived I was more than a little wound-up (as my lovely, straight-talking teammate pointed out to me, as only a South African with Dutch, German and Greek influences can). I hadn’t thought it was that obvious but it was time to relax and go with the flow.
Sharing a flat for the first time in years could have been tricky but it ended up being really good fun. During the first week I diligently made my breakfast and shopped for food for dinner on the way home, sticking to my 3 meals a day, which has been my mantra my entire life. Following my flatmates lead, that soon gave way to a much more casual style of eating – ordering most things to go (funnily enough the Portuguese phrase that we all learnt first!), eating only when hungry, and picking things up on the run from the many street vendors we passed each day. For the past few weeks my diet has consisted of coconut water, finger food (either deep fried, wrapped in pastry, covered in melted cheese or all of the afore mentioned together), mango, papaya, beer and cachaca. Not my usual fare and not particularly healthy, yet I have certainly lost a few pounds and have noticed my clothes fitting much more comfortably around the middle; helped also by not having my normal stress-induced bloating that was a standard part of my old life.
I made a promise to myself before I left London that I would not be the one who cleared up after everyone and wiped all the kitchen surfaces – a habit that I have from years of doing just that at home – and I’m pleased to say that I stuck to my guns, happily dumping my plates into the sink to be washed up later or whenever, along with everyone else; although I think it’s fair to say that I would normally cave in first and do the washing up but only when absolutely necessary!
My room soon became a bomb site; cluttered with shoes, clothes, wet towels, lap tops and all manner of stuff – again, nothing that I would ever consider doing at home as I like to keep everything organised and in it’s right place (I’m one of those people who tidies up before the cleaner comes), but it did feel strangely liberating to leave the mess for later, simply closing the door behind me as I headed out to a samba party or to our local bar for drinks.
As a stickler for time keeping I also actually allowed myself to ‘run late’ on a few occasions, but as everyone in Brazil habitually runs late for everything I was always ahead of schedule so I suppose it doesn’t really count!
It has been great living a bit of a student life for the past few weeks, and who knows if I’ll be able to keep this more laid back approach when I get back to London, but I hope that some of these new habits remain, as despite the long days, late nights and lack of green vegetables I feel great and I like the new relaxed me.