Friday, October 24, 2014

Sao Paulo

On Tuesday I arrive at Sao Paulo’s largest bus station, Tiete. It is also the largest bus station in the known universe. After having spent a weekend at Mestre Ra’s quiet horse ranch in Jundiai arriving here is like a slap in the face. I feel like I am in Total Recall, and I am the one with the guttural accent. Large, concrete - in spirit and form - 80’s architecture dominates.People scurrying around at, for Latin America, high speeds and twerking at antique yet oddly honorable tasks in modern times like being a porter.


One of many Tiete bus terminals,

While it took only 50 minutes to cover the 50km from Jundiai to the northern part of Sao Paulo, it takes me two hours to reach my couch surfing host’s house in the southern part of the Megalopolis. This is not because of traffic, bad public transport or slow driving. On that Wednesday there are not as many cars on the street as I expected, buses go to every corner of the city and the bus drivers are all nephews of Ayrton Senna. No, Sao Paulo is just that big. Twenty million people perched precariously on a steep plateau 50 kilomerts from the Atlantic coast. The place just completely blew my my little Austrian mind - the whole of Austria has roughly nine million inhabitants compared to Sao Paulo's twenty.

I mostly trained capoeira in this city. Every day I would go to another amazing Mestre's academia to learn from the source. My idea that these various capoeira schools mix and meet much more often than the schools in the USA because they are in close proximity to each other is complete bogus. They might as well be on different planets for all the time it would take to get from one to the other. 

What a treat to train with Mestre Catitu in his home town.

OMG I am actually training at Mestre Suassuna's academia!

I kid you not, it took at least 2 hours to get anywhere. During traffic even longer. While it was an easy burden because I was fulfilling many a capoeiristas dream I spent at least 5 hours a day riding an efficient, quick and well organized public transport system. Sao Paulo sits on top of these endless formerly green rolling hills. Now they are endless rolling waves of highrisers.

Sao Paulo

Everytime you catch a glimpse of the horizon you see highrisers stretching into the distance. The concrete jungle simply never ends. I am sure Paulistas would become agoraphobic if you dropped them into the Baja California desert.

Avenida Paulista

Horizons have been defeated

Historically speaking, a city needs certain geographical characteristics, like being next to a large river or easy access to the sea to grow to a world metropolis, especially if you focus on industry and export of raw materials. Sao Paulo doesn’t have any of that. The road to the coast is like a slightly wider than normal, paved Inca Trail. I have no idea why the monster grew from its humble origins in the 1530s to be the largest city in Latin America.

One day I drove to the beach and immediately wished I hadn’t donated my bike to Projeto Kirimuré because riding down this downhihll racetrack of a road that was hewn into jungly cliffs would have been heartattack-inducing, car-overtaking, momma-scaring stuff, Q.E.D. - perfect. Aside from providing a joy ride for this Austrian (downhill + speed = happiness) cycling Capoeira vagabundo this road must have been a complete bitch to transport stuff up and down on in 1920, because, guess what, it still is for the 18 wheelers of modern day. There were at least ten of them pulled over cooling their breaks on the way down.

Want. This. Racetrack.

And don’t for one second think that Sao Paulo’s 18 wheelers are antiquated third world diesel monsters. This is the souther, modern part of Brazil, the developed part, where 80 % of the population gets around town without a car, where there is hardly any trash, no man-sized holes in the road and sewers that work. So when people, even rightfully, say that the world cup was a red card in the face of the poor of Brazil, it may do better to concentrate on the constant southward concentration of wealth instead. It is shocking to walk around towns that make you feel like you are anywhere in Europe or the US while the north and northeast of Brazil resemble Honduras or El Salvador. The disparity in infrastrucutre, cleanliness, maintenance and availability of services, doctors, shops and plain old vegetables is huge. I can not tell you how many times I tried to buy vegetables in a Mercadino after a day of riding in the north to only find onions, tomatoes and carrots. Without my sack of sub-continental Indian spices I would have hated my own cooking after a week.

A sadly depleted sack of spices

I wanted to hate Sao Paulo. I wanted to hate it for its anonymity, for its uniformity, for its formidability. Yet I don’t seem to possess that sort of passion any longer. The last time I had intense third world to Megalopolis culture shock was in 2008 when I went to Hong Kong after a month in Burma. Instead today, I attempt to do that human thing and grow, and desist comparing and judging those who make the free choice to live on an exciting, human anthill vs. those who live in an idyllic, boring small town. 

And there is always wall tattooing going on.
























As bikers we develop an affinity for the safety and tranquility of small country town with nice, shadowy squares and gentle Boa Tardes. But riding bike for that long also means that we have seen as many life style choices as people. And that is beautiful. You think out there in the countryside its too boring, with not enough action and you love the speed and frantic nature of the anthill? Or you think in there its too claustrophobic, somehow un-human and you love the slow evenings and the sounds of nature? It's all fair, as long as we accept other people's choices. Making a judgment about either the backwardness or franticness of others lets us believe that we are different faces of the same coin. And yet it should be obvious that there is no coin, no face and definitely no spoon. Only all of us with the same fears and desires living in different environments. Environments, to which we adapt as best we can. 

So  let us all stop and consider, instead of judging and comparing. Let us admire our common persistence, our hope for a better future. Whether it is the future of an ant or that of a snail. In teh grand sceme of things most of us are not more than that. Let’s drop our need to feel special and think that our way is the best one. 

I personally have no idea how I will reconcile my new found desire to play flute in churches and hang out in small friendly towns with my previous preference for large, exciting cities with lots of action and cultural melting happening. Another ambivalence I am hopefully becoming better at tolerating - Axé Capoeira.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

stuff

So I decided to go on this crazy year long bicycle journey to Brazil with Mestre Acordeon 2 weeks before the thing started. Yes, I know it may have been better to plan this a little longer. Or not. If you are new to this blog you can check the ridicolous chain of events here and here. The first inkling of what I was getting myself into was an excel sheet that I received from Bebum - "why do today if you can do it tomorrow". It was a monster of an equipment list that the B2B crew had put together to ride to Brazil. I also needed to get a bike.

Clearly a bike that only a guy standing on his head would think is fit to ride to Brasil.

It was, in one word, intimidating. I stopped counting at 200, and started thinking of what I could do tomorrow. But it had to be done so I'd go to four different shops and buy… exactly none of the items. Insect repellent, biodegradable soap, water purification methods. Stove, pot, which fuel to use? 500 and one things for a medical emergency (!) kit, clothes, sleeping bag, tools, patch kit, replacement parts. Bear spray, dog whistles, bike bell, reflectors, pepto bismol. It had no end. Though at least it did not recommend diapers for Montezuma's revenge.

I don’t know how (thank you, helpful friends), but two weeks later as I lined up on the first day of my new lives with all the other crazy riders I managed to have everything packed in my panniers and strapped to my ridicolous Recumbent Bike. I was prepared! Nothing could harm me or my trusted steelhorse from here on out.

Sorry, not authorized to go to Brasil!

Of course on that same first day Bebum and I camp out on the beach in San Francisco and the rest, especially Bebum’s bike, and gear and half of my stuff were, as they say, history. I still wonder what the bum did with my greencard. I mean, if he is one thing, he is legal to be a bum in the USA.

So after being robbed of all our stuff Bebum had nothing but his tent, sleeping bag, Chapul's Cricket Bars and some cash left while I had been liberated of my wallet including some cash and all my cards, my clothes, sleeping bag and bike stuff. Fate is an ironic bitch. On the day we left Bebum probably had as much stuff as fellow B2B rider Tora. A day later, not so much. You can read how we stayed positive throughout that crazy second day here. We did not have access to any real resources until my replacement cards came, which was four weeks later in Los Angeles. We could not buy clothes, gear, or tons of food. The little money that Bebum had was spent on a bike for him and fixing it. So we made do. And making do we learned that we didn’t need most of the stuff that was on that monster list. For a month a used Trader Joe's re-usable plastic shopping bag was my second panier. It was a pain in the ass. It worked. I also went shopping with my big ol' five Dollars at Goodwill.

Didn't buy this ridicolous hat.

This one seemed much more stylish at the time.
M. Mago clearly approves.

Before I left my swankily located yet sparsely inventoried apartment to sit my butt on a bike for a year I did not own a lot of stuff either. I had been moving around the world since high school, twenty years by now. Naturally, if you are moving from Austria to Australia as I did, you don’t bring more than what Quantas allows. When I moved to LA a six years later I had two medium sized bags to my name. Another twelve years, five cities, endless road and world trips later I packed up all the belongings that I wanted to keep after the year I was planning to be riding bike. Everything else I gave away.

I remained with two bags of clothes, a bunch of books and a blender. I seem to have an essentially functional relationship with stuff. I need to wear stuff, I like to read stuff and I blend stuff since I recently found out that I can’t eat most things normal in a western diet.

How much stuff someone needs to be happy varies widely from person to person. Some of us need more stuff to be comfortable, some of us need less stuff. Since it was me, not a horse, not a dog, not a woman or a slave carrying my stuff, I was rather sensitive about how much stuff I had. And yet, over the course of a year of riding bike stuff accumulated, again. It's as if stuff, like mana, magically appeares out of thin air. Periodically, I would have to go through my stuff and, you guess right, give stuff away. If you are tired of reading the word "stuff" a lot, you can stuff it.

That fourth t-shirt that a really nice capoeirista gave you in San Salvador? Sorry, donate it, you only end up wearing one to three shirts. Remember him in your heart instead. The biodegradable soap? Donate it, its lighter to use normal soap. Stop washing your hair. The third pair of sports undies? Donate them to Sondermüll. The headlamp? Donate it, you have a bike lamp that miraculously gives light too. Toss the cutting board, are you kidding me? Toss the tent, get a hammock. Keep the knife, stove, pot and your girlfriend’s spices. Keep the sleeping bag. Keep two of every clothing item. Keep your bike tools, a sowing kit and electric device chargers/adapters. Go ride. Still getting to many flats because your bike is too heavy? Throw some stuff out.

The lighter I got the easier I felt.  Bike riding is not only a gloriously meditative and healthy see and smell the world activity. It’s also a direct feedback loop on why possessions are bullshit. Because, like you, I ask myself: Other than clothes, food and a place to sleep what do I really need on a bike? And to take this to a logical conclusion, is my normal life any different?

So, get rid of stuff. Move into a smaller house. Be Dutch. Channel your inner Japanese. Live small. Do what you love, instead of wasting time on work so that you can buy stuff you think will make you happy but that you never use because you have to work so much to pay for it. Work 30 hours instead of 50 and hang out with your kids more.

For those of you who already do this >> great stuff. For those of you, who want to tell me fuck it, I like stuff, that's cool too. Everyone is different. Tora had every item under they sun, just in case. He spent two hours every day organizing his stuff - and it made him happy. I on the other hand did not have so much, went for many swims, did unnecessary bouldering, played flute, wrote some crap that nobody wants to read and watched that grass grow or that small mexican city plaza flow - and it made me happy. Bebum had a didge. And two bikes more than all of us.

I am not the keeper of your spare time and Tora is not the judge of your effectiveness. I can not tell if that 20th pair of jeans really made you happy and Tora doesn't know if that snake venom remover kit should have been in my bags after all. We all are the makers of our own happiness.

That being said. Get rid of some stuff. One day you might have to carry it.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

one year later

In one week it will be one year since Mestre Acordeon, Mestra Suelly and the B2B crew left Berkeley, California for Salvador, Bahia. Clean chains reflected the California sun. Way too much gear made their bikes heavy. Muscles screamed, not accustomed to the daily strain. They thought it would be a long journey but they did not know what it meant to be on the road for over a year. Wet behind the ears, yet eyes brimming with hopes and dreams.






Today, 120 km from Recife and 1000 km from Salvador anyone who takes a minute to look – and many can’t help but do - knows the B2B crew carries with them the hardships of a road less traveled. Long distance riders in the Americas stick to the coasts, avoiding the mountains in the center, but B2B had to cross the central mountain ranges of Mexico, Central and South America several times. Try riding up and down two to six thousand meters of steep, badly maintained mountain roads six times in five months and you will know what these road warriors went through. But up there on those high plateaus is where the cities are, where the capoeira is. And this is a capoeira journey.

They slept in strange places - fields, gas stations, ice cream parlors, on roofs, in really cramped quarters and restaurants or fire stations. They rode in any condition that this good green earth can possible throw at them. Their bikes are dirty, handlebar tape thread-bare, gears creak along and replacement tires are worn out. Their bodies are in no better shape than their bikes and any of them can name you at least three areas that are in need of immediate care or at least very long rest.

Yet that light in their eyes shines on. And as they come closer and closer to their goal it is brighter every day. Salvador is not only their Mestre’s and Capoeira’s home land, it is their promised land. It is what they have been striving for, the final and ultimate reason for why they rode 14.000 km and shot terabytes of film. They work long hours, select and edit material, write story lines and perfect sound conditions. They try not to fall asleep after a long day of riding while their Mestre gives untold numbers of workshops to hungry Capoeiristas. And every day they force their weary bones up from hard floors at 5 am to follow him down the road.

The ever present road, shimmering in the heat, carrying pain and gain in equal measure. Out here, their shadows remain their only constant companion. And as they ride further away from the equator those shadows grow longer and longer, and they suddenly realize that the final moments of this journey of a life time are upon them. Mixed emotions of elation, a sense of accomplishment, gratefulness and gladness for the light at the end of a long tunnel compete for limited space in their toughened hearts. After a year together most everything is limited for them. Emotional capacity, physical endurance and the desire to move forward are all hanging by a bare thread. 

Now their Mestre’s will power keeps them going, helps them reach their goal and finish what they started. A man, only a few days from his 71st birthday, himself suffering from nightly leg cramps and constant back pain, braving various other physical, emotional and spiritual hardships, carries this ragtag group of capoeira cyclists on his tough shoulders through the final month of an epic journey. It could only end this way.


Axé Capoeira

Friday, June 20, 2014

adventures of a cycling hunter-gatherer tribe

Quietly he sneaks up on the little hamlet on a dirt track just of the main road. It helps to have your gear tied down and oiled up when you want to be quiet. You never know if you should let the potential host know you are coming, or be prepared to quietly escape from a bad situation. What will be the better strategy? All we need is a space out of sight so we can sleep in peace and not worry about our bikes too much. If we are able to cook some of us usually go vegetable hunting. Others would rather gut a goat.

All of us had expectations when we started the B2B journey. We thought we would become capoeira super heroes  – sorry, nope.  We thought we would learn how to compose Berimbau Symphonies – not likely. We thought it would be a grand honor and lifetime opportunity to ride with a Capoeira legend like Mestre Acordeon – ok, of course. Impressions of lands and peoples are countless. Any of us could probably go on for hours about all the things we have seen. Some of these expectations were over rated, some of them were true, and some other things we just did not expect at all. As we say in German “Erstens kommt es anders, und zweitens als man denkt”.


For example what it means to live in a modern day hunter gatherer tribe. Not an experience most of us expected to make. Let me describe our normal to you.

After having found save sleeping quarters, cooked and eaten whatever food we managed to find we sleep until just before sunrise. Often we are in a large shared room, at a fire station, at a municipal building, in a gym or in a jail. I miss sleeping on the beach.

 

 It’s hot in Central America, we sleep on the hard floor with a sarong as a blanket or in a hammock, most of us have gotten rid of mats, tents or sleeping bags. We rise from our makeshift beds and start making one or another type of breakfast, packing and cooking simultaneously. Usually there are groups of twos or more that share cooking. Depending on mood and availability we share our different foods. Everybody keeps an eye on Mestre’s progress - that’s how we know when we leave. When we move our steel-horses out on the road we tie down our saddle bags, check the hoofs and the lube and start riding out into the very early morning. Usually, we are the first ones on the road riding through fog and wood fire smoke, past slowly waking up fields and animals. Picture this quiet caravan, gently rolling through verdant landscapes. We ride all day and only take breaks during the heat of mid-day.


We have been doing this for nine months. We have shared food, bedding, hardship and the risks of the road less traveled 24/7. We all know each other’s habits like who you can chat to before they have had their cup of coffee and who is functional at what time of the day. How fast and far we can ride and who does better in the heat or in the cold. For better or worse we are as close to a modern hunter gatherer tribe as you can find. One with service-less cell phones and sporadic internet connections.

What does it all mean? Do we groom each other's pelts and munch on each other’s fleas? (uhm, only a couple of us) Do we have a dominant male and everyone else tries to take his place? (yes and no) We don't fight over our two females, they are in good hands. How do group dynamics function and do we display changed behavioral patterns compared to our previous US west-coast background? 


This changed way of life changes us. Almost naturally our emotional connections have taken on a subconscious strength. We more and more resemble cultures with less individualistic points of view. Because of our shared capoeira back ground we may take to this group life more naturally. We also always try to flow with the circumstance, stay present. We don’t know dates or days of the week. Sometimes we are even in the wrong month. When we are confronted with the real world’s schedules and deadlines we are startled.  We wonder why it all doesn’t just flow in a common and sense making rhythm, hopefully according to seasons and the moon.

When we meet other bicycle touring people they are often surprised that we manage to keep the peace amongst so many of us. They are used to either being loners or democratic ways, majority rule for all decisions. We don’t have this problem. Mestre Acordeon looks for our input but in the end makes the decisions alone. Why is it so easy to accept this? None of us seem to have an issue with not having any real say about where we go, how long we stay or other common travel conflict points. All we care about is food, sleep, capoeira and keeping moving towards our shared goals. This is a marked difference to our daily existence back home where our days are filled with indivuality and constant decision making processes.

I personally did not think it would be so beautiful, easy and even peaceful to fall back into pack mode. To know each other’s strengths and weaknesses. To move as one and rely on each other. Are these instincts so close to our emotional surface, still, after all these millennia of civilization? Would we be happier to live this way even today instead of in our highly individualized cultures? In a tribe of our choosing, of a good size and with not too much gossip?

Do you miss your tribe without knowing it?

Monday, May 19, 2014

Panamerica

You live in the best country in the world, right? In your country you feel at home. There are special places there, places that you can't find anywhere else, that you feel emotionally attached to. Your food is completly tasty (ok, not if you're a Brit) and you would never visit a doctor in a foreign country unless you had to. Even if you suffer corrupt leaders or environmental degradation it is hard for you to imagine a better place to call home.

Have you asked why?

We are all subject to a constant stream of patriotic image creation. Your country's government directs this strategy early on in school (pledge of allegiance) and media outlets all over the world happily continue to feed the nationalistic beast. One or another entity constantly spoon feeds us how we are supposed to think about our selves, our neighbors, our homeland - sometimes the spoon is golden, sometimes its a ladel, sometimes a cudgel. Plenty of historical memes help us interpret our reality. It is easy to base our understanding of our place in the world, our selves and how we relate to people in other countries on these thought patterns.



We all think we come from the best place in the solar system, and the sun specifically shines her rays on our dog's ass.

In the USA people are convinced that they have the best life style in the world. The richest, most developed and monied place in the world. Yet, the USA just kicked off the worst economic crises since below. The healthcare system is a joke and a significant part of the population is excluded from this wealth-creating, resource-consuming machine.


In Austria we base our self image on a long, storied history. We are small now, but we used to be big. Vienna was the original melting pot of the world long before New York or London. Just look at a Viennese phonebook, you will hardly find any german names in there. We used to create art that the world appreciates to this day. We live in a grand, golden past and struggle with the present.


It is difficult for us humans to see this reality because we are group animals. We are used to rolling in a pack. All packs have rules and in exchange for following these we receive the benefits of being part of a group - protection, support and social interaction. I have only discovered one way to counteract this, leaving my leetle Austrian pack. As opposed to The Terminator, I probably won't be back.

I have been silly enough to move myself from one continent to another three times. From Austria to Australia, then to Japan and finally to the USA. Silly, because only people who don't know any better keep doing this. Each time you must build a new life, find a new pack. For some reason I have enjoyed this so far.

Now, because I am following a crazy old man, I get to ride through a string of countries on my bicycle. B2B, Mestre Acordeon's project to document the development of Capoeira in the Americas, affords us insights into countries, societies and cultures that I never dreamed of.

Panama is one of those countries. A nation at the mercy of international politics for centuries and one that, like all the other Central and South American countries, suffered Spanish Conquistadores and the consequences of being a colony. A small country can only fall in line with the powers that be. After having supported Panama's secession from Colombia the USA obviously made sure to keep its strong influence here in order to control the Panama Canal.

The country lies at the skinniest part of the two Americas, forming a thin connective tissue between two continents. This alone produces a meme of connectedness and international relations.  The Canal only adds to this creation myth. Now Panama is not just the hugely important north-south connection, in fact it is the entire world that flows through her gates. The only other place that has similar powers of inspiration would be the land bridge of the Bering Straight. But who would want to deal with the temperatures of an ice age? You'd probably have to hunt Mammoths and fight Saber Tooth Kittens too.


Panama built an image of itself as a connector between worlds, cultures and trade. Panamanians appreciate their melting pot way of life. I can't count the times that I saw a Panamarica/Interamerica store of all varieties or an America Import store while riding. Of course this country imports things from all the Americas, even if its just coming from Costa Rica or Nicaragua.

Whats that say on the bottom right?

Before the recent US-brokered freetade agreement Panama did not trade very much with Colombia. The two states have a complicated history. In a Politics 101 nutshell: once Panama realized that they can make a good living on their own with the about-to-be-built canal they split like hell from Colombia and started their own little fiesta, with the support and protection of the USA. This of course is quite the quit pro quo, hence being beholden to the powers that be. You can imagine that Colombia is none too pleased about losing control of this cash cow.

Awesome Panama Canal

Perhaps as a consequence of the complicated history no roads connect Panama and Colombia. The Darien Gap, a stinking reptile and drug dealer infested mud hole makes it impossible to pass on a bike, on foot or by car - still the preferred mode of transportation. Except if you are this guy (I can't recommend enough for you to watch this grainy video, its true explorer stuff). The country that thinks of itself as the connective tissue between two continents is physically cut off from one of them.

But that's no biggy, you can just run a bunch of ships. Tons of them. Just like you are used to doing anyway with that other gigantic global umbilical cord - The Canal. Oh, you dont do that? Really? No ferries, no freight ships, no joy rides? Nada? Nunca? Only random private boats that ship lost backpackers and crazy cyclists through the San Blas Islands from one country to the other. If you have a car, or OMG, you are trying to ship some Bananas from one side to the other you are, as they say, rather far up the shitty creek. Which happens to be island paradise. Not that we at B2B are complaining. Tranquilo.


Lost sail boats and the rather authentic Kuna populate the San Blas

So, if you have an impassable piece of real estate on your southern border and there are no scheduled ships going around it, how can you consider yourself the world's top continent connector? Containing multitudes. A land bridge containing and communicating multi-cultural influences and tastes. An istmus even. A hot international property in the process of tossing off theUSA's yoke for good.

This makes Panama a fairly straight forward example of why it is important to travel so that we may understand our patriotic assumptions for what they really are. Assumptions. Propaganda. Or as Pirata would say - Bullshit. It is easy to defend your opinions about the USA or about China. So many factors influence the images of these countries that, as with some religious texts, there is much room for interpretation. This is more difficult for Panama. You either connect, communicate and melt in a pot, or you don't.

So let us all happily profit and learn from Panama and try to examine our assumptions about our patriotism, about our countries' good and bad sides. Maybe we would discover a bit of humanity under all the vulgar propaganda. The stuff that connects rather than seperates us. Like a land bridge. An istmus even.


Saturday, April 26, 2014

the power of capoeira

What if Slavery did not exist? What if this human evil never was? No African slaves in the Middle East. No Arabic eunuchs in historic China. No slaves in the Americas. No sex slaves in today’s Asia or central Europe. No slave-like work conditions in under developed countries around the world. No slavery. Period.

A beautiful thought. An alternative universe. Someone should write a novel about it. Yet it is risky to handle a topic that carries such heavy emotional weight. One very big geopolitical question immediately arises. Would the West have developed its current dominance without milking the colonies using slave labor? This question is of course interesting, in particular considering the countries B2B currently travels through, but for now I would like to concentrate on the “somewhat” less controversial connection to Capoeira.



Only one very simple, yet powerful question remains in this context. Would there be Capoeira? Would Capoeira, this art form that allows people everywhere to express themselves freely, that forms such strong communities wherever it goes, undergo this powerful diaspora out of Brazil?

You may believe that Afro Brazilian slaves fought their overseers using Capoeira, or that Capoeira developed much later in the harbor towns of Bahia. This complicated history is shrouded in undocumented mysteries. We mostly just don’t know. In the end what matters is that Capoeira’s roots reach back to Mae Afrika. The people who practiced Capoeira in Brazil, the way Capoeiristas move and the rhythms all point to that far away mother land.

When you ask a Capoeirista why they dedicate so much of their time to it - what makes Capoeira their home - it will not be long before they mention community and love. The group that supports them. The sisters they look up to as role models. The parents they had lost. The family. The Roda. Because of this community forming power and because many Capoeiristas discover new approaches to life through their practice we speak of Capoeira’s extraordinary ability to transform lives.

In Capoeira we travel to our brother and sister groups to attend their events, and they come to ours in return. During these events we treat each other like one big family. We don’t put them up in hotels and let them fend for themselves, the way it is if you attend a sports tournament. We ask them to sleep at our places, we cook for them, we pick them up from the airport and drive them around all day long. We show them the town, take them to cool night spots and try to meet all their needs. And we beat the stuffing out of each other in Capoeira workshops, eight hours a day. Do this for a few years, and suddenly your Capoeira family extends across the continent. Many of us can go to five different cities in the country and have people to hug and a place to stay. B2B in particular is blessed this way. There are no words that can describe the hospitality we receive on our journey. “Mi casa es su casa” simply does not do justice.

Yet the biggest transformation that Capoeira affects is not on a personal level. It is to transform a great human evil into a great human force for love, for positive change. Capoeira comes from slavery yet today spreads joy, art and community.

Born out of hatred, forged into love.

Even though Capoeira to this day is often carried to new shores via the dark and dangerous ghettos of Brazil, it arrives carrying a message of community and love. Maybe it is the pressure from the new environments that forces our Mestres to let the more martial aspects of Capoeira go. But we can not deny the all-enveloping family that these leaders attempt to create.

Inside of Capoeira we know this. It is our daily bread and salt. If you dedicate your life to our art you will end up spreading the good word to whoever will listen. You will start your own Capoeira school somewhere and hope there is fertile ground for it. If you are from Brazil you will pack your bags, move to Austria or Russia and bemoan your freezing bones. You will follow your dream to the USA, or to Australia and Asia, and you will wonder at the cold, distant nature of the strangers around you. Yet, you will start with a little seed of a germ of a plant of a tree of a Capoeira Akademia. You will BBQ and make Caipirinhas with your students, you will help each other move. You will be best men and brides maids at each other’s weddings and help raise each other’s children. Small communities will form around your Akademia. Every day you will sweat, kick each other and learn together. You will feel the power of focused synergistic human energy in the roda. Your group will become your tribe.

Born in shackles, forged into freedom.

Capoeira has room for all. There are as many styles of jingas as there are Capoeiristas. Although your Mestre will try his best, and for years, to teach you his correct version, in the end he will tell you that your Capoeira is your Capoeira. And that the way you express it is your freedom. It is a simple yet difficult to understand concept. The easiest way would be to watch a Roda and pay attention to the intention of the players. Their personalities emerge quickly. Don’t be distracted by the flashy moves and the backflips. Some smile constantly, as if something is tickling them. Others seem to be very playful but it is only a mask. Others yet again play very direct and to the point. For women, the great advantage of Capoeira is that they do not need to rely on pure strength for the effectiveness of their game. Speed, flexibility and use of space are just as valid a weapon. Some will never hit you, while others can’t wait for the chance. Know a person’s Capoeira and you will know them. And in that variety we all find our own personal expression, our freedom. Our opportunity to be ourselves in a much too straight-jacketed world.

Whatever race is yours, whatever creed you follow, whatever levels of individuality you adhere to, if you enter a Roda boa you will be a part of it for the rest of your life. It addresses a basic human need to be part of a kin in a deeply ritualistic and yet realistic manner. The process of making music, of focusing our combined energy, the sweat and blood we spend each day, bind us together. Why? That is probably better answered by ancient knowledge or simply through being human. The good thing is that you do not need to believe it to experience it. All you need to do is play.

And follow one of the Mestres eking out a living trying to get people to sing a damn song in Portuguese. So that there may grow a small seed of love in a barren concrete ghetto, in a soul-less school of drones, in a world that too easily forgets our tribal human roots.

Mestre Xuxo, in what must be an Austrian ball room

Maybe you are lucky and are in one of the 5 different Akademias across 4 different states in Austria that Mestre Xuxo teaches in and drives hundreds of kilometers to every week. Maybe you are an alumni of Mestre Pelourinho who managed to convince the United States of America immigration Agency, a notoriously flexible bunch, to give this amazingly bendy and impressive, big haired Brasilero a visa that enables him to teach both in Tijuana and San Diego on the same day.

Mestre Pelourinho in San Diego and Tijuana

Maybe you are part of one the tens, if not hundreds, of small capoeira groups across Central America who yearn for a Mestre but only have Mestre Youtube or themselves to learn from. Or you are Professor Arame, a stringy beanstalk-like Mexican Capoeirista, and you move to Lebanon and teach Capoeira to refugee children and battered, abused girls in NGOs across the Middle East.


Bidna Capoeira and Prof. Arame changing lives in the Middle East.

What these Capoeiristas all have in common is an astonishing appreciation for their students. They make their daily struggles worthwhile. As one they tell you “I do this for my students. I love to see them grow, change their approach to life and finally become Capoeiristas. I don’t need money, I don’t need fame. What I need is my family. And my freedom.”


Sunday, April 20, 2014

antropologia – experiences of a bicycling tribe

We ride our bikes a lot. Riding your bike a lot affords you a lot of hours, days even months with only the space between your ears to entertain you. It surprises us how much thinking we can do when we are not distracted by work emails, mom’s emails, Facebook status updates, twitter posts and old school music & TV. In a group of ten someone always seems to be hanging around, yet we spread out over miles during the day. You can ride with someone, but if you want to be alone it is only the push of a pedal away.


Right now many of us face internal tests of one kind or another. I recently felt I was missing my life in Seattle, my friends, my capoeira, my home. I have been living away from Austria for nearly 20 years but I never felt homesick. When I told my mom that I miss her the other day she said “Vell, but you get to see all zese zings zat other people never veell have a chance to see”. Mom’s the wonderful word.

We all miss our Capoeira routines because we don’t have the energy to ride and train. We did some rough riding recently – over tall mountains, back into the pacific side heat, long days with heavy head winds. And we have been on the road for nearly eight months. We feel physically exhausted. We miss home. The desire to keep riding is not as strong as it used to be. After going through eight countries, the newness of crossing borders is not as exciting as it used to be. This side of Centro Americo is dry. The other side is wet.

The work we do can be challenging. What to shoot? When to shoot? Is the light good right now? Often the sound is the deciding quality factor of a recording. Funneling the tons of material through various processes to be categorized and analyzed - hopefully, turning into stories at the end takes up much of our time.

Group dynamics also create difficult situations. We are a strange traveling bunch. You can not call it a democrazy, because in the end there is only one person that makes decisions about the direction of this journey. So it doesn’t happen that we fight over which ruins or city to visit or how long to stay at a beach instead of pushing on. These decisions are usually not up for discussion. It takes out a lot of potential conflict.

As a result, and because we all have a shared Capoeira background we understand each other well, except for some cultural differences that we usually resolve in the roda. However, no matter how well we understand each other - “No, it is my turn to get the bed”, how much we disregard our own opinions to follow our fearless leader - “Why did you not tell me that you would turn here”, at times we make each other mad “What, you are still here?!?”

Sometimes we need to get a way. This, most of you would agree, is completely normal. Spend 24/7 with a person for 8 months, throw in a mélange of personalities and cultures… If you don’t try to beat each other over the head every once in a while you are probably weirder than we are.

Today this made me think of cavewo/men. The closeness amongst us and the absolute amount of time that we spend together make at least me feel like I should be picking the lice out of someone’s fur. This is quite the modern day approximation to a hunter gatherer life style. How would science look at us? Would they make us fill out punch card type pages of questions, put us into focus groups, check our pulse during stressful interactions? If you follow the news loosely, it seems that in this beautiful brave new scientific world new sub categories like Genetic Anthropology, explaining our past, present and future sprout like mushrooms - the good kind. I am of course completely jealous of this as back in my day you could mostly stare at monkeys or dig around dusty bowls for bones ‘n shards if you were interested in unearthing some of our deep human past. The diversity of research fields available today is astounding. We are trying to understand your brain, the exact location of your soul and everything in between.

The articles you can read in popular science magazines make you think that Anthropologists have access to Stone Age GQ or Time Magazine, they tell us today what the trends were back then. I once saw a representation of an ancient vase. Beautiful, long-necked, had complicated patterns. Like a woman you love. Next to it was the one (!) shard that had let someone understand the entire design. But in reality, we have some rocks here, a shard of a spear tip there, and a couple of wall paintings spread around a few European caves. Shards, like the tops of icebergs.

From these measly evidential matters we presume to discover why humans have language. Why we like to laugh. Why we invent things. Why we cooperate, when evolution demands competition. And further mostest why we didn’t just stay up in the damn tree happily munching on mangoes instead of crawling down into cubes and boxes. Now we need to learn that happiness is living in the now and that it us who have to be ok with any situation. When your zen is centered the shittiest situation is paradise manifest. Michel Foucault would have a field day with this internalized discipline thing.

Anyway, back to the cavewo/men. Even presuming that anthropologists have added genetics, nucleus level microscopic examination and unfrozen Mammoths and Ötzis to their arsenal we still need to ask how much of this science comes from infusing the past with the present? Outside of geiko commercials when is the last time you observed a hunter gatherer tribe? What happened in that cave, when one tribe member just could not stand that dude smelling like rotten eggs anymore? Did he learn how to cooperate? Did he take the other guy’s cavegirl? Did he just punch him out? What happened?

So, dear Antropologia, when you write that article about the necessity of cooperation do you experience cooperation in the close quarters of a tribe? While you write of the past, that you have seen in the deep bones of the earth do you know the joys of no escape from your family - ever. We are not just speaking of your wife and kids, but also of drunken Uncle Jimmy who always loses your car keys and Aunty Betsy with her three baby daddies. While you speak to us of us, while you tell us why we need to desire the things that we need do you have the pleasure of experiencing body odor problems or is it a focused group that you observe? Have you lived this? This ancient that you speak of. Your truth that makes us so.

Did you see the shard of a spear tip?

Friday, March 21, 2014

Centro America

We just posted this powerful Neruda poem about Central America on the B2B page that fellow B2B rider Tuchegas recommended. We included a photo of a homeless man in Granada, a colonial town in Nicaragua. These words grip you.

                                                                                                                  photo by Mariano

Land as slim as a whip,
hot as torture,
your step in Honduras, your blood
in Santo Domingo, at night,
your eyes in Nicaragua
touch me, call me, grip me,
and throughout American lands
I knock on doors to speak,
I tap on tongues that are tied,
I raise curtains, I plunge
my hands into blood:
O, sorrows
of my land, O death-rattle
of the great established silence,
O, long-suffering peoples,
O, slender waist of tears.


I write as I sit on a prototypical Costa Rican beach. We rest from some grueling, steep and hot riding. It is complete and utter paradise.


This kind of juxtaposition between light and dark has haunted me from the day we entered Central America from Mexico through a small, fucked up Guatemalan border town. What does a small, fucked up border town in Central America look like? Hustlers and hookers roam the streets, at lunch time. Iron on windows and doors. Physical disabilities that the West only sees in text books are everywhere. You can feel the easy drugs, the easy violence in people's careful steps. I like these dirty underbellies of god’s green earth. They remind me that outside of the popular volunteer havens like Antigua not all is rosy with our queer little species.

                                                                                                                photos by Banano

Riding through Guatemala on a bike. What a dream. From day one we call it Guatebeleza. It's immidiately greener compared to Mexico, but in “The Land of Many Trees” not that many mammoth trees are left in the flats along the coast. Mostly I see rubber and sugar plantations. I read up on the history of this land. Juxtapose. I am saddened by our callous nature that we so easily give into. By centuries of subjugation, all too evident today. I ride past a cane field, men harvest it with machetes. No machines, just bone breaking, dusty, unbearably hot work. For a couple of bucks a day. A modern day slave wage. I want to take pictures. But I don’t. It hurts too much to think of all the sugar I have eaten in my life.

But the world is green, even if the road is lined with litter and buzzards track us diligently. The people of Guatemala are stone-faced friendly. You have to ask for their smile, they do not give it as freely as the always welcoming Mexicans.


We ride a brutal mountain up to Lake Atitlan, a true natural wonder of the world, I think at least until I see Lake Nigaragua. Seems like there are Volcanoes sticking out of all kinds of bodies of water in every country that we travel through. And like the Volcanoes, and the impossibly steep roads that we climb daily, the opposites remain. Light and dark. Wealth and poverty. Inheritors of colonial power and Indigina. I imagined the people of Central America to be similar in temperament to Mexicans. But they are harder, more closed off. Years of torture will turn the sunniest disposition into a stony, protective shell.


“Gringo go home”, I hear more than once. I smile back and say that I agree.

I know we can not blame anyone specifically for what happened in Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua. You yell at your granny for buying sugar in the 1950s, when Guatemalans where massacred by the thousands because they had elected a democratic government that tried to re-distribute the land back into local small farmers’ hands for the first time in 450 years. 450 YEARS!!! What would you want your government to do if Massachusetts had been raped, plundered and pillaged for centuries by foreign powers? You can’t call your mom out for buying car tires (rubber) in the 1980’s when El Salvador was sinking into one of the most brutal civil wars in living memory because her people just could not stomach another foreign-sponsored military coup.

Costa Rica got lucky. You know why? It didn’t have any resources. No gold, no silver, no land suitable for large scale, slave-driven, mono-culture cash crops. When Columbus showed up here he called it Rica because he thought it was going to be like all the other places in Central America, a gold mine for his Queen. He was blessedly mistaken. And so it became that Costa Ricans do not have this ugly torturous past forced onto them by one pillaging global power after the other. If you have nothing, you are rich. Instead all the Spaniards showing up here to look for riches had to, OMG, do their own heavy lifting to build a life in the central highlands. This could explain the stronger sense of civic responsibility here.

When I have Wifi, I see what is going on in the Ukraine and Venezuela. These are both rich places, oil in Venezuela and simply the sun on the Crimea for wintery Russians, and have been the focal point of international power struggles for centuries. It saddens me to know that Austria is one of the most important money laundering countries to Russian Oligarchs. We call ourselves a Neutral Country, says so in our constitution, we pride ourselves on standing for peace and justice. But, oh my, “Das ist doch nicht mein Verantwortungsbereich, wo das liebe Geld herkommt”. I am ashamed. I want to return all my passports.

This ugly human thing, this conquest and war for profit, remains a constant since time immemorial, since just after we were hunter gatherers, when suddenly you had rulers, and the ruled. And the justifying classes in between. The ones that would come up with the proper stories for the ruled to blindly fall on their pitchforks, their bayonets, their home-made explosive devices. For the longest times the justifiers used the religions of the world, but now there is only one god left. His name is Mammon. In 10.000 odd years we have not learned. Seldom is a situation as clearly defined between good and evil as WW2, and as long as Hitler was “just” going after the Jews the world didn’t really give a shit either.


What will it take for us to live by inalienable rights for all humans and not just the ones lucky enough to be born in the right place? When will a life be more important than a buck? I wish I had taken the picture of the men harvesting sugar cane. Sweat pouring of their heads, dirty clothes, no shoes. Hacking away at the cane with their broken backs doubled over. I want that picture now, so that you could spill tears with me at the thought of it, and the next time you put three spoons of sugar in your morning cup of coffee.


Saturday, February 8, 2014

mexico


This country would easily win first prize in a competition of the most misunderstood countries in the world. If you opened any US newspaper on any random day in the last 10 years most likely you found a glaring headline about the 10 million illegal immigrants, one or another tropical dis-ease trying to piggyback across the border, and the 80,000 people killed during the real drug war taking place south of the border. Coming from the north into Mexico it’s difficult not to think of the country as a heavily industrialized/militarized front yard to the Promised Land with everyone, including the trucks themselves, trying in vain to cross the border by the millions to reach all that sunny California goodness. Drugs, narco killings, disease ridden illiterate emigrants - a place with those kinds of exports has got to be the front yard to hell, not to the Promised Land. Which explains the horrified faces people made when I told them that I will ride bike through Mexico for a few months. “But it’s so dangerous”! “ Did you get your shots”? “Did you pack your iodine”? “How about that GPS Tracker”?

My personal truth about Mexico: It’s pinche awesome! It has a growing middle class, everybody wants to get more educated and the commerce happening everywhere is astounding. Yes, the income gap is still huge, but the USA better watch out. When the corruption problem is under control, it’s probably on. The Distrito Federal (Mexico City) is a superchingon (super cool) global metropolis and Mazunte in Oaxaca a black hole – plan more days for the Oaxaca coast than you think. And drink more Mescal! We have heard much about the hospitality of Mexico and you will be hard pressed to find a friendlier people. The further south from the border you go, the nicer everything becomes. Even though I would like to, I don’t think I can easily blame that on the USA. It doesn’t just get greener the more south you go, it’s also more developed, cleaner and often with a rich community and civil life thriving around beautiful town centers.

For over 3000 years the central high plateau that contains Mexico City has been the center of empires. One of the first high cultures in the world developed here, and since I am just a little blogger and can sometimes give less of a shit about source validation than the Catholic Church I am just going to say that only the pyramids in Egypt equal Tenochtitlan. Angkor Watt is of course magnificent, but the Khmer were not as focused on scientific advances. An incredibly wealthy and resource-rich society supported the mega projects on which the next three millennia of Mexico were to be built. Including today’s Mexico whose cities are built right on top of the old indigena towns. When the Spaniards were still Moslems (and learning math) the Aztec’s were making perfect celestial calendars predicting planet and star movements thousands of years in advance and into the past. We just don’t understand any of the gorgeous frescos they left us because we haven’t found a convenient dictionary á la Rosetta Stone (the actual rock, not the software).

On some level, gringos understand that there was cultural development here before Cortez and cohorts set hoof and metal clad foot on land in the Caribbean. But most of us probably think that similar to North America the Spaniards were met by hybrid hunter gatherers living a semi-nomadic life with little wealth to be stolen. Instead what he found were several highly developed city states. The fabled Fountain of Youth seemed just around the corner. Since about 400 A.D. these Aztec city states flowered on the ruins of Olmec Tenochtitlan. It would be like the Romans disappearing and the Greeks taking over the place, and then the Spaniards, and so on. Always copying and learning from the culture before.

Apart from thinking that Cortez was a god (proving again that religion is just never good for ya) the Aztecs lacked some crucial inventions and many disease vectors. Lethal disadvantages in global colonial politics. Very quickly the Old World concentrated on parts south of the Rio Grande to achieve worldly and heavenly glory. Spain and Portugal continued the largest genocide in human history in Latin America with a vengeance. Logically, they must have thought that there is more plunder in the grand cities of Central America compared to the roving bands of the North. The thievery of humans, gold and other unique materials (rubber, sugar) was awkwardly justified with a completely fucking ludicrous idea that the savages were actually profiting from all this. Mostly by gaining entrance to heaven, posthumously, you understand. The biggest and best brains in the just about enlightened world left us with marvels such as this one from Voltaire “Latin America is inhabited by lazy and stupid Indians who live side by side with pigs with navels on their backs and bald and cowardly lions.” Want more? Bacon, Hume and Montesquieu declined to recognize the “degraded men” of the new world as human beings. Father Gregorio Garcia managed to proof Semitic blood in the native population in the 17th century. Even for the Jewish diaspora this is quite an accomplishment. Maybe the Holocaust should not have come as a surprise.
               
So one day the heathen-killing, dis-ease ridden, illiterate white man arrives on the shores of this paradise. Takes your women (in your own house), makes your children his slaves for his death trap mines, sends your sugar to Europe and shows you that your gods suck by killing you if you don’t agree. Unfortunately, that was par for course when superior and inferior powers met during colonial times. 500 years later we witness the results. A nation slowly climbing out of the depths of poverty, crossing themselves every time they walk past a church. Symbols of absolute might built with the riches from the bellies of the Guanajuatos and Zacatecas of the new world. Gilden Cathedrals erected on the backs of enslaved indigenas. The argument that the industrial revolutions of the world, enabling today’s high western standard of living, were financed with the wealth stolen from the Open Veins of Latin America does not seem completely silly.

When a gringo tourist walks through a pleasant Mexican Zocalo today the church on one side of the square is the only edifice remaining from colonial times that is available for public use. If I were a local I’d throw eggs when I see what is left of my country’s heritage and wealth instead of crossing myself. Since the new Latin American (!) pope seems so focused on asking his colleagues in world leadership to create a more egalitarian global economic order maybe he could go to the next meeting in Davos and invest some of the billions that the church stole from Mexico in the last 500 years in education for Mexico’s poorest. So that those 10 million illiterate emigrants have a chance to succeed in their own country instead of having to cross a deadly desert into the pope’s apparently cold capitalist world.

Now let me ask you a question. If a country has had continuous civilizational development for thousands of years, creating marvels of science along the way, what does that make it? That’s right, China. The country that brought you noodles, paper and porcelain. Illustrious company for Mexico, you would think? As countries go, just a tad cooler than the sweetheart up north who gave you The Little Big Boy. And yet, we still stick to our arrogance, like our colonial forefathers, thinking that Central America is a dangerous yet pitiable place. This sentiment is couched in concern now, rather than racial superiority.

After 500 years of slavery, pillage and, finally, Herr Kissinger’s “Real Politik” a strong indigena element remains. In many of the small towns we rode through on our bicycles people present a different appearance than in the next one. Different skin shades, different facial bone structure, taller, shorter, fatter, skinnier, different clothes and different dialects. This genetic and cultural strength after centuries is extraordinary in a western world of mongrelizing mix and match. I for one am happy to be greeted by Mayan and Aztec faces, even though it twists my tongue into knots to call them by name.

Although this painful history has lasting impacts deep into Mexico’s present understanding of itself it seems that the country is moving in a good direction. I am sure to some this sounds like a naïve statement. I’ll defend it by saying I spent four months riding my bicycle through Mexico, meeting locals everywhere we went. Sleeping at the Red Cross, the Fire and Police Stations, Municipal Halls, Municipal Gyms, Restaurants, Hotels, Mescal Makers on roofs of Paleterias (ice cream shop) between the two borders. Countless Capoeiristas in towns all over shared their stories, ideas and thoughts.

Development, democrazy and civil society take time. Many countries in the world did not take these steps easily, gently or quickly. Being neighbor to the world’s single super power is one of the most difficult positions to be in because interests will often conflict. And what then? Pinche Gringos.

So Mexico, please be patient with yourself. Rome was not built in a day. Especially considering your oft brutal history. Austria fought a slow fusion civil war for twenty years between the two World Wars. Cut yourself some slack. The USA’s bloodiest war was its own civil war. Life seems to be, like riding your bicycle, a marathon.

And stop warning my about the dangers to the south of you, for example Guatemala. It makes you sound like a Gringo.

Monday, January 20, 2014

capoeira – an offer you can’t refuse?

Banano in Chacauha
If Capoeira is an expression of anti-stateism, of anti-authority, of anti-rule, of anti-slavery, how does this mesh with the near monotheistic adoration of individual figures within our cult? This article looks at the role of Mestres in the world of Capoeira how they exert influence over their groups and how some short-comings are often overlooked by us. Yes, this is all about sex, drugs and Rock’nroll. And some Capoeira.

Capoeira Mestres inhabit a unique space. They are the living embodiment of an art form rooted in some mystery. An art form that defies classification constantly evolves and has little international organization. Mestres bear responsibility for Capoeira’s practice and development. Through continuous involvement they must ensure that Capoeira’s inherent freedom does not lead to a dilution of the art and vice versa, that a necessary conservation of traditions does not result in a curtailing of a central basic idea of individual expression. Capoeira takes a lot from the individuals who mean to walk its path. On a life-long journey of this kind the opportunities to err by far outnumber all those perfectly white grains of sand on Copacabana Beach.

Yet when we are witnesses to our leaders’ errors we still put them up on our pedestal. And keep them there, though we hold ourselves and others to higher standards. What is this zeal born out of? This sect-like behavior. This inadequate examination of our voluntarily accepted commanders in chief. Is it because they can easily beat our ass anytime they want? A return to rather basic behavior patterns. Or do we mislike judging our judgement? Once we made a call we don’t want to admit that we were wrong. Maybe it is because deep inside we know s/he owns the roda that we play in and therefor also our Capoeira. Or do we just happily soak in this inexpensive letting go? We live in a world in which we are always supposed to be in control; of our selves, our family, our career, our emotions, our country. Or else that tree will be watered with a patriot’s blood. In this world it may just be plain nice to give in to an age old comfort of not being responsible. More positively and maybe realistically put, of being part of something larger than yourself. But if humanity’s behavior patterns are based on clearly established lines of command, what does it mean that those have mostly disappeared outside of the dictatorship we call work? Maybe following certain leaders in a religion, in a cult or in a martial art is a natural expression of needing a place in a pecking order.

Be that as it may, it is fascinating to watch Capoeira Mestres do their thing. If you are lucky enough to interact with many of them it stands out even more. It is extremely interesting for me (Don’t want to know how many Martellos that will earn me) to watch Mestres exert their influence over a group of people who don’t usually follow anyone’s orders unless it is within the context of that dictatorship thingy.

Most of us are usually too involved in our own closed system (read: daily grind) to examine ourselves and the people closest to us. We don’t see the forest for all the trees. And we are also too busy just keeping our lives straight. But maybe it is easier to try to examine your Mestre, since they take up so much space anyway. Think of your Mestre as just another person that you may see walking down the street. S/he doesn’t do backflips or randomly rasteras people, right? No lethal speed and strange interlingual philosophical depictions that somehow often seem to make complete sense, you just don’t know how. Would you think the person walking down the street is steeped in an ancient, heavily ritualized art? Would you think that they can open a place for you, inside of you, that you can not reach without help? In an unfinal analysis we are all complex human being, and it may be difficult to grasp a remotely complete picture of a person unless you spend years with them.

But sometimes we are allowed glimpses into other people’s worlds. Often those pass us by unnoticed. We are too full of living our own lives. And these other worlds can be too similar to our own to warrant closer attention. TV on the other hand, the story teller of our age, takes up a lot of our time. TV provides insights into other people’s realities. It fulfills a basic creative human interest for new food for thought. For seeing some greener grass on the other side. This is legitimate, right? We are surrounded by those who are much like us. And we are also pattern recognition machines. Made to recognize, file, store and ignore repeat inputs. So we constantly want new horizons and we tend to ignore repetitive inputs. All those ignored inputs make room and time for extraordinary events. It saves bandwidth for dangerous or cool shit. Basically, we are set up to be bored by life. Unless you go find cool shit.­

We can trick ourselves. We can put ourselves into situations that provide higher doses of outside input. Maybe our thirst for traveling is a result of this. On the road, we seem to become more in tune with the world around us. Less auto-piloted. Often this is jarring, yet rewarding. More so, if born with a smile worn. Also some professions are afforded a somewhat gratis fly-on-the-wall status into other people’s lives. Somewhat, because each must pay their particular price for the privilege of being a voyeur. Be you a paparazzi, a shrink or a priest.

I get to roll with a first class legend in a should-be Olympic sport that’s got a Public Relations problem worse than that thing on ice with a slow moving rock and some strange fellows rubbing the ground with brooms in front of it. B2B, Mestre Acordeon’s project to document the history of Capoeira’s development in the Americas and Capoeira’s influence on people’s lives is an amazing thing to be a part of. On so many different levels; the work of the documentary, capoeira, friendship, culture, personal journeys, meditation by bicycle. People tell us it’s the most amazing (loco) thing they have ever seen. And still they think we are a troupe of dancers.




To help with a better understanding of a Mestre’s world I could write up a quick long list of what happens in a Mestre Acordeon day, but like on TV you can see all that in the B2B videos, our pictures on Facebook and in our blogs. Instead it would be much more interesting to hear what you think a day as Mestre Acordeon on B2B is like. Here is a chance to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes. And if you want to get really crazy you can do this little mind experiment with the opening sentence of this article in mind. So write us some lines, make a video, or paint a drawing (however you or your kids like to express yourselves). You can do it here, drop it on Facebook or tell it to your pet hamster. It all counts. In any language.