The International Writers
Brazil - Morro de Sao Paulo
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 its 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 theyre too cool to run away. I convince myself
their hesitancy to escape is due to reciprocal curiosity. I wonder
who is more fascinated.
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 isnt 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; Ive 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.
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
I went snorkeling for the first time ever. Its 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
afternoon, sun is blazing. I am standing among a group of
amazed onlookers in a half circle thats 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, hes
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
Fragments from India
Imagine the diameter at the bottom of a toilet bowl; it was as long
as that. I know because the head touched one side while the tail
brushed against the opposite. He was paddling for his life.
most have barely heard of it, many are intrigued, few are brave
enough to go. If this is your first encounter with the phenomenon
of Burning Man, welcome.
Contact in India
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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