Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Big Rodas and Care Packages

Today I participated in an event in the Praça Municipal, which is a square at the top of the most famous landmark in Salvador, which is an elevator. The first time I heard that I thought what kind of city is famous for an elevator? but the truth is it's a pretty cool elevator. In the praça there were to be ten simultaneous Capoeira rodas, although I'm not sure it was quite that many.

I arrived and the scene was a sea of white clothes, rope-like belts of different colors, and bare feet. That is, consisting almost entirely of practitioners of the other style of Capoeira, Regional. Regional is OK and it's fun to watch, but I'm an Angoleiro and I lose interest pretty quickly. Tonight there was a spot on the news about the event and wouldn't you know it, all the footage was of the Regionalistas doing flips and crazy kicks- not a single shot of us humble Angoleiros.

After a little hunting around I was able to find 'my people'- they weren't hard to track down being dressed in black and yellow. Our group, Nzinga, combined forces with the other Angola group in attendance, Fica, and made one big roda. One big, raucus, high energy roda.

The thing is, I don't like big rodas. And I don't really like big capoeira events. I don't like the vibe along with a number of other things that tend to emerge when you get that many capoeiristas together in one place. I was mostly there to help out our group, not because I expected to have a good time.

Well, that was a self-fulfilling prophecy. The most fun I had at the event was watching over the bags and the instruments to make sure nobody walked off with anything. I didn't even really care if I played or not, and when I finally got the opportunity to do so, I was completely out-played by a woman from Fica. I'd played her before a couple years ago, and she bested me that time too, but this was much worse. She was all over me, feet in the face and all the rest. For my part, I felt like I was stuck in third gear. I kept trying to ratchet up the energy and I felt like I was playing at 1.5 gravities, like I was ballasted with sandbags, like I was playing in six inches of wet cement. And the game just seemed to go on forever, with all these people watching, and me just repeating the same dead-end moves, and her foot in my face over and over again.

Finally it was over and I went and sat down. The sun was in my eyes, and that was annoying. Some non-Angoleiro showed up and started playing all these short Regional-style games with people, and that was annoying. Suddenly everything about the roda was annoying. I was annoyed and embarrassed by my shitty game. Part of what made it so embarrassing was that I'd been feeling all good about myself the day before because I'd actually trained three times in two weeks, instead of my usual once in three weeks. I was already starting to get that nice loose but sore feeling in my muscles rather than the creaky stiff limited-range-of-motion feeling from sitting in a chair all day. All for naught. Clearly the woman I played trains much more than three times in two weeks.

So what did I do? Well, I had to go back to work and I don't want to say that I slunk away but basically what I did was slink away. I really didn't want to call attention to myself any more than I already had, and to the fact that I was leaving before the roda was over, or anything. I just wanted to go. There were lots of people there and I didn't expect to be missed, and I doubt that I was.

I went and got some work done. Then I got a phone call from Evani- my birthday care package from my mom had arrived! This was a complete surprise because the post office has been on strike for some time with no end in sight. The irony of this? The last time she sent me a care package, the same thing happened. I didn't get that package for over a month.

I'm sure you're wondering what was in it. I got a whole bunch of Obama For President gear (most of my family are enthusiastic supporters), a book I've wanted for some time, some extra-fine-point Sharpie markers (not available in Bahia), and perhaps most important of all, two pounds of red licorice! My day had taken a turn for the better.

My good mood was tempered somewhat later on after I called my mom to thank her. Lucas decided he wanted to visit Grammy's house, and became quite insistent about it in true three year old style. I couldn't explain to him why that wasn't possible. The best answer I could give him was "Hopefully next year," which was just as opaque to him as trying to explain that Grammy lives 24 hours travel from here, and it ain't cheap.

I often find myself thinking about all the immigrants that got on boats and said goodbye to their homelands and families, knowing that it was really goodbye- there was no going back. That must have been so terrible. Nowadays we have airplanes (although the cheap air travel days might be over, is it possible?) and telephones and even the internet. Someday my Mom might even have broadband and a webcam so we can see each other as we chat (although I don't expect it to happen soon).

But I gotta tell you- it's way too far from here to there.


markuza said...

Update: at our roda this evening, Poloca was talking about what a great event the roda was, with all these great people up from Rio and so forth... I felt very silly afterwards.

But I still don't like big rodas.

A.L.R. said...

Mark, you are a blogging machine. I admire that.

I feel for you about Capoeira man. I have been feeling similarly lackluster about my jogo experience ever since I made it down here. Pretty weird because Capoeira was my life back in the states.

Capoeira is just weird. I have been doing martial arts all my life, and for some reason it has been the hardest one for me to pick up. After a year and a half of playing, I feel so blaahhhh about my game. And such roda experiences like the one you describe only compound the fact.

Sometimes I think maybe Capoeira just ain't in my blood, other days like I'll keep it up at all costs.

I don't know. I am a conflicted capoeirista.

markuza said...

You're right- capoeira _is_ weird. Thing is, I don't think I would have gotten into it in the first place if it wasn't, being kind of weird myself. And already being very intense, it's even more so here, with so many groups and mestres and people doing it. Sounds like maybe you've plateaued for the time being, but that doesn't mean you're stuck there forever.