These days in Brazil are like movies. The mornings start with breakfast at the hotel, where I usually eat tapioca cake, sticky buns, granola, mango, watermelon, eggs, and confections that I can not pronounce. We load onto the bus to take us to the Pelohurino for our song class with Gilmar Santos–as it turns out, a very famous cantor of candomble but he also happens to teach ballet for the Royal Ballet of London–and I screech out sounds in Yoruba as he taps his plastic drum stick and the trio of drummers behind him fall into a complicated African polyrhythm that sounds like a herd of wildebeasts running through a rainstorm.
Then we dance. We have studied Afro-Brazilian, and on Monday we met Silvado, a supremely flamboyant choreographer who sashayed around yelling at us to ´GO GIRLS!´before explaining, at the end of class, that in Bahia, nobody has any money but that never stops people from taking time to be happy. ´We live this life of spirit,´he says. ´All this you are learning, the dances, the rhythms, the singing…this is our life here, we live it. We work very hard, but we always remember that you have to take time to sing and dance and be your happiness.´
Silvado was a big hit with us because after sweating and popping and jumping and flailing around we needed some fabulous.
Now, I have been having some complications with my spiritual reading.
When I was studying diligently in Wilmington, my teachers repeated: the Spirit of God moves on His own time and in His own way. Everything happens at the right time.
So, when my first reading was cancelled because the priestess was about to collapse from exhaustion of serving the six women who went before me, I was okay with that. We got about ten minutes into it before she sort of wilted over and grabbed her head. We´d gotten far enough into the reading for her to tell me my head is ruled by Oxumare, the Rainbow Serpent. (o-shoe-ma-ray) Oxumare is male part of the year and female part of the year, and he is responsible for connecting the earth to the universal energy. He was born as a snake, and he represents the Bridge. In candomble, I am considered a ´child of Oxumare´ although I don´t yet know what this means.
Monday´s readings were cancelled because the priestess was sick, and so I am finally scheduled for my proper meeting today at 2:30. This I will tell you: they know how to call the energies here. You get some drums and a clear intention, and something in the unseen is going to show up. Make no mistake about that.
On Sunday, we boarded the bus and bounced up to Saubarra, a tiny country village about 2 hours outside of Salvador. Our adopted grandmother of this group, Zelita, lives up there with her family, and she is the known ´Samba Queen´of Bahia. She´s in her late 70s now, short, dark, dressed in colorful shifts with a matching wrap around her head. She runs the community school and teaches samba to the children of Saubarra. We met her daughters and grandchildren, nieces, and nephews. They had prepared a Sunday feast for us and we sat around on the porch and in her kitchen, about 20 of us, laughing and eating traditional Brazilian foods, and most people drank beer. It reminded me so much of family reunions with the family love and excessive amounts of food (yes, I ate the sting ray moqueca, which is a kind of Brazilian stew), and then we walked a few blocks down the dirt street into Zelita´s samba house where a group of children played percussion and danced, pulling us into the circle. I don´t know how to officially samba, I just scuttle my feet on the floor and shake my butt around, and at one point I looked up and one of the drummers, a man in his late 60s was looking at me as if he smelled something bad. As if my samba literally stank.
They take these things very seriously here. My samba did stink.
But it was fun anyway, and we drank soup in the middle of the party and then had a huge birthday cake in honor of a few of us who had birthdays this week. Like I said, it is very odd being white in this place. During this party, I noticed that the children would move away from me, that the adults were cordial and respectful, but that they weren´t interested in engaging with me. I didn´t think too much about it until Tuesday, when two of my friends and I had to head to a far off neighborhood to take care of some spiritual business.
I have made some wonderful girlfriends on this trip, and I´ll go into more details when I write the book about this experience. ONe, in particular, who happened to be my roommate, has a magnetic and compelling personality. She´s a Leo, which explains everything. Well, she had to take care of some business, and my other friend Cynthia and I tagged along for the adventure, and we waited in the living room while my Leo friend disappeared into the kitchen.
One of the girls, Alissandria, from the samba party showed up with a brand new game of checkers. In Portuguese, she asked me if I wanted to play, and I said yes, and we sat cross legged on the couch. When she was opening the game, her little hands were shaking, and she wouldn´t make eye contact with me. But we set up the board, and, in short order, she started taking my men. Soon, we were laughing, and she was teaching me words in Portuguese, and clapping and giving me the thumbs up when I finally figured out that the rules for checkers in Brazil are not one bit like the rules for checkers in Rocky Mount, North Carolina.
I will have to ask Linda, but I wonder if I look totally alien here, so much so that people would rather avoid me politely. Alissandria and I ended up hugging and laughing when I left, but I suspect that I am very strange-looking here, indeed.
My time is out for the internet, beloveds. ENjoy your day, wherever you are.