What’s a comfort zone?

This past week I trained jiu-jitsu twice a day, every day, and spent a lot of time with the guys there. Friday after training, I spent some time with ‘the gringo crew,’ a group of four of us guys, each from different countries… Well, one is from California, but that might as well be a country of its own.

I took the night off in preparation for Saturday’s seminar, with the three founders of the Alliance Jiu-Jitsu Team. It was an event that had never happened before, and will likely never happen again. And it was worth every centavo. Although I’m still a white belt, I felt that the moves we learned will give me an advantage in matches.

Going to the seminar, particularly as a white belt, I felt so outclassed. I was one of two or three white belts there. At least 75% were highly accomplished purple, brown, and black belts. I was also amazed at the attention that Gigi and Jacaré paid the lower belts. While I felt undergunned in my superlatives, I also felt completely welcome at my skill level.

Jacaré even obliged me by stopping for a picture after the seminar.

Later Saturday night, I went to a party in one of the nicer neighborhoods in Rio. I’d been wondering why all the clubs were so lame here. Well, what I found out is that all of the cool people go to these parties. They’re independently planned and hosted by professionals, who rent a house for a day and throw these things.

My friend from school and I came to this, half expecting to be the only English speakers there. Well, we were pretty much correct. This might go without saying, but it’s a lot harder talking to girls in another language. I’m going out of my comfort zone in English, forget Portuguese. After doing a quick round at the party to get a feel for it, we were both a little apprehensive. I know neither of us feel particularly confident at this point, so I turn to my friend and say

– “Alright, we are totally out of our league right now.”

– “Yeah,” he responds – nothing more, we’re both on the same page.

– “So this is what we’re gonna do; We are going to walk this way,” I point, “and talk to every group of girls that isn’t already with a guy until we leave the party.”

– “Yeah, but do you wanna wait like 5 minutes?”

– “Nope, right now. Let’s go.”

We got shot down so hard at first. I was mumbling half-Portuguese, half-English, asking whatever stupid questions came to mind that I could actually translate. But after the first few groups, we got this cavalier attitude that only comes from having failed so many times. At that point, it was like “what’s the worst that could happen.” And at that point, it started to get fun. We just started saying the most ridiculous things, and it worked. We met a  bunch of people, probably some of whom we’ll see again, at different parties or to meet up. It was well worth stepping out of that small bubble of comfort we’d been in the beginning.

The proverbial bubble:

My only qualm was that  hardly anyone went into the pool. I unsuccessfully tried to start the trend. I also tried to get into the event pictures, but those were pretty much exclusively limited to attractive girls.

Can you find me in this one?


After the “pool party” ended, it moved to the backyard of the villa, where a couple DJs alternated between hiphop and deep house. We spent most of the time floating between groups of people we met there, and hanging out with my friend Filipe, who invited me, and his group of friends.

So that was Saturday. Sunday I went to church in the morning, surfed in the afternoon, and went to a hardcore punk concert with some of the jiu-jitsu guys, including the gringo crew. We had a sick time, moshing and pretending like we knew the lyrics, which – go figure – were also in Portuguese.

After that, we went out to Gávea, where many students go out for drinks on any given night. Around 1, we all headed home. It had been an exhausting, fun-filled and very rewarding weekend to say the least. And I needed the rest so I could do it all again next week.


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