What? Why? How? Who? Where? When?
“A good traveler has no fixed plans &
is not intent on arriving.”
(Lao Tzu, 570-490 BC.)
It was a beautiful summer’s day in Wellington, in January of 2005. I was taking advantage of the sun, drawing cartoons and caricatures up in the Botanical Gardens. Battling the Capital’s famous wind, I tried (with limited success) to draw cartoons for a small number of children, while at the same time trying to stop my paper and easel from blowing out to sea… Barely making enough money to cover my art materials, I wondered why I was even there at all. That would all soon become very clear…
When she first approached me and started to talk to me, I was immediately struck by her accent. English was not a language she spoke much of, and her Brazilian tone was so thick, I thought she said she was from Israel, not Brazil. Not being very fluent in Portuguese, I found myself communicating in a series of gestures, cartoons and body language, picking what words that I did use very carefully and slowly. Yet, with an immediate exchange of smiles and laughter, we were understanding each other on a deeper, more intuitive level.
After a few minutes, I have established that her name was Eliana, and that she was on holiday from Brasilia. And that she had come over to talk to me because her brother had drawn cartoons for her as a child. During our brief conversation, I attempted to multitask and continue to draw for kids at the same time. This didn’t work so well, having my hands now preoccupied with drawing… So I plucked up all the courage I have (n)ever had in my life & asked if she would like to meet later for dinner. To my pleasant surprise, she said “YES”. We agreed to meet at the infamous ‘bucket fountain’ in the middle of Cuba Street, said our goodbyes and I returned to drawing for a small line of children.
Before she left, she took my photo…
And for the next couple of hours, as I sat there in the sun drawing, I thought of nothing but her smile.
Less than twenty four hours later, we had shared dinner, some live jazz, a brief dance, a walk arm-in-arm in the gardens, another meeting for breakfast, a cartoon lesson, a reading from the Gospel According to Dr. Suess, a short bus ride, and then she was gone…
Purely by coincidence, later that night I was drawing cartoons at a local art gallery fundraiser, and the woman who organised it all had just bought some Brazilian shoes. And to celebrate a successful opening, she spent the whole evening buying us all Capirinias - I was later to find out these were one of the national drinks of Brazil, and not something you want to have too many of, if you want to walk home...
Seven months of emails later (and a few frustrating phone calls without gestures and body language), and I cannot believe it!!
It is the last week of July and I have spent the last three to four weeks selling half of my life. I have opened a shop in a busy movie theatre, taught cartooning, sold most of my antique bag collection, hats, paintings, caricatures… Anything I can to raise an airfare to Brazil. I have never left New Zealand before (except to Australia a couple of times)… I have decided to travel half way around the world to see someone I met for less than twenty-four hours! And I have managed in the last few weeks to raise more money than I have made all year!! I am about to embark on one of the greatest adventures of my life…
Less than three weeks later, and you have shown me your secret world within your world!! I have driven with you all over the East Coast of Brazil. We hire a car and quickly leave behind the stone forest that is Sao Paulo. You introduce me to the most beautiful places I have ever seen, we eat the most amazing food… My heart has changed shape… it now looks like this:
I meet your family, they remind me of the importance of family. I meet your friends, and miss people I have left behind in Wellington. I draw cartoons everywhere, for adults and children, and realise that I can communicate in an international language. Small children follow me everywhere for drawings. Their parents give me endless supplies of alcohol. Everywhere I go, I am inspired. The poet has had his words returned, the artist has new eyes!! My senses explode in a rapture!!!
For an example of one of the poems I wrote in Brazil Click Here!
A 1,000 km drive later, and we spend another week in the Capital city, Brasilia. As a five-year-old, I had a Disney book that showed the architecture here… I loved it, thought it was from some far-fetched & surreal science fiction movie. Now, thirty-two years later, I am here amongst it all… Maybe Walt was right, and dreams do come true after all.
For the first time in my life, I am having a real holiday!! And I cannot believe my luck: I am accompanied by the most amazing guide, driver, dance instructor, translater, wine & food critic, friend, traveling companion… I am truly blessed!!
And in the second to last day of my holiday, I get the chance to teach a cartooning class to to a group of local children from a kindergarten… I realise at that point I can teach cartooning with kids, ANYWHERE in the world!! My life is changed forever…
for showing me your beautiful country and reminding me why I do what I do…
(thanks too for most of the great photos on this page)
Your brother for drawing cartoons,
and being the reason we met in the first place.
Your Mother and Father.
To Ligia & everyone at the Brazilian Embassy in Wellington.
To a small handful of wonderful friends who kept telling me I just had to go.
And to the wonderful Petra Otte at House of Travel Plimmer Steps, Wellington…
"We are all travelers in the wilderness of this
and the best we can find in our travels is an honest friend..."
[Robert Louis Stevenson.]
material on this site is © 2008 Brent M Harpur