Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Amaralina, no boogie no cry

Lauri was deep in her Liberdade photo essay, so she was not available for the workshop. Nathan was on the fence, considering a part time involvement, if any at all. Rahul now low on funds was willing but needed a stipend. I wanted to engage some of the local folks who had offered to volunteer with us. I hoped that we could sequence it so that my homey’s Kathy and Tracy, both photogs from America could document the results. An overactive mind is a dangerous thing.

Our project would combine art, music and story. As I remembered of San Francisco Bay, many people here flew kites. Hannah suggested that we create a kite (Pipa or Perequita) making workshop. “Let’s fly them on the beach and have kids make a “musical soundtrack” to send the kites into the sky,” I added. Hannah wanted to create more resonance to the project. Collectively we hit on the idea of Wish Kites. Imbuing the kite or its tail with written dreams or wishes, making a design or drawing that symbolized your hopes could create dialogue and the depth of meaning she desired.

Group dynamics with artists can be colorful at best. It seems like everyone either wants to be the remembered garnish, not a carrot or compliment in the soup; or possibly the spice that dictates flavor. Just getting on the same page at the same time in the same room is creative. Nine days later, after scaling down the time frame to two days with Augusto’s help we began to see daylight. I left Thursday for an overnight in Salvador. I had targeted some material needs to bring back to the island. Twisting my ankle running for the bus, precluded any extra walking or shopping. I barely made it to an acupuncturist, skipping all of my previously arranged appointments, before heading back to Itaparica.

Last Saturday morning we arranged for the third time to make a kite template. Afterwards we could forage materials not available from the school or Sacatar. Junho our neighbor and Capoeira teacher, aka Arroz agreed to share kites he had made as a ‘tweener. Mel, a Baiano artist, college prof., and recent heartthrob of one our crew also had some ideas. Saturday became Sunday and now I was short on time to meet Raquel at the hotel to finalize details. By now Nathan was in it to win it so we left the template in his hands. Hannah was coming in from Salvador. She was bringing wooden skewers to use as struts or supports. All good, so I thought.

Rahul and I made it in good time. I had brought a few snacks to tide us over. We ate a bit, put our stuff away and changed into our trunks in preparation to swim after meeting with Raquel. We were told that she had a four P.M. appointment, so we had arrived early. I had a three item shopping list to fill. I asked her about kite string and she insisted that the only place to buy it was a short car ride away. Her only child Jocelyn was just fourteen, going on 27. She was attractive and a typical teen fashion victim who had a perfect command of English with an American accent to match.

From Amaralina to Boca do Rio to Pituba, within less than ten minutes drive we were in an upper middle class sub-division. The shopping mall; yes the mall. I had left Salvador and was in a sterile mid American urban mall. I eschew television and abhor malls. I have previously gotten nauseas and anxious in malls. Generally, I sit in the car and read or walk the perimeter of the landscaped parking area. When pushed, I will attempt the garden store, or elect to enter a store with direct street access. We all do have limits and idiosyncrasies.

It took ten minutes to find the Brinquedo or toy store. They had a hobby desk with a few types of string. Great, now we could go…No-Jocelyn wanted to window shop and possibly buy something. She also needed to stop in one of the “cute espresso café’s. I guess that this was the 4:00 P.M. appointment. I turned to Rahul while we walked through the cathedralic glass atrium with its tile and chrome décor, “I guess this means no swimming. And, you know what, since I did not expect this trip, I do not have much money on me.” Anticipating beachside snacks, we had never had had lunch. F-ed.

When I saw the Siciliano Bookstore, similar to Barnes and Noble; I tried to realize personal gain from this excursion. I went in looking for the Tropicalia catalogue that Michele had hoped that I could find. No dice; but again I was impressed at how quickly current American and international titles were translated into Brazilian Portuguese. We were treated to espressos at a hip café, alleged to be the best cup of coffee in town. On our way to the car, I asked if we could stop and see an art exhibit near the restaurant court that Luis recommended in an earlier email. The photos were well executed and decorative, befitting their environment. We arrived back at the hotel at dusk. Everyone had previously forewarned us that the beach was unsafe after dark.

Having been chosen to be in the advance party offered a secondary goal for us. I wanted to go to the Aguas de Oxala ceremony at Ilê Axé Opo Ofonja; Mae Stella’s Terreiro. I had arranged for Henrique, the Sacatar cab liaison to pick us up by midnight.

For his only wish, Rahul asked if we could have fish for dinner. I thought that if we headed back towards Pituba or Boca do Rio, we would be able to catch a bus to Cabula and the Terreiro. We had been waiting hours for Nathan who had the template and wanted to see this Terreiro. By 6:30 we gave up on him, leaving a note and directions for him.

I picked Yemanja, what seemed like an “institution” of a restaurant. Everything was fresh and well presented, but without much character. Two busses later and almost ninety minutes of waiting in between we arrived at the Terreiro. It was a few minutes before nine.

Opo Afonja is set on the top of a hill in Cabula. The Terreiro sits on probably forty to fifty acres of urban land. Inside the white cinderblock ceremony room, a dozen incarnate Oxala’s were dancing and praising him. Twenty minutes later, just as I was making sense of this service, I realized that the costumed dancers were preparing to exit the room. If I understood what I was seeing, that meant it was all about to end. Moments later outside in the yard, I learned that they start their ceremony at six instead of eight, or eight thirty. Their model fit a working class congregant’s reality. In the dark I walked Rahul around the compound or village identifying the elementary school, museum and various houses of the Orixa, before finding pay phone to call Henrique. He came quickly, and got us home by ten thirty.

Rahul was thirsty. He wanted water or a soft drink. I asked the clerk if he had heard from Nathan, identifying him by name and description. No dice. “Is there a place nearby for a drink?” I asked. “Saia ao mão izquierda, segue na frente, perto da esquina--On the corner, just down the street,” was his reply. We set out walking in the dark.

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