As we continued our way south through Brazil and into Argentina the last couple weeks, I have spent a lot of time wondering about famous places. We have seen many in South America but recently in Brazil it seems to have had more of an impact. Most likely the approaching end of our trip has made me look back at all the places we have been. Nostalgic already? No, something more than that.
Throughout most of our lives we read books, magazines, watch tv, or see a movie that describes a far off place in an exotic country. Sometimes that place is a marvel of nature with immense beauty. Other times, it is a pocket of humanity and its infrastructure, somehow dropped into a dramatic setting with awesome vistas. Either way, these places take on a life of their own in our imaginations and dreams. Maybe we do actually visit and see them for our own eyes and experience their power and beauty. Often, though, it seems that they just stay a dream... to be enjoyed only thru the glossy travel section of the paper. And, it is funny how those glossy pictures transform these icons and natural wonders. We put ourselves into these perfectly staged pictures, with their vivid blue skies, empty beaches, and helicopter like perspectives. And in the picture, nobody is there. At least we view the picture as if we are the only one there, not having to sharethe beauty with anyone. The place exists just for us to enjoy.
And then we are there. But, the place is crowded with people, the sky mostly cloudy, and the perspective we had expected unattainable unless we can fly... a bit dissapointing? Hardly. Humbling is a better term. I realize that the place I had for my whole life imagined myself at, through just a simple photo, was real and I was actually there. Yes, people, cars, boats, noise, clouds, rain, flies, and peddlers are there, but the reality is... that I AM there. Looking out over Rio de Janiero, floating down the Amazon River, sitting on a rock outcrop over Machu Picchu, or getting naseaus in a plane over the Nazca Lines... I am THERE! Amazing and humbling. Brazil helped drive that home. Heading downstream on the Amazon River in a boat full of locals (some drunk) and hammocks helped me realize that. Getting pickpocketed in Belem, riding on a bus for 36 hours straight, getting stung by hornets and bitten by a pirahna in the jungle, and eating a sweetslice of watermelon on a beautiful beach while small waves swept up around us to the rocks helped me realize that. Those experiences were not promised by the photos. The reality is not in the photo, it comes from going to that special place, seeing it, and experiencing it for yourself. And that is perfect, because in pictures, Christ the Redeemer looks huge towering over Rio, but in person, He is quite slim and not as big as you think.
What is huge... what is the reality... is the craggy, steep mountain He is on, the beautiful city around Him, and the hordes of tourists spreading their arms on the steps in front for the same goofy picture. But you don´t have to believe me, just see it for yourself.