I did it Ladies and Gents! I, Emily Duffield, speaker of no Portuguese, owner of two left-feet, and know-er of no-one in Brazil, donned on the heaviest, and certainly most extravagant outfit I've ever worn, and sang and paraded my way through Rio Carnival's Sambadrome as part of the Beija-Flor Samba School. Carnival is such a huge deal throughout Brazil - each Samba School represents so much to its people, and whilst it's extremely competitive, it's also the most magnificent spectacle you could possibly ever see, or have the honor of being a part of. The colors are magnificent, the atmosphere is electric, and the excitement is truly indescribable.
In all honesty, I couldn't quite believe I'd pulled this one off, and especially now as I sit back in a grey, cold London, I certainly can't. And what makes it even more unbelievable to myself is that my Samba Parade won the whole Rio Carnival! Beija-Flor were announced the winners the hour before I left for my flight home, and as I struggled through the airport with a large additional suitcase, which just managed to fit my costumes headpiece inside to bring home safely, it felt like the icing on the cake of a very sweet, dulce de leche flavored trip. The rest of the outfit is on some ship somewhere over the Atlantic right now, and should hopefully arrive in a huge box sometime before Notting Hill Carnival. Bets are already being taken for which of my male friends has to wear it this year...
I spent the last eleven nights of my Brazil trip partying non-stop in Rio. From beach to bloco, from bloco to nightclub, Brazil doesn't sleep during Carnival, and neither did I. I needed four fillings (!!) on coming back home, and if that doesn't say Caipriniah overload then I don't know what does. Before my party marathon, however I got back to basics in the Amazon. Intrepid I am, practical I am not...
Not the most prepared, I turned up in Manaus the day before I embarked on my Amazon Adventure with a checklist of essentials I had to source for the jungle. Shopping when you cant speak Portuguese, don't know the town, and have stepped right off a 24 hour airport-to-airport sleepless flight made my task all the more difficult. Consequently I turned up to take on the jungle with my following take on the list's essential items (...and I feel this has to come with a 'don't try this at home kids' warning...) :
A pair of £10 bright white plastic trainers instead of proper trekking shoes. An umbrella instead of a waterproof raincoat (the only one I could find was a small child's 'Barbie' one and I couldnt move my arms in it so the woman in the shop would not let me buy it) left me praying it wouldn't monsoon. My protective head wear was a gangster cap with 'G-UNIT' written in gold on it. Oh and the trousers to protect me against snake bites? My black Primark leggings. And what was my camouflaged backpack to take with me into the jungle? A bright pink child's rucksack with 'FASHUN' written in large gold letters on.
I looked ridiculous, and a safety hazard in itself. When I met my fellow trekkers and they were all attired in head-to-toe mosquito body suits, camouflage clothes, proper shoes, and had been planning it for months, me and my hastily bought bright pink rucksack stood out like a sore, ghetto thumb. David Attenborough would not have been impressed.
But practicality issues aside, my time spent in the Amazon truly has to be one of the most magical things I've experienced. To canoeing through floating forests, to camping out in the jungle, watching the sunrise rise over the river whilst surrounded by dolphins, to learning about healing plants and trees it was a beautiful experience. Ok, so my attempt at carving my own cutlery whilst 'surviving' in the jungle left me with chopstick-like utensils (I had to eat with my hands), and my attempt at fishing for my own dinner found me 'catch' the boat and recruit others to help me pull in the 'massive fish' I was struggling with (...we nearly capsized.)
And so glitter, lost fish, and samba hips aside, I'm now back in London. Bronzed, hungover and very cold. Back home things haven't changed. You return feeling slightly altered: you've experienced a million different things and your life moved at a million paces; but then your back and things are exactly the same. Whilst comforting, it can't help but make me urge others to go out and see parts of the world before it's too late. Life back home will always wait, but life experiences wont.
And after spouting off that little hippy freedom speech, I'm now going to directly contradict it, as I am taking the step to being a little less fancy-free, and am attempting to get a mortgage in London. I've lived in seven different places over the last two years, and in all honesty it's about time I had somewhere that I actually could call a home, and it be mine. Plus the sooner I get my own flat, the sooner I can get a French Bulldog right? I have no visions of grandeur with my first home, an ex-council estate in Hackney it will be (says the budget). Well, either that or Essex. But I'm not really into vajazzles, so East London vibes it is.
I've just wrapped my first TV commercial of this year, and am starting work on another next week. My body's now used to late nights from laptop spreadsheets rather then samba beats. Whilst the verdicts still out as to which one involves less sleep, I know which one definitely involves more chocolate.
I work hard at my career so I can go get lost on dreamy beaches, and last year I Produced an hour long documentary called 'Black and Blue'. Its airing tonight (22nd March) for the first time on Sky Sports 1, at 6.55pm. Shameless self-promotion from me, but if you find yourself at a lost end please do tune in. It was a great pleasure to make, and something I'm extremely proud off.