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The International Writers Magazine
:
Brazil

Brazil - Morro de Sao Paulo
Annie Lalla


There are no cars here.  You walk everywhere by foot.  All transport of goods is accomplished by wheelbarrows marked "Taxi" on the side with unintentional humour.  Approaching the island by motor boat it first presents itself with jagged toffee colored cliffs draped in lush green.  Upon arrival you are helped onto a floating staircase by strapping young men, their first names printed on the front of their shirts.  Luggage is hoisted into wheelbarrows where the hyper-fit helpers push them up a hill inclined at 45 degrees.  Carrying only my body weight I could barely ascend without stopping to heave for breath.  They however climb briskly on tip toes.  Quickly each one passes me -calves tensed in easy strength.

 Far in the distance, atop a palm clad hill is the island's faro (lighthouse) -it looks like it belongs there, as if it’s part of the landscape.  Behind me lay miles of beachfront with bathers frolicking, young boys playing football, lovers flirting.  The scenery alone is worth coming here to see, but for locals the dreamy landscape is but a backdrop for everyday life.  How lucky they are to have this as part of their baseline. 
 
The island has a varied and complicated geography: rugged, wild yet soft at the same time.  This place is one of the most beautiful bits of world I have ever beheld.  For me, unaccustomed to such riveting scenery, the background asserts itself like a shout.  I wonder if I could ever take the view here for granted.  After time I might forget to be conscious of the magic but I suspect it would continue to seep into daily awareness informing my experience.  I like it best when inspiration is silent.
 
On the 20 foot trek to my pousada (guest house) I spot 24 lizards along the way!  All of them are light grey with dark brown markings on their back, they are bigger than geckos and scatter leisurely as I approach, like they’re too cool to run away.   I convince myself their hesitancy to escape is due to reciprocal curiosity.  I wonder who is more fascinated.
 
An elegant grasshopper sits on my veranda: 2 inches of glossy black specked tastefully with orange, she is decked out in the colors of Halloween.  Local cockroaches as long as my baby finger scamper across the evening sand in a bumbling trudge.  Their backs are translucent brown, the color of dates and the sheer size of them mitigates my terror -less a bug and more a small animal.  I imagine the crispy snap of their exoskeleton cracking underfoot and quiver.
 
My favorite bit of land here is a peninsula with complex rocky beaches on both edges. In front is the ocean –blue, the color they refer to as "azul".  Frothy white waves rush forward from two directions. They meet and merge like old friends, laughing.  A white sky touches the sea somewhere near infinity on a line so straight it feels unnatural.  The word ‘panorama’ isn’t long enough.  I dip my toes in warm water on one side then walk 40 feet sideways where I slip into a parallel wet world.  It was an unbelievably magical spot; I’ve never had two separate beaches immediately available to me before.  Slowly working my way up to the tip I bathed at the junction of two wet thighs.
 
I went snorkeling for the first time ever.  It’s so remarkably quiet underwater -eerie and soothing, I like how the space renders talking obsolete, thinking too.  All I could do was stare out in quiet awe.  Amongst the rocks thrived handsome neon fishes as small as raisins or long as eggplant, snakes the thickness of a carrots, black sea urchins, tentacled anemone like creatures, one rather shy octopus and assorted animated crabs.  Moving through the water, eyes wide, I felt a wave of familiarity rush through me...like i was remembering my once-upon-a-time life undersea.
 
Late afternoon, sun is blazing.  I am standing among a group of amazed onlookers in a half circle that’s completed by the curve of the tide.  Capoeira is taking place.
 
Three sounds are resonating together: the berimbau, the tambourine and voices raised in song.  All of us are moving to the beat
 
Two minimally clad, very fit dark skinned players are moving around the circle barefoot

The shine and shadow of taut muscles catch my eye.  They are rippling, beads of sweat glisten on their skin, the sheen is other-worldy under the setting sun.  Their eyes are softly focused in easy concentration.  Arms swaying to the beat they dodge each others approach -legs tracing perfect circles in the air
 
Two new dancers roll into the circle touching hands in greeting; they smile a smile of close friends seasoned with a sliver of mischief.  In and out they move, over and under a phantom enemy, each attack a caress.  Trained to twist their bodies in positions that look impossible, these local gymnasts move like ribbons
 
Their footprints in the sand are deep and emphatic; traces of each dance are washed away by the tide leaving a smooth surface for each new session
 
Every kick sends tiny clumps of sand onto the air.  By the end both are dappled in white flecks of beach.  The two boys complete their energetic exercise, break into sudden laughter and leave the ring hand in hand. They dive into the water to rinse off.
 
There is a spirit of play and jest among the circle. They are long time amigos -this troupe, with their own -isms and angles, even physical private jokes.  The whole session is seeped in deep respect and palpable comraderie.  I wonder what its like to grow up barefoot on a beach
 
A very young boy hovers nervously at the edge of the circle, anxious to engage with his heroes.  Finally he gets his turn and finds the play space quickly.  New, and just beginning to develop his moves, he’s graceful and deliberate though much slower than the others.  His effort to join in despite being a novice suddenly tugs on my emotions; he reminds me of my someday son. Strange that.
 
I watch in amazement, swaying to the earthy twang of the berimbau.  This is the real thing.  They are not fighting but dancing; they are playing a game whose rules I merely glimpse.   This is a ritual, a ceremony commemorating friendship.  I am lost to their movements and notice I am clapping.
 
©  Annie Lalla July 2007
annie@wonderzine.net

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The keyboard I'm typing on is so old I can barely see the letters a sign reads: "browsing 20 rupees per hour.  No discounting, no bargaining of rates will be encouraged." 



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