May 23rd, 1996
My dear Jocelyne!
It was such a long time ago that you inspired me to write down my experiences in foreign countries, and I have been trying to do it ever since. Nonetheless, it is only now that I really can see the value of it. Thank you for that wonderful idea – and thank you also for your interest! I want to continue this tradition, my dear, but even more intensively than before. It will be the only kind of personal letters of which I will have copies. I hope that you will not mind. It will give you the chance to get nicely written letters because the originals will be in my pocket book.
Besides, this sort of resumee gives me the chance – which has become rare – to communicate with you. Can you please forgive me for continuously not keeping my promises to visit you?
Today, I want to tell you about Brazil. When I arrived in Rio de Janeiro ten days ago and rode from the airport to Copacabana, I couldn’t believe my eyes: Brazil is a very rich country. The streets, the cars, the houses I saw were perfect, and everybody was busy as we know it from Europe or the United States. The surprise was so big because I had some other ideas based on all the little bits of information I picked up during the last 39 years in Europe. I had been imagining kids begging in the streets, and sheerest poverty. I saw nothing of the kind on my way to the hotel (which of course does not mean that it doesn’t exist.) So: Brazil is a very rich and strong country.
How poorly I was informed is shown by the shock I had when I heard of the number of inhabitants living in Rio: 14 million. In Sao Paulo: 20 million. I couldn’t even begin to imagine the latter number. Today, I was able to see some parts of Sao Paulo from an airplane, which gave me a clearer impression. I saw a vast, huge panorama of flat land, completely inhabited, well organized with little houses and streets
So you start thinking: so many inhabitants need to be fed every day, and you start to imagine the power and wealth nature must have in order to be able to do this.
And indeed – nature is so powerful. On my way to Manaus – by air, of course – I could see that the land was already completely developed and used, and that this is well done. I beheld an impressive network of streets and well organized towns. Manaus is a city with 1.5 million inhabitants in the middle of the rain forest. You can reach Manaus only by air or by water; no highway goes there. And being there is such a special feeling. My body felt a powerful vibration that got stronger the longer I stayed there. It opened my heart and my mind, making me look deep into the eyes of the people I met, and they reciprocated in the same way.
The warmth and humidity were not aggressive or »disagreeable« (as you would say) as I had assumed that they would be; on the contrary: for me, this was the best climate I had ever experienced. My skin, which usually is very dry, was able to relax. There was no question of feeling cold – and this weather is more or less the same all year long. The big difference between winter and summer is the amount of rainfall. But the rain, when it falls, is warm, and you can be protected by the big trees in the rain forest.
I felt as though I were in paradise, and lacked nothing. As early as the second day, the mere thought of leaving this place started to make me suffer, and when the last night arrived, I wept for a long time without a stop.
I spent only one day in nature, learning about the Amazon and the rain forest. I felt very happy in the rain forest – protected, warm, and safe. This was possible because it was a part of the rain forest open to tourists, and I was protected by the guide and his knowledge – but still, I cannot imagine that the people living in the rain forest feel threatened by it, as we might think. The scents, the water, the sounds, the birds – everything was completely miraculous!
So, I fell in love in Manaus. And hope that I will always love it.