This was not my first time to Brazil and I was on the last leg of my trip. I had been attending the United Nations Sustainable Development Summit (Rio+20) with two nonprofits, Shumei International and the Global Peace Initiative of Women. I had helped to organize side events and the successful launch of the Visions of the Living Earth book.
Now it was my turn to relax in Paraty (pronounced Pa-ra-chee), a beautiful colonial town 125 miles south of Rio. I was with people from the conference and we were staying in the historical part of the city in a pousada (‘inn’ in Portuguese).
We had just arrived and people wanted to get something to eat so we headed out together to find a restaurant. It was also Saturday and I decided to go to evening mass. I told a few people I was going to the church we had passed along the way and would meet them back at the restaurant.
Well, when I returned the team had left. I assumed they must have been tired. No problem. It was still light outside. I decided to have a meal and enjoy the live samba music that was starting. Before I knew it, it was dark. This is when the voices started.
Me: “Brianne, this is Brazil. You should not be out alone at night. Do you even know where you are going? … Damn it! I forgot to pick up a business card for the hotel. Why is my phone dead? Shit.”
At first I thought I could retrace my steps. I made a loop. I walked into a store I had passed before. I looked around. I tried to retrace my steps again. Okay. I was back at the restaurant. Soon I found myself on a dark street corner with cobble stones. That felt right. Our pousada was definitely on a cobble stone street and there were no streetlights or cars allowed.
I was all by myself. In the shadows, I could see a man looking at me. I felt a little panic. Then in the other direction, there was a tall man walking towards me. More panic. However, it looked like he was carrying a book. This could be a good I thought. A man with a book was not going to hurt me and maybe he could help. As he approached, I said a little prayer.
Me: Lord Jesus, please help me.
Me: Perdona, sabes onde esta el pousada de, de, …?
Man: I’m sorry I don’t speak … uh, Brianne?
Me: Oh my God, Jove? Is that you? Thank God!
From the darkness, I recognized the voice. He bent down and in the light, I could see it was my friend Jove from New York. What the hell was he doing in Paraty? Well, trusty Jove had an iPhone and did a search of pousadas in the area. I was able to recognize mine and we used Google Maps to get me back. The Lord answered my prayer.
Here’s a little back story. I met Jove through my friend Zied. They worked together at the World Health Organization in Tunisia. Jove moved to New York, worked for the Clinton Global Initiative and then started his own communications firm, Oliver Global, Inc. He was in Brazil at Rio+20 with Mayor Michael Bloomberg for his work on the C40 Cities initiative to help the world’s largest cities reduce greenhouse gas emissions. By the grace of God, Jove was in Rio, his hotel was overbooked and someone recommended this tiny coastal town, Paraty, for him to stay for a few days. And then we bump into each other at EXACTLY the right time. Right on Jove!