Note: Names in this article was changed/not mentioned for various reasons. They are, however, truly residing in my heart and I will never forget how they helped shape the person I am today.
I hear it a lot and when people say “everything happens for a reason,” you just need to believe the positivity streaming with it. This is one of the phrases that we are not actually just saying but we believe it with every vein in our body. But in Rio de Janeiro, I learned that “everything happens for a reason” is actually a go to phrase — it’s the ‘thing’ to believe in when you just did something really stupid and you can’t take full responsibility for your actions.
In June 2014, at the heat of the World Cup, I was robbed in Rio de Janeiro. Not robbed as in someone actually pointed a gun/knife at me. I wasn’t harmed. It was just pure… stupidity. Not to mention it was also the day I wanted to ‘eternal sunshine’ a drunk moment from the previous night.
30th was always pay day. When my blog started earning and my online gigs are pulling off, I told myself that I will only take cash every end of the month. That included budgeting and figuring things out until the next withdrawal takes place. I was really strict about this as I was doing good financial choices through the course of the crazy, breath taking, painful, 3 year journey in South America. I think this is one of the reasons why I lasted traveling that area long.
Come lunch time, I volunteered to cook lunch for everyone. Belonging to a household of French, Brasilians, Uruguayans, Brasilians and Mexicans, Rio de Janeiro was also a food adventure for me. Every person I lived with in that small apartment in Copacabana loved food. They really love my cooking and I needed to up my game. I withdrew $800.00 USD in cash (ouch, that hurts even up to now) then went to the supermarket.
It was the World Cup so obviously, there were people everywhere. Without thinking how long the counter lines will be, I stormed the gigantic supermarket with a vicious hangover. I grabbed a basket, put my wallet in it and walked to the wet area while writing down the recipe in my head. It’s Persian food. It will be outstanding and my friends will love it. I slowly walked every aisle, carefully observing each ingredient that I need. I was like in a bubble as the basket was slowly filled with everything I needed. Somehow, shopping for food made my hangover go away. Momentarily.
I was at the end of completing the ingredients when I realised I haven’t seen my wallet for the past 7 minutes that I was shopping. I dug into the blue shopping basket thinking it got buried from the mountain of groceries. But it wasn’t there. I sat down on the floor, before the roaring supermarket crowd and put everything out. Nope, wallet isn’t there.
I started to cringe. I haven’t experienced being electrocuted but it felt like it, more or less. The first thing I thought of was to look. Even though I already believed it was impossible to find it, I still tried. I went to all the aisles I’ve been to, asked for the supermarket crew’s help and when I realised that I will not be able to find it, I stopped. The hangover stopped, too. I called myself an idiot, a moron, irresponsible, deficient, dumb and every word I could think of that is synonymous to stupid. My ATMS, credit cards, IDs and the $800.00 USD I just withdrew were all in that wallet.
Just in case someone finds the wallet, I went to the customer service area to give my name and contact number. They will call me. They will find it. I said as I hopelessly headed out, already on the verge of crying. This is when “everything happens for a reason” became real. A dude in his early 30s approached me and said, “I heard them announcing about the lost wallet. I assume it was yours.” He was holding a transparent grocery bag and I can see rice and frozen chicken inside. “Was.” I said in my broken Portuguese. Yeah, I don’t know how to express that in Portuguese to be honest.
I told him what happened and I did not omit the hangover part. I wanted to be honest to someone. I had to admit it was my fault and the easiest way to do that is with a stranger. Admitting my mistake made me feel good. Talking to him made me feel better.
“Don’t cry, my friend. Do you want to come home for lunch?” If it’s a normal day, I would say no. Who goes to lunch with a person you barely know? At that moment, “don’t talk to strangers” my mom reminded me about wasn’t applicable. It felt right to say yes. I didn’t want to be around people I know because I know what they will say, especially my French friends. “Que idiota!” “Now where’s the food?”
So I went with the 30-something dude. I didn’t even ask where we were going but we walked. We walked far. I had a hunch where he lived. I visited it before but on a tour. Narrowing streets, a little bit of foul smell, children playing football barefoot — he lives in the favelas aka Brasilian slum. What’s really surprising is I did not feel wrong about going with him or being in that place, in that moment. It felt like I was meant to be there.
Alas, we arrived his place. He opened the door and there was an old lady sitting in a chair, listening to the radio. There was one chair on the left, a dining table for 2, a small kitchen and another door that I believe leads to the toilet. I couldn’t figure where they sleep but I didn’t ask. He introduced me to her. She was his grandmother. Was, because last year, I was told she passed away. She said hi and I did the normal beijo (kiss) to greet her. I introduced myself and told her about my travels. That was also the first time the 30-something dude heard about my story. He listened carefully as he soaked the chicken into a bowl full of water. I randomly held her hand. She was listening carefully, with so much joy. I felt her good vibrations moving to my every vein.
We kept talking and talking. She was really amazed about the fact that I am from the Philippines. She said she knew about my country (that’s a first!) and she really really wanted to visit when she was younger. The course of life just didn’t allow her. That’s what she said exactly. Up until today, I kept thinking what that “course of life” was for her. Negative or positive? Good or bad? Food was served and we continued the conversation. His grandson ate with the plate on his lap and the two of us shared the mini dining table for two. It was like a date. I felt really connected to that woman — a woman who is genuinely happy despite their living conditions.
In my country, when you go to this kind of place, people will be apologetic and will try to explain, “Oh, sorry, our house is not so big.” “Apologies, we don’t have much space,” and so on. I am happy that these people did not mention anything about having a small house. It was already 18:00 when I left their place. I bid them goodbye and I asked the dude to meet me again in a week so I can cook something for them. They were very very very kind. Kindness at its highest stature. Kindness that I never felt before. My hangover was cured and I forgot that I actually lost my wallet. It all came back to me when I was walking by myself.
My friends were waiting at our local bar and I told them how my day went. What good and real friends do when something like this happens: they make fun of you. They make you feel how stupid you are but in a good way. One thing that they reminded me of is that something like this will happen again if I continue functioning with hangover (continue drinking, actually); if my shakra is not aligned; and if I keep on making foolish choices. “Everything happens for a reason” does not apply because I did not learn anything from this experience. In 2015, I lost my wallet in Panama and in 2016, I did it again in Boracay, Philippines.
It is a cycle I don’t believe what they say about losing things anymore: that it happens for a reason, that the person who got it really needed it. The right way to put it is I am not taking responsibility for my actions.
Now, I am breaking that pattern. I am going to make everything happen because I made it happen. I’d like to strongly believe in that from now on. Though the people I met during that adversary, the dude and his grandmother made me believe that my wallet was stolen because we were meant to have lunch that day. The idea amazes me. I will always remember it the way I wrote it now. It’s incredible to believe and not believe in something at the same time. Rio de Janeiro told me that it’s possible. Like it actually spoke to me.