Her Juggling Feet

everybody's a nobody. and nobody's perfect.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

A week in Santos

Bom dia to you all as I write this in early morning. I´ve been craving a keyboard for the past week--it´s been a crazy, tiring, and growthful adventure thus far.

I have been travelling and working with La Caravana for seven days now. They called me last Tuesday and asked if I was ready to leave that very same day, in a matter of hours. So, I hung up the phone and flittered around, packing up all my things, running out to get cash, finalizing things with the school, and figuring out how to get to the rodaviaria--a bus depot of sorts--with all of my stuff (taxi and the subway).

So. I arrived. La Caravana (fifteen for now, with the other half on their way) was waiting for me with their packs, musical instruments, unicycles, and all. It was a whirlwind greeting, in Spanish, Portuguese, and English, and I was left spinning (and am still, though not as much). We had plans to leave for Santos, a coastal city about 40 kilometers from Sao Paulo, and instead of taking a regular bus, some folks were negotiating with a driver of a small van. We literally packed that van to the ceiling with our things, and crushed our hips together as we sat four to a seat, backpacks on our laps to boot. When we arrived in Santos, we were like one of those tiny clown cars in the circus, where more and more people tumble out, more than you think is humanly possible.

We stayed in a community center in the heart of a favela, the rough equivalent of a city slum or ghetto. We slept on the concrete floor with thin black mats for slight back relief, though we didn´t have much protection from the mosquitos or the humidity. That first night, I must have slept about 3 hours, the rest spent scratching, sweating, and spooling in my sleeping bag.

Our week was full (and my head was too, aching, really, with so much information to absorb, culture to learn, languages to translate...). I participated in a nutrition and cooking workshop, where we made bananas verdes--a green banana dish--and gazpacho, passing around samples in small mason jars. Other workshops included circus arts, theatre, building a solar oven with scrap material, massage, and recycling.

We operated on Brasilian time, which means you show up when you show up, and that´s when everything starts. Workshops scheduled for 9am start around 11am, and last until whenever. I have been challenged by this type of schedule though I am learning to flow. There´s a fair amount of rush-rush-rush and then...wait...wait....wait.

The people of this favela: we were welcomed with open arms. I was overwhelmed by the simple generosity and cheerful spirit of the community organizers, families, and children. Brasilians are an affectionate bunch--they kiss, whether you´re a stranger or a family member, and they touch, whether it´s holding a hand or pinching a cheek.

The work of La Caravana really invites play, conscienceness, and education in such a simple, yet powerful way. We spent one of our first evenings performing through the favela, led by a few community organizers. Dressed in bright, every-color-of-the-rainbow costumes and hands full with juggling clubs, rings, drums, pois, we danced and sang and performed through the narrow streets. I thought we looked a little like a gay pride parade, sans the leather. I loved this experience--felt like I came alive for the first time with La Caravana because I didn´t have to communicate with words, just with performance and play. Children joined us, adults watched in their doorways.

Our presence was a stark contrast to the reality of favela life. We were marching parallel to a lime-green creek filled with waste, and most of the buildings were squat and in disrepair. But honestly, no matter. I don´t want to romanticize any of this. My sense was that the people did not match their surroundings. Everyone that I met, and the kids especially, had a light, cheerful, and real quality to them. These folks dance and they sing and they know each other.

As for my own well-being. I am spent, and in spite of all the activity, have felt a little lost. Language continues to be my largest barrier to connecting with the community of la Caravana and with Brasilians. So much of my energy is spent translating both Spanish and Portuguese in my head and then trying to convey and communicate how I am, and who I am, in a mix of both languages. Plus, La Caravana consists of people from all over Central and South America: Uruguay, Ecuador, Chile, Argentina, Spain, Mexico, and they all have their own accents and speed in which they talk. So...arghhh. The first few days were the hardest--really felt like I was thrown in the ocean without a life preserver--though each day is improving. I´ve been participating in lots of inner-community theatre and movement improv, and that has been a good opportunity for me to connect with others.

We left Santos yesterday. The community prepared a meal for us on our final night, and we ate, danced, and then the other Caravaners performed a theatre piece. So now, we are back in Sao Paulo at another Viva Cultura point, staying in a community center in an urban favela. This center is quite beautiful, with a library, dance room, technology center, industrial kitchen, and auditorium. Such a different place than Santos where there was one computer, one office, and one large concrete space for events. The other half of La Caravana is supposed to join us in the next few days, and in the meantime, we will be giving morning classes and workshops for the week, buying provisions for the weeks ahead, and who knows what else.

The ´who knows what else´part is my department.

So for now, I am sending lots of love and warm thoughts your way. And please write! I would love to hear from you.

Until next time...


Blogger jim said...

Amanda - So excited to read your newest post. Your writing really conveys the Brazilian rollercoaster ride you're on: exhilarating, exhausting, and everything in between. The mix of languages/accents/visuals must have had your senses working triple overtime. Hang in there, girl! Brasil needs to experience a little Amanda magic, too! :)

Love, Uncle Jim and Clark

6:01 PM  
Blogger ErikaS said...

Amanda - we certainly don't have this much excited back on the farm! Your adventures sound amazing, what a bold adventure you are on and I have to imagine that the program and people will benefit as much from your presence as you will from theirs. Continue to stretch and learn and all will be well.
My novel was just rejected by a new agent, so back to the query letter drawing board. Such is the life. Kami is good, so is Ken. Hah! The farm is growing, growing, growing. Only about six weeks now until the first CSA day. Eee-gads how did that happen?!
We sure miss you.
Be well. Be joyous.

6:46 PM  
Blogger Christopher Cassidy said...

Aye, amiga, tu eres muy fuerte y valiente!!

You're experience with the Brazilian culture, people, and geography is impacting so many of us in the States- thank you for being our ambassador of compassion, scoial/enviro. justice and adventure!
I hear ya on the time thing, your patience is probably a great salvation in that department. You'll be talking up a Spanish storm before you know it and then will come the dreaming in Spanish. . .
They all must love you--there isn't a better juggling activist who can cook up a hot dish on this planet! Buenos Suerte mi amor!!!

besos y abrazos,

(I don't know how to get Chris's picture of the post- oh well, I suppose it can be a small piece of us in Brazil when you read your comments. He's wearing a suit in the pic., he he he:))

10:05 PM  

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