Her Juggling Feet

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

Wednesday, May 31, 2006


I am still playing catch up! Okay, so there was Foz, and then the MST eco-farm school, and now, we are in Londrina, a modern city in the state of Parana. We are slowly making our way back east.

Tonight, we are celebrating the 50th birthday of a Caravaner with tickets to the Da Vinci Code. I haven`t seen an American film in ages and to be honest, am quietly pleased that I will hear my native tongue for a few hours. Don´t tell anyone.

Our time in Londrina has felt a bit disjointed. Part of my days have been spent in theatre and circus arts workshops. So lovely! There was a group of about 30 youth experimenting with acrobatics, juggling, the unicycle, the whole bit, as music from the French film Amelie played. One of those, `nowhere else on earth is this exact thing happening,` sort of revelations. Strange and absurd and beautiful.

I also accompanied a handful of Caravaners to a retaque, or a street fair and market. We arrived in colorful garb, with drums, juggling equipment, and empty wooden crates, for we were doing a bit of spontaneous street performance in exchange for fruits and vegetables. I juggled apples and oranges and did a bit of magic with some garlic cloves (the old standby of passing an object from the top of my head through my nose worked like a charm), and we left with our crates spilling over with bananas, papaya, watermelon, and other such goodies.

The disjointed part is in reference to the beauty of Brasilian bureaucracy and the hoops that I am jumping through to extend my visa. My ideal is to receive 90 more days, which is the maximum that I can stay in Brasil as a tourist. However, the immigration center is asking for additional requirements, which includes crossing the border into Argentina and entering the country again, and finding a Brasilian that can be responsible for me while I am in the country. And I just found out today that my plane ticket can only be extended for 30 more days. Blast it, anyhow. I feel stuck.

I don´t know. I am just just just beginning to contribute to the Caravan project, to finally understand what the heck is happening, and how everything functions (or doesn´t function). Beate and I are in the midst of creating a stronger emotional infrastructure for the Caravan--I feel really excited about facilitating concrete exercises that I learned while living at Lost Valley. My five ball routine is coming along. My responsibilities and work in the kitchen is growing. So is my heart for the Caravan.

I´m just not ready to leave yet...

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Ode to My Inner Clown

I am discovering lots of things.

First, that my red clown nose is the world´s smallest mask, and the quickest way that I can transform myself. I fix it on my nose, and I am no longer Amanda, the Gringa that speaks broken Portunol. She is Amanda, malabarista extraordinaire--playful, spontaneous, and joyful. Sometimes bashful, sometimes coy. She likes to flirt.

I am discovering that whatever inhibitions I feel when it comes to speaking Portuguese or Spanish dissolve when I am in my clown character. I don´t need words, I don´t need voice, all I need is my body to communicate, and for this, I have felt liberated.

This has been an unexpected outlet for me. Often I feel silent or tired or unwilling to speak. Sometimes I just don´t want to translate anything, or make mistakes, or ask for the 942nd time, could you repeat what you said, a little more slowly, please? When I am clowning around, none of this matters. I take myself lightly, and I play, really pushing myself to connect with others. It´s been wonderful to see what comes out as a result.

Our time in Foz was meaningful. The chalet that we stayed felt like a sanctuary. We ate mandarins by the bucketfull. I woke up with the roosters. Slipped in the pool for a little night swimming under the stars.

Our first few days were spent working with some talented jugglers and circus artists at the Point of Living Culture. I worked especially well with one youth, Tiago, with 7 and 8 clubs, and together we passed 9 balls for the first time. Tiago is phenomenal--he can do tricks with the diabolo that I´ve never seen before, with two, and even three. We also did some group club juggling with a total of 6 of us, some on unicycles, others (me), comfortably and securely on the ground.

On a slightly more serious note, the Caravan marched in a city parade hosted by a network of organizations working to eradicate adolescent trafficking and prostitution between the borders of Argentina and Brasil. I can´t think of much else to say about it. It was powerful. I continue to be both full and saddened by all that I witness here.

The final days were spent exploring the waterfalls of Iguassu. I have never seen anything like them. Absolutely breathtaking. The first day a group of us crossed into Argentina to visit A Garganta Do Diablo, or the Throat of the Devil. We walked along narrow steel bridges above meandering rivers, all very calm and peaceful. Then, all of a sudden, one can hear the distant echo of thunder, and it begins to rain, not just from the sky down but the ground up and my face is covered with a thin film of water. And then, I am there, at the Throat, looking down into this immense, plummeting, expanse and I can´t see where the water ends and the earth begins. Everything is wet and white and the sound is almost deafening. I have to shout to be heard, and even then, my words are absorbed by the water.

The following day, we visited the Brasilian side, which is not as up close and personal, but it gives the ultimate panaramic view of the Falls, which spill over a tremendously long amount of land. There were even rainbows. Shucks. Ah, but I sound trite. I really want to pay tribute to Mother Nature and all that She creates. The ultimate artist in this crazy and colorful life portrait...

Our final night in Foz culminated in an invitation to a hip hop street festival, where we performed a theatre piece and a fire spectacular. I´m not playing with fire yet. Still a spectator. Soon, I shall!

For now, lots of love and light.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

A month of movement

Finally, an opportunity to reflect! This past month has been brimming and I want to bring back the most salient and transformative pieces of it.

We are currently in staying in a farm school/agroecology center that is simplistic in its beauty, and powerful in its activist spirit. The farm school is part of the Landless Worker´s Movement, one of the largest social movements in the world, I believe. It focuses its efforts in equitable land redistribution in Brasil, from rich land owners owning vast parcels of agricultural land that grows crops for export, to re-allocating it to the people who actually steward it and grow food to feed themselves. I´m still learning more about it. I hear that there is a documentary on Chico Mendes, a Brasilian activist that was murdered as a result of his political and social efforts, who is now a symbol of the working farmer, social justice, and the earth. There is a simple placard of wood carved with his name, his birth, and his death, that sticks crookedly out of the ground beside one of the school buildings.

All around us are fields of sugar cane, corn, yuca, and papaya trees. The soil is a rich red, more clay than sand. Early this morning I explored one of the smaller gardens that is cared for by the school participants, mostly youth in their teens. Long raised beds of lettuce, arugula, carrots, beets, brassicas, and onions, with an entire section of tall trellises of passionfruit, the unripe fruit dangling like green globes. I am in love with this place and the tranquility that I am finding amidst the plants and trees and vegetables growing. I am still patiently waiting for the time when I can finally stay in one place long enough to grow my own food...but until that happens, I am content to appreciate the efforts of others, and pitch in when I have the chance. My hands tingle to be in the soil!

We are here for just one more day, after giving workshops in theatre, permaculture, music, and holistic health. Tonight we will perform a short theatre piece, and I imagine that there will be dancing and song afterwards. This part is inevitable.

I´m going to rewind a bit and return to Sao Paulo, a few weeks ago. We left in a flurry, after days of hearing that our buses were fixed, not fixed, fixed, not fixed, and finally...fixed. I was so ready to go, I nearly cried. Inner city slum life for extended periods of time, with next to no green space, was getting to me. Though I made use of my time, spending hours in the kitchen making sushi, reading my Spanish and Portuguese workbooks, and connecting more with the community, both Caravaneros and with locals.

We left for Foz do Iguassu, a city that rests on the border of Paraguay and Argentina, and shares the home of the most spectacular waterfalls I have ever seen. The journey took us two full days of travel, with occasional stops at the mechanics (I am accepting that this is part of every journey), a night spent sleeping on the concrete floor of a Point of Living Culture center, and meals of brown rice, avocado, and hard-boiled eggs. Traveling with La Caravana is unorganized and arduous and bumpy, yet there is music, song, and beautiful countryside to witness.

We arrived in Foz at 5 am, at this lovely chalet in the countryside that had been reserved for our use while we were working at their community centers. Orange, mandarin, papaya, and avocado trees, and can you believe it, a small pool. Such luxury. I was 98% happy camper as I set up my tent beneath a papaya tree, but 2% crabby (or maybe it was the other way around) as I was exhausted from no sleep and could only nap for a few hours because our circus arts workshops were to start at 9am sharp.

Shoot. I will have to wait for another opportunity to continue, as my ride back to the farm school is leaving in about two minutes. Bueno. Lots of love, lots of sunshine, and deep breaths to you all! Stay tuned...