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Thursday, 15 May 2008

frog_prince.jpgTen o'clock in the morning. Prince and me in his hybrid 4x4 driving through pulsating jungle. The Christ quase embraces us when we pass her. Further up high with a view of the city. The beaches as white stripes between the calm blue of the ocean and the chaos of city buildings. The lake as a shiny spot amongst traffic. ‘If the weather is clear, you can see Paradise Island', Prince says. We arrive at his castle, an old monastery that turned hotel. 'With five million stars, because you can see the sky through the roof'. Soon they will start renovation here. His idea is to make the village into an eco destination. With an international research center on sustainability. With fully self-servicing houses including solar energy and waste recycling systems. And with more high tech sustainability that needs to make this place an example in the world. I pinch myself in the cheek: Will it be here that I'll build my dreamhouse?'

The phone rings and Prince wizards a leather army belt with a different gadget in each pocket. The ringtone leads him to the right phone - 'Ah, the minister of agriculture' - and he picks up. With one hand steering, he directs us down hill and I deeply inhale the pregnant tropical air. To prove my senses that I'm really here. In this beautiful place. With Prince. With a future that I live every day.

We talk about everything, Prince and me. About business and ambitions. About spirituality and travels. About fashion as a flag for eco awareness. Then his phone rings again and with a hand in front of the speaker, he winks at me: ‘I'm sorry, I have to leave. There is a meeting this afternoon in São Paulo’.

The way to the airport leads us passed the white stripes and a refreshing salty breeze replaces the green stickiness. The boulevard is like a post-modern Jeroen Bosch painting: Jogging, cycling and skating locals slalom around tourists who face up to the shaking flesh dressed in soccer T-shirts and with sun burnt faces. I can't help laughing when a group of Japanese tourists comes into sight. String bikinis and triangle nipple coverage aren't daily practice for every business man. They must be very confused not taking pictures at all. Prince is on three different phones at the same while he manoeuvres us through the morning traffic.

After a drive too short, we stop at Departures. He jumps out of the car and I watch him as he clicks the army belt around his waist. From the backseat he grabs a military rucksack made of strong canvas. ‘Used to belong to my grandfather’, he explains when I stare at him. ‘Is that all you need?’ ‘Just a laptop and some clean clothes, I don’t know when I'll be back’. He puts me in a taxi and I look at him through the window. In his Italian suit and shiny shoes. With his army belt and canvas rucksack. He looks like a gentleman backpacker. A man with a vision and a dream. Who has been travelling the world to spread his sustainability message for 20 years. Not on a white horse, but in a black hybrid. Princes do exist, also in the 21st century.

Unfortunately, married princes that try to hit on me, instantly turn into frogs. Even when they're eco.

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