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.
And as we all know, a month later I saddled up and left Austin on my bicycle, headed south.
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.
After waiting outside and chatting with some capoeiristas, I was ushered in to meet the Santa Claus of capoeira.
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.
Mestre Acordeon could have chatted all night, and I would have happily sat there through all of it, but finally it was time for everyone to go home and go to bed.
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.