Hiraeth

30 days of fuzzy writing – an imperfect challenge

Day 30

Me verás volar,
por la ciudad de la furia.
Donde nadie sabe de mi
Y yo soy, parte de todos…
– Gustavo Cerati

June 2022

The pilot announces the landing. 10 minutes more and officially we will be touching the South American Capital. As the plane approaches the city, the multiple shapes of buildings down there appear at sight, inviting the newcomers to get lost and found around the many vibrant streets.

La ciudad de la furia awaits. I’ve been dreaming about coming here for a long time already. My heart beats with the excitement, oddly however, the excitement emulates that of a reunion more than a first time encounter… despite it is in fact the very first time that I visit Buenos Aires.

The plane smoothly reaches the ground, it’s been a long flight but I’m finally here. The airport as any big international airport is lively. The past couple of years have been tough for tourism but traveling starts being again the joyful experience it used to be in the pre-2020 era. Ministro Pistarini is full of people coming and going, and I rapidly find my way to pick my luggage and continue my journey. I’m bringing my big backpack with me, but this is all I need. The way to the downtown in the quest of my hostel is easy and I get absorbed in the view of the city passing by from the train window. I need to take a bus and then I’ll be in the city centre. Easy peasy. I think. As usual I find my way and get to my accommodation in the heart of the San Telmo neighbor. Some minutes more and the check in is done. I left my luggage… change my clothes (it’s been a long haul flight) and off to adventure.

Me veras volar…

Oh the city is beautiful, and the time passes like in a dream. I’m stunned by the melancholic magic all around, the tango music entices you and makes you wonder on the love lost, on the love to come… the tango music evokes a past you might not be sure of having lived, but somehow is there… like a deja-vu of nostalgia.

I wander around and visit all the places I want and my foreseen week here flies by. As the departure day approaches, I have yet another certitude written in my soul. I haven’t yet left, but I know that I will come back.

But first there is another place I need to see.

A week after I prepare myself to hit once again the road (figuratively, as actually I will catch a flight).

The same combination of transport, bus then train and there I’m in the airport again. Next stop: Ushuaia.

A 3 hours trip and I have arrived. The land of fire. It’s actually happening. The long way, the whole journey has taken me here after all. As I do each of the practicalities needed: luggage, transport, hostel; I think as well on the many secession of events that have brought me here. On the inner force and power that somehow made me imagine this future, which is now my present.

The dream continues as the first evening passes, and I go to bed early knowing that tomorrow will be a great day… Since there is no way to stop time, then tomorrow arrives. I wake up early and then find the agency that takes people to the glaciers. As the bus leaves the centre of the small town my excitement builds up… this might not accurately be the most southern spot on Earth, I mean, there is still Antactica down there… but La Tierra del Fuego could anyway be part of that final region.

We arrived to the national park and after some time hiking the way uphill starts as we commence climbing… it is tough, indeed but who cares… some minutes more, some meters more, one step after another and we are there. I’m here. Looking to the horizon I contemplate and breath in awe.

I’ve made it. I take a look around and contemplate the Earth expanding…

It is here.

The end of the world.

To be continued.

Afterlife

30 days of fuzzy writing – an imperfect challenge

Day 29

And after this,
can we last another night?
After all the bad advice
had nothing at all to do with life.
I gotta know. – Arcade Fire

“Afterlife… oh my god, what an awful word”… or the most perfect opening ever; for a song that somehow became my favorite one in the world. It’s yet strange the contradiction between the perfect melancholy of the lyrics and the upbeat rhythm that makes you move. I got to know this song around 2 years ago and it became a sort of anthem for something that has bugged me since a while ago; the thought of death.

Boy oh boy, this is going to get dense… or maybe not. Anyway, in the second to last day of our challenge I felt the need to write something around this idea since well… it is a natural part of life, thus in order to celebrate life itself, we should always keep close the opposite of it, as the end-line of our existence is what actually gives meaning to it altogether. Yeah, I know… quite a day to be abstract.

I have confession to make… okay maybe two. Today, there will be no exact story. I mean, it isn’t due to a lack of effort. As a matter of fact I’ve been squeezing my brain trying to recall any memory which at some extent could be used to draw some parallels and serve as a bridge to the whole idea behind this post… truth is, I don’t have any. What can I say, I’ve been a lucky person. I mean, of course I have experienced the grief of losing a beloved one, and people I know… I have seen how the unexpected death of someone has shattered into pieces the existence of families… so of course Death is not a foreign concept to me, as it isn’t to anyone. Death the ultimately unifier for all of us. But my luck consist in that besides my Grandfather passing away, I haven’t been really hit hardly but that unavoidable fate. However, the thought of it scares the shit out of me. There you have the second confession.

So I guess that me today writing about this is just an attempt to exorcise the fear, or find a sort of comfort in the words, as it is the way I use to make sense of it all. I guess the part that makes the pill hard to swallow, is that painful void that lies one step beyond life. The dark, and the nothingness. I was raised as a catholic, so until certain age I firmly believed that when we are gone from this dimension, a second life awaits for us in Heaven. Unfortunately, as a grew older, that belief has faded away… I will not write about God here, because in a way, I think that is something beyond the fact that we are going to one day… die. Death however is a really factual event which slowly but steadily comes to our encounter. Funny however, how as scary as it could seem, that very same event is what gives meaning to everything happening in between.

There are plenty things I would like to write about Death, yet the name of this article is not exactly on that; it is about afterlife. Whether there is one, or not… for us individually, truth is that the world will continue going on… So, in that sense, I guess there is not a way to cope with the certitude that one day, we will have to cross that last bridge.

That will be only one until that very last day. All those days before, we can only but fully… just live.

Okey, I lied before, actually there is here a micro story… or a cautionary tale. Once upon a time there was a woman, who spent her life being afraid of what was outside her home. She had a family, a big family, who loved her, kids and grandkids included. Some tough events across her life however, made her extremely fearful. Abuse and trauma for over 60 years didn’t go well with her strong character and made her afraid of anything strange. She spent years discouraging her children to visit her, as it would mean for them to go out of their homes and apparently put them in danger. Albeit, such fear instead of being clearly stated was often taken as disgust from her part, so her kids eventually stopped visiting her as much as they did before, since well, they didn’t feel welcome. Certainly, that just added to the bitterness. The old woman continued getting old, and as the years passed she secluded herself more and more in her home. One day, almost 3 years ago, that woman suffered a stroke… right at her place.

In a very providential turn of events that very same day she was being visited by a niece of her… and because miracles do happen, it was because of that that woman actually could survived.

I guess there is no punchline here other than as said before… the end is coming, but the knowledge of it, and the reality of it, as paralyzing as it could get, shouldn’t be but a trigger to fully enjoy, to fully live, and to fully share whatever time we are given between now and then.

We’ll cross the bridge ONLY when we get there.

Bravo

30 days of fuzzy writing – an imperfect challenge

Day 28

The clock ticked 23h30 on December 31, 2015 and we were still in our way to look for a place to get that last drink of the year. My friends and I had had a nice home-cooked dinner, and now we were definitely ready to party. The cold Paris had that festive atmosphere, and 30 minutes before midnight it seemed like daring to explore and find any suitable bar was almost an impossible mission. Almost.

We reached the area around Republique-Oberkampf hoping that our mission turned out to be a successful one. We got out of the bus and somehow found a place with nice music and just enough people to feel like we were indeed joining a party. At 23h45 we entered the bar… it was crowder than it seemed from outside… but the music was nice, so there it was. Trying to find a place to accommodate ourselves we spot a tiny table near the bar counter, at 23h50 we were finally ordering our drinks and at 23h58 the bartender finally gave us our beers… we were just on time for the final count-down… 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, 0… Happy 2016. WE FREACKING MADE IT!

As we cheered together and congratulate to one another, we emptied our glasses and start dancing… Quite a night. And it was just starting.

It’s funny but as I write about that epic night, over 5 years after, it makes now wonder if in a way it was an omen of what the year was about to come… after all the whole 2016 felt like it was lived in a rushed, but to the fullest in every single possible way. Looking in hindsight then, 2015 was a great but super tough year, and as such its final page was written in a way that couldn’t have been better.

Of course time is relative I know, and the years, days and months are only social constructs to give meaning to our lives… but in that sense, that last day of the year is perhaps the perfect moment for celebrating the battles won, and those yet to conquer.

We left the bar and continue our quest for another place to dance until the day arrived… I can’t fully remember whether we visited another club or bar, but I have still the vivid image of my friends and I dancing around the Parisian streets. That should be enough, I believe as eventually regardless of where you are, the most important if with whom you get tho share those precious moments celebrating life.

I guess today I wanted to do something similar here, thus that story was ideal: a tale of celebrating the end of a cycle, in the messiest, most imperfect yet amazing way it could be, both the celebration and the road itself. Oh boy, it has been quite a ride, and as we approach slowly but steadily the final day of this challenge I wanted to have this opportunity to celebrate the path walked. Italians have one of my favorite expressions which has spread all over as a word describing the recognition for some particular display of talent, bravery and intelligence… Bravo! We say it when we wan to celebrate the accomplishment of others, it is true, however today, just for today I will use it as an expression of self-celebration on this journey.

Bravo, for the words written, and bravo to you, for your time and dedication to follow up this not so clear and confusing road. We are almost there.

Now, it is also needed to say, that even if we reached day 30, and the challenge gets be completed, our journey is still far away of being done. This is just starting.

But before re-starting the wandering, and roaming around more memories and more words of this vast world of us, let’s take a time to look around and enjoy the very place were we are today, the hurdles overcome, and the whole adventure on itself.

let’s take a minute to say Bravo, for a well-lived life.

On Celebration.

Coming soon.

Sonder

30 days of fuzzy writing – an imperfect challenge

Day 27

On December 2018, I was spending my second Christmas period in Brussels. It was a happy period, I must say, I was living back then with a dear friend of mine, and another close friend had just moved to the city as well. My time in the city had also gave me that comfort that living in a certain place for a while gives you… Brussels felt already quite familiar.

One afternoon I decided to visit the opening of a Christmas market with only artisans and sustainable/locally/alternative produced items. Since it was the first day, and it was supposed to be installed only for about 3 days, during the opening some of the artisans were offering samples of their products, so the atmosphere felt indeed festive.

The market’s installation was in 2 story building, which was just big enough to give ample space to the people showcasing their products while giving you also some sort of coziness. In my wandering round the rooms and stands I could see many different kind of things and try from pate, to cookies. Awesome, right? Plus in the front yard, there were some food trucks, and I had already decided to pamper me with some Mexican food once I finished my roaming (you know, saudades).

After some window(less) shopping I reached a small stand with some interesting mix of objects on display. Partly handcraft, partly looking like a collection of items which seemed to have belonged to a market from the middle-East or North-Africa. Extremely interesting. I was carefully looking at all the items on that table, when the old man who was selling asked if there was something I liked. As I responded that everything was super nice we started talking. He asked where I was from and when I mentioned I was from Mexico, he started telling me about his trip in South America, long time ago. After, he proceeded to tell me more about his trips around here and there. This man had have such a fascinating life. He spent some time as well living among the nomad tribes of the Sahara, and also lived in some small villages of south East Asia. Incredible life story. I was stunned, it seemed to me incredible not only the lifestory per-se of this man, but also the fact for some random circumstances I had gotten to know about it… the intricate life-turns of a completely stranger.

All in all, even if we were just talking for some minutes, it was enough to remember how incredible is giving ourselves the opportunity to be curious about people. You never know the whole universe that exist within the person next to you. Exploration after all, is not about places.

I think I have mentioned previously how much I enjoyed sitting in a train or a bus, and enjoy the ride next to the window. It gives me the chance to look at outside and see the world passing by. Ever since I was a kid, I remember watching the scenery and as the people appeared and disappeared, I used to wander what their lives were, what were they living at the moment, the happiness and sorrows… and the inner thoughts that all those strangers might have had. I remember also wondering whether they asked themselves ever the same questions I did ask myself, and if for them it was intriguing as well what was going on in the lives of those around.

That always seemed to me a sort of unfathomable conundrum, which at the same type might be answered simply by reflecting about my own inner life. In other words, it was somehow fascinating to think that these other people seemingly strangers have also shared the same thoughts than I have had at some point of their lives. I don’t know exactly why, but that thought gave me a sort of comfort. It made me realize that in all the solitude that the human experience might entail, after all we were not so alone.

There might be not definite cure for that loneliness, it is true…. but perhaps and just perhaps our individual solitude could expand by daring to share it, by daring to get to know and explore, the many universes passing by around us.

Perhaps that would help us appreciate our own inner world.

Our story is not only ours, but the one we have shared.

Schast’ye

30 days of fuzzy writing – an imperfect challenge

Day 26

Happiness does not depend on outward things, but on the way we see them – Lev Tolstoi

So, I guess the time has come. Yes. Today, let’s talk about happiness.

During our trip around the Brazilian swamps in March 2016, I got to spend a whole week traveling in a van together with my colleagues and friends. Everyday was a blast, but among all of them, there is one evening which I particularly keep closer to my heart. The Brazilian Pantanal is the biggest wetland worldwide and home for a gigantic variety of species, our trip consisted basically in taking a comprehensive view of the most representative spots of that area for which we visited different towns and rural areas.

One of the most expected stops was the visit to the basin of the Miranda river. The specific place we stopped as to spend the night was a sort of camping area with several cabins and local tours to roam on the river on a motor boat. Upon our arrival, unanimously we agreed to take the night tour to the river, attempting to spot also some endemic animals, such as alligators and hopefully jaguars… well, we surely saw many alligators, not a single jaguar, though.

In any case, besides the not so successful wild-animal-gazing, it was an amazing tour. I will always remember the sun going down on those quiet waters, and the almost complete silence covering us… the atmosphere, quiet, and the night slowly falling upon us… one moment of dusk, then the starts brightening above all of us, and the infinite sky and quiet darkness embracing everyone and absorbing the soul into the nothing-ness.

I might not have a definite description of happiness, but oh boy, I would be it is something like that. That feeling of being one with the world around you.

Maybe happiness is about knowing that regardless how alone we might feel, beyond all that, we belong.

Of course, this is just one interpretation.

Happiness is not a bottled-up product we can just find or create out of nowhere… Happiness perhaps is then a realization on the infinite love surrounding us, and the magic, the sweet extraordinary magic embed in simply being alive… and allowing ourselves to fully experience that miraculously moment of life.

Then, happiness is brought about by that pure and complete love and enjoyment of life, with all its darkness and its light.

Maybe, happiness ultimately is allowing ourselves to love it all, but overall to love.

Who knows.

On the last December of the pre-pandemic era, I had the chance to go on a tour on a bioluminescent lagoon in the Mexican South-West. It was the almost final day of a very expected trip around that area and it happened to be also the last day of the -in hindsight – very awesome 2019. I was with a friend and both of us shared the same excitement for those kind of adventures so we decided to spend the last evening of the year swimming on those waters with the group of strangers of the tour organized by the local agency of the town where we stayed.

When we arrived to the lagoon, it looked exactly like the kind of place that suspense movies from the 80’s tell you not to visit, else you risk to get murdered by any type of strange creature. Anyway since we were all together the risk didn’t seem that much… we got into the boat and as it was approaching the center of the lagoon, we were getting ready to jump into the water and experience that special natural phenomenon. However, even if the night was clear, the brightness of the moon didn’t allow to fully notice the bioluminescence so we had to get into a special sort of shelter build inside the water which allowed for complete darkness and thus permitted to see it all…

Then, when we reached the sort of burble-shaped shelter we jumped into the water and voila… the magic happened. At every movement of our hands and legs the water sparkled and it was like if the stardust would be following every move of us… I can’t even describe how incredible it felt.

The darkness around us, the brightness ignited at every move, it was again like the world and my tiny person were fully one.

I can’t clearly say that very moment was one of sharp happiness.
Hopefully there will come more.

Courage

30 days of fuzzy writing – an imperfect challenge

Day 25

Ok, fellows, the time has come… yes, it is moment I tell you another tale of my time in Leuven. * sounds thunders in the back *

As I have mentioned some posts ago, on February 2015, I moved to Leuven, Belgium in order to complete the second semester of my master degree. Also, as I have said it… it was damn hard. It was really challenging even before actually moving since everyone involved in the program and other alumni we got to know they didn’t miss an opportunity to repeat time after time how hard that semester was going to be… of course the anticipation built it up as to create a sort of collective anxiety.

If you asked me now, maybe I don’t remember exactly the “hard” part of it, as much as the fact I know that it was hard… not sure if it makes sense. I guess that if I would use psychological theories as to explain it… let’s say that even if my remembering self can’t truly recall the hardship on itself, my experiencing self was so much affected that it still finds its way to vocalize the mental pain lived.

In anycase I would spare you the details oh how many papers I read, how many sleepless nights I spent and how many hours I dedicated to wonder whether I was going to be able to pass through it.

On the top of it, for reasons that seem inexplicable right now, I chose a very particular combination of courses which resulted in as many papers to write as exams to prepare. Oh 26 year old Mafer… Courageous (or dumb).

After the initial frustration on the enormous amount of work to complete, plus the many doubts on my abilities to get it done, I realized one very important thing… in order to survive such semester I needed in the very first place, to believe I could survive it… to go one step, one lesson, one page at a time, and write and read everything I needed to write with the firm conviction that no matter how it turned out to be, it was going to be adequate. I needed to be brave enough to trust my own self… and gather the courage to move through all the tasks with the conviction that I had what it took to pass it all.

Now, of course I know it is easier to say these things that actually do them… I mean, if it were as easy as to repeat to ourselves: Believe in you! Blah blah blah… No one would ever experience such type of frustration on our self-inflicted (or very real) limitations. It would be matter of ONLY self-brain-washing… Which okay, might work partly but not completely… Well, that is another discussion. As I was saying then, beyond solely repeating to ourselves that we can, I figure that eventually this was irrelevant, because regardless I believe or not in myself, I shall complete all my assignments and exams, then my reasoning was that I had two options… going through all this preparation assuming that I was not able (and therefore nervous), or taking as a matter of FACT that I could do it all. In other words, since anyway we start our preparation from a basic hypothesis guiding our potential outcomes, it would be easier if my hypothesis was that well… I was going to learn and remember all of it.

Until now, I’m not sure whether it was brilliant or not… but in all in all, I did pass every single of my course, so I would say it did work.

But I realized as well, that truly believing this requires of something even more profound, it demands a sort of courage different to what we normally think of whenever we talk about being brave and being bold… real courage is embracing all our fears and recognize that with all of our perceived weaknesses, we still are enough.

During that semester in Leuven, there is one night I will always remember. It was the birthday celebration of one of my best friends and that night all the group decided to use it as a blowoff valve to relieve the stress accumulated during the precedent months and specially over the last weeks. It was the last weekend of May and given that this small Belgium town was basically inhabited by only students, you could sense the stress in the air. That night then, after eating cake most of us went to a bar, and somehow ended up dancing in a club… Oh boy… it was fun. Or maybe we all just need to loose it up a bit.

That night at some point while dancing in the last bar we went, everyone of us, serious graduate students conducting a master program in the best university of Belgium ended up standing and dancing ON the bar’s tables. Not even drunk but only damn happy that for once it was not all about academic stuff.

I remember quite clearly this episode, because doing that was exactly something I had been over the last months avoiding. Why? Because still somewhere in my mind the thought of being observed while having fun in such a visible and outstanding way, was unthinkable. In that sense, for me dancing so freely so unapologetically required a degree of courage that paired somehow the one needed to complete equally all my due assignments, the courage of feeling enough.

I’m well aware of how random and unrelated both experiences could be, but looking in hindsight it doesn’t really seem so disconnected, perhaps because it all comes down to a matter of despite the doubts, despite the fear, despite the insecurities realize that no matter how flawed we are, still we can enjoy, complete successfully our challenges and have fun.

Polaris

…and if I get lost, may I always come to find myself again.

30 days of fuzzy writing – an imperfect challenge

Day 24

When I was a teenager my parents used to be afraid of the idea of me going all by myself to the city. I know, it might sound a bit exaggerated but as first-born of two quite protective Mexican parents, well, you can understand the cultural context leading to the overbearingness. In any case, my parents used to say that their biggest preoccupation was due to my seemingly daydreaming-ness which in their view made me prone to get lost… and no one wants a 15 year old to get lost… in a city.

After a while and many situations I was able to proof (finally) that being a daydreamer didn’t come together with a totally lack of inner compass as to not to know where I was, or where I should head to. Truth be told, it turned out that my compass was damn good… mostly because so it is my memory.

Unless I get truly absorbed by some specific preoccupation then… the compass gets broken.

One spring day of March 2010, I was on a trip around the Benelux. The final stop was Amsterdam and for the final day there I was supposed to take some tour around the red light district with a friend of mine. We were staying in a hostel located nearby the Museum square, and the tour meeting point was in fact not so far away from there (maybe 20 minutes walking or so). I was staying there with a friend of mine and she left to do sightseeing around the downtown before I did leave, since I needed to do some stuff first.

Then, around half an hour before the tour, I left the hostel and headed to the place with my city map in hand. I can still picture in my mind that calm afternoon, and the enjoyment of walking freely around the city, as I got closer to the city centre for some reason it is not very clear now, I found that time had passed quicker than expected and then I needed to find the place in matter of 5 minutes or so. Oh boy.

Furthermore, the meeting spot was supposed to be in a neighborhood composed of narrow streets and alleys making pretty confusing to properly orientate yourself. As I was getting more and more preoccupied given that the time was running and I was definitely going to be late, the anxiety creeped in, and my already confused brain got under an even bigger pressure as to not only find the place but find it asap.

Now, at this moment I should say that the red light district (for those who haven’t visited such fascinating city) is, well, the most “lively” area of town. The place embedding everything making Amsterdam famous… yes, sex and drugs. In the morning walking tour one of the biggest landmarks was actually one of the streets of such district were we could see the particular windows displaying the offer of the oldest profession of Earth. Now, I ask for your understanding… 21 years old me, almost newly arrived to the Old World, my pretty traditional out bringing still made me a bit uncomfortable looking at such free display of something completely normal, but which in my mind represented huge taboos. So much was it a taboo, that when I realized how completely lost I was, I got even more anxious that I tried to avoid coming back to the streets I had seen that morning… Yeah, I know.. what a prude.

My friend, she was already on the tour and while I frenetically tried to find out the route she called me. I, then got absorbed on the instructions she was telling me via phone that at some point I found myself exactly on the streets I was avoiding first. Holy mother of distraction… as soon as I realized where I was, I promptly tried to get out of that street… grasping the phone, carefully following my friend’s instructions, I finally found her.

and finally joined on the tour.

I have to be honest (again), I have many ideas for this post about the philosophical thoughts on finding that inner compass that we all have and somehow always ends up guiding us on the right way… yeah, like that call we can receive every now and then from God, life, or the Universe, you name it. However while writing the story, as usual another shock of reality hit me… it is true, indeed that more often than not, quieting helps to hear clearly the guiding voice allowing you to find the North… so shutting down the external noise allows everyone of us to truly listen and pay attention to whatever indication we might be receiving… but, there is of course not only that. As writing this story it was even clearer than ever, how many times our Northern stars are those people out there, helping us to find the right way. Friends, family, and sometimes even strangers are sent to us to provide the guidance… maybe that is Universe after all, sending all its starts.

Who knows.

Meanwhile, don’t be afraid of the wander.
You will always find the North.

Just look up.

Gente

30 days of fuzzy writing – an imperfect challenge

Day 23

The bus started its way uphill and the view of the city appeared suddenly and stunningly in the horizon. It was incredible thinking how many worlds one Metropoli could contain.

As the ride continued I was feeling more and more excited; somehow that little trip felt definitely like getting out of my comfort zone. Yeah, I was visiting for the first time and all on my own, the favela.

I must say however, because I feel it is my duty to debunk the myth, that the Carioca favelas are not really how mainstream media have made us thing. I mean, indeed we can totally say they’re not easy places to visit, and we certainly shall remain vigilant… but it is not the poverty circus we’re accustomed to hear from the news on the so-called first world. The history and evolution of the favelas up to today is far more complicated and I better not bore you with a fully account on the sociological and anthropological aspects of it. If you’re interested into completely debunking the myths by yourself, I deeply recommend you the book Favela, from Janice Pearlman. It is genius.

Ok, enough for the nerd moment. So, yeah, I was finally getting into the wildest part of the urban jungle, furthermore… the South American urban jungle. Now I actually embarked on that mini-adventure out of pure intellectual motifs. Back then (September 2016), I was conducting research in the city and part of my duties consisted into carry on interviews and other observation activities; as it turned out I was pretty lucky since the main part of my research tasks could be done pretty close to my home, however for the turns of life I had gotten to know about some reunion from a neighbors association taking place in one of the most developed favelas of the city, and which happened to be open to public. Then, even if my topic was not strictly related with the subject of the meet-up I figured that attending wouldn’t harm my cause since I could retrieve some valuable information about the dynamics of these type of associations while perhaps getting to know some people.

So, yeah, I had to attend the meeting… and find out the best way to get there by myself.

You see, there is another minor detail. For some reason my thesis supervisor had strongly advised that we (the foreign students) shouldn’t go to the favelas alone… apparently our pretty visible “otherness” (or gringo-ness) I mean, in Rio looking different sometimes puts you on the spot. In any case I decided to take advantage of my very latin features and trust that I looked Brazilian enough

Then, there I was, sitting on the window seat of the bus, watching the city passed by… it was crazy how the surrounding changed in a matter of minutes. The way to the favela, passed across some of the most fancy neighbors of the city, so everything looked chic and new… as the bus turned to start its way uphill you could seen the tall building in the distance, and in some roofs even tennis courtyards and swimming pools… another turns and the panorama abruptly transformed… the urban savannah appeared and a succession of houses and wires appeared as the street was getting narrower and narrowed. It was like a completely new world.

And I loved every bit of it.

The atmosphere felt festive and people was coming and going with a totally different tempo, motorbikes, people, and the smell of some churrasco grilling slowly somewhere out there. I remember I was not quite sure of where I should get out of the bus, so I asked to a lady sitting just next to me, and she was extremely kind as to tell you that she was descending on the very same place, so I should just follow her lead. I trusted of course, since the place were I was heading, (and where the meet-up was taking place) was a church. Holy mother of coincidences.

So, I got out of the bus right in front of my destination; thanking to the woman who helped me, I headed to the place… very decided to look the most natural I could.

Tough girl, you see.

I arrived without the minor inconvenience and joint the meeting. They were already discussing the main topic of the day, and the conversation was around whether or not they should support some project of the city which intended to build a cable car aiming to connect the favela with the city centre. It sounds great, isn’t it? Wrong! In reality the neighbors from the favela didn’t quite agree on the many benefits promoted by the city hall… they were of the idea that instead of a costly cable car, the city could invest on the water pipes infrastructure and still have money for installing a funicular. Equally useful and way better from a cost-effective perspective. Anyway, beyond the topic discussed, it was extremely fascinating to observe the discussion itself. As it unfolded, it offered such a closer view of the real interests and preoccupations of the people inhabiting the cit; their worries and everyday battles.

In many ways, that afternoon I felt closer to Rio…

The meeting ended and I had the chance to approach one of the organizers; he was an old man who agreed to answer some questions during an interview to be settle in the upcoming week. After a brief conversation with him after the meeting ended, I decided it was time for me to go.
I left the place and the nightlights surprised me offering a new of the city life at that time… It was even more lively.

It’s crazy, but almost 5 years later, I still remember myself waiting for the bus, getting in it, and enjoying the view once again from my window… now of the ambiance brought about by the night time. More churrasco stands have appeared covering the air with that unmissable smell of barbecue, and sauces… and with more churrasco, louder music and more people appeared all over the streets. I soaked in the full picture.

I can remember the bus coming down… and yet again the sudden change of the whereabouts strikes me whenever I recall it. One moment the people (or gente) gathering around everywhere, the next one the big houses… no smooth transition, but a steep leap from the lower percentiles to the upper one.

Now, this memory has stuck with me for such a long time for reasons beyond the merely narrative and outside the account of the sole heroic anecdotes which I deemed worthy of being told… no, this memory remains since it appeals to the idealistic part of myself which somehow gets outraged by the profound inequality of the city, by the double discourse and by the many gaps which are far far away of being closed… I won’t go deeper on that aspect either. Let’s leave the whole intellectual discussion for another time…

Today I want to call back that episode as a way to honor an idea which has equally accompanied part of me for a long time… that of what ultimately matter and gives life to any place its the collective soul created by its people.

A gente.

On the dichotomy of Rio de Janeiro.

Wabi-Sabi

30 days of fuzzy writing – an imperfect challenge

Day 22

“The perfect is the enemy of the good” – Voltaire

Some days ago, I retook this writing mission, and I must admit that it has been harder that I thought. I mean, after all, it was just a week off the creative endeavor, and in any case I did write a lot on those days… it was just not the same kind of stuff. However, I’ve been thinking that maybe as a way to get out of the creativity drought I could tell you a bit of some of the small victories I managed to accomplished on the past week. Who knows it might even be interesting for you…

Also, I promised to tell you about it, didn’t I?

Ok, well… here it goes. You see it is simply, I finally decided to pour myself wholly into the mission of applying to a PhD. Shocking I know…
What you might not know is that it’s a mission which has been in my mind, bugging me for long long time. If I shall be honest, I can’t even recall since when I started dreaming about becoming a Doctor of Philosophy, but it has been for sure since my teen years. You know… Nerd.

Of course after finishing my master, I thought about taking some time to 1) get some practical experience, 2) think carefully if I wanted to plunge in the profound waters of the intellectual milieu…

Well, it turned out I do want to plunge in those waters… and if I get drown, so, so be it.

In anycase and even if I have known it is something I want to do, truth be told I have also doubted whether I have what it takes to accomplish it.

Yeah, full imposter syndrome.

Or better said, the perfectionist monster was taking over. You see, I’ve told you before, actually since the beginning of this series, how hard is to get rid of that nagging voice telling you the horrors that might come if we deviate even if it is a little bit of that ideal of perfection… and how self-destructing such voice can be.

You see after a lot of introspection (and many many tears), I came to understand that the bloody perfectionism was the root of another little monster: The procrastination monkey. Like best buddies, the two of them encourage each other provoking a deep deep anxiety which has accompanied me since I can remember (even if before I wasn’t fully aware of what it was)

So, I told myself that this time I was not gonna let the monster win… and similarly to this very challenge, I was going to put together that application, the best I could, but however it turned out to be, I was going to submit it no matter what.

With that firm resolution I put myself to work; first drafting the raw ideas as the come to my mind, after going for the practicalities and finishing the perhaps minimal yet important documents I had to complete, hoping that the inertia of completing that stuff would push me to finally get done the main one: My research proposal (thunders sound in the back)

I have to tell you, the reason why I was struggling was mostly because I could not entirely get rid of that pervasive idea if I was going on the right path, or if my idea was somewhat valuable… again the perfectionism monster.

But this time, I swore to god it was not going to win.

Then, armed with all the information I had and all the determination I could gather, put my self to work.

Oh boy, I read and read… and when the moment came… the words appeared right in front of me.

I can’t describe it, but it was amazing. You see, I divided the whole mission into smaller ones and each night I devoted myself to complete one sheet, to write one whole section…

During the early morning of a whole week of work… my proposal was born.

Holy mother, I did it.

On the final night, as I was reviewing all the document and getting the summary (or abstract) needed to complete my application I realized how much I have enjoyed the process and how honestly, regardless of the outcome, I was so damn proud.

I beat the monster.

Imperfections and all….

I submitted my application last Saturday, and I have finally found again that excitement for the new venture to come. I mean, do not get wrong, I’m very aware of the uncertainty that any application entails, and the many things at play.. If I’ve learned something during those years is to embrace the possibility of failure, so the very real possibility that my applications turns out to be unsuccessful, doesn’t really scare me… it will hurt, of course, but it won’t stop me from trying again and again.

That being said, of course it is odd that at the same time the thought of being imperfect or doing something “not perfect” strikes me as punch and let me fully incapable something to move forward since the fear, that fear of not being adequate just takes over me… Well, I gotta say I’m still trying to figure myself out…

I guess it all comes to the fear of being adequate while doing things, and not really when it is the turn for someone else to assess me… well, anyway let’s leave guessing for another time.

The point here is that somehow the whole process of putting together that application empowered me in a way that I haven’t felt in months. It made me certain that I can, that even if not perfect, I’m able.

and enough.

Now, this is not to say either that the battle against that freaking monster is over, because it isn’t… perhaps it is a battle that I will keep having over and over and again, but at last I feel like I’ve been able to find out the ultimate strategy to beat it… and to give it a fight.

This is of course a recipe that I’ve used before, the difference is that now, I’m more aware than ever of all its power.

The strategy as powerful as it is, it is also extremely simple.. it entails, acknowledging that it is okey to suck, and do it one step, one word, one paragraph, one little goal at a time.

Regardless of it ends up.

You never where the imperfect messy road will take you.

Allora

30 days of fuzzy writing – an imperfect challenge

Day 21

But first, a perhaps completely unrelated story.

On December 2017, I was spending my first Christmas period in Brussels. At that time I was part of a training program for one big institution and among the many activities planned for the batch of trainees there was a huge party coming up some days before Christmas. Since at that time some of my close friends happened to be living in Belgium also, it was a very nice chance to see them more. The time for the big party I mentioned came, I decided to ask one of my friends to come with me, as it would ensure that no matter how it turned out, we would have fun… it is what they say… it’s not about the place, but the people, right?

Anyway, that Saturday came and me and friend went out ready to faire la fete and directed ourselves to the club where the party was supposed to take place. As we were getting closer and closer to the place we realized that the whole thing of “having fun” might have take a bit more time than expected. There was a huge queue to get it.

Now, certainly we decidedly thought… ok, no problem, we can wait (a bit) and took our places at the long (and getting longer) line… mmm ok, 15 minutes later we ran out of patience.

As we realized that maybe that plan was not going to work out, since it seemed that even if we get in the place for sue would be packed, we were thinking about the alternative. Luckily (for me) my friend was Belgian, and even if that city was not originally his, he had been going out with some friends, and had visited couple of places… so without much further ado, we left the bloody line.

What a great decision.

We were now fully free and the night offered endless possibilities… ok fair enough, not really endless. My friend then suggested to start by going to this place in the city center he had been to some days ago, and there we went.

It was awesome. The music, the atmosphere, the place on itself… it was a beautiful building which apparently used to be an old market, after being fully refurbished a coffee shop, and bar was established there… the coolest part was how you couldn’t fully define whether it was a “chill, we come here to play chess” place, or a “we come here to dance as well” as a matter of fact, it was both.

What a great place!

I think we stayed there until almost closing time (which wasn’t so late, since those type of bars should close at 2 or so), but we were very aware that the night was still young… we wanted to keep dancing. So, now the great thing about going out with a friend that happen to love Latin America es the shared interest you get in one thing… SALSA, but for food and the music.

So, what started (potentially) as a night packed in a club, squeezing ourselves trying to find a place to move, turned out to be in an amazing dancing experiences, surrounded by Latin American people and dancing music that I had not listened in quite a while…

It was amazing.

We were happy we didn’t wait.

Now I’m going to be honest with you, I’m not really sure how this story actually matches the whole point I will try to make as to wrap up this post… but nevertheless I’ll give it a try.

As I thought about what I took out of the latter anecdote I can’t help but think about the great power of taking the smallest action, opposed to stay in a place just because you’re supposed to be there. Now I write and I can notice also some counterintuitive arguments here, because in a way, taking action could be considered a disruption in the “flow”, and oh boy have we talked a lot about letting ourselves take by that flow. However, I think this is different because sometimes what seems to be the natural course, it is actually stagnation.

The trick perhaps lies in knowing when we face each situation; when we’re actually slowly moving towards a destination we don’t know yet; and when we’re stuck in a situation holding on to the premise of just “how good it will look”… Of course, we are free to choose, and our choices are always valid… but you know, since the night have just so many hours… we may as well decide, instead of wait… to seize it all and dance.

You just get out of the line.

Plan B’s are allowed. Allora… Where next?