|RIO DE JA-AWESOME: I'M STILL IN AWE EVERY TIME I LOOK AT THIS PHOTO|
I arrived in Sao Paulo after about 24 hours of traveling - tired but super excited about the adventure that was about to start. The first thing that struck me about Brazil was that the people were extremely friendly and beautiful. I was warned that the airport was a bit confusing and it was, yet I did make it to another terminal on time to catch my connecting flight to Rio.
After a very short flight, I landed in Rio de Janeiro, where I was met by Henrique Fontes and one of his state directors, Marcelo. Henrique insisted on picking me up from the airport himself even though I tried to persuade him that I should just catch a cab or train to meet him somewhere. This is just a small indication of the type of person he is.
We made our way to the Copacabana area. Of course, I was in awe of everything and tried to absorb all the exciting sights and sounds while fighting against jet lag. As we walked down the Copacabana promenade and saw the famous Copacabana Palace where the "first" Miss Universe took place (which is something that I had no idea about), I realised that Brazil would be everything I anticipated and more. We had a quick bite and then it was time to get some much needed rest.
|FIRST TOUR GUIDE OF THE DAY: Alexander Gonzalez, one of Miss Brazil's coaches|
I had the honor of meeting the China-based Venezuelan trainer and image consultant of the Miss Brasil Mundo Organisation, Alexander Gonzalez. He is well known in the industry and has trained the last few Miss Brazils at Miss World. I found out that his coaching was also what helped Amelia Vega win her 2003 Miss Universe title. Alexander is a warm, friendly person and he showed me around the Copacabana area. It was incredibly interesting to learn more about his work in China with former Miss Brasil Mundo, Julia Gama.
|AND SO THE ADVENTURE BEGINS: The shirt says it all!|
|PERFECT HOSTS: I was blessed to get the perfect tour of Rio|
We met Henrique and the pageant's photographer, Leonardo Rodrigues, for lunch. With only days before the kick-off of a national beauty pageant and a million things still on their to-do list, they insisted on giving us a personal tour of Rio. This just shows, once again, why I have so much respect for this organisation and the people behind it. I was quietly astonished by how calm, composed and relaxed Henrique was while I can only imagined the thousands of things that must have been running through his mind. As we drove around Rio, I was increasingly blown away by the beauty and energetic vibe of city. It can definitely give Cape Town some competition as being one of the most beautiful cities in the world. My tour guides made sure that I got the best of Rio in a nutshell and I loved learning more about the city from them both. Henrique made it look so easy to alternate between handling all the messages and calls coming in and acting as DJ and color commentator. Leo's wealth of knowledge about the history of his country was impressive and inspired me to go and read more about the history of South Africa for my next stint as tour guide when a friend visits. I quietly wondered if all national directors were like this and would have done this. From current and previous exprience, I can only commend the Morley family for the type of people they select as their national directors. They must surely know that some of them can be counted as part of their business' greatest assets.