Her Juggling Feet

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

Monday, August 21, 2006

The Cast

In completely random and disassembled order (true to Caravan form), here's presenting
La Caravana Arcoiris...por...la...paz!

There's Alberto. He founded the Caravan in Mexico some 10 years ago, and before that, led other caravans through the United States and India. He is our elder, the mover and shaker, the man that continues to carry the vision of the Caravan after all of these years. His shoulders never slump. His eyes are bright as the moon.

There are the women from Ecuador: Veronica and her two daughters, Carolina and Sofia, 15 and 13, respectively. The girls are into lots of sugar, boys, and hip-hop. Veronica is Alberto's partner, and the family lives together in the Masorca (Spanish for corn cob), the blue bus with paintings of cornfields growing on both sides.

Beate is my favorite. She's German, but has lived in Brasil for the past 4 years. We sip mate together in the mornings, we plan well-being meetings, we go on adventures to find açai, a Brasilian super-anti-oxidant fruit that is blended with banana and guarana syrup. She knows how to build solar ovens from scrap materials, she carries a bag filled with plastic photo canisters of seeds she has saved from her garden, she bakes thick loaves of wholewheat flax bread. She is my permaculture mentor and good friend. She is a wonderful clown.

Fernanda is our Brasilian gaucha (cowgirl) from the southern part of country. She arrived in the Caravan with two 25-lb bags of organic dried bananas that she harvested and processed herself, and declared herself open for business. I still have a $20 debt to pay her. She is completely connected to earth, she knows her way in the kitchen the way her hands know how to strum a guitar.

The tribe of Argentinians: Alejandra, Ana, and Lucia. Ale is a woman in her 50s and lives with the spirit of a child in her body. She is a delight. She is a story-teller, a dancer, a mother to us all. She is the aunt of cousins Ana and Lucia, 21 and 18 respectively. Ana is an acrobat, a musician, and a problem-solver. Lucia weighs a bit more than Tinkerbell--she's the tiniest thing--but can really pound the crap out of a drum.

The tribe of Chileans: there's Manuel, who never stops performing. He is known for his ability to scour every used clothing store for The Perfect Costume. He is meticulous, energetic, charismatic. His body is an art form--acrobatics, capoeira, dance, you name it. He is Talented. There is Cata and her son , Lucas. Cata is quiet and can almost always be found handing out little squares of dark chocolate. She plays the didgeridoo. Lucas is the most charming little boy with eyes the color of the chocolate his mother shares. Precocious and completely affectionate, he will press kisses into your neck if you give him piggy-back-rides.

Marisel, another Argentinian woman, avid and passionate recycler, crooner of Brasilian lullabyes, fantastic with face-painting. She hugs you with her whole heart.

Colores. Uruguay. The grand performer who can't seem to get enough attention from his audiences. He is always pulling something out of his goodie bag, be it a unicycle, accordian, or a diablo. He is a one-man show, really, which makes it difficult for me to work with him.

Juliano. Physically, he is a cross between an Amazon warrior and a teddy bear. The thing I like about Juli is that he will try anything, and he will do it with complete presence. He has no fear. His skills cover every area--he is my kitchen handyman, he is the group's leading musician. He'll cut bamboo with a machete one minute, and lead a group of 5-year-olds in song the next.

Mauro, our Italian finance man, and Romina, exotic Chilean beauty. She is our herbalist, our can-you-treat-this-ailment ally, and has a wry, warm sense of humor. Mauro likes to pinch.

Jessica and Estrella. Gringas! Jessica hails from Indiana and has been with the Caravan for several years. Her primary role is mother to Estrella, the first baby to be born in the Caravan. Jessica and I sing old 80s songs when we do dishes. She is pragmatic and playful at the same time.

Pablo, long time Caravanero, from Spain, and partner to Beate. He leads dance circles, he swims in much of the organizational paperwork of the Caravan that no one else wants to do, he is a consensus-decision making guru and gives workshops on the issue. Whenever he hugs you, he will give your back a light massage.

Ima, Angelica, and Calu. Another family from the Basque region of Spain and Argentina. Ima plays the wooden flute at night, Angelica has the calm, powerful presence of a queen. She is the most regal hippie that I have met. We go food shopping together, treating ourselves to coconuts afterwards. Calu is her son, rambunctious and prone to whining, though sweet when he is asleep.

Jason and Penelope, American and Colombian, respectively. They just left today to return to Montana, and already their absence feels wide and gaping. Jason formed the Caravan with Alberto from the beginning, and met and married Penelope when the Caravan traveled through Colombia. They are pregnant with their first baby, have lots of wisdom, lots of jokes, lots of compassion. They came to the Caravan this time to film a documentary of the project, and Jason was almost always with a camera in hand.

And you all know me.

So here is our every-color-of-the-rainbow Caravan family. We are certainly unique, certainly alternative. But there is much power and magic and safety when we are all together, and this is something that you will just have to see to believe.

So come! Get lost, get crazy, get creative with your clown self.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Getting Lost

Please don't trust me with your possesions. Here's a tally of my (unbeknownst to me) Lost and Found donations to the people of Brasil:

12 pairs of underwear (where do they go?)
3 bars of soap
1 eco-friendly toothbrush
1 new toothbrush I bought to replace the eco-friendly toothbrush, which I ended up finding
1 black umbrella
2 1/2 pairs of socks
1 glow-in-the-dark juggling ball
2 AA batteries
1 glass marble, made out of recycled glass and painted to resemble the globe
4 amazing black roller-point pens (this one hurts...I love good pens)
1 plastic snap for the rain-fly on my tent
1 cloth grocery bag
1 blue towel (lost 4 times, found 5)

May I remain unattached to all my possessions so as to remain non-plussed, should my pillow or bag of shower goodies or passport walk away from me too.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

okay, Universe, what next?

I feel kind of pooped.

I have been looking for ways to take a little time away from the Caravan, lovely as it is, but draining, too, now that our numbers have reached almost 30, and I am a-saturated with Community Spirit. At least, the Community Spirit of those that leave their dirty dishes for others to wash, those that have lots of enlightening ideas of how to improve this crazy lifestyle but don't want to actually put those ideas into practice. Those that...

Okay, I recognize I am getting a little judgmental, so I will stop.

I think I am realizing that my honeymoon period in Brazil has ended--'twas a blissful 5 months!--and now little things are starting to take their toll.

No matter what, I keep having experiences. For two days, I found myself supine on the stone floor of a two-hundred year old church, its one room filled with
a collection of sanded tree trunks for chairs, altars with tiny statues of Jesus and Mary--their skin the color of molasses--and murals of banana-harvesting on white adobe walls. We had arrived at another quilombo, this one even more ancient and preserved than the one we visited before.

I arrived with tonsils the size of prunes.

So I rested. I think there was a small sliver of me that wanted to participate in the jongos, a traditional African celebration with special songs and dances, and the sacred circles of spiritual healing led by 80-year-old women, their hair plaited in braids, dressed in embroidered white dresses. The energy was overwhelming, though, and I am grateful that I chose the peacefulness of the church to rest. The Caravaners were great, making ginger tea and gargle rinses with salt and tea tree oil. I am discovering that there is not much space to be sick in the Caravan, and how important it is that we all take responsibility for taking care of each other.

Now we are back in Rio de Janeiro and staying at this very cool Point of Living Culture, an old train station/turned historic center. My tent is on the waiting platform, and there are rusted trains resting on tracks beside me, stray cats crawling through the glass-less windows and doors. The inside of the station is mammoth, a ceiling three stories high, and all is open and echoing. The night we arrived, there was a samba party and I fell asleep to dancing feet (to my chagrin, it was late).

Everyone went to the beach today, but I stayed back. I need clarity. I am feeling a bit conflicted about future plans, feeling called to stay, called to go back to the US, called to be confused and unclear. I found out about a unique project in the States that I could see myself involved in. I miss Tom's of Maine toothpaste. And my family and friends.

Then there is Barry Manilow singing, you've got to leeeeeeave, just get awaaaaaay in the Internet cafe at this exact moment. Is it a sign? I've never taken advice from Barry before. Is he a reputable source?

Thursday, August 03, 2006

You've got to eat your veggies

Today I find myself in Vassouras, a small town 100 km north of Rio de Janeiro. We are participating in a conference with various Points of Living Culture groups for the week, and it has been an interesting and diverse dance. I am finding that the Caravan can´t help but infuse music, and song, and alternative ideas in each place that we visit. Yesterday, our kitchen team did a day of alternative nutrition for 100 people attending the conference. The day before, we went to each classroom to propose the idea of a day of alternative alimentaçao, and we received unanimous support, so I didn´t feel like we were imposing these ideas in a forceful way--this was an opportunity to share information and resources. That´s all.

So for breakfast, we prepared homemade yoghurt, granola, and suco verde, a green juice made with lime and leafy greens (collards and kale, for instance), and sweetened with cane sugar. For lunch there were huge cauldrons of brown rice, vegetable stir-fry, black beans, tabouli, and organic mixed salad greens that we procured from a local farm outside the town. And for dinner, chapatis, squash soup with coconut milk, and farofa, a Brasilian dish made with mandioca flour, onions, garlic, and collards. And fruit, lots of fruit: watermelon, grapes, papaya, apples, mandarins.

We also transformed the dining hall into a lean, green, resource-efficient machine, with compost bins for the leftover food and a self-service dish washing station to save on water--and we beautified the space with fresh flowers and rainbow-colored flags. The day was filled with lots of energy, and I think the people were pleased and appreciative of our efforts.

Aside from the day-to-day happenings of Caravan life, I am in the process of figuring out What I Want To Do Next. My visa expires in 6 weeks and I feel resistant to leaving. Still! So I have opened up a conversation with some of the Caravan leaders about obtaining a cultural visa, which means that I can stay for rest of the duration of the project, until March. I don´t know what will happen, but I want to try.

Because I still don´t know how to samba, though I am a diligent student.

Lots of love for now. Will be in touch again soon...