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 CarakaĆ³, 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 ~~~

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