Saturday, 24 November 2012


And there it came: disillusion. A blessing! A good thing! If you think of the deepest hidden meaning of the word disillusion, you will see it´s nothing more than dis-illusion.  Meaning one was living in a world full of illusion and now they are back to reality. Almost like if one was incubated inside a soap bubble and once it blows apart (because it always will), they are free to see the world as it really is again. No one wants to live in a fantasy world but still, once you are in it, you don´t realize you are raving. It is only by going through the process of disillusion, you can gain your sanity again.  Disillusion is the medicine, not the pain.

Some people can´t take drastic changes. They shut down and can never recover. And instead of going back to reality, they create a parallel world, as illusory as the previous one, and drown themselves in fear and anger. Well, not me! I will always take disillusion as an opportunity to build a new life; a better life, since a lesson was learnt.

Personally, I cannot understand why people are so afraid of disillusions. It is a beautiful process that has less to do with endings and more to do with beginnings. And there it came again: Disillusion, my dear, I have been waiting for you! My passport for freedom!

Friday, 9 November 2012


So poor are the people who think that the most valuable asset in life is money. I like to think it´s time. There is really nothing more precious than time. And when I think about the conception of time, I cant help being blown away by the perfection of the universe. There is really nothing more democratic than time. We all get the same period of 24 hours in one day. It doesn´t matter if you are rich or poor, beautiful or ugly, famous and successful or not: you get the same amount of time during the course of a day as anyone else in this planet. You are free to use it as you like it, but you cant trade it, you cant buy more, you cant save it for later. Each second lost is unrecoverable. Lucky are the few human beings who recognize how valuable time is and use it to actually do things that will bring them happiness. Those are the ones who can actually say they´ve truly lived their lives. The rest only drown themselves into the boredom of existence. 

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Two cultures, one country

I actually thought that time would help me organize my thoughts, but the more time I spend in Africa, the more mixed my feelings and thoughts are. So let me start from the beginning. Maybe narrating it chronologically will help me structuring my perception of the facts.

I got here on a Friday night, exactly two weeks ago, jump straight to a taxi that took me to this nice and cozy little lodge. Since I had the whole week fully booked with meetings and interviews, I had to spend the whole weekend working and organizing the logistic of the project. And since those meetings were mainly in Sandton and Pretoria (the capital of South Africa), the impression I got from the country in the first week could not be more positive: impecable infrastructure, nice and big houses, beautiful architecture… you feel like you could be anywhere in Europe.  I was actually blown away by the development of South Africa.

I also did not feel any kind of racial segregation at first. Although it´s very rare to see white and black people hanging out together in the same group in their spare time, they seemed to get along socially and respect each other. Although I never felt any spark of integration between black and whites and it is very clear from the beginning that two distinct cultures have to coexist in the same environment, I didn´t get the sense of any kind of racism or discrimination by both. It was not until later that I realized I was actually living inside a bubble.

On Saturday, I had the day off. It had been a week I was in South Africa and I hadn´t been in Johannesburg yet. I read in the Lonely Planet that, downtown, there was an artistic ghetto named Newtown. It used to be dangerous place, but apparently the government was making an effort to recover the area. Since I am also an artist, I decided to go there and check it out. Before I left the lodge, the very blond blue eyed owner advised me with her British accent: “a girl like you should not go to Johannesburg. It is not a nice area”. Well, I´ve heard people saying the same things about Rio de Janeiro and it is far away from reality. How could I be in South Africa and not visit the city center of Johannesburg? It sounded like absurd to me! I dressed nicely, put my high hills on and took my camera to register my experience in images. There I went to see what a Saturday afternoon was like downtown.

I arrived there and was really excited. There were markets in the streets everywhere, people were selling all types of foods and clothes. It was a very intense cultural experience, just like I like it. I immediately got my camera out and started making some shots of the scenes, trying to get all the different angles I possibly could, just like I usually do anywhere I go.

Suddenly this very strong black guy comes towards me with an angry face and starts shouting at me: “You can´t take pictures here! Why are you making pictures of us?” I tried to explain I was a journalist and I was very interested in cultural studies, but he just walked away visibly bothered by the situation.

I felt quite intimidated and put my camera inside my bag. But I started wondering why he was so upset. It´s pretty clear I am a tourist here and that´s what tourists do: they take pictures of the places they visit. I started looking around, trying to understand why. Suddenly it hit me: I was the only tourist there. This was not a touristic area and they were not used to this kind of approach. Besides that, I was ridiculously overdressed with my stupid Louis Vuiton scarf and my high hills. Could I be
any more inappropriately dressed? How could I dress like Carry Bradshaw with New York´s 5th Avenue style when I am Africa? I took the scarf out and bought some flip flops to replace the high hills. I thought the problem was solved: no more pictures and dressing appropriate. However, I still felt like people were looking at me telling me with their eyes I was not supposed to be there.

I swear for God, it took me half an hour to notice that I was the only “white” person there. Call me dumb, but I never understood the concept of races, I understand the concept of cultures. And, since I really believe that cultural exchange experiences enrich us as human beings, I never discriminated anyone just because they have a different cultural background than me. In the opposite, I actually value that, because I know whenever you have the chance to get in touch with a different culture, you also have the chance to enlarge your Cosmo vision.

Anyways, that “problem” I could not solve. There was nothing I could do to feel welcome in that place, just because they thought I was different from them. It was cold, so I decided to get a coffee somewhere. I could not find any coffee shop, so I went into a bar. The moment I stepped into the bar, I felt like giraffe in the middle of New York City. Everyone looked at me, some with curiosity and some with anger. To tell you the truth, it was more like men looked at me with curiosity, women with anger. But I kept going, looking desperately for coffee. I really needed caffeine at the point.

In the back of the bar, there was a table with five guys and they were smiling at me. Finally, some friendly people! I walked towards them and sat down. We started talking and having fun together. In ten minutes, like a shift, when I mixed with this group of black guys, I didn´t feel like an outcast anymore. At last, I could solve the unsolvable problem and I felt like a human being again!

It reminded me of a conversation I had with one of my best friends, who is black. I frankly thought it was an absurd when she told me that, whenever she was within a group of black people, she had a different treatment from society compared to the times she was hanging out with white people. Now I could feel that on my own skin.

Last Friday night, I went out with the journalist who is working with me here. We went to a place called Melville to have dinner. After that, we noticed that the night life in that area was quite active and we decided to check it out. We went to three bars. We couldn’t help noticing some facts: in the first one, which was quite small, there were two tables occupied plus us: one table was composed by a group of white people and the other one by a group of black people.

Then we went to another bar and there were only black people. Not even one single white person. We sat down and started talking to the waitress about several subjects and we mentioned we were only going to have one drink and then go home. She brought us what we ordered and five minutes later she came and asked: “Can I bring you the bill?” We looked at one another quite surprised with that attitude, without knowing what to answer.  I can´t quite affirm if we were being kicked out of the bar, but we cannot discard that possibility. We will really never know.

And guess what we found in the third bar just two houses away? Only white people. In a country where 95% of the population is black, in that bar not even one black soul. And then I started wondering: Am I starting to be racist, noticing the color of people´s skin after 28 years? Of course I was not! The problem is that I am in a racist country. You don´t see that many people mixed here, like you would see in Brazil, for example. I am myself a mixture of German, oriental, Portuguese, Indian and black. Mixtures are quite common in Brazil, but not here: there is black, there is white and there is nothing in between. There is no such thing as gray. The Apartheid might have been abolished 18 years ago, but the invisible line that segregates both groups is still pretty visible, at least to me.  

Before labeling people by their gender, color, nationality, religion or sexuality, I like to think we are all human beings, in the first place. I always thought that there is no need to see the differences before seeing the similarities. So you can only imagine the cultural shock I´ve been through in the past two weeks. I believe things will start to settle down now, so I can finally get a clear picture of what is really going on. 

In my next post I will talk a little about my experience with the huge social-economic differences. I hope to see you around!

Sunday, 15 July 2012

First destination: Africa!

Street market in Johannesburg

Overview of Johannesburg

I already had my last weekend completely planned. My best friend from Brazil was in Portugal and she was coming to visit me in Madrid for the weekend. We were going to go to Rock in Rio, watch one of the last concerts of Swedish House Mafia and have a great time exploring Madrid together.

On Wednesday night, my boss calls me in his office just to let me know that I was being sent to South Africa. My ticket was already bought for 6 am on Friday. I had one night to pack my things and leave Madrid for indefinite time. At least, now I learned that planning is not an option when you have a job like that. Luckily, my friend understood my situation and was not mad at me.

I never planned a trip to Africa and I was not sure what to expect. Although I felt I was prepared to be sent to any place on earth (since I consider myself a quite open-minded person), when things suddenly happened and I got here, the reality was completely different from my expectations.

I am not quite sure what should be the focus of this article. The truth is that when you go through such a strong cultural shock like this, it is quite hard to structure your thoughts and understand your feelings. You think you have an idea of what you are going to face, but what you really experience is a mixture of unexpected situations. You are in a total new cultural context in which you don´t know the social rules.

So basically I was sent to Johannesburg from one day to another. I didn´t even have time to tell my mother. I got here on Friday night and I knew absolutely nothing about the city. At least, everyone here speaks English, so communication was not a problem. Little I knew that many other issues were about to come.

And, as I did not have any time to do any research about the cultural and social reality of the country, I thought I would enjoy this surprise element, just because I guessed it would intensify my experience. But the surprise was way too intense. I have to admit I knew vaguely about the Apartheid, but in all honesty, I thought this was a historical fact. How could I imagine that 18 years after the announcement of its end, I would still face such a divided nation?

Later on the week, I will post some more concrete impressions on this issue. For now, the only thing that I can say is that the next two months are going to change my life completely. I already feel it: for better or for worse, I will never be the same again. My world is literally falling apart. My beliefs, my dreams, my impressions of reality and the objectives I had for my life, nothing makes sense here. I feel like I need to step out of my little bubble in order to get in touch with the new reality I am facing. And I am willing to take this experience as deeper as I possibly can.

Sunday, 8 July 2012

My EURO 2012 in Madream

My first (and only, as I would find out later) weekend in Madrid was not as I planned at all.

My expectation was: wake up early on Saturday, unpack and organize my two suitcases of 32kg kilos each, putting everything very organized inside the closet by 11:00 am. Then I would go for a 6 km run at Retiro Park, which is 15 minutes from home, come back, take a nice shower and organize my papers to start my training at work on Monday. On Sunday, wake up early again; go for a quick walk through the city and come back home to prepare myself to watch the final game of EURO 2012 with some friends. I had a couple of options and I needed time to decide where would be the best place to watch it, as this was a huge moment and I wanted to make sure everything would work just perfectly.

The reality was: I got sick and ill, weak and had body ache from the stress of moving and jetlag. And I spent the whole weekend lying on my bed. Alone. Useless.  I did try to recover for the game. But as the weekend went by, I seemed to get worse and weaker.

However, I was determined I would not let a virus make me miss the opportunity of watching the final of EURO 2012 in Madrid. It would be like watching a final of world cup in Rio with the Brazilian team as favorite for the victory. You just don´t get sick in these moments. And, unless you are Brazilian and quite used to this experience, they are those types of moments that only happen once in a life time.

But as I found out my friends were out of town to watch the game, I got discouraged again of going alone and gave up. I just decided to watch it through the internet, as I still do not have a television. Except I could not find a website that had the game live on,  so I was left with reading written posts at with the description of what was going on. I read posts about the whole first half. Spain scored twice and the celebration screams of happy people outside my window would just be a torture for me, as I was lying hopeless in the solitude of my bed.

That´s when it hit me: what was I doing? An impulse just took over my body, I put my flip flops on and just ran to the bar on the corner to watch the second half. The moment I stepped inside the bar, I got carried away by that whole intensive vibe of the place and I started to sing and to celebrate as if it was my own country winning. The sickness was instantly gone like a miracle.

I couldn’t help feeling a mixture of both excitement and regret. I was happy I finally decided to go out and live that moment, despite the fact that I was feeling ill. But at the same time I regretted I did it so late. Although I could have not done it at all, I also could have done it from the beginning.
Sometimes you just hesitate in doing something that is clearly good for you just because you are lazy. And then, you try to find excuses for not doing it. I believe those moments come for everybody. 
We just have to remember that life is what you did, not what you did not do. Simple as that. The more experiences you have, the more you lived, the more you learned. The more experiences you avoided by whatever reason, the more you avoided life.

At fifteen minutes of second half I decided that the experience was too amazing for not being registered in images. So I ran home and got my camera. When I came back, the score was 4-0 to Spain. The result of my lack of attitude was that I missed the 4 goals of the game. Taking it as a lesson learned, I wasn´t going to miss the party afterwards. I became friends with a group of Spanish people and we went to celebrate at Plaza de Cibeles. The pictures of the celebration you can see below. They would not be here, neither would be the post, if I had followed my impulse to be locked inside my room feeling sorry for myself.

“Life is what happens while you are busy making your excuses”

Little girls...
 ...the future will be brighter; the cloudy days will fade away

A moment of light in the middle of dark times

Proud of his flag!

My Spanish friends...

And another Dutch player, this time in Madrid... for such a small country, they seem to be everywhere!

Climbing on a tree to get this shot!
Next day, after work, I went to the parade where the players proudly exhibited the trophy to their nation. As the truck with the players got closer, I got lost, nervous and I really didn’t know what to do. I had only two seconds to decide and I had to choose if I was going to record it, take pictures or just try to make eye contact and perhaps even flirt a little bit. I was lucky enough to be right at the side where Torres was, so I really felt tempted to go along with the last option. But my desire to make those two seconds last forever and to eternize that ephemeral moment was stronger. And thankfully, I made the right choice; I got two nice shots. They are shared below.

I really felt blessed to be part of such a moment, even if I was just a lost soul in a crowd with over a million people. It is so touching seeing a whole nation that is going through a hard period having a reason to be happy again. On that Monday, there was no such thing as crisis. After all, a smile is indeed priceless and free of charge!


1 second...

2 seconds... and puf! Gone forever!


I climbed on a fence to make those pictures...

just to shatter my nose on the ground, as I fell down!

But I got a couple of good shots... totally worth my sore bruises

And the moon was full!

A sea of shiny, happy people

Planning to get a picture of me...

But I guess Spanish people really like to be on spot!