Apologies for the lack of photos, I am in the jungle and there is no wifi.
My first Christmas away from home ended up being far easier than I thought it would. I was rather dreading the homesickness to be perfectly honest. Knowing that my family was together and all my friends would be around, that I wouldn’t get to go to a candle lit carol service or split a bottle of champagne with my mother (a Christmas tradition since I developed quite a taste for the stuff) wasn’t a great prospect.
One of the main reasons I think I haven’t struggled is I’m completely seasonally-disorientated. I left England in a vaguely sunny June about 2 minutes ago and in my mind life has pretty much stopped in the mother country since then. I’ve been living in a constant summer since and as much as I know winter is happening in the northern hemisphere, I really can’t process the idea. This means I am living in a happy state of denial and effectively blending 2 years into one (they go quickly enough), having 12 months of summer and coming back next May in time to readjust before winter sets in.
So what did my Brazilian Christmas look like? It was all very undecided up until a few days beforehand, only knowing that I was going to spend it with the AIESEC lot (there are now more than a dozen of us) as we are all here on our own and have built up our own funny kind of family. The owners of the park decided to have a dinner on site and invited all the employees and their families, and we were told to bring along all of AIESEC and anyone else that was stuck for something to do on the evening of the 24th, which is the big Christmas celebration over here. This was all done wonderfully last minute but they sure did pull it off.
After rushing the boys (they’ve all picked up the Brazilian habit of assuming everything starts at least half an hour later than it does- even the German amazingly) we headed for a few warm up caipirinhas before turning up at the dinner.
The park is a beautiful spot at any time of day, but gorgeous at night. The wooden octagonal reception casts an warm orange glow out onto the lake which is also reflecting the starry sky. We couldn’t resist the temptation of jumping in for long. By 11pm we were all in our swimming costumes and taking turns on the zipline (well, most of us were in our swimming costumes- it’s always the quiet ones!) and floating around in the deliciously warm water. A hilarious half an hour was spent trying and spectacularly failing to get a photo of us all jumping in at once. There were fireflies and and steady stream of caipirinhas. It’s a hard life. At about 1am the party was over and we all headed into the city to do our aiesec secret Santa. We exchanged presents in the early hours of Christmas morning.
In between Christmas and new year, one of my very best friends here was celebrating his birthday, but was absolutely clueless about the plot that some friends of ours had hatched months ago to bring the beach to bonito in his honour, as he’s a proper child of the ocean. They covered the entire back garden in sand and made a sea out of shiny blue sheets in front of a wall that had been painted with the setting sun. They lit the sun up and had a rippling blue light playing cross the water, and even a fake bonfire with a flickering light inside. They made a surf board with Tie’s name emblazoned across it and filled a paddling pool with water balloons and beach balls. They set up a parasol, draped the remaining walls in sarongs and made blue jelly shots decorated to look like little desert islands.
My only contribution was to be the distraction and keep Tie talking in the bar beforehand. Just after he had started to wander why no one had showed up to his birthday, a car pulled up and he was blindfolded and bundled in, driven round the houses a bit to disorientate him and took him to the party. It quickly got pretty crazy, with things going down hill pretty rapidly after the first water balloon was thrown. Unfortunately I couldn’t get too involved as it was back to work early the next morning, but I got a bit of dancing with sand between my toes in before calling it a night.
In the in between time between the two big days, when I had a second between boia cross trips and nights out (high season has now arrived with a vengeance), I found a bit of time to reflect on the year that had flown by at an incomprehensible pace. What a year. I spent the first half sorting out my year abroad and doing my RAG and SLAPS society thing at uni (occasionally fitting a bit of work in) and what with all that it flew by and before I knew it I was being offered a job in Brazil starting in 6 weeks time. It was a major change of plans and involved some serious organising and some heart wrenching goodbyes, or ‘see you next years’. But my god was it the right decision.
It’s funny how only having a set amount of time in a place makes you make the very most of it. Whereas at university I will admit to sometimes being someone that sees a 9 o clock lecture as a perfectly good excuse not to go out, here in Bonito I honestly can’t say no. Suddenly I am perfectly capable of doing 4 nights in a row until 3am on top of full working days starting at 7am. I can truthfully say so I’ve made the most of it. I’ve learned a lot, grown up and grown down in all the good ways and made some incredible friends and memories. Wouldn’t change it for the world.
2014 is definitely in the running for one of the most memorable years of my life to date, and to make sure the only way is up my New Years resolution is a pretty permanent one, to never let a year past without doing something unforgettable. She’ll never know she made such an impression, but as we arrived at the Devil’s Throat Walkway at Iguazu Falls, an Australian woman shouted to us ‘Go for the rainbow!!!’ (To be read in your best Australian accent). We did just that, standing practically in the centre of a 270 degree rainbow, and I’ve never felt quite so lucky, but also so quite so insignificant and transient surrounded by the force of nature. As it’s pretty clear from the blur that was 2014 that life can pass us by far too easily, I pledge to make the absolute most of all the incredible opportunities that come my way, and if they don’t come to me I’ll go out and grab them. Carpe diem, YOLO and all that jazz.
New year, or Reveillon as they say in Brazil, is a huge thing here. After tossing around various plans we decided just to get a few coolers filled with booze and set up camp in the main square, where there was a free band and a wonderful atmosphere. Our little group grew as aiesecers, work mates and assorted other wonderful Bonitenses joined us. We stationed ourselves next to the huge Christmas tree so we both nice and easy to find and bathed in a very flattering warm yellow light! The square gradually filled with revellers until midnight, which was marked by a gorgeous fireworks display and nearly everyone important to me here was nearby to hug and kiss, utterly perfect. At the park we’d each been given a small bottle of fizz so I cracked that open and raised it in what I think was the general direction of Europe. The perfect way to say goodbye to a year I’ll never forget and welcome in a whole new year of opportunities.
Happy new year one and all. Make it yours!