A month before I left on my bicycle trip from Austin to Brazil, I decided to write to Mestre Acordeon.
According to wikipedia, ‘Mestre Acordeon is a native of Salvador, Bahia, Brazil, and a master of the Brazilian folk art known as Capoeira. His international reputation as a respected teacher, performer, musician, organizer, and author is built upon fifty years of active practice, as well as research into the origins, traditions, political connotations, and contemporary trends of Capoeira. Mestre Acordeon has travelled extensively promoting Capoeira outside Brazil.’
The reason I wanted to talk to him, was because 2 years ago, at the age of 70, Mestre Acordeon rode his bicycle from Berkeley, CA to Bahia, Brazil.
A week after I had written to him (and almost forgotten about it), I received a phone call with a Northern California area code.
“Hello?” I answered, expecting to hear the voice of an old Northern Cali friend.
“Ah… em… hello…” came the voice of a man with an accent. “How do you say your name?”
“Oh!” I replied, wondering who it was. “My name is Jahnavi.”
“Ahhh, Jahnavi. Hello, this is Mestre Acordeon.”
I stopped pacing through my apartment and went to my room and shut the door.
“Hello! Thank you for calling!”
We chatted for a while, and I told him that I wanted to ride my bicycle to Brazil also, and asked him about his trip.
“The voyage for me was truly magical,” he told me. “I encourage you to do the trip. It changed my life.”
He put me in contact with Pirata, one of the capoeiristas who had done the whole ride with him and who is currently writing a book about it.
“If you have any questions, you can call me anytime,” he told me.
Well, needless to say, that made my day… well, my week, really.
I’ve made it halfway across Mexico at this point.
I’ve trained with Capoeira Longe Do Mar in San Luis Potosi, Queretaro, and now Mexico City.
I arrived in Mexico City with my friend Monica on Saturday.
That night I found Nao Veio, a professor at Longe Do Mar, and am staying at his house with his wife Nana.
The next morning I received a Facebook message from the Longe Do Mar academy.
(it was in spanish, but I’ll tell you in english):
“Hello, welcome to Mexico City. Mestre Acordeon is here today and tomorrow and he would like to meet you.”
Apparently Mestre Acordeon visits Mexico City once a year, and I happen to have arrived during the two days he is in town.
That evening Nao Veio took me by subway to the Mestre’s house where Acordeon is staying.
Acordeon had just finished a meeting with the director of his documentary (the documentary about his ride from Berkeley to Bahia).
He welcomed me in, embraced me, and we immediately dove into talking about my journey and his journey.
He scribbled on a piece of paper, showing me how I could get from Panama to Brazil, and eventually demanded that I sit down next to him so we could get to the nitty gritty.
He showed me sample clips of the unreleased documentary, and shared stories, switching seamlessly between portuguese and english as though he barely noticed they are different languages.
I soaked it in. His energy is amazing.
I felt a resurgence of confidence in my voyage.
This journey is bigger than me, I thought, as I watched some footage from his ride. I can’t even imagine who I’ll be at the end of this, because it’s so huge.
One thing I know for sure, is that every single capoeirista who I’ve met along this ride so far will never forget me (nor I them) and they will be rooting me on through every step of the way.
And even if I go back to live in Austin, I will have homes away from home across all of the South Americas.
He hugged me close and wished me the best of luck on my trip.
I am so thankful for synchronisity and the constant reminder that I need only ‘jump and the net shall appear’.
I can’t plan out every day of this trip, I can only continue to move forward and continue to seek out capoeira and higher guidance as I travel south.
“The greatest suffering can be overcome through the simplest of actions…” -Me
In the past couple of weeks I have cried more and slept less for the longest stretch of time I can remember.
And whenever I would have a moment’s rest from the onslaught of pain, I would wonder… “How can I stay here? I don’t want to go back down. I need to stay above water!”
My sister brilliantly reminded me that I could listen to Thich Nhat Hanh on YouTube or podcasts whenever I wanted.
My own mind was struggling with creating and maintaining a positive thought stream, and I found it almost impossible to stay in the present moment.
So I turned to Thich Nhat Hanh to fill my head with the good stuff. 😉
It took a couple of days of listening to him, but finally, one of my bigger questions was answered and I had a tool I could use to make changes in the recesses of my consciousness.
Thay said, “If you are listening to a CD and you don’t like the music that is playing, why keep listening to it? Just change the CD.”
Simple, yet brilliant.
“If your thoughts are causing you to suffer, why continue to listen to them? You can make a change, right now. You can choose to stop your suffering, right now.
There are seeds in your unconscious. Seeds of love, of anger, of joy, of hate. If you water the seeds of hate, anger or despair, they will take root and grow strong. You need to sing them a lullaby, and put them to sleep. You need to water the seeds of joy, of hope, of love, and they will grow strong in your mind.”
So thank you for being part of my practice of watering the seeds of gratitude and love in my consciousness. I am going to share with you everything I have been grateful for and appreciated over the last couple of weeks here in Mexico.
This is my lullaby, sending the seeds of despair and fear to sleep. 🙂
The first thing that I think of when I feel this swell of appreciation in my heart are the people I have met in the past few weeks:
And there’s more and more…
I’m thankful for the sunsets here…
I’m thankful for the beautiful city of Queretaro…
I’m thankful for cute dogs… 😀
I’m thankful for the beautiful art of basketry…
I’m thankful for the mandolin and the ability to play music and heal…
I’m thankful for my noble steed, my amazing bicycle who carries all of my stuff and goes with me everywhere…
I’m thankful for capoeira, my saving grace, and Professor Marcego for saying, “If I check on you in a couple of months and I see that you’ve quit and gone back to the U.S., than you’re not my friend anymore.” 😀
I’m thankful for delicious Mexican food…
I’m thankful for walking meditation…
I’m thankful for handstands…
I’m thankful for finding random, inspiring quotes on the walls of a restaurant:
I’m thankful for Mexico City for welcoming me into it’s awe inspiring massiveness…
And I am thankful to you, dear friend, for reading this whole post and giving me the gift of your attention today. 🙂
When I left Austin on my bicycle, something I had to leave behind that is near and dear to my heart is my capoeira group, Evolucao. But I promised myself (and Contra Mestre) that I was going to visit lots of capoeira schools along my ride and broaden my experience and understanding of this beautiful art-form.
When I return to Austin and it’s time for me to start teaching classes for Evolucao, I hope to be sharing capoeira from a deeper sense of knowledge and experience.
Brazil is the motherland of capoeira, so ultimately this is really where I need to go to get the submersion I’m looking for.
However, capoeira is a big family that has spread across the world, and so when I saw that there are a couple of groups here in San Luis Potosi, I wasn’t too surprised.
(in fact, I ended up getting a ride to Chical–which you’ll hear about in my next post–from the dad of one the directors of capoeira in Mexico)
I introduced myself to the teacher, Sobra (his Capoeira name means ‘shadow’) through a FB message, so that when I arrived at the class, he would have a little bit of background for this spanish hacking gringa capoeirista.
I was immediately welcomed into the class, and despite the language barrier, we all shared an understanding within capoeira that allowed me to have a great training session and experience some camaraderie with my fellow blue-yellow cord.
It was slightly hilarious to be called up to demonstrate with the teacher however, since I didn’t really understand the verbal explanation of the drill, and had to just gather the information through gestures and imitation.
(part of what I’m experiencing as I learn spanish is how I quickly convince myself I don’t understand what someone is saying to me, due to some kind of stage fright–it’s like a mental barrier that lunges into place when I’m put on the spot… not exactly helpful!)
My friend, Alejandra, came to watch the end of the class and kindly took some video so that I could share a snippet of time with you guys here!