” Ah. You are used to other “airs”….”
Smiles the beautiful black woman the other side of the counter.
I am in Campo Grande the capital of the state of Mato Grosso do Sul. State that is known by different people for different reasons. It is known by some with admiration for being the state where there are farms, and cattle, and plantations of soy. To others with disdain for the destruction of the Amazon, the violence directed towards the indigenous populations, and discrimination in general. It is the passing by place for people who are going to the natural paradises in Brasil of Bonito and Pantanal.
I came to visit a friend who did not come from here. And as usual when I am somewhere I do not know I just look for possible new friends in Couch Surfing( CS). There was something intriguing about the couch surfing community here. It seems to exist not only to rescue travellers but to rescue itself. I wrote a handful of people who live here and somehow they all knew each other. They had all come from different states of Brasil. They all felt incredibly lonely here. They felt they had not only complete different views about life than the locals, but that it was incredibly hard to be accepted by them. So the CS community here worked as community for friendship for those who came to live here from somewhere else.
I woke up having a strong headache and I decided to go walking to one of the only two vegetarian restaurants in this meat loving city. As I walked I couldn’t help but feeling the city moved in a different pace. It was slow. So slow that I myself felt I was in slow motion. The sun was blasting in the complete blue sky. There are trees but it feels they are not really there in this seemingly vast spread of low concrete constructions…There is almost no humidity in the air after probably months of lack of rain. And I just strolled as if I were in another planet.
It did somehow not feel like Brazil to me. None of the “Brasils” I had ever visited before. And as I walked by a pharmacy I decided to go in. I could barely focus considering the headache I had so when the pharmacist came to talk to me I explained very slowly I had a strong headache and asked her whether she could give me a suggestion for a pain killer. She took one and showed me where I should pay. As I waited in line she suddenly reappeared . She carried a glass of water. She had realised I needed that pain killer right then, and that maybe I needed some water as well not only to take the medicine but also because it was such a hot day.
I was flabbergasted. Was she one of the uninviting locals I had been warned so much about ? I was so impressed by how caring that lady had been that I decided I liked Campo Grande right there. On my second day, with a blasting unforgiving sun in the sky, my boiling confused aching head, and my lonely, broken soul I decided I liked Campo Grande for every single person I had met here so far. And then I strolled a bit longer till I realised maybe I should buy some water.
I walked by a simple restaurant and as I went in to buy some water I noticed the man who worked there was on the phone. I, as usual, stood sill waiting. When he noticed me he tried to find out what I needed while on the phone. I pointed to the water. He took it for me.. I paid and thanked him. He smiled. And then as I was opening my bottle a black beautiful young lady showed up and asked me whether I was having a good day.
The question took me by surprise. I had definitely not been having a good day but I decided I was going to simply tell her I had a headache though the day was beautiful.
She gently smiled and said
” Yes. It is hard this time of the year. Too cold in the mornings, and then more than 30 celsius in a couple of hours. No humidity whatsoever in the air. It is hard in anyone´s body.`”
” Yes, and I have only arrived here a couple days ago”
” Ah. You are not from here ? So that is what it is. You are used to different airs.”
I loved that lady right there. For taking me for being from here even though she was probably certain I was not. I dressed in white indian clothes… with glasses that are too trendy for the country side, moving in a different pace. And yet she was kind enough to in one sentence tell me I could have been from here, and that my feeling bad was maybe because I was used to a different air.
It was so poetic that I strolled the rest of my way in awe. I arrived at the Chinese owned vegetarian restaurant in the town and as I walked in I again felt like I was stepping in a different realm. It was a peaceful place. My new CS friend was there. He was a vegetarian coming from Rio. He worked in an UNESCO project to protect non material culture. He was also used to different airs.
I told him about my experience walking there and he concluded it must be me. That I always attract the nicest people. That it had been an unusual interaction. I did not know. I knew he was nice and that I always am with nice people. I had managed finding a yoga place in Campo Grande where the Yoga Instructor knew more about Sanskrit, yoga philosophy, hinduism, and buddhism than most yogis I have met in Asia.
I in fact, can´t speak much of Campo Grande. But as I am here and I observe the different “air” comes to me the Benjamim Taubkin words. The kind words he told me when he read my post explaining I was coming home. I had finished that post saying he had once told me Brazil had the space for the new.
In his reply he wished me “welcome back” and he followed by saying that It would not be easy. But that he had noticed lately in his life that what seems to matter it is not whether something is easy or difficult. But that it had to have meaning, light and purpose.
As I spend my last free days in a total strange place, I know that these different “airs” have to be over for me for now. I am about to go home. I am about to make a room my own, to start working teaching languages in the morning and evenings. I am about to be free at lunch time to eat with my grandmother and cousin every single day. I am about to have the time to find my yoga place, my climbing place in the town where I was born.
Air is a powerful symbol. For many traditions it is life itself. As I seat in the yoga class in Campo Grande and I do the Pranayama ( breathing exercises) that I have long not done I realise I have been used to too many different airs lately, but that I had not really allowed for these “airs” to enter too deeply inside of me. As I feel a blasting headache the morning after my Yoga practice I somehow believe it is the air that I started to really breathe in. Benjamim was right, it is not easy. But I am embracing the difficulty and feel somehow a hint of metaphysical feeling that maybe it is simply because it is already sooo meaningful.