Carnival and the Ephemeral Identity

It is incredibly hard to decide what to write about from Rio. The days have been blue, the sun has never left the sky, and carnival has been carnival. I have reencountered friends I met when studying in Brasil 12 years ago, in NY 11 years ago, in England a few years ago, and even travellers I crossed Kashmir with last year. I have made a great new friend. A gorgeous Iraqi English woman. Of the strange things that happen to me. In one day I am partying with a broken foot in the street carnival with a Bahraini girl, and of the other I meet an Iraqi in Brazil.


There is something that makes me feel at ease with these gorgeous and complex women of the Orient. They have identities that are so complex. I myself feel a little bit divided in this mosaic of identities. So I lay in Bikini in Ipanema, admiring the gorgeous people around but hoping for Sara to arrive since I know she will understand this multiplicity I have inside.


We will inevitably talk about the world. About emotions. About our experiences in Israel and Palestine. We will laugh and be intrigued by it all. Like foreigners who have crossed too many borders we will feel no belonging to a specific identity, while at the same time feeling a bit of them all. We will feel just like human beings, we will find familiar and strange things here together. Oh yes, it is true, I forgot, but this my country, I should somehow be an expert on it. I am not. In fact, I am not at all.


I walk around the Carnival in the street with my broken foot. The street is packed. There is music, there is joy. I have no phone. I search the purple hat of yet another friend. People are surprised I am alone. Boys and men offer kisses, marriage proposals, unforgettable nights, smiles, and when I explain I have just come back from another world that I do not want to waste their time of Carnival to my surprise they offer help.


The thing is that Carnival is a time, an ephemeral possibility of it all. It is a time in Brasil where people party in spite of it all. And in Brasil partying is incredibly related to sexuality. The Bahraini girl is shocked and marvelled by some gorgeous Carioca ( native of Rio) who just out of the blue kisses her. I am Brazilian and I am shocked too. So I explain as I walk around to these beautiful guys that they should not waste their breath on me, I am here on a mission, I am searching for a friend.


To my surprise my apparent lack of desire to engage sexually, but still engage humanly puzzles these boys. They then want to know where I come from, who am I, about Buddhism, and the East, do I need help? It is almost like once I just talk plain normally they feel they must take care of me in a non sexual way. It is funny. I have many conversations which are not typical at all. It somehow feels like anywhere else in the world.


There is one part of me that loves this joy, this easiness of it all. People look at my broken foot and congratulate me on not letting it stop me from partying. I love the fact that everybody talks to everybody. Another part of me feels incredibly lonely. I have yet another conversation with yet another stranger and he tells me of a poetry book called ” distracted we will win”. I who always feel we can either in life use things to distract ourselves from ourselves, or encounter ourselves and the others feel very puzzled.


I just can’t, and do not know how to do it. I love the joy. But if I am distracted I am not fully present I therefore cannot feel it. The stranger then explains to me that he sees “distraction” as a way of stopping the mind. A way of just being in the body. I am completely puzzled. That sounds Buddhist to me. Stop the mind, being present. But how can he call this being distracted? I walk a bit more till some other stranger seats next to me.


I am tired I seat on the stairs. I need a rest and I decide to just look at the parade in front of me. This new stranger has melancholic eyes. She offers me a smile, candy, and many words.


I seat observing this human manifestation. I feel happy. I feel puzzled. I feel intrigued by how much Brazilians touch each other. Sara is Iraqi and having spent one carnival night  in rio while the rest in Bahia feels this carnival is quite moderate. Almost European.


As she says that I laugh. I remember meeting in Rome my Italian friend who lives in Palestine and who in Rome was now shocked at the clothes of Italian girls.


This multiplicity of identities is woven in such an intricate way that I need as much touch as a Brazilian when I am in Europe, I need to feel it viscerally like they feel in the middle east when I am in South East Asia, and I need to be present in a Buddhist way in the Middle East. In Brasil now, I feel I need space like they have in Thailand. I suddenly realise that the fabric of a traveller’s identity is not only complex but it is circumstantial. I am suddenly in Brasil and I feel home with a Middle Eastern. But certainly in the Middle East I would be listening to samba.

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