Vinícius de Moraes, the Brazilian poet, composer and singer says that we don’t ‘make’ friends, we simply acknowledge that the friendship was already there as soon as we meet friends for the first time. This is exactly how I felt when I got to Beirut. The Sobreviventes crew made me so comfortable teaching in their programs that I felt like I was teaching in one of my own in Brazil.
Both Beirut’s beauties and scars enthralled me. Wandering in Beirut’s sidewalks with the Sobreviventes crew I met some of the kindest people ever. Beirut’s traffic, however, seemed to be there to epitomize life’s controversies. Most of my conversations with Alegria happened while she drove me around and every now and then a driver would shout something. “You don’t need translation to get that, do you?!” Alegria would say.
While she educated me about Beirut’s amazing history and people, Mosques, Churches, abandoned Villas and bullet-holed buildings passed by illustrating it. VAM’s programs illustrated some of it too… The eyes of those children conveyed sorrow when they shouldn’t express anything but joy. Some were refugees, some were street kids, all were extremely poor.
Alegria and some of the other capoeiristas involved in these classes were disappointed by how slow the process of establishing rapport and discipline in class was. I, on the other hand, was impressed by how they are dealing with mixed ages and backgrounds in every single class. In one of these classes we needed to rely on one of the oldest kids to translate our instructions into Turkmani, so that the others could understand. I would give an instruction in english, Alegria would translate into Arabic and the boy into Turkmani. I’m familiar with the harshness of these programs, but having to use 3 languages to teach was a first. Having suffered too much abuse from many sorts, these kids usually go hyper, aggressive, and/or withdrawn. In our conversations and talk with those invovled in VAM’s programs I share my experience and gave them my feedback – they are doing a great work!
The classes I held at Houna Centre were moving too, though in another way. With most of the Sobreviventes strongly headed towards music and Portuguese skills, these classes and Rodas were full of Axé. Though avidly embracing Brazilian-ness, the Sobreviventes members are also very proud of their culture, and were happy to share it in every chance they had. The school allows capoeiristas to keep their previous allegiances provided that they bring their Axé, engage in classes, and respect the rules of the house. This approach brings together a diversity of passionate people who had became brothers and sisters in Capoeira. A broader sense of belonging only achieved by open-minded capoeiristas.
You guys are definitely playing a leading role in the ‘Social Capoeira’ movement; congratulations! Your kind of work and dedication made me proud of our friendship.
Abraços com Axé!