Saturday, June 7, 2014


I'm back in Rio and it feels so good. 

Oddly, there doesn't exist a word in english that defines one of brazil's most commonly used words: saudade. If you were to attempt to find a solution to this puzzle it would start with a combination of words including but not limited to: longing, nostalgia, fondness, that feeling in your chest that you just can't put into a word... Even of the tens+ of brazilians I've asked over the years to help explain just what this word means, I still remain answer free in terms of language, but believe I'm beginning to understand the saudade feeling quite well.

puro Rio [ipanema]

Yesterday I landed in Rio after almost 2 years away from this magical city. I'm here not because I had a life changing "Aha!" moment that made me return on a whim, but with my with adidas launching Y-3 (our Yohji Yamamoto collaboration) with beautiful designer/artist Gilda Midani, in her spaces in Rio and Sao Pualo with a World Cup capsule collection. [See left - woop woop thanks vogue brazil:) ]
After arriving in GIG with 250lbs, to be exact, of promotion Y-3 gifts/press releases/installations/etc (which was surprisingly uneventful at customs...was honestly worried about brazilian jail) and a 14 hour flight, I somehow landed full, but FULL, of energy and with one thing on my mind - FAVELAS. Before I could get comfy in my hotel in Aproador or shower (TMI) I was in a taxi to the Complexo do Alemao. On facebook I saw that the incredibly inspirational Ilton Barros was giving a lecture at Fabrica Verde, a new sustainable NGO operating in Rocinha and now the Complexo focused on bringing used computers to students in the community who wouldn't otherwise have access. I had no address, no telephone number, no contact with Ilton, pretty bad Portuguese since I hadn't spoken in about 2 years, but luckily also no shame.

dreamy [aproador]
The driver was convinced I was mistaken because "gringos don't go to the favelas" but took me the hour trip from Ipanema to the Complexo and dropped me off at the address I had found in the middle of the favela. Beating heart, sweaty palms, fueled with optimism, I got out of the taxi full of hope and with fingers crossed. Low and behold on the third floor, there was Ilton, giving a beautiful presentation of his latest desfile de lixo (trash fashion show).

There it was! Fashion in the favelas. Ilton presenting to a room full of budding fashionistas, making the most of the limited resources around them.

Que emociao, que saudade!

ilton + me reunited and :) [at fabrica verde in front of the complexo]
We hugged, we laughed, we caught up [portuguese came back surprisingly fast and seemingly out of nowhere!], we thanked the travel gods for making planes a real thing, we took a juice, and we did the next thing on my "must do in rio" list, took the teleferico.

For those of you who are reading (maybe it's only you, Diana ;) ) and don't remember, Ilton is the amazing favela-born dreamer/social activist/fashion designer who inspires both children in underprivileged areas of Rio and adult (?) twins currently living in Brooklyn to make the world a better place through fashion and recycling (reason 2139484392 why i love him).
the complexo from the teleferico
Back to the teleferico. We rode around taking in views of the seemingly larger complexo, chills running up my spine, smiling ear to ear with saudades of my last experience here and again, a thankfulness to greater powers that make travel a real-life super power. He also updated me on the recent going-ons in the complexo, which unfortunately were not good news on the violence front, but I think that is an entirely different post... 

Anyways, the fact that a simple ride on a cable car with another human being had me so shaken up that I literally felt euphoria/a call to action/chills/joy/sadness/lightbulbs/saudades all at the same time got me thinking... how do these moments come about? where do they come from? how can some situations get swallowed among millions of other memories never to be uncovered again and others shake us to the core and resound so deeply with us? and most importantly, what do we do with them?

The other day, a wise chilean-american-ex-berliner and another wise israeli-current-berliner started talking to me about turning points. Similar to our brazilian word of the day, something also quite difficult to define but if I take a stab at it...

turning point\\ an experience or event that imprints itself so greatly on you that it makes sure you will never ever be the same again. 

The funny thing about a turning point is that even if it is something that happened during a short period of time, maybe even in just a moment, you will carry it with you for a long, long time and for the really good ones, forever. In case I didn't know it before, upon returning to Rio two years later, it is clear that this is one of those "forever" ones for me.

So I had a turning point. great. got it. now what?!

I may very well go back to BK, jump back into the busy day to day (heck, I already did it today, put on my corporate fashion face working a super schmancy event with Rio's most accomplished creatives....inspiring in its own right, but quite contrasting to the day before if  I may say so...DIGRESSING!) but need to remember not to separate those turning points - those game changing moments, the ones that made you who you are, the ones that still give you saudades up your spine - from the day-to-day you. [note: i am speaking directly to myself here]

The important thing is what you do with these moments. I personally still don't have an answer, but all I know is that I am grateful that this short corporate work trip has converted itself into a soul touching reminder to act and do something. NOTE: This 'something' does not include only thinking back fondly on memories and merely feeling these saudades. I must act on my saudades. In what form it will take, I don't know but I will keep you posted. 

So, full of saudades, agua de coco and confusion, I give thanks - Thank you Ilton, Thank you Complexo, Thank you Rio for reminding me that you shook me up.

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