Thursday, 19 February 2009

Kitchen Table

When I entered that kitchen I felt I was reencountering old friends. A smile, a beer, a joke about Portuguese people, another beer, a music we sang together and one more cold beer that went down our throats, a delicacy we cooked, one more beer we drank. Endless laughter, loads of music, non-stop chat, too much food and liters of beer sealed an instant friendship between a Portuguese and a group of Brazilians from all over the country, all of us just passing by Belém do Pará. I ended up not seeing much of this city but with no regret of the long hours spent around that kitchen table, where I ended up learning more than if I had wandered around the narrow and confusing streets of this place forgotten by time and fortune. The only thing which was not forgotten in Belém was the art of welcoming foreigners. Not even the first mugging of my trip will make me forget how welcome I felt around that kitchen table.

Belém do Pará, Brazil, January 2009


Will selected Brazil to be the first destination. Rio de Janeiro. Is there a better way to start other than by one of the most beautiful countries in the World, by the ‘cidade maravilhosa’ (wonderful city), the queen of Carnival, of Samba, of natural and human beauties, of each and every contrast? But after a few hours looking for the ‘garota de Ipanema’ (girl from Ipanema) that Jobim sang, fortune decided that Rio was only a 'pit-stop' on my way North. Fortune determined this way but will compels me to come back.

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, January 2009

The beginning

How does a round-the-World trip start? Probably in some random airport, packed, way too packed with people running into each other in a sort of purposeless rat race. People, coming and going, starting or finishing their journeys, with loads of them not even knowing why they came or why they are going. In a word: people...
I always loved watching those who surround me in airports. Well, in all means of transportation in general, but airports in particular, because although a bit elitist it ends up being the place where all sorts of people converge. From businessmen/businesswomen, always running, always on the phone, reading, behind a laptop screen, always busy, as if every minute of that hour was more valuable than the ones from the following. From the immigrant who just landed, looking around with awe, still questioning if it is true he’s already here. Still thinking about all the yada yada he had to make up in order to cross the border, although he’s already through, but with the endless hours making sure he knew it by heart making it impossible to forget all the stupid answers to those meaningless questions destined only to prevent others from dreaming. Anyhow, unwelcome or not, all immigrants arrive with that mix of awe and sparkle in their eyes that only those who are living a dream possess. There’s also those who are leaving, with the drained look of those who lived the dream but are simply homesick. Also those who go home so they can pay their respect to a loved one who left this world without saying goodbye. Those who simply return home, after following a dream which wasn’t their own and merely return to themselves... But there’s many more running around the airport: the tourists, with their often ridiculous outfit, showing they don’t care about anything but that moment of relaxation; the kid who looks astonished, about to fly like the birds for the first time; the professionals with those too many flight hours offering coffee and peanuts mirrored in their tired eyes, or those others who even without flying are as tired as them.
Well, people, loads of people, everywhere. Those who are here because they have to, those who gave all they had so they could come. Those who go and want to stay, those who arrive and didn’t want to leave in the first place. Those who are just passing by and never wanted to stop here... But there’s one thing in common among all the people bumping into each other in the check-in, undressing to go through security, getting bored waiting or getting distracted wandering through shops selling stuff they never wanted to buy. All of them are just passing by, for a shorter or a longer period, running around or taking it easy the way only time and age enables us. All are passing by, between an origin and a destination, all on a journey, living their endless journey without noticing it.
A round-the-World trip starts probably in some random airport, or most probably long before, the very moment eyes shine for the first time when crossing a border, when hearing someone who talks in a way we cannot understand, but sparking a smile of curiosity. It starts when we realize the relativity of our place in this World, how much we have to learn with strange foreigners, unusual places, diverse smells and colors. This was the way my journey started, when crossing a border in some random day I can’t remember, and it didn’t stop anymore. This way a dream was born, the dream of going around the World. A child’s dream that becomes true now, many years later, in some random airport, with West on my mind, going around the way Magellan did but not looking for the westward route to the spices, looking only for my way back home to Portugal, through where will and fortune may take me.

London, United Kingdom, November 2008