Skipping School & Singing Circles.
São Paulo, Part 1.
The Workaway with Source Temple was always going to be a tough act to follow. I traveled into São Paulo city and arrange to stay with a couple in the Ana Rosa part of town; I would be teaching the husband English in return for my stay. Their profile said that she spoke the language but wanted to practice, and that he would more or less be starting from scratch. I can do this! I thought, as I always do think.
I would be in the city for two weeks and already had my second weeks accommodation taken care of with the help of Couchsurfing and so having a bit of structure to my day while I reacclimatised myself to life beyond Source Temple gates, seem like as good an idea as any. And so I trawled the internet for ESOL resources, sketched a rudimentary lesson plan in the back of my diary, and went off to meet my students in their home.
Now to say that the husband was a reluctant student would be an understatement. It was not long before I realised that it was his wife that wanted him to learn English. He was more interested in playing on his x-box than he was in speaking with me, however we managed a couple of hours speaking about each other’s families and friends when I first arrive. His disinterest aside, another stumbling block came when we tried to speak about our likes and dislikes. The x-box aside, he really didn’t have any other interests, and 'gaming' is a huge black spot in my general knowledge. I managed to find an English review of the latest game to be released and we read through it together... It might as well have been written in Swahili for all the sense it made to me, but I think he appreciated the effort I’d gone to.
View from the Classroom. Ana Rosa.
Not only was the husband reluctant he was more often that not tardy and on a few occasions truant. Given that I was only staying with them for a week, of the five lessons that we had planned, more were cancelled or postponed than I was actually able to deliver. On the plus side I still have five lesson plans when they next opportunity to teach presents itself.
This did however give me an extra opportunity to catch up on some life admin and get to know the city a little better. I was also able to say yes to some of the offer to hang out that were coming my way through the Couchsurfing website, which is how I found myself invited to a Singing Circle on the outskirts of town.
São Paulo Singing Circle.
I had put on my Couchsufing profile that I would be keen to meet up with people other than my host, and had been quite taken a back by the number of people who were willing to show me around. Mainly guys, not all creepy sounding. I had initially been contacted by Fernando with the offer to stay with him and his friends in a 6 person house. They were in the process of converting the living space into a home that was entirely sustainable, and held weekly open house music and healing events. Although I wouldn’t stay with them I was interested to meet up and find out what they were about, and so Fernando invited me to join them in their singing circle one Thursday evening.
From the outset, the event had an air of the squat party raves that I had gone to in my early 20s. There was no address, only directions. Take the metro to Butantã Station. I was given a choice of bus that would all bring me to the same bus stop. I was to walk in the direction of the traffic.
‘We are on the second road and in the second house on the right. You will recognise our building. It is blue.'
When I hopped off the bus there wasn’t much around, save for a couple of motels with names in English like ‘Free Love’ and ‘ Red Fox’. This wasn’t a part of town many would be keen to get lost in. I smile to myself at the thought. I felt completely safe, and hoped that I wouldn’t be mistaken for a prostitute in my electric blue leopard print skirt and Vanns. Prostitutes don't wear Vanns, do they?.
Mannaz Singing Circle. Undisclosed Location, São Paulo.
I arrived earlier than planned and was welcomed with a warm hug by a guy who I assumed lived there. He smelled of patchouli oil, and wore a t-shirt with a faded picture of Ganesha. I was definitely in the right place.
The living area was already in what I guess you could call full swing. There was no furniture in the room, only a floor covered with cushions and blankets, with candles and incense burning. There were others who had already started to arrive, and were sat on the floor; some swaying to the guitar that was playing, others clapping or drumming in time with the songs.
I took the brigadeiros I had made to the kitchen as my offering at the feast. ‘We’re vegan!’ said the man in the kitchen. ‘Thank you,’ I thought, ‘Would have been just fine.’ It was good to see that the vegans were as fastidious as I remember them.
From what I could see hippie fashion hasn’t changed much in the 10 years or so that I had been off the scene. Long flowing skirts, embroidered oms, ankle bells, dreadlocks and unshaven legs. I was an obvious voyeur in my leopard print and chequered shirt. I was relieved that I had decided not to paint my nails.
Vegan faux-pas and hippie attire aside it was a really lovely evening. The food, although vegan, was delicious and the singing itself was really good fun and I joined in as best I could. Unfortunately I cannot tell what any of the songs were called, or indeed what they were about as the entire evening was conducted entirely in Portuguese. There was an accompanying songbook, but I have hell of a long way to go before I can keep up with a 3/4 time signature. And so I swayed and clapped along in time with the others, and the end of the night we all held hands and hugged. It was a pretty special evening, despite my lack of the foreign language.
I was invited to stay for the evening, but alas, I had an early morning English lesson scheduled. A lesson, as you might guess that never ended up happening.