Brazil, waiting in Sao Paulo, Coffee and writing


Life is what is happening now, while you are waiting.”


I heard these words from my speech therapist. I have heard them before. But now they freaked me.


I am back in Brasil. And I am home. I feel home. And these days I started a new tradition: going to the Central Market of Sao Paulo ( Mercado Municipal)  with Toninho, my godfather.

So, the central market in Sao Paulo is a fascinating place. I had been there before. This time I am with Toninho, and he grew up there. So he tells me the fascinating stories about all that came through rivers to Sao Paulo, how it was at first something like a stock exchange of food. I am fascinated by this. Even more fascinated I am by the people around. Tourists, and the now very pricey stalls, with what is best there is of fruits, and nuts, and meats. The owners are old. They have been there for too long. Toninho knows these people. His own great grandfather “is” somehow there. His grandfather took rides with a donkey who could drive him home everyday while he slept. Everyday he got drunk there.

Oh yes there are bars as well, and a Lebanese place to eat. I choose immediately the Lebanese place. We seat to eat watching the market there. I hear stories of these people who are not here. But they still are. All these old men selling fruits, and nuts, and different kinds of food… I can see them too. And their grandchildren, and the grandchildren of their first clients. They are all there. I eat what I know from the middle east.

how much I crave for the middle east usually. Not today. Today I am with Toninho in the Mercado Municipal.


I tell him I am writing a book. I take out my new fiction short story. I never write fiction. Too difficult. I just don’t feel it could be called fiction, because I notice as I type it gives me a strange feeling of ownership. And nothing in this world is really just mine. It is all social. We are social and individuals at the same time.


As I daydream of the implications of this… I abandon the market in my imagination. The market that exists, the market that now exists even more profoundly because I know the stories of the people. People I have never met but that Toninho has. My mind flows back to my broken phone.


Some of you might remember when I went to fix my phone with a Lebanese man in a mall where mainly Chinese illegal immigrants worked. It has been almost a year now. I take a cab there. Hearing from the cab driver the prejudices he has towards illegal immigrants. The cab driver who himself is discriminated by the people in Sao Paulo because he comes from the northeast. I try to explain to him the irony of it. Why is it that some people are oppressed and then become the oppressor and cant see it?


I walk by the Chinese mall, and i know how to get to Marwan, the Lebanese man who has fixed my phone before. I go down. He is working. I look the stand next to him. Kamal from Syria (pro Bashar) is not there. I wonder what has happened to him. But as my mind flies around I hear him from inside the stand of Marwane. ” How are you?” I reply ” Salem Aleykum. His stand now has become a coffee place. And from what I get Kamal now works with Marwan”


” Are you ok. You have been sick? you look so skinny”


I say jokingly ” Kahua, Ana Bdi  Kahua” Something like “ Coffee, I want coffee.. “in what I remember of Arabic. I tell him this thinking of Yassert in Colombia. I tell him I have been sick and I am amazed he remembers me so long ago. The man next to him, is Lebanese. Ibrahim. He has just come out of Hospital. I ask Marwan how many days without phone will I be. ” For you 50 minutes. Is that ok?” I am impressed. It usually takes days. He is a very busy man. but I know he is being kind to me. 50 minutes is Nothing


So I spend the following minutes talking to Kamal and Ibrahim about coffee. The coffee that appears mysteriously for me. That coffee place belongs to Kamal now. You must eat too! So I ask for Cheese Bread ( Pao de QUeijo) and we talk. And talk, and Kamal teaches me how to make coffee with Cardamom. He loves coffee. He is a chef. We talk of life. I show them the Ibrahim mosque in Hebron. Of course..only because my phone is ready before I am…and I can show pictures on it..I show Yassert in Taganga. Time flies…. .

Kamal does not let me pay for the coffee. I know it will be pointless to argue on that. I know because I know Yassert and I know Palestinians. I just know. He knows I know but he knows I am Brazilian.  So I insist. He disagrees. I tell him he has a coffee place. He cant not charge for coffee. Ibrahim says he will pay my coffee. I tell Ibrahim I have just met him, Kamal is an old friend. I know I cant pay.


And I remember my friend Paula Gabriel, who has once written about Mauss The Gift and Branding ( but i ll digress too much now… my free flowing mind). In short lines, Mauss, argues that a gift is a relationship. When you give one you are establishing one. I know if I pay i am declining that. I do not decline a relationship. I accept. And then comes to my mind more coffee. Jose Carlos in Colombia.


The day I go down the mountain I visit  Jose Carlos finca, a coffee farm. According to all in Minca,  it is the best organic coffee from Sierra Nevada. Jose Carlos had brought his last batch of coffee to me when I was falling apart sick in Minca. Nacho had told him to sell it to me. It was real treasure… I realised as people kept showing up to talk to him later. I promised to visit him in his FInca once I came down the mountian… it was up in the hills… and I went ( as you might remember to see the snowed capped mountains), I stop.


Very few things disturbed me in Colombia as much going to this Finca did. The FInca is brilliant. it is in the mountain. It is all organic. The coffee is great. Jose Carlos tells me it all. He tells me his life. He came from a family of fighters, in very rich family of Colombia. They were Marxists, and then they lost the civil war, and moved to the US. Jose Carlos became a business man. Now, he had quit it all. and he lived in a shack in this mountain alone to find happiness. He went to the city once a month. I feel he is journeying the same fight now on his own. I feel he is unhappy. I feel unhappy. I see Peter admires this lifestyle. They have this notion they are too fucked up, they need to be perfect before they can be with someone in this world.


I walk out. I ran away inside of me. I cant take anymore abandonment because people feel they are not good enough. I hear Jose Carlos.. but I want to save him. I want to save myself. I bring his coffee and I am afraid to drink it. But I do it. And I buy more coffee from a cooperative. It might be not so special as JC coffee is but I feel at ease drinking this coffee that comes from people who understand they need others.


I have 4 bags of this cooperative  coffee from Sierra Nevada here. And I think it is sacred this coffee. Jose Carlos coffee is perfect but it lacks what i most crave. Imperfection. I love his coffee.. but there is only two people I can give it to. To my parents. I do no longer feel that abandonment I used to feel. So I can give them the best quality coffee I have, and yet my most difficult coffee to give. And I drink it with them.


So the few packages  I have of the coffee of cooperative.. I keep to give the right people. And the right people must really love coffee… and already have a real social relationship with me.


I give one to Toninho, my godfather,  with whom I went to the market, I tell him all the story in Mercado Municipal of Kamal. The other I give to my dear friend Victor. The third I decided that day, I would give to Kamal. He loves coffee.. and yes I accepted that coffee..without paying. I accepted the social contract of a relationship. A friendship.


I still have one left which I will wait for the right person to come and drink it with me.

My speech therapist is right, life is what happens while you are waiting. But when you have something very worth to wait for. You live it all that is around more profoundly making what you had never done before. Waiting.


And so I wait. But while I do it life becomes more and more interesting. And I write a book with all that belongs to all. All of us. And I am capable to send to my family to read. And they read and tell me what they think. And I take what they can give. I change what I have written acording to their thoughts. their combined thoughts. My thoughts.


Someone once told me in Colombia. And this has been blocked to an extent in my mind that i cant know who it was.  Whether it was in real life, or in the internet… where it was… someone told me I was a writer. I answered what I usually do. I was a story teller….That to be a writer it is like to be a musician, a poet. It is sacred. And this person who now almost feels like a character in my imagination replied. ” You struggled so much to live a life of meaning, a sacred life”  Why cant you see it in you?


So, yes, I wait, I write, I am a writer. I struggle to be one. And I am finally, home.

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