Saturday, September 20, 2008

Quiet Fire

Times tough, sometimes. Groggy was my reality this week; still needing to chill, a bit. Now I am getting ready to return to Agua Potavel. That takes me way outta the loop. New vocabulary word = Malembe*.

Another Bright Moment of the week was meeting Vovô. He is the director of the Terreiro Ilê Aiyé Cururu, Community Education/Cultural Center and Ground Zero for Black Consciousness Bahia Style. He reminded me of being with Drew Nieporent; if only for the phone juggle. Vôvô is a sweet and lovely, highly focused and unassuming player. Every few moments the phone would ring for him. Several times he spoke between two desk phones and a cell, cradling one in each ear and holding the third. He ‘da man.

Curiously, I had overslept the morning of the appointment. I had an agreement to share a cab or Kombi with Lauri; we were both meeting with him. I knew that he was a key player, and wanted to be ready. This was the same morning after the Eguns; got it? I never heard Lauri knock on my door. She thought that I was ill, since I am such a light sleeper. She split; then I woke up. Frantic, I started walking in search of a cab, it was 7:55 AM. I had needed to catch the 8:00 AM Lancha. Mar Grande was 15-20 minutes away. Bad math.

Augusto, the Admin. Director at Sacatar, (Ursinho to some) had just arrived to work on his Moto and shot me a “Whatdafuck happ’nd to you?”-look. He got back on his bike and found me a Moto-Taxi, then insisted that we go to Bom Despacho for the Ferry Boat, which I hate. The guy was good, had a fast bike and I coulda heaved if I had food in me. He even charged less than normal. The ferry was smooth, and I found a cab quickly.

My cabbie had grown up in Liberdade, home of Ilê Aiyé and the largest Black community in Salvador, think Harlem. He was quite happy and nostalgic to have a fare going there. When I arrived, I realized that I had blown it again….”Não pode entrar com Bermuda!” I hadn’t thought about it, rolling out of bed. I had imagined the community center side, and forgotten about it being a Terreiro, (long pants and generally white/light colors being the standard uniform) . I aspirated, “Sh h-“ “…..Pois espera voce. Posso ligar pra ele na oficina.” The guard was kind. He had agreed to call up to the office and see if they would waive the regs. Whew-it worked.

The building is huge and beautifully vibrant, with many facilities under their roof. I was surprised when I arrived at his office that Lauri was not there. Her Sacatar project is to create a photo portrait of Liberdade, so she knows the hood. Vovô and I started talking and hit it off immediately. He was curious about my project and glad to hear that I was associated with Danny D. in NY. His last trip to NY had included a meal at Sylvia’s. “Hmm?; well” I said. “I get it, but”. …..

About twenty five minutes later a male assistant interrupted us to tell Vôvô that his next appointment was here, but there we problems. It was an American woman who needed a translator, because the one she had arranged was ill. “Wasn’t this man, Me, an American? Couldn’t he do it?” They did not seem to realize that I was hip to their conversation, until I started laughing and said, “That must be my colleague. Sim, posso traducir.” The Lancha had gotten stuck in low tide.

Lauri entered not knowing that I was there. We laughed together and quickly filled in the gaps. She jumped right in, only pausing during his incoming calls. I found it curious and stimulating to have to translate for her. By no means fully competent in Portuguese, I believe that my strength with language is getting my point across. Albeit, often circuitously. This time, having to translate someone’s personal thoughts and dreams created a charged dynamic. Having to reflect on how to express the essence of an idea, bouncing it off of her for clarity, and then relating his responses informed me on some of arbitrary boundaries or obstacles I impose on myself, when asking for help. It is true that No, is a small word; big meaning, but small word.

We arrived at some preliminary agreements. There was a possibility for either or both of us to teach a class in their vocational division at a later date. Lauri might receive some great help regarding content for her book, and we made a new good friend. He invited us both back for community events and suggested that I observe their culinary classes. Like Ice melting in a drink, just a natural order of things. Never hold back on dreaming.

* Malembe is a local Angolan dialect Nfiote word by people of ethnic Bantu in province of Cabinda, north of Angola meaning take it easy! Devagar Devagar se vai ao longe!

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