Monday, 8 February 2010

Half World, World in half

Ecuador, the World’s half... I’m going up this country towards the line that divides the planet in two without knowing yet what I’ll find in this mythical place. But what’s there after all, in the World’s halfway? In the World’s halfway there is above all bananas, many, never-ending forests of countless banana trees that feed the whole World with this scrumptious fruit, a present genetic memory of our primate past. There is also heat, a humid heat that dampens my body while I walk the streets of Guayaquil hunting for fish and refreshment, which I always seem to find near the river where I like to rest my eyes. There is also people, many, of variable friendliness, maybe due to the natural human shyness, maybe not, after all in these latitudes this personality trait seems to vary according to the altitude you’re at. I verify that when I climb up to Cuenca, Andean village of affable people but somewhat calmer and quieter, a place crammed with streets narrower and darker than the ones near the coast. This is a sort of Spanish Andalusia or Extremadura countryside village lost by chance in the Andes. I do not stay here long, after all I’m on my way to the equator and that line is further ahead. I keep going north through the Andean inland, surrounded by valleys and volcanoes in a greener landscape than the one found in the southern Andes, nevertheless rugged, restless, similar. Listening to the roaring motor of the bus that faces the turns linking Riobamba and Quito, I start to remember many other turns and straight roads, paved or made of dirty and sand which I wandered since January, since Brazil where this adventure started. I remember each day, each hour, each bump of the way, each splash in the water, each smile and friend I made, each strong hug I gave, each sunset and aurora, each music heard and sang, each nostalgia I lived, old and new, each sun beam, raindrop and snowflake. I remember each minute passed and lived in company, human or non-human, in my own company most of the time, the whole time after all. A little smile starts to pop from the corner of my mouth despite the weight of my legs being too heavy already. Quito also pops up in between thoughts, little by little, along the valley. In the city centre I see some of the most beautiful churches and building as I lose myself in its cobblestone streets, but at the same time I feel I’m walking around a sort of zombie city, where many wander the streets clearly with little in their pockets, less in their bellies and too many ideas on their minds. There is something wrong about this country of too much oil and bananas and too little money and food, but in the end it is just one more, this country is not alone, this is not only found here. All this I find in the World’s middle, at least here in the country that bears the name of the magical line where South meets North. I also arrive to the middle. If the end of the World was not the end of my trip, the middle is not the end either, while being an end at the same time. It is a midpoint, one of the halves of my bigger journey. I reach the globe’s half-point and in it I find the time to stop, to rest. It is time to start drowning my ‘saudade’ (nostalgia) every day in the drawings of a Portuguese cobblestone street, in the eyes of a sardine which overlooks a glass of wine while it is grilled, in an ‘bica’ (espresso) which flirts with a ‘pastel de nata’ (Portuguese custard pie), in the chat of a Portuguese guy who complains about life during football’s half-time, in a hug given by old friends and family. It is, after all, the time to breathe again the Portuguese salty air of my homeland Algarve. Looking at the magical line I think of all the land to roam ahead, but I do not cross it, not now, not yet. With the ticket in my hand and the backpack on my shoulders I head towards the plane that will take me across the ocean, always with a wee smile on the corner of my mouth, after all I crossed half World already and the end is no more than a pause, a deep breath I take before starting all over again.

Quito, Ecuador, October 2009


Still. Finally still. I live inside a dune, under its white sand that is constantly blown by the light breeze and pushed, moistened by this sea of constant and vigorous waves, not too many or too strong, just perfect. Like a crab, I dig my way to the sea, dipping my body in its water, letting me float lightly, weightlessly, wrapped in a sense of freshness that counters the sun, who insists in warming my body, gladly. My eyes are shut. The light-filled reddish darkness I see hurts my eyes, hallucinating my blood, which is boiled by the sun and by the whole road wandered in the last nine months. Dipping my head, I hear the sea whispering softly to me the shells that come and go, the tide and waves moving, the cadenced dives of fishermen with wings, who fish uninterruptedly, as if the world ended tomorrow. The sea whispers to me its whole bottom, softly, as if I was one more fish, an old friend who returns after a long time. And I am. If doubts subsisted I lose them as I open my eyes and see an old seal floating, swimming next to me, looking at me, joining me in this aquatic moment. Shy, he winks at me and dives when he sees I noticed his presence, going away, throughout the sea. I lose him in the waves, but it does not matter. Instead I just stay here, still, forgotten, looking at the sun who wants also to be a part of this sea, sinking slowly into it, while my body sinks as well as it returns to the dune. My shut eyes listen to the sea rocking my sleep from a distance. I know I am in paradise. I breathe it slowly, once and again, without any sort of rush of breathing it all at once. There is no rush at all, I live inside a dune, still, shackled to the freedom of living paradise.

Vichayito - Mancora, Peru, October 2009