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338. Rio – new experiences, new friends, new family…

August 8, 2013

I have written about the event I attended in a previous blog. I have also written couple of columns which will soon be published in an online outlet and an article for an Indian Youth Magazine which focus on the communications and organisational aspects of the event. This blog focuses on my experiences of being in the marvelous city, the exposure to culture and lifestyle & the new friends I made ending with some philosophical thoughts.

The most beautiful aspect of the event is where several delegates (comprising pilgrims and volunteers) have the good fortune of being hosted by local families either during the event or for the sheer experience of living a semi-exchange programme before the event in a neighbouring city. I was lucky to be hosted by the Cereja family – Renato, Ana and Renata (father and daughter have similar names). This is a simple, middle class family where all three are working – the couple in their 50s and the daughter in her mid-20s. They live in a decent two-bedroom apartment in a suburb and had me stay on an air mattress in their living room for two weeks. Except for their complexion and language they would pass off as any Indian nuclear family. We bonded like we were long lost cousins but in reality I was not even aware of whether I would get to be the guest of a family or end up in one of the schools like many others until the date of check-in. The daughter is Maths teacher and has a boyfriend who spends a night every week in her home (I share this to convey how liberal the society there is). The mother and daughter like most other Brazilians are hooked onto Facebook. And I’m glad our paths crossed.

The culture of Rio in many ways is similar to that of Mumbai and definitely closely linked to Goa because of the Portuguese influence. People are friendly and ready to help. The food is really good. All the three tourist attractions I went to and the three beaches I walked on and played in are world-famous and worth visiting. The city is natural disaster proof and is surrounded by hills, mountains, an urban rain forest and all kinds of water bodies including a lagoon, a bay, the Atlantic Ocean and a river from which the city gets its name (January River). Men and women look gorgeous. The white collar workers dress to kill and are leaders in public display of affection. The city is indeed expensive. On Brazilian Rial is almost half a US dollar.

Last but not the least I made some very interesting friends who were mostly international volunteers like mefrom different continents. The first friend was Martyna Glazik, a Polish girl who lives in Sweden. We were a riot. The next was Dominique Fernandes from Malaysia, who is super fun. Then there were two Indians (one of whom I knew from before) Ankna Arokiam from Hyderabad who lives in Scotland and Sacha Lobo from Mumbai who breathes about Canada. The next set was a brother-sister duo of Martin and Fathima from New Zealand who made this trip so they could bond. Finally, two Americans – Yaxaida Dorame and Tanya Fernandez from Arizona and Texas respectively.

Outside of WYD I also made friends with a coupe from Colombia whom I met at the hotel I spent a night in transit – Andres and Liz who were on their engagement holiday. This in addition to the 20 odd Brazilians including middle aged Rio-based English professor whom I met randomly at a restaurant. This trip was indeed marvelous and  I believe every young person should get a chance to attend at least one World Youth Day in his or her lifetime for the sheer experience that it offers. I went for one in 2000 as a pilgrim. At this one I was a volunteer and I want to pay it back. So in 2016 I will sponsor one young person from my home town.

I wish every young person who gets a chance to go to WYD makes sure that he or she gives another brother or sister the chance to get the same experience in the future. If we have paid it forward we have achieved a great deal. It certainly is exciting to go again and again but the joy of sponsoring someone else is living the faith of being Joyful, Kind and Humble. Therefore, I will not be at the World Youth Day in 2016 in Krakow, Poland. If you have not been to one, start saving now so you can go. And if you have been to one find a person you can support. The time is now.

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