Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Brilliant time in Brazil

Welcome to the River of January...
… Rio de Janeiro – the town where supermarket clerks will double-bag a liter of milk – where bus drivers think they are pod racing (nerdy Star Wars joke) – where men consistently grab their crouches – where even Mexicans are called gringos – and where every local has at least one tattoo. Also, the town where giant and forest covered cliffs peak up abundantly – where wide bounty beaches stretch along a sea crowded by oil platforms and tankers – where everyone will dance and sing with the slightest opportunity to do so – where rich, poor, monkeys, middle class, pelicans and hummingbirds co-exist – where homosexuals and ladyboys thrive – a town of eternal summer, cockroaches and tropical showers – the town of... uhm... okay, let us stop here!!!

I arrived on the 5th of October 2011, took the bus from the airport to a stop where I got picked by my first couch host, Aline, a punk rock girl with dyed red hair, lots of tattoos, a music composer and a stylish painter who lived in the party neighborhood of Lapa. My Portuguese was still very beginnerish, so we would converse in English. I spent around a week at her place, together with two other couch surfers. Feeling new and a bit insecure in the giant metropolis, I took it fairly easy and spent time with my host and the other surfers.
One of my first nights in this new place I woke up to a furious thunder storm raging outside. I went on the balcony to save Aline's painting material from the rain, as well as roll up the giant curtain which seemed likely to break in the strong winds. It was on the 11th floor and quite a sight – a nightly thunder storm in Rio from that height. Suddenly, while I was struggling with rolling the curtain up, lightning struck right in the street below me. It hit a power mast with a shredding “DRRRHHH” sound a bright flash from thousands of sparks emerging from the mast. In that moment my heart skipped a dozen beats and then started racing while adrenaline shot through my veins. I doubled my pace turning the metal handle rolling up the curtain, fearing I might be the next target! Though scary, it was quite an exciting moment as well, witnessing this raw power of nature.
After a week at Aline's place I moved to another couch host, Gaia was her name and she was living with her mom Elke in Copacabana. It was a really nice house and friends of Elke and Gaia would be passing everyday, along with the occasional couch surfer. A social nexus point one could say.
Gaia liked to drink and party a lot with her university friends. She would probably go out four times a week at least, and so I ended up going out a lot as well, holding back on the alcohol though. Her preferences would be places with jazz, and I found that here in Rio legends such as Herbie Hancock actually gets their deserved tributes through cover groups. I was truly impressed by the absolutely brilliant musicians in this town, as well as how well people would receive musicians by lightheartedly participating with both singing and dancing.
During these days at Gaia's I went to the Cinelandia Square quite a few times. This square was where the 'Occupy Rio' movement had put up their tents (you know, the global movement against the corrupt democracies and failed systems of capitalism). The Rio movement consisted of lots of solidarity, political discussions, visions of a better society and also lots of music, dancing, painting and other creative and unifying stuff. I contributed with some guitar and singing every now and then, and at any time the Cariocas (Brazilians native to Rio) would back me up with percussion, flutes, more guitars, singing, etc. from what seemed a national genetic musical heritage in their blood.
One day while playing some traditional Rainbow songs, a Rainbow brother and -sister came up to me, being my first encounter with the Brazilian family. Bruno, tall, long black hair, typically dressed in black, guitar- and flute player, Vipasanna meditator and with a very calm ambiance around him. And Daniela, light brownish hair, dressed in loose colorful or bright dresses and somewhat resembling a druid woman from days of old. Both smelled innerly of peace and love and I came to spend much time with them the next many moons.
At one point I contacted some people from the 'Occupy Copenhagen' movement back home, and was very informally made international correspondent by one of the organizers here, hehe. I am afraid I did not quite live up to that title though!
It is safe to say that I really enjoyed my first weeks in Rio. After around two weeks at Gaia's, my time to move on had come. I was headed to an orphanage in the mountains north of Rio, where I had negotiated a year long voluntary position with food and accommodation. I still had not finished my thesis, which every time I worked on it seemed to get further from finishing! I would simply have to focus on it between the work with the orphans, I thought.

A change of plans
The orphanage was located north of Rio amidst lush and wild mountain nature. From the contrasting dusty red roads leading to the orphanage, you could see green and algae covered lakes sitting at the bottom of valleys. It was about an hour walk from the nearest town through this kind of intriguing landscapes, and I felt good being out of Rio and back into nature.
The orphanage itself consisted of several tall multiple level buildings connected by terrace bridges. It had a big dirt court and even a cemented outside sports area under a giant roof. 23 kids lived there, the youngest being 3 years old and the oldest 11. My first impression was very positive indeed, but as it was, it did not last long...
Several things struck me already my second day. First I noticed how the employed social workers would talk to the kids in a quite unpleasant and superior way. Then how the kids would get punished by breaking simple rules such as speaking without raising a hand. Structure and discipline seemed to be the keywords of the general pedagogy.
The other volunteers did not have much experience from working with kids before, so they somewhat blindly followed this pedagogical line. On top of this, the volunteers were given 48 hour shifts which included cleaning, during laundry, serving food, which when considering 23 kids meant a lot of chore work. Honestly I was not there voluntarily to do such work. Then something quite disturbing as well was how the washing machines every day unloaded huge amounts of dirty and chemically (soap) affected water right unto the naked earth. It was off the sewage grid I guess, but for me there is no justification of such direct pollution, especially at a place where children live and learn about life.
After less than a week I told the director that I was sorry, that I had to leave and I explained him why and how I felt about the practices. It was all sorted calmly and with full understanding from all sides.
There was another reason for me leaving as well, and maybe it was actually the biggest one. Upon arrival I felt good about my year long position, but as soon as I had seen the place and had my room shown to me, I kinda felt something was not right. During the next few days further introspection revealed to me that I simply was not ready for this sort of dedication. I had quite my job with the Red Cross to go on this journey, and though I had been three months on the way, it felt like I had merely begun. Dedicating myself to one place was not what I wanted to do at this time.
I am truly sorry for the inconvenience I might have caused the orphanage, as well as I feel bad for just abandoning a place because I did not like it right away. But I feel I did what I had to do, and thankfully it seemed the kids were doing great there as well as there were some inspiring and passionate volunteers to take care of them.
Before I get on with my tales, let me just zoom in on one night at the orphanage, where I met Mickey Mouse himself!

It was late, and I was sitting all by my lonesome on the porch of the volunteer house, reading in some guidebooks to Brazil I had found there. Around me was dense forest and the sounds of crickets soared in from all directions. Above me I had a roof with some lights, and many spiders, big as golf balls had opportunistically woven their webs there. Once in a while a big buzzing bug would get caught, and I would anticipate the following struggle – would the bug be able to break free before the golf ball's piercing fangs would seduce it with poison? And can you believe it, whenever a bug got caught I could not help cheering for the spider!
Then suddenly, I heard a strange tripping sound behind me. I was sitting/lying in a big arm chair, and slowly I stuck my head out to look back and see what it was. Right there in front of me, a huge mouse looking creature – definitely a rodent of some kind – was staring right at me. It was the size of a big cat, yet had the perfect shape of a mouse, it's fur all black and a naked tail ending in a white tip. It's nose would be sniffing like a rabbit's and with two round and shining black eyes sitting close to each other, it was staring directly at me, less than two meter away. I froze and stared right back at it, and there we were for about 10 seconds or so. Then it decided to trip on, and slowly it went of the porch and back into the pitch black forest. “Wow, Mickey Mouse is real”, I thought to myself...
Sit alone and completely quiet in the night, and nature will reveal itself to you. I really enjoyed meeting this guy, and being this close to the wild Brazilian nature for a moment had me consider my thoughts about leaving. Yet I stuck with my decision, said goodbye to everyone and went for Rio to reorganize myself for the now unknown future.

Squatting in the center and a week on the New Earth
Coming back to Rio I had got lucky with a last minute (or emergency) couch, but could only stay a few days there, though time enough to get accepted at another host. Between them I had some homeless days though, so I decided to go back to Cinelandia Square and put up my tent with the squatters. I was literally camping in the center of Rio.
It was an interesting experience, but not enough for me to stay there. Besides the many positive elements of solidarity and creativeness, there were a lot of problems as well, specifically with the homeless people whom there are many of in Rio. They would hang out with the squatters, drinking alcohol and smoking maconha (marijuana) and generally interfere in quite rude ways with the idealistic squatters. On top of that my ears were hurting from car and bus noise 24/7 and in the morning it would reek of exhaust fumes inside my tent. So I went to stay with my new couch host, Eddie. He was a lawyer and had a very big and nice apartment in the Botafogo neighborhood, where he lived and sometimes with his daughter. We got along well and I felt good at his place where he told me I could stay a week. Those days, besides getting on with my thesis, I kept going back to Cinelandia to help out with practical work, participate in the workshops, and spend more time with my new friends, Bruno and Daniela among others. And it was then I found out about this upcoming festival, Nova Terra (New Earth) which would be held soon. It practically sounded like an organized Rainbow with real facilities. Even one of the days at Cinelandia, an actual Rainbow Caravan passed, a group of more than 20 brothers and sisters from 10 different countries, coming from the last years Worldbow in Argentina, spreading love, peace and arts on their way through village after village. They were on their way to the next Worldbow here in Brazil, yet before that they would go and help out with the Nova Terra festival. I was excited and thankful to meet more family, and I even knew some of them from the Euro Gathering in Finland back in 2010.
In the mean time I had moved couch host yet again, but this time back to Gaia and Elke. I stayed there a few days, left some stuff there for then to take off for Nova Terra. And I was welcome back at their place afterwards they told me.

11/11/11 was the day I took off for Nova Terra. Meeting up with Tainá, an only 17 year old Carioca with a beautiful soul who had approached me at a metro station (probably thinking I looked interesting with my fire staff and Andean woven guitar cover), but whom I mainly knew from my time at Cinelandia. Given her young age she was truly a brilliant being, open-minded, empathetic, dealing with intimidating homeless in courageous and skillful ways and already something like a young yoga-mastress. Girls like her are the future of this world.
We would first participate in some sort of 11/11/11 ritual near the Cinelandia Square, and then joined by a girl named Angelita, we caught the bus that would take us out of Rio towards the festival.
Angelita was a not so tall black girl with long curly hair. She had a mysterious and beautiful face, a lighthearted and calm presence and she was into capoeira, tambourine percussion and mouth harp. Just a few years back after her Daime initiation (Santo Daime is a Brazilian religion from the Amazon region, mixing Christianity with Shamanism and the holy drink of ayahuasca) she had found a new path in her life to follow, and her job as a geologist at an oil platform, was not something she hoped she had to continue much longer. From our first meeting there was something of a chemistry between us and we ended up spending much time at the festival together, and sharing a tent every night.
Nova Terra was an absolutely wonderful time for me. It was only a few hundred people and took place in a serene natural spot, with a big white rock mountain rising in the background. Swimming pools, a huge sheltering dome, a stage, a community kitchen, sheltered places to eat, a sweat lodge and lots of grass areas to play on, and then no alcohol and lots of beautiful people playing, dancing, chanting around bonfires, all the usual, etc.!
I hung out with the Rainbow Caravan, and made friends with this Norwegian brother also named Martin. He is on an amazing path in his life and puts lots of effort into realizing the visions of the Rainbow family. I look much forward to spend more time with him at the Worldbow.
I also met this incredible singer, Luciana. She sings with a power and passion that only few people have, and mainly everything is completely improvisational. She sings with her soul, one could say. The way I met her was when Angelita and I were sitting and jamming quietly with my claves and her mouth harp, and Luciana sat down with us and asked if she could sing. “Por favor”, we told her, and seeming rather emotional for some reason, she started singing and it was like magic flowing out from her lungs. Later at the festival she was performing on stage with a violinist and banjo player, all during improvisation, and I was spinning some fire nearby with some borrowed poi. Like metal to a magnet I was drawn towards the stage, and ended in front of her and the musicians. I started following her voice with my dance, and without any of the advanced technical stuff I know, I truly connected to the music, the fire and to my body and being. It felt amazing, and after Luciana had finished and the audience was applauding, we looked deeply and thankfully at each other.
“Let's make a new Earth, and let's start right now”, was the message of the festival, and it will sing in me forever. Some time ago, inspired by the Rainbow in Finland, I have written a poem, which I find fitting to relate just now:

I want to make a place

start right now
a search for somewhere green
to put it in;

lush terrain and carve a garden,
from heart through fingers sow -

thanking Pachamama

then share the earth on ground,
bless and transform trees,
shape wood with children's dreams;
our homes.

When evenings come and circles form
I'd watch eyes being born
into bonfires' calm.

Daniela whom I had met in Cinelandia was also at the festival. Knowing only that I wanted to go to the Worldbow in January/February, and my temporary homes mostly being couch hosts, she offered me that I could live at her place, if I needed somewhere to stay for longer time. She also lived in Copacabana close to Gaia and Elke's place, and so a few days after upon returning from the festival, I moved to Daniela's.

Almost settling down in Rio
I ended up staying in Rio for two more months after Nova Terra. Daniela showed incredible kindness, taking me into her home, and I repaid as good as I could by contributing with shopping, cooking, cleaning and such. Her home had a very calm and grounded energy, always clean and with small figurines from various religions here and there along with her own colorful paintings on most of the walls. I had my own room and there was a nice balcony with a hammock to catch the morning sun in.
Every morning Daniela woke early, made green juice – which she would leave a glass of for me for when I got up – and took of for work on her bicycle. She worked with aroma therapy and made essential oils for various purposes. We would sort the garbage, and all the organic stuff we collected in a big bucket, covered it with earth layer by layer, for then when it was full to carry to the little garden which was part of the complex and give it back to nature in the form of compost. The garden extended into a proper forest going steep uphill one of those high cliffs Rio had lots of. Both cobras and monkeys would live there, but I did not see any in my time. It was just where the roads and human habitation ended and about a 10 min. walk to the famous Copacabana beach. In other words, the perfect spot and the perfect hostess.
I felt blessed having met her and gotten this opportunity to settle down. Believe it or not, I actually managed to finish my thesis while there, after one year of working on it (sporadically I may add). There was indeed a very creative energy in her house, and so several songs/compositions were as well channeled through me, songs which I now intend to cultivate at the Worldbow. My Portuguese also improved significantly, from conversing daily with Daniela.
While staying at Daniela's, often I would go to visit Luciana in her home. She lived with an elder named Ricardo and a girl named Daiana, in yet another beautiful house full of art from and spiritual decorations from around the world. “If you want to receive divine energy, take off your shoes”, would be the first words you would read upon entering.
I enjoyed much my visits there, always treated to food and chai, and playing music and chanting together with other passing brothers and sisters. One line sung from Lucianas mouth is truly like a divine blessing cast upon you. I have never heard a voice like her's.
One special evening there, Luciana, Daiana and me turned their couch to face out the window and watched the full moon rise. It was a magnificent sight, first covered by a thin layer of ever-changing clouds, giving away imaginary shapes of whatever came to us. Then after some time the clouds cleared and an incredible bright moon shun its light upon us. We fetched Ricardo's binoculars and took turns getting high from watching the moon mountains, shadows and craters through the zooming glass. It was the day before Daiana had to leave for Europe and visit her boyfriend in Barcelona for three months. I felt a strong connection with her, and though sad that she would not be to find in the Worldbow, I was just happy to have met her and to carry a bit of her with me in my heart and mind. Luciana and Ricardo would be going though, Bruno and Daniela, and many more I had made friends with during my time in Rio.

Lost in Lapa
In the middle of December I had quite the night out of the ordinary which I want to relate now. But first things first, so let me start by introducing you to Rudi.
Rudi, half way through his thirties, was from Italy and about three weeks earlier I had met him on the Copacabana beach. He was playing with his poi and I had as well some juggling stuff with me. So naturally as juggling tends to do, it connected two people. It turned out we shared passions for not only juggling, but also playing guitar and singing and he lived just on the street next to me, working in hostel, and we just got along really really well. Having been in Rio for two months now, I was able to hook Rudi up with some likewise artistic people and so, easy to imagine we have had some stellar fire dancing and jam sessions together.
Rudi had come to Rio partly because of a Russian girl he knew from Barcelona where he was living before. Unlike Rudi, his girl was not having a good time here and she had decided to go back to Barcelona. She left the very same day Rudi had to move away from the hostel he lived and worked in, because of some negative energy and tensions between him and the owner. Loosing his girl and his home in one day, I thought we should do what ordinary guys would do, something out of the ordinary for both of us; go out Friday night, drink alcohol and lose ourselves to the night life of Rio de Janeiro. This is where my tale of this crazy mid December night starts.

Rudi was with me on the going out plan, as well as this guy Tom we had come to know – a philosophy student from Seattle. Together with four girls – two Norwegians, one British and one Carioca – we headed out into Lapa.
During the week Lapa is just a regular non-beach neighborhood in Rio, but during the weekends, the streets get closed to cars and both Brazilians and Gringos join together in a massive street party; samba orchestras in the open, other musicians and jugglers street performing, probably hundreds of bars and clubs, and crammed with thousands of averagely very alcoholized young people. Every single weekend throughout the year...
We started off walking around drinking beers and caipirinhas. We were undecided as to which club to go into, but with lots of huge speakers and party on the streets, we were in no hurry neither. We ended up in front of a funk club. Brazilian favela funk that is, and yeah, it is not at all what we would normally connect with funk. I think best I can describe it as a non stop looping of very dirty and sexist lyrics or female sounds, blasted out with a heavy bass, a duk dak-dak duk-dak rhythm and a DJ's otherwise electronic creativity. It lends itself to a very naughty energy outlet, and the Brazilians, boys and girls alike, tend to get it done by rapid body shaking, primarily a bend over booty or otherwise the upper torso part, while consistently making sure the crowds are watching. In other words, Brazilian funk is very literally in your face. The funk originates from the favelas in the seventies, and as such it is related to the hardcore life of drug dealers, slum dwellers, prostitutes, etc. and cops may even arrest funk artists for their lyrics alone (especially when they are about killing cops!).
Standing outside the club I was the only one who really wanted to enter. I guess the others were intimidated by the reputation of funk as having a hardcore crowd, but my philosophy for that out-of-the-ordinary-Rio-night was all or nothing. Rudi had gotten hold of some marijuana and the group shared a reefer which on top of the beers and caipirinhas had me beautifully high in no time; the music started to grab me, my body instinctively moving in connection with the aggressive funk energy, and before I knew it, I had left the group to find myself inside the dark funk club, lit up only by neon lights and green laser beams.
I went straight to the dance floor, closed my eyes and started dancing like I was the only person in the room. I definitely was not and I found myself at the center of attention of on one side pimped up boys, doing their best to challenge my poi inspired body choreographies, and on the other side extremely challenging dressed girls and ladyboys waiting for someone to take them with style. It was intense and lasted about thirty minutes, before I found my way outside again to check for my friends. They were no where to be seen amongst the thousands of people partying. I walked around a bit and ended up back at the funk club without any luck.
The night was meant for cheering up Rudi, but in a place like Lapa during these packed weekends, I thought I might as well give up searching and enjoy the moment instead. So what happened next was I ended up in a dance battle outside the funk club, pitted against two beautiful booty and upper torso shaking young girls accompanied by two extremely flexible ladyboys, during splits and otherwise impossible moves. I was easily beaten, though my yet again poi inspired jumping around did earn me some cheers and street credit before I went on to see what else this night would have in share for me.
Upon passing some old timers – a fair guess would be they were homeless –, sitting against the wall in a very crowded and moving street, I politely asked if I could join them. It was mainly their bongo drums and tambourines that had caught my attention and shortly thereafter I was cross legged on the street, the king of their bongo and organizing a Manu Chao choir to much alegria (happiness) for these still very positively surprised old timers.
After some time of this I bid them my fondest farewells and feeling a bit dizzy I bought a bottle of water and sat down with some handcraft vendors to fall back on earth. Admittedly, I am not Legolas anymore, and the four beers and the caipirinha, along with the herbs, had naturally taken its toll on me (nerdy Lord of the Rings joke!).
What happened next was I met some Australians who I got along with. We went to sit and chill on this long and colorful staircase famous in Lapa. Walking up the stairs, a very talented congas drummer and his capoeira songs singing friends caught my attention. I stayed to clap along for some songs where after I got my turn as the singer. The congas drummer superbly accompanying me as I gave it all I had with the only complete song I knew in Portuguese – an Afro-Brazilian hymn about the sea goddess Iemanja related to the Santo Daime religion, and I am proud to say the crowds around us loved it. Afterwards I found my new Australian brothers, near the top of the staircase. We sat there for some hours probably, talking, smoking, me leading some more songs and chants and just having a really chilled time.
Before going home I went for something to eat, and not being on the meat wagon these days I had a very hard time finding anything. Brazilians eat meat like chickens eat everything! I ended up with a satisfying corn cake and some bananas and singing through the streets, me and the Australians went looking for a mini bus to take us home (they lived near me in Copacabana). Suddenly a group of about five very young girls, attracted by our at this point very silly singing I take it, came rushing to us and started doing that bend over booty shake right in our faces. They were probably no more than twelve years old, yet they definitely knew how to shake their booties! One Australian responded wisely by simply starting to shake his booty right back at them in the worst Gringo style! It worked and they moved on laughing loudly. “Definitely time to get home”, I thought.
Aboard the mini bus it turned out we were in the company of some other song happy people. Them being cariocas we took turns trying to impress each other with respectively English and Portuguese songs. Everyone together we manage to pull off Wonderwall in the best cliché manner, and I just hope the driver was able to concentrate.
I got home safely under a brightening sky around six in the morning and fell flat on my bed. And that was it for the crazy-out-of-the-ordinary-Rio-night. Indeed a healing day was ahead of me, and let let me just continue the tale with how that went.

The healing beach
The next day I woke up sometime in the afternoon and got a hold of Rudi. I thought I needed to make up for my disappearing the night before. After all the night had been meant for him. We agreed to meet up to play some relaxing music and balance out the intensity of the night before. So a bit later we found ourselves in front of a coffee shop in Copacabana, shot down a cafezinho and were about to find a park or place we could sit and play in, when instantly Rio was at the center of a tropical shower accompanied by deafening thunder and lightning.
We were trapped under a sheltering roof on the street and so we decided to sit down and wait it out. Along the walls on all the streets people stood closely together under the various outer roofs of the shops. I pulled up some light percussion and a harmonica and we started jamming together with the thundering rain.
We sat there for about half an hour before the clouds permitted us to continue the healing mission. The rain had been so heavy the streets had practically turned to rivers, with buses splashing by and soaking unsuspecting cariocas, much to mine and Rudi's delight!
From the amount of rain we figured any park would be too wet to sit in and thus decided to head down to the beach instead. The sand proved to be just perfect after the rain – not too wet nor too sandy. The Copacabana beach typically crowded with thousands of people, now only had a few here and there, I guess because of the rain as well. Thank you rain...
We landed somewhere relatively close to the sea, away from the noise of the many passing cars on the road behind us. The waves were calm that day, meaning somewhere around 1.5 meters and they made for the perfect background sound for our little jam session, taking turns with my guitar, playing our own compositions and backing each other up with light percussion or the harmonica. We sat there and jammed and talked for a while when suddenly we where interrupted. It was the sky itself that started communicating, in a visual language I rarely have seen the likes off!
A setting sun behind the range of tall houses on the other side of the street where the beach ended, gave for a awe inspiring sight. The cloudless sky immediately behind the houses were bright blue as in the middle of the day. But only shortly, then a first layer of clouds gave off that orange-pink warmth we all now from a sunset. Small holes of blue here and there kept on going until another layer of clouds shining bright as gold blessed our eyes. More bright blue and finally some grayish-white clouds to top it all off, like whipped cream on a birthday cake. All those colors mashed together intuitively got me playing a tune by the Stones:

She's Like a Rainbow

She comes in colors everywhere
she combs her hair;
she's like a rainbow.
Combing colors in the air
she comes in colors.

Have you seen her dressed in blue?
Seen the sky in front of you?
And her face is like a sail,
speck of white so fair and pale.
Have you seen a lady fairer?

Have you seen her all in gold?
Like a queen in days of old.
She shoots colors all around
like a sunset going down.
Have you seen a lady fairer?

“She” obviously not being any woman, but the beauty of our very world when we truly open our eyes to her. Like all members of the Stones being males, the metaphor of the sky as a beautiful woman, nailed it completely for me that evening on the beach. The attraction and passion a woman's beauty can instill in a man's heart, was just what I felt staring and singing against that colorful and beautiful woman that was the sky.
After the song, upon turning my head to look the other way, I got completely overwhelmed by a sphere of the deepest darkest blue I had ever seen, with nearly invisible clouds hanging low and far away in the horizon, brightened up by occasional lightning. Under this amazingly divided sky I decided it was time for a swim, and while Rudi stayed put I ran out and jumped into the waves. The water is not so warm here in Rio, and so it was delightfully refreshing. Even with the relative calm waves, you still had to work a lot to be on top of them. They come in with high speed and go back out very fast as well, pulling you with unless you make an effort. Jumping the waves, diving under them or letting them swim you in, is all good fun to me and it keeps you warm and afterwards I could very satisfied dry myself with my towel.
The sun sets fast in these parts and quickly it got darker while the far away thunder seemed to be getting closer, so we chose to call it a day. We walked up through the city, both of us contrasting the now dressed up cariocas ready for another night of party.
It was Saturday, Rudi and me hugged goodbye and each of us went home to ourselves to enjoy an easy night upon a very immersing weekend. So thank you cariocas, thank you music, thank you marijuana, thank you rain, thank you sky and beach, and thank you all my brothers and sisters for reading this far.

Time to move on
Today it is the 10th of January and I will in just a few moments leave Rio de Janeiro. I have had a nice Christmas with a bunch of couch surfers, and New Year was good as well though it was quite rainy.
My plan is now to do a Vipasanna course, which is a 10 day meditation course, 10 hours every day in complete silence. The final day of the course, when speech is yet again allowed and the participants will talk of the experience, will be my birthday, 22th of January. Hopefully it will be something of a new birth for me, but I actually did not get accepted into the course as it was already full. I will go there still though, and it is a bit out of Rio, so I hope they will show kindness and let me stay.
After the course (or later today if they reject me) I will head straight to Rainbow land in a national bio region park in the state of Espirito Santo, to take part in the World Rainbow Gathering. I intend to stay there the whole moon, and so in total I might now be looking at 40 days disconnection from society and internet. So in case any of you are writing me, be patient and I will respond probably in the end of February.

My blog is now up to present day and it is time for me to leave. What will come next is the unknown future, yet I feel blessed I am where I am and that unconditional love is so abundant in my life these days. I look forward to be sharing it with all of you, whenever we meet again.

~~~ Love, love, love and light my dearest everyone. Maybe to be continued! ~~~

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Last month in Europe

Hippinitis, busking and a new passion in Porto
It was the beginning of September and my ride to Porto went smoothly, having allowed myself from being sick to go by public transport. One change of trains and a couple of hours later I was at the main station where my host picked me up. Carlos was his name, and he was originally from the Azores Islands, but now living in Porto to finish a PhD. in uhm... neural biology if I remember correctly.
I arrived in relatively good health though I could definitely feel something was not right in my stomach. I had my first shower (not counting mountain rivers and the ocean) in around three weeks, and I must admit it felt quite good to be 'back in civilization'. After getting to know Carlos a bit, I went to sleep in a huge double bed in my own guest room. What human luxury it was, compared to camping on beaches, in mountains, or sleeping under open skies at highway gas stations. The first night however, I did not get much sleep as my stomach problem started to take hold. I had myself throw up a couple of times during that night and I was feeling a constant pain.
The next day Carlos informed me I had kept him awake as well, but he was completely cool and showed a genuine sympathy and care for my wellbeing. Being a neural biologist he had his theories as for what could be wrong with me, and after hearing how I had lived the last many weeks he laughingly diagnosed me with hippinitis! He told me I could stay five days, since he then would be hosting three new surfers and he was hopeful it would be enough for me to recover.
Despite me being sick I managed to stay happy, especially because the Tobina (Toby and Ina) was in town. I met with them a couple of times and the last night at Carlos' he kindly let them crash there. Busy with PhD Studies, about to receive more surfers and still he took them in freely. “You have a hippie heart, brother” I told him before parting.
I had recovered almost entirely after the days at Carlos', and together with the Tobina we went to stay at a camping site. We had good juggling times and music evenings with some other campers, though we only stayed for a few days. I managed to find a new couch to surf, and the Tobina got by sleeping in the streets of Porto. The weather was warm and with a nice and hidden spot they actually seemed to be enjoying it.
My new host was a Brazilian doctor named Marcos and finally I got started with some Portuguese grammar, thinking I would be better off learning it from him, since in a month I would be off to Brazil myself. I even managed to work a bit on my ongoing thesis. Then I changed host again after some productive days, this time to a group of four young Brazilians studying in Porto and sharing a flat together. Ana Carolina was the one who had accepted me, and along with another couch surfer and the Tobina again crashing my couch hosts (they were becoming couch crashers I joked) we had some good music and party time at that place.
During those days the Tobina and I started to go to the Ribeira, a street by the river front where lots of tourists and locals alike would dine at fancy restaurants. Spinning our fire pois, Toby and I started busking (street performing) and managed to make some coins for our own cheap supermarket meals. More than making money we also made a new friend, a Polish sister who had lived seven years in Portugal. She was blond, beautiful within and without, her name was Magdalena and she had the same age as me. She was working on the Ribeira as well, cutting coins and selling them as jewelry, and she had seen our fire performance and come to talk with us as she also did a bit of poi. The Ribeira was a very nice place so we kept coming back there to make more fire shows and meet with Magdalena. One night after the Tobina had gone to their hidden street home, she took me to the “Cave 27”, an artistic and secret underground bar. You enter from what seems to be an abandoned building, but continuing down a staircase you would end in a basement with colored lightning, beautiful paintings on walls and cunning art pieces hanging from the ceiling, a big swing to stand/swing on, a cat mother nursing her kittens in a skylight in the far end, a little bar serving beers to the initiated crowd and some very loud and alternative music playing, like psy-trance, death metal and some Mozambican beats. Indeed a very ambient place and Magdalena and I spent hours talking before we said goodbye and called it a night.
The next evening the Tobina and I once again took for the Ribeira, and this time Magdalena had asked a friend to come, a British sister on around 70 years whom she knew merely from conversation on the street while cutting her coins. The old sister was traveling in a camper with her mother on around 90 and then their dog. They were during a trip that her now deceased father originally had wished for, so they actually had brought his ashes with them and were spreading them on those places he had wanted to visit. The reason why Magdalena had brought us together, was because this passionate old lady had an amazing djembe drum and she was willing to busk with us. And indeed, we had a very fruitful night busking together. Even Ina and Magdalena had a go with the fire. I got some extra money for the kerosene, otherwise we equally shared the rest between us. Initially Magdalena and our new friend would have us take it all, but then what would money be worth if they are not to be shared?!
That same night, after the cool old djembe sister with her dog (her mother was sleeping in the camper) and the Tobina had left, Magdalena and I walked around town together. We ended up at the cathedral where we sat down, alone and hidden behind some walls. Conversation came so naturally to us; she was experiencing a new time in her life after a long dark period, and now wanting to go travel in South America to discover this place as well as herself. Our stories from former travels along with lots of life philosophy would be our topics. We were both clearly attracted to each other and at some point we started kissing on the stone staircase we were sitting on. It went on for hours until the sun came up, when we finally managed to break it up and call it another night. So much energy in a kiss when it feels right...
I found my way back to a locked door which I somehow, key-less and without any damage managed to get open, and notably without waking any of the Brazilians! It was still only short time after I had parted with Keke, yet strangely she did not haunt me at all. Instead I could go to bed with a beautiful night with my friends and a passionate Magdalena still singing in my mind.
The next day the Tobina decided to leave Porto as our new djembe sister had offered them a ride in the camper. It was the second time I said goodbye to those two and without a destination they left with the two old sisters and their dog, spreading ashes and listening to wise old tales I bet.
I again went back to the Ribeira and this time changed my instrument from fire poi to guitar and voice, as I now was without my fire brother. I sat and played next to Magdalena cutting coins and made both good money and lots of encouraging praise from the dining tourists. It was August and the tourist high season and afterwards I afforded dinner for both of us. Earlier that day I had as well said goodbye to my sweet Brazilian hosts and thus had all my bags with me, as Magdalena had arranged a place for me to stay. A house of a friend of hers, just across the street from Cave 27. Her friend was away, but still, merely from Magdalena vouching for us, me and a Romanian couple we met that very evening on the Ribeira and who also had come from the Rainbow, were told we could crash there some days. It was an old and worn building and to get in you had to use a plastic card to open the big wood/metal door on the street. I was getting quite some experience breaking open locked doors, and as it inevitably would get damaged I wisely picked my student card when it came for me entering by myself one night.
As it seems with the places Magdalena would take me the house was filled up with arts of many sorts; paintings, instruments, sculptures or other initiatives of wood, stone, clay, metal, etc.. The next day Magdalena had a flight ticket to Granada for a week's vacation, and so our final night we got to spend together in that artistic house. She had been so kind to me and the Tobina, and so just before leaving I gave her my sock poi for practicing, as she was a natural poi talent and needed them more than me.
I stayed two more nights after she left, working a bit on my thesis, but mostly having a very chilled time with the Romanian couple, sharing coffee and food and going to the Cave in the evening. Then I left Porto as well, after two weeks in this stunningly beautiful city, the warm and welcoming Portuguese and Brazilian folks, excellent busking at the Ribeira and with a sweet memory of a Polish sister whom I hoped I would meet again.

Earth bagging in the countryside
My sweet Danish friend Lene, who is staying at my place in Copenhagen while I am away, had suggested me to go and visit her friend Maiken, as she was settling down in Portugal. Together with her North American husband Derek and their two year old daughter Una, they were building a house in the Portuguese countryside. I contacted Maiken and the deal was I could come and put up my tent and help building the house together with them and some woofers, in return for food and the knowledge and experience I would get.
The house project was a very cool one; it consisted of big fiber bags getting filled with earth, and then using barbwire to hold and stack them on top of each other, creating walls. The weight of the earth would simply be enough to keep the bags in place and then the next step would be to cover them in cob – a mixture of clay, sand, straws and mud which is an ancient and very resistant construction material. Earth bags and cob would make for both a cheap and organic house, and it is definitely a knowledge I will take with me for when my settling down time comes one day.
During the week I was there we mainly worked with the earth bagging. We would get up in the mornings, have breakfast in the temporary open air kitchen (the house had only one room finished where the little family lived) and then get started with the work, before the sun would get too high in the sky. Maiken would for most days take care of Una while Derek, a German girl named Maren, a New Zealandian couple named Holly and Dolly (no kidding) and me would carry buckets of earth uphill to the construction site, fill the big fiber bags with earth and knock them into place. It was very hard work indeed and I wore out after just a few days. In the evenings we would dine together back at the open air kitchen and I would play some songs on the guitar before we went to bed, typically with the sundown or a little after.
It was a beautiful place, on a mountain side sloping down to a running river for then to rise again on the other side. Walnut and apple trees, black berry bushes and lots of wild pig would habituate the green mountain forests. Maiken and Derek were neither the only ones who had come across this place, and they had some very nice neighbors – an English couple who had already finished their home complete with vegetable gardens and a pool. A little further away a group of six or so also English folks had settled. Calling themselves “the Utopians” they were indeed very nice people and one night we had a party at their place with djembes, guitars and lots of singing. With all the little settlements, the mountain side was turning into a little peaceful and laid-back community, where neighbors would help each other without question. I am looking much forward to go back one day to see the finished house and meet these beautiful settlers once again.

Last week in Europe
The German girl Maren was going in her car to Lisbon, and so I caught a ride with her. My flight ticket to Brazil was in one week from the Lisbon airport and I had arranged to stay with a Portuguese family I have known for some years now. The story goes back to when I helped the daughter of the family, Sofia, along with six other international volunteers, with a place to sleep in Copenhagen one night. Next year I visited the Portuguese volunteer and her family, Armanda the mother and her three daughters, Sofia the oldest, Sara in the middle and Catarina the youngest. The year after the family visited me in Copenhagen and now two years after that I was yet again in Lisbon staying with them. I am declared the older brother of the family and they are always very kind to me. I merely offered my room for one night to a group of young international volunteers, but like rings in the water, helping actions always tend to grow.
I had a nice time in Lisbon and once again the Tobina had stalked me there and so I would be meeting up with them. I also managed to get work done on my thesis while staying with the family, with the intention of finishing it before I would leave for Brazil, though that did not happen!
One day Armanda, Sofia and I picked up the Tobina and went all together to the most western point on the European main land. We hiked the tough cliff and beach nature, hardened by the winds coming in from the Atlantic Ocean, until we ended at Praia da Urca – Beach of the Bear, could be the translation. It is a well hidden beach between high cliffs, and namely one of the cliffs resemble a bear looking up towards the sky, hence the catchy name. It was my third time there, and as I have found from my many travels around the world, going back to revisit places are often a lot more refreshing and inspiring than keep going to new places. This place in particular holds a certain energy for me, and I have some wonderful memories from there; sleeping with friends under a big sheltering tree, meditating on the beach and getting cooled off in the high waves of the Atlantic. This time around I got eaten by a big sand fish thanks to the Tobina!
One of the next days I got an email from Magdalena announcing she was in Lisbon to apply for a visa for her South America travels. She had timed it to see me once again before I would leave for Brazil. I met up with in the center where she used to sit and paint and sell paintings back when she had lived there and we enjoyed a nice evening together, kissed some more and I managed once again to make good money with my guitar and singing. A little Norwegian girl was especially fond of me, and at one point she took over the singing with “hang down your head Tom Dooley”.
My second last night in Lisbon, Magdalena took the Tobina and I to her friends' house where she was staying. We had a chilled evening smoking marijuana and listening music with her friends and we all ended up sleeping there. Came morning and I had to say my more definite goodbye to both the Tobina and Magdalena. Ina had made a beautiful bracelet for me, just the right colors with a decorated wooden sphere and tying it two times around my ankle it fitted perfectly. The Tobina was uncertain of their travels, they considered going to Morocco as fall was coming, but going back towards their native homes through Spain and France was also a possibility for them. Magdalena would be spending a few more months in Portugal saving up money for her South American adventures, and she was considering both Bolivia, Ecuador or Brazil. Of course I luringly recommended Brazil and the World Rainbow Gathering. I hugged and kissed my friends goodbye and went back to spend a cozy last European evening with my Portuguese family.
Having given away my white synthetic suede wind breaker to a homeless guy, my sock poi to Magdalena, a jar of my mom's honey to my Portuguese family and mysteriously and unnoticed having lost two t-shirts, my bags had gotten a bit more empty, or one could say ready to be filled with the indigenous handcrafts I was hoping to find. My plan was to spend around three weeks couch surfing in Rio de Janeiro, practicing my Portuguese, finishing my thesis and getting familiar with the Brazilian vibe. Then I would go to an orphanage where I had negotiated a year long volunteer position as a social educator. Come January I was planing to spend some weeks in the national park of Carakaó, where the World Rainbow Gathering (the Worldbow) would take place. The Worldbow - like the European Rainbow Gathering - is intended to bring the peaceful, spiritual and idealistic family together from all over the world, and it can take place in a country only one time until it has passed all possible countries. I was quite excited for that, though there were still many months to go.
It was the 5th of October and my day of flying. With only a little trouble getting my 1.65 fire staff aboard the plane, I blasted off to Brazil and my third time on the South American continent.

~~~ To be continued. Love and light everyone ~~~

Sunday, 25 December 2011

The European Rainbow Gathering and a short romance

About a Rainbow
It was near the end of August and after three days and three nights on the road I had arrived at my destination – the European Rainbow Gathering in Salto, Portugal. I had no clue if Walter and Ina had arrived yet, last time I knew of them was when they got picked up in Aurillac. Toby and Erik however I had SMS news from. Apparently, they had tricked themselves to a train ride from the middle of Spain to Portugal, but being a night train and them falling asleep, they did not notice that the train turned about and took them all the way back to San Sebastian, where they had been the day before! I simply had to laugh at this message, even if I then knew it would still be a few days before my fire dancing brothers would arrive.
My friends, I am getting ahead of myself. I guess I should talk a little about what a Rainbow Gathering is. Or, I mean, I can talk about at least what a Rainbow Gathering is for me.

First off, it is not a festival. It is a great meeting in nature where anyone are welcome and with only very few rules such as no alcohol, no electronics, no chemicals, respect nature and of course no violence. Essentially it is about healing oneself. Not a kind of healing specifically for illness or depression, more so a kind of healing from all the unconscious and manipulative influences from our societies, which we are the powerless recipients of every day; political situations we are inclined to relate to, news of war and death across the world we forcibly are made aware of, educations we preferably should complete, careers we ought to pursue, money and things we should own, what clothes to wear, what things to eat, how thin and beautiful we should be and on it goes. Shortly put; influences that try to tell us who we are or who we should be, in typical Rainbow language referred to as Babylon (taken from the Rasta Fari religion).
A Rainbow offers one some most welcome time away and the opportunity to find back to oneself and ones inner feelings. As such it heals us from the influences of Babylon.
The influences we will find at a Rainbow on the other hand, are those of wild nature, acoustic music, dancing, chanting, body and mind stuff, organic and healthy food and generally warm and caring people who will listen and accept you, whoever you may be, as long as you go by those few rules mentioned. There are no leaders at a Rainbow. It is not commercial in any way. You can choose to donate money (who will only go to support the family), you can choose to help with all the work that need to be done (gathering food, cooking, cleaning, digging shit-pits, etc.), but no one will oblige you to do any of these. Many countries have their national gatherings and then there are those that are meant to bring people together from all over, like this yearly European one I will tell you about. As tradition has it, a Rainbow will last for one moon cycle, beginning on a new moon, a full moon celebration in the middle and then ending the day before the next new moon. I arrived after the full moon celebration, unfortunately.

Okay, that was me relating to some of what I have found a Rainbow to be. There is a lot more to be said I am sure, and every single person will have a different understanding. But actually, I do not think it is that important to understand it. One of the ways a Rainbow heals, is teaching how to let go, to stop trying to understand the world, instead to just be and be happy.
Let us now get back to my tale and this one particular gathering and what happened there.

Last days of the European Rainbow Gathering 2011
The Rainbow land consisted of a big mountainous pine-like forest, with small creeks and springs forming a network of running water throughout. People had put up their tents and teepees, tarps and hammocks, and many of them in small clusters with bonfires for the night and for cooking. Usually the various clusters would represent the differing families, like a French one, a Great Britain one, the Canarian one, and so on. Next to the forest a big plain had been prepared for the sacred main fire. This was where the family would gather to have food circles three times a day - "bring your own bowl". Food circles are a central Rainbow thing and it starts with everyone holding hands and singing traditional Rainbow songs together for then to mount into a giant AAUUUMM. Imagine a thousand people or more auming together this way. It is indeed powerful. Then servers from the kitchen will walk around with huge pots of vegan meals, serving equally to all. The servers and the people cooking are just family like everyone else, who felt they would go and help.
In case there are not enough workers for any necessary task, a call will be initiated, where a group together for example will yell “HELP TO THE KITCHEEEN”. The spread out family who hear the call will then together in groups pass it on, and as such the whole family will know about important messages in no time. “FOOD CIRCLEEE”, “MUSICIANS TO THE HEALING AREAAA”, “WOOD FOR THE KITCHEEEN”, etc,. Simple, easy and motivating way to communicate between often thousands of people.
Two days after my arrival I rejoiced bumping into Ina and Walter. It turned out they had put their tents up just 20 meters from mine and had arrived the same day as me (the day after the storm). Then the day after meeting them, Toby and Erik finally arrived and our little group was together again. However at a Rainbow everyone is with everyone. Colors, creeds, nationalities, genders, all that does not matter. “We are one big family”, is the idea.
I had beautiful days together with the family, playing music in circles, juggling, philosophizing about life, laughing, dancing around fires to the sound of djembe drums roaring through the night, chanting, enjoying the fresh mountain air and the beautiful nature, bathing naked in cold and clear mountain rivers, the same places where we would wash our clothes, and so on.
I had many wonderful encounters with people as well, too many to relate every single one here. Among them were a group of Romanians traveling together who we shared many meals with, there was Alfredo, a Spanish theater actor and singer biking around the Iberian Peninsula and whom we had some stellar jam sessions with, Aska, a Japanese girl with whom I did sun meditations with on rainy days, Christian and Malaika, two Danes (the only ones left from the Danish family when I arrived) with an incredible and beautiful energy around them. I also spent some more time with Dani and Kati, the reiki healers and recycling clothes tailors whom I had spent the night in the church with during the storm. I ended up giving them my only pair of jeans, they were a bright blue color and I thought they would be perfect for them to re-tailor. Besides they were heavy for me to carry and I thought where I would be going, I would not need such relatively warm pants.
Here are some special moments I would like to share, starting with one morning especially worth to mention; I got up and went to Toby's tent to get him up as well. As I spoke his name I noticed how Ina's shoes were outside his tent. Next thing was a confirming morning voice “Ir'm uhp”, and then Toby tumbling out of his tent completely naked. I asked him, pointing at Ina's shoes and with His Nakedness in front of me, if I could put two and two together, and he nodded. After that day Toby and Ina formed a couple and their feelings for each other grew and grew and soon they became to me what I referred to as 'the Tobina'!
One specifically enchanting night was when we went – a group of six or so – to the Shambala, a big round beautifully decorated tent, located higher up the mountain for special reasons like reiki healing and yoga sessions. That night there would be story telling with Tom Thumb, an English actor and story teller who would convey fairy tales around a fire to a tent packed with eager listeners. His stories were captivating and so much better than any movie I have ever seen. Extra special was it when he conveyed a story from the Norse mythology, a story which I in my younger days had performed as a theater play in school, and the very main character, Loki, had been played by me. After the story I had to raise my arm and let everyone know how he had brought me back to that time and how his telling of the myth had touched me deeply.
One night around the sacred main fire, an elder named Flantuzzi - a Puerto Rico born American - was telling stories of his life. He told us about Woodstock back in 69, about his travels around the world, about how he had fathered four children, all the while he would be playing guitar and singing between his tales. It was a very cosy night and Flantuzzi managed to create something of a nostalgic ambiance. After one of his songs he let know he had brought CD's with his recordings and they were up for trade. And so one day I found him to get a hold of his CD and he gave me one just there. I told him I would trade it for something and he merely pointed out where his tent was. The day after I sought him out and I offered half a jar of my mom's honey, that I had brought with me from Denmark. He looked at me and noted if it was not too much, but I replied that if I have the honey, I will enjoy it and share it with others, and if he had the honey, he would enjoy it and share it with others. "I like the way you think, brother", he said, sealing the trade.
Ahh, one very delightful night was just before the Canarian family were leaving. They had invited everyone for food and music at their camp and there we were, singing and celebrating together. There were truly some of the most positive vibes I have felt in a long time, and the Canarians were so kind, sharing chapati bread, nuts, chocolate and chai with everyone present and on top of that they were absolutely brilliant musicians with crazy improvised instruments. “THANK YOU BOBBYYY” we all yelled at the sky, after having jammed some of Marley's classics. An amazing energy that night.
Days, nights, and time in general flowed together at the Rainbow. The sun in the sky would be the way to tell the part of the day, and with a keen eye one could do the same with the stars at night. A traditional Rainbow saying, when saying goodbye to someone, is a jokingly, “See you in five minutes”! It does not mean that we will actually see each other again in five minutes. Maybe so, but the point really is that time is but a concept and that we will meet again whenever time is right. I really like that saying, I feel how it is liberating me from the stressing punctuality I suffer from, for having lived the Scandinavian 'big city life' throughout many years.

A romance that did not last
One day I was juggling on the big plain, and I saw this girl lying in the grass. I recognized her from last year's gathering in Finland; she was Keke, a beautiful and playful English girl who I had had a splendid time with last year. We immediately started hugging, talking, laughing, playing, singing, just like we had done last year. Though this time around our time together would turn out to be more intense. The night of the day we met we were sitting together around the sacred main fire with many others, my arms around her while she leaned against my chest. Guitars, drums and flutes were playing and people were singing and chanting. I looked at Keke and I simply just had to kiss her right there. She kissed me back and I think literally our lips did not part for about half an hour. It was a long and tender kiss, and it felt like our spirits melted together, my heart and body tickling with energy.
After that we started to spent a lot of time together. The nights would get very cold, so it was as well very welcoming with one more body in the tent to keep warm. She was a very idealistic girl, interested in natural medicine, yoga, being like a child (seriously, she was like one at most times) and she dreamed of starting an NGO in a third world country one day. I saw myself in her and with Toby's remarks of how we fitted perfectly together, I seriously starting thinking if this actually could be the beginning of something special.
Days went by and slowly the mountain started emptying for people and tents. The new moon was approaching, which meant the Rainbow would be over, and so people were leaving. When the final day came a big ritual took place at the big plain, and people were reminded by an elder to take the Rainbow with them wherever they went. Erik and Ina had already left, and Walter and Toby left soon thereafter, while Keke and I stayed behind to help with the cleanup. For those of you who had read my former update, you might remember that rudraksha seed in a leather string I had been given by Walter for luck on the road and which I had lost upon jumping the river. Well, just before leaving, whether it was by extraordinary coincidence or pure magic, Walter found that very rudraksha seed right on the spot where I had jumped the river. It had indeed granted me luck on the road to the Rainbow, I had lost it upon arrival, and now, just before leaving the Rainbow to go back on the road, the very same person that gave it to me in the first place found it and could offer it once more. Coincidence? Nah, that must have been a stroke of fate...
It was raining a lot those days after the new moon and there was word out that the family was gathering anew in Afife, a small beach town some hundred kilometers West of there. Given the mountain weather had been pretty rough – rainy days and cold nights – the reports of a sunny climate at the beach we found very attractive. And so Keke and I decided to hitchhike there and with good luck (the rudraksha seed yet again priding my strawhat) we arrived the same evening of the day we left.
Indeed a lot of family had gathered at the beach. The water – being the Atlantic Ocean – not the warmest, made for refreshing swims, yet the waves were surfing huge so generally not the best swimming conditions. Keke and I had put my tent up some sand dunes away from the rest of the family. We desired some tranquility, and though the family indeed embeds that word in many ways, just being two with the sea and the sands we thought would somehow top it.
Some days passed and the police started to demand the family's departure. It was quite understandable actually, given there was an official campsite very close by, where tourists supposedly should stay, and then top it with a lot of naked hippies smoking weed at the paying tourists' beach. So slowly the family started to move away from the beach, but just up the nearby mountain range on the other side of town. Keke and I however, put on our most civilized clothes, and with my tent located away from the family, we hoped we would pass as regular tourists and that my tent would not be noticed by the police. Kinda hypocrite but funny as well and we did indeed manage, at least for how long we lasted..!
As Keke and I was spending time together, metaphorically speaking you could say there was starting to get sand in our relationship! Literally we had sand everywhere and in all our things, but I guess that is fairly uninteresting!! What happened between us was we started to disagree on some points and I personally felt she was stealing my energy. She really just wanted me to realize some things, like how my future plans and my studies (I am still undergoing my master thesis at this time) were things I could - implying I should - let go off. In many ways I knew she was right, but I am not that kind of person that listens well to people when they tell me what to do, and so I was insisting on going through with what I had planned. We had quite the back and fourth discussion one night in the tent, when she wanted me to come back with her to England and do some squatting in London, and she already had ensured a ride for both of us from an English brother. I had a plane ticket to Brazil from Lisbon a month later, and wanting to learn Portuguese I could really not see the logic in her plan. She said if we really were to make this work, I should come with her and I could always easily hitchhike back to Portugal after some weeks in London.
We had spent less than ten days together and I was already starting to feel strangled by these discussions and what felt like demands to me. Then I was starting to get a bit sick with something like a stomach block (opposite of diarrhea) and camping on a beach in a state of sickness is not very comfortable. And so one morning after 10 days together, I simply decided that now I would leave for Porto. Though I told Keke she could come with me, she took those news very badly, and after we in deafening silence had packed all our things and I had put my tent down, she wanted to let me know some very disheartening truths about me, using quite the cruel words and she did indeed manage to hurt me. I had made up my mind though, and in the end I guess I was just not feeling for her, what I really should be feeling, for us to continue down a path together. One could say I had been fooled by the 'idea of love'.
So I found internet in Afife, got in contact with a couchsurfer who very admirably agreed to host me already from that same night, and I bought my train ticket and left for Porto. The last time I saw Keke, short time after those cruel words she left me with, she was smiling and laughing together with some English family, being her usually self. “I can't have hurt her that badly”, I thought to myself as the coast terrain drifted by outside the train window, the train heading southwards to Porto. I felt both sad and liberated at the same time, and with the lesson learned, that even when someone seems perfect, it is not necessarily who you should be with.

And this is where I will leave you this time my friends. I hope you all had the merriest of Christmases and see you all in five minutes. Love and light, everyone.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Street performers' festival, magic and arriving at the Rainbow

With Frenchies through France
Middle of August, straight from the EJC, Toby, Ina, Erik, Jacque and Gaëlle (the two Frenchies who we had joined forces with on the road) and me made it to the border of France on the first day. We spend the night in a tunnel under a train station and were woken up by some train authority who thought we best not miss more of the day! Jacque had explained to us that if we made it to Bordeaux, from there we could drive with his friends to Aurillac where the street performer festival would be. “There's six of us”, I reminded him, but he said it would not be a problem. And so, against our hitchhiker's pride and cheap travel budgets we decided to stick together and go with public transport to Bordeaux. And I must say, I do really enjoy traveling with train, especially when your travel mates are up for silly acrobatic and juggling sessions inside one train coupe after another.
When we arrived in Bordeaux the promised lift showed up. The van pulled over and out of it jumped seven persons, all lovely Frenchies, jugglers and musicians alike. After a short lunch break, waiting for a nearby police patrol to pass and where the Frenchies' roquefort had me bring fourth a jar of my moms honey (mmmh), we filled up the van, three up front and ten in the back and sat off for Aurillac. I was likely to take the price for the most filling with my bags, guitar and my new 1.65 meter long fire staff I had acquired at the EJC.
It was an intense ride, two people lying at the floor at all times and the rest sitting crammed together in the practically furnished back of the van. Though both space and air were short, a guitar, light percussion, a concordian, a harmonica and Erik's mesmerizing Likemba were generously passing hands and I even had the honor of leading various sing along songs with “Bohemian Rapsody” topping the energy outlet. We felt like a big family and had a fun and friendly ride, however at one point after dark fall – my turn on the floor – the crammed together sensation, air shortage and almost complete darkness except for the bit of moonlight that entered, had my thoughts drift to how it must have been like for my refugee boys from the Red Cross camps, to be smuggled, stuffed in trucks through months on end with constant danger of getting caught, separated from their families and towards an unknown future. Thankfully these thoughts did not last long. With these beautiful people hardly only positive vibes could persevere and soon thereafter at some point in the night we arrived safely to Aurillac.

Street performers' festival in Aurillac
The van had driven us to a hillside above the town. Two other cars arrived, some friends of our new friends, and so it was quite the big camp getting ready for some days of all the spectacular arts you could possibly imagine. Among these other cars where an Argentinian brother, Walter (yes, that was his Argentinian given name), an artisan and autodidact mind/body therapist with beautifully kept dreadlocks, seeds and feathers forming necklaces and other decorations on his body, loose colorful clothes, a free spirited and strong willed personality and just about my age. Describing himself as a nomad, he had been traveling the world for seven years and now he was on his way from Germany to the Rainbow in Portugal, but having gotten picked up by some Frenchies he had been convinced to tag along and check out Aurillac for the festival. Practically he shared that bit of Toby, Ina, Erik and my story and we bonded with him immediately.
On our first day when we walked into town we passed a market and I saw my opportunity to buy the hat I had been planing for to protect my Scandinavian skin. I found a simple straw hat with a cowboyhattish shape which appealed to me and I got a good bargain on it. As soon as I returned to camp I decorated it with a feather I had with me, given to me by my dearest friend Steffie before my departure from Denmark. A feather for speed.
The days at the festival passed as such: Every morning (or maybe a bit closer to noon) we would get up and have breakfast. It turned out Walter had a passion for coffee and was indeed skilled in brewing it. We easily passed hours on the hillside overlooking the beautiful old town and the higher mountains in the distance. One day we plucked elderberry and Toby gifted us with an incredible rich boiled down elderberry drink. After these timeless mornings/middays we would head down to town to walk around and enjoy the many skilled and oh so French(!) performers filling up the streets. From mimes to musicians, jugglers to painters, poets, theaters and many kinds of alternative arts. You needed just to open your eyes and ears and there would be someone doing something right there in front of you. The most amazing performance was a fire show one evening--
Three people inside a circle of candles; one young girl recording her singing and looping it into beautiful harmonies while another young girl with blond hair wearing a beautiful white dress and an old man with a big gray beard, long gray hair and dressed completely in black would be weaving in and out of each other, wielding various fire blazing instruments. It was enchanting to behold. Especially when coming from the EJC where tricks and technique are the highlights, this performance centered itself on a spiritual expression for any audience to interpret on his or her own. Truly these were masters of fire and Toby, Erik and me, without a doubt way more technical than these performers, were completely overtaken by this way of connecting and dancing with fire. It was truly inspiring beyond words.
Every night loud and big samba orchestras would be rampaging through the resonating streets with huge crowds of quite the drunk Frenchies dancing and enjoying themselves. I personally chose to settle in rather than joining the rampage. I am simply not entertained by a crowd of heavily alcoholized people anymore. How we get older, eh...
It was a very cool and diffferent festival and we were all very happy we had decided to come there. But after some four days we all agreed it was time to move on, as the Rainbow would not last forever. Walter obviously joined our small group and together him, Toby, Erik, Ina and me packed our things (after another long breakfast/lunch) and walked to what on Toby's map appeared to be the best spot to start from. “Rainbow here we come”.

Magic before the Rainbow
Hitchhiking five people together will rarely succeed. Knowing this we were prepared to split up as soon as the first ride would present itself. Walter and Ina were the first two to go. Before they jumped in the car, Walter gave Toby, Erik and me a rudraksha seed each tied in a leather string. Rudraksha means eye of Shiva and Walter meant for them to bring us luck on our journey. I tied mine around my strawhat, figured Steffie's feather for speed could do with the company.
The next car that stopped had space for only one, and not minding the lone travel I parted with Toby and Erik, wishing them good luck and a “see you at the Rainbow, brothers”. And indeed, whether it were for the seed, the feather or neither, great fortune smiled upon me. I caught ride after ride and not only did these trusting people help with my way, but each and one of them had something to offer. Some gave me bread or pastry, some vegetables, one gave me a small tin can with Finnish licorice and even one gave me three beers to enjoy in the hot sun while waiting where he had dropped me off. Most amazingly though, completely freely, two separate rides offered me money right out of their own purses. I was reluctant to accept it, but both told me they had been inspired by conversing with me and the idea of the Rainbow appealed to them, and so they insisted and I ended up taking the money from them both.
After all these most generous rides I stranded in San Sebastian in Northern Spain the day after I had parted with the group. After about an hour of no luck I decided to check the train prices and found that a ticket all the way to Portugal would cost me 39 Euro. The beautiful woman who had dropped me off in San Sebastian had given me 40 Euro along with the words “these will help you take you to where you need to go”. I could not ignore this coincidence and bought my ticket straight away. Once in Portugal I got off at a small border town somewhere around the middle. I needed to go North and I caught a ride to a bigger city – a kind old man who offered me fruits. I found my way to the right highway entrance, but after two hours with no luck I gave up and took to the bus station. The ticket for Braga, the city where I needed to go, was 18 Euro and again it coincided with one ride I had gotten in France, a Portuguese man who had offered me 20 Euro to aid me in my travels. In total I had received 60 Euro and I had used 57 of it to arrive to Braga. I was sure to send many grateful thoughts to these beautiful and generous people as I sat in the bus, as well as some to Walter and Steffie for the rudraksha seed and feather decorating my hat. Indeed I felt enchanted.
Passing Porto on the way to Braga three peculiar looking men got on the bus. Two white men with long hair, dressed in worn mat yet artistically decorated shirts and an old and fair to say round Indian man, with black beard, warm dark eyes, a turban around his head and a walking stick. I easily recognized these as Rainbow brothers and they had as well noticed a brother might be on the bus from my fire staff and Andean woven guitar cover amongst the luggage. The three men turned out to be yogis, one was from Czechoslovakia the other from Germany and both of them the disciples of their Indian guru, or Baba (father) which he was preferably called.
In Braga we found that the last bus to the mountain village where we needed to go had left already and there would be no more until next day. After some discussion we decided to share a taxi to take us up the mountains. Not very Rainbow like, but it was still light and we all wanted to get there and spend the night with the family. We drove for about an hour when we arrived at the mountain village, five kilometers from the Rainbow. In the mean time it had gotten dark and what was a small rain when we left Braga had turned into a heavy shower and lightning storm. The driver said he feared he could not take us further as the roads would be too muddy for the car to handle. With the sky literally falling down on us we easily saw his point and Baba asked him to drop us off at the local church. We found shelter under an outdoor roof just outside the entrance door. And now my friends, hold on to your pants for this is where the magic truly starts!
Upon arriving at the church, first thing I did was to see if the big wooden door was locked. It was, but at the very moment I pulled down the door handle, lights under the roof turned on. “Convenient” I thought to myself, wondering if I had triggered some mechanism. We settled down, prepared our humble beds when suddenly a lightning struck nearby and all the light of the town went out. That is, all but the light that was under the roof. “It must be a divine light”, I joked at the time, but after what happened next I was ready to believe it.
We got comfortable in a circle and I started to gently play my guitar. Baba asked if any of us had some hot chai to drink, but we did not and so instead he prayed for some chai. Shortly thereafter a car drove up through the still heavy rain. It was a Galician couple with their dog, also on the way to the Rainbow, but like us they would have to spend the night under the church roof sheltered from the storm. We helped them unload what they needed from the car and what do you know, they brought with them a thermal can with hot chai which they immediately shared with us.
“Wonderful” Baba said and with my Spanish I translated and thanked the couple for him. “Do any of you have any food?” Baba asked next. No one had and so he started praying again. About five minutes after a local man came up to us through the rain. It was no one less than the mayor of the village, and with him he brought a crate full of crackers, bread, cheese, cacao milk and butter. I was amazed. Spanish somewhat resembling Portuguese I translated for Baba again and thanked the mayor for his kindness.
Then Baba wanted to know if there was a toilet we could use. I asked the mayor and he showed us one behind a nearby building. Its last visitor had not been too thoughtful and some shit was stuck on the inside. The mayor himself fetched a toilet brush and cleaned it for us. He left, came back with some more blankets and bid us a good night. I told Baba how kind a man I thought the mayor had been, and Baba told me with a glimpse in his eye that it was because of the little man inside the mayor, that it was Jesus inside him. Beautiful words to take to bed and with the sound of the rain, now but a drizzle, chai and food in my stomach, breathing fresh mountain air and being amongst my Rainbow family, I had a very good night's sleep.
The following day the Galician couple helped Baba up the mountain along with one of the yogis in their car. I had had some time to talk with them the night before, and their names were Dani, Kati and the dog Kana. They were reiki healers and tailors, cutting up and stitching together old clothes to make new for selling and wearing. I had them take most of my bags up with them as well, as I figured it would be too hard walking five kilometers up mountain with all my stuff. The other yogi met an acquainted in the town so I decided to walk up on my own. I walked about halfway when I was picked up by some family and driven the last bit.
It was still raining when we arrived and I was without my things as the Galician couple had them in their car. After about half an hour break at the welcome point, with hugs, chapati bread, coffee and “welcome home” salutations from the family sitting around the sheltered bonfire there, I sat out to search for Dani and Kati. It took me about an hour before I very luckily, given the big mountainous forest that was the Rainbow land, bumped into Dani and got my things.
I waited till the rain stopped and put up my tent next to a small river running through the forest. Right after finishing I jumped over the river to explore the other side, but after just a few paces I instinctively raised my hand to check for the rudraksha seed and I realized it had fallen off my hat. I searched thoroughly on both sides of the river but did not find it. “It must have fallen into the river during the jump” I thought. I wondered if it would mean for my good fortune to end, but decided against it. I had arrived safely, my tent was up, and now the seed was flowing down the river to some others in need. It was near the end of August and I was finally at the Rainbow.

~~~ To be continued. Love and light everyone ~~~

Friday, 25 November 2011

The beginning and EJC

The beginning
Let me take you back a few months. The 5th of august 2011; After working three and a half year for the Red Cross in Danish refugee camps (in Denmark, yes, we have such), I had happily and definitively quit my job to embark on a journey without any planned return. I had some savings as well as I advantageous had not finished my master thesis yet, allowing me to extend the state scholarship all us privileged Danes receive for studying. So with my backpack packed with clothes, juggling and fire equipment, snorkel and diving mask (for when those times would come), my netbook, my tent, three jars of mom's honey and my guitar over my shoulder, I set out for my first destination, the EJC2011 (European Juggling Convention) in Munich, South Germany. I took the bus to Folehaven from where I easily caught my first ride south towards the border. I was dropped off at a gas station around Tappernøje where ironically my top boss from the Red Cross coincidentally appeared. She was going south and took me all the way to one of the ferry crossings, and granted me my final chance to whine about the Red Cross bureaucracy to the very person in charge. At the ferry crossing two men were kind enough to pick me up so I could cross for free. None of them had ever helped a brother this way before, “what if it was a Roma” were their exact words, and I strategically chose not to comment on that.
It took me one more day before I arrived in Munich on the 6th. From there I made my way through the city with a fellow female juggler I had met (they are always recognizable from the clubs attached to their bags). When we were about to register she confessed to me she was only 14 and actually not allowed without a parent. Kind as I am I signed the legal parent papers, taking responsibility for her and hoping she was not a violent psycho or any other kind of trouble maker. We made it in, her being very excited for this grand event about to unfold, and me feeling a kind of fatherhood for the first time! First I dropped her off at her friends, raised my finger and (half) jokingly told her to be good, then I made my way to the camp of my “Anesia Flames” fire crew (my Copenhagish fellow jugglers), Toby, Morten and Anton and put my tent up next to theirs. The next day my Portuguese friend Clara, who I know primarily from juggling meetings in Copenhagen, showed up and I found a spot for her tent next to ours.

The EJC2011
It was an excellent nine days, in spite of some unstable weather and the conservative Bavarian state police causing some problems; slack lines not allowed in the trees, no sleeping in the supposed to be 24 hour open Olympic gym (so they started closing it at night), no outside noise after 10pm as it would disturb those neighbors that were not there (imagine thousands of jugglers not allowed to cheer up their fire performing friends... it did not happen neither!) and arresting people from smoking some natural herbs! But as I said we had a good time, meeting with old friends, making new ones, lots of workshops, nailing new tricks, watching incredible shows, getting inspired, party party and all that other awesomeness that constitute the yearly event.
Among old friends I met with Jean-Hicham, a very talented Frenchy with half Moroccan origins, long dark dreadlocks and a fast mathematical brain that have him juggle seven balls (for those of you who understand this kind of difficulty). I also met with Ina, an incredible sweet German girl with naturally occurring standing up blond curly hair somewhat resembling a cauliflower and very gifted within the arts of contact ball. I knew both of them from last year's convention in Finland and the then closely by occurring Rainbow Gathering, from where we (and a fourth person who apparently has chosen the way of the damned by not showing up at this year's convention) hitchhiked together all the way to Sweden.
I met with other old friends as well, worth to mention was the one night with guitar jamming on a high hill under a full moon with Czech Disa who beautifully mastered the concordian. Among new friends I made there was a beautiful German girl named Jasmin, with half Indian origins. She hung out with us a lot and were both an adept poi and staff spinner as well as a guitar player and singer. So we had a lot of fun together. Some time after the convention, upon me being tagged on a picture with Jasmin in Facebook, my Chilean friend Enzo (who I know from my time at the Galapagos Islands some years ago) wrote me “if that isn't Jasmin I'm with?” - I just love how small this world is sometimes...
During the final days at the traditional gala show, while waiting for it to start Toby initiated me in how to do this neat kind of paper plane. We did one each, but by taking proper care in the creation process, I surpassed my teacher. Proof of this follows here: I stood up on a chair and threw the plane hard and high. It did a downward spiraling circle and in front of hundreds of jugglers cheering and applauding it landed perfectly right back in my hands. I bowed gracefully and sat down again.
The gala show was quite amazing and on our way home from there, Toby, Anton and me went in a pizzeria. It was late and the owning family was sitting down at a table and talking. I overheard them speaking in Farsi (Persian), and from my time working with Afghani and Iranian refugees in the camps, I happened to have picked up a bit of Farsi. So I introduced myself in their mother tongue and ended up singing the one song I had learned from the refugees. It earned me a free pizza and beer, but more importantly a lot of very surprised faces and warm cheek to cheek smiles from my new Iranian friends. I promised to come back next day with my guitar and give them the full show. So I did and the whole family had turned up and I found myself playing for children to grandparents and filming cameras. A Dane singing Soltane Ghalbam, a fifty year old Iranian folk song - they could hardly believe it. Afterwards the family went with me to the convention to watch the open air and free for all fire gala show. How some music and a bit of a foreign language can connect people is truly amazing...
Later that night I met Swedish Erik. He was adopted from Peru and though he completely lacked any of the language or culture, he visually appeared as a full blooded Inca. Should be mentioned his poi technique was literally in world class. We had fallen in conversation after some fire dancing, and he asked if he could join me on the road after the convention, as he always had wanted to go to a Rainbow Gathering and there was one in Portugal where I wanted to go. “Of course you can, brother” was my reply.
The convention came to an end and I said my warm goodbyes to my many new and old friends, especially my Danish fire crew as I knew I would not be dancing with them for a long time to come. Next stop would be Portugal and the European Rainbow Gathering, and with me and ready for the road was Erik, Toby and for the second year in a row, Ina. The four of us had barely made it out of the convention grounds with all our bags and newly purchased juggling equipment when we ran into two Frenchies. They were going to Aurillac in France and we decided to share the way and bought a group train ticket. On the way through Germany the Frenchies had us convinced to come with them directly to this famous street performing festival happening every year in Aurillac. And so, the Rainbow Gathering in Portugal would have to wait a bit, street performers in Aurillac it was.

~~~ To be continued. Love and light everyone ~~~