The World Cup, Resilience and Strength


People take me not to bet from Brazil all the time.  And that has nothing to do with the fact that now it is the world cup. It happened before too. Maybe the only places people took me to be from there were Italy, France, Turkey, and Israel.  It is funny, but apparently the amount of time that I have spent abroad has changed the way I structure my sentences. I wish it was only that, apparently it has also changed my mind 🙂

It is the world cup here  as you might know. Yes I am in Brazil.  And first people wrote me to ask how excited I was about it, and then  they wrote to ask whether I am safe. I must say that nothing has really changed in my life, apart from the bars that I like being more crowded by foreigners grabbing me. You know Brazil… where most football fans imagine Brazilian women are all sluts!

People usually also asked me from abroad whether Brazilians were excited about the world cup. And I remember Brazil being stopped in the middle of the night to see the world cup in Asia. I remember the excitation all had about every single cup. But this time it has been different.

It is really the beginning of it, but I must say that before this week most people were furious. I read somewhere that the last world cup costed 4 billion dollars, and this one 11 billion. Brazilians in spite of all their love for football were furious. Money that was not spent in education, health, welfare  system was spent to build stadiums in the middle of nowhere, and of course who knows where else. So there were protest against it all. No tube, no busses people in the street. On the other hand TV tried to get people to be very excited about football for months. And I heard from rich and poor that they would rather have Brazil loose games immediately so that the people could wake up for the disparity, the corruption that has been part of Brazilian culture for centuries.

And then the world cup started, and little by little you started to see Brazilian flags in cars, and houses. I must say there are not that many. Still it felt somehow poignant  that people could not resist. They cheered.

I must say I usually like football but I did not see a single game so far. And I started to pay attention to something I thought was rather more interesting than the football itself. And that was the amount of foreigners in Sao Paulo, and Brazilians who started to go out to meet them.

Brazilians are in general very friendly people. The women were dazzled by these people some have never met before. Most of them have never been abroad. But also even men were taking care of foreigners around. When  a total asswhole came to disturb me in a bar where I know everybody…. And I was polite to him till he told me Palestine did not exist, a guy came to check on him. They were not friends, he was a Brazilian man that came to check whether he was well.  He asked the guy ” are you ok?”

How could I be a threat to an Israeli soldier? He told the guy I was actually very interesting and tried to  hold me several times. I dismissed it and went to dance with the waiter who is my friend. See this is Brazil. Even the waiter stops sometimes to have fun.

I met another Israeli and told him about that guy. He was appalled  and embarrassed. I told him he did not have to explain any of that to me. Yet the reason I write about this is because in any country there are amazing people, and stupid people. We should not generalise a whole population by what we have heard from someone, or from one encounter.  My Israeli, and Palestinian friends know this. They know I have been to both sides of the wall, that I have friends there and that I inherently trust people.

What is quite amazing about not seeing the world cup that is taking place here. Is to see people who have never met foreigners and who would like to know them. They come to meet them. They take pictures, have brief encounters etc. Obviously there are exponentially more men than women who come from abroad to see the world cup. And that is funny too. Brazilians pretend to be foreigners to attract their own fellow citizens.

We hosted 2 Mexicans here. And we taught how to get by in Brazil, basics of Portuguese. Today when I passed by the lady where we practiced putting credit in a phone she asked me. ” Where are you from? You speak portuguese quite well!”

I explained  her I am from here. Actually from the street around the corner but as I walked I realised she is write I am not from here. I have spent too much time everywhere to be from somewhere. I asked the doorman where he thought I was from. He knows I am from here. I explained him  the story and he said ” Maybe, they think you are not from here because you speak very fast!”

And as I stopped here to write I realised it is true. I am not from here.  I am so scattered, there are so many parts of me in so many places, the people that I trust and love are not simply in different cities, they are in different countries, they are in different continents. My language has been so cut in so many ways, the philosophies and religions that have penetrated my mind come from so many different places, that it does not even surprise me that my brain has stopped sometimes either going too fast or too slow.

I stopped to think about the door man and he is write “it is because I speak too fast”. More than that I live too fast, too intensively.

I don’t care about the world cup. Not sure for how long Brazilians will also not care.  We all know it is panis et circenses. But there is some beauty in seeing their smiles back in their faces. Nothing has changed. All the structural problems are here. Yet they still smile.  I have written about this before… maybe this is the most powerful form of protest and resilience there is! It is to simply not allow all of the absurdity that goes on to go inside one’s soul. They stand up, they see the unfairness for what it is,   they find and know it is absurd and then they still dance and smile. There is no greatest strength than this one.


Freedom in solitude.


I have encountered in my life many refugees, many of which who had been kept as hostages. I have been to enough places to know that some people speak with fear and in almost silent words in front of me. Others speak casually about it all. I have learned through the path to recognise someone in pain. Nothing special about me, it is something that some people just also feel.

Today I was sent  an article to read about the life of a hostage who was kept in Iran for a long time. Nowadays , I choose carefully what I read. Yet I read it. And it moved me so much. It was a letter. I wondered how many people could actually identify with these words. I did.

I thought so much about it. I have never been kept as a hostage, nor have I ever been tortured why was it that I knew that, how was it that those words made so much sense to me?

There is something intriguing about reading it.  I did not laugh like someone told me, would have been the most compassionate way to read it. I could not possibly laugh at it. I did once see an Iraqi speak in a conference ” laughter is the easiest way to cope with something that is so painful that you can’t deal with.” I was impressed that day. He was Iraqi, ironically at the time ( the time of the Iraqi war) he had studied public health in Syria. Then he became a student at Harvard. I was an undergrad at the time, but because I was always so interested in the Middle East I was introduced to him by my professor. This was NY, a couple years after 911.

As I read it today, many years after. Having met so many people who are from countries that were, or are in a war now, those images lingered in my  mind.  Somehow I definitely could understand a student from Harvard, a doctor writing about laughter when his country was being bombed. He was a doctor.  But I can not laugh.

I read the article again and wondered why was it? And that are some thoughts there which are so powerful.  Shane bauer, the hostage, and journalist, in some part of his page says he never thought prisons in the US could be worse than in Iran.

But the reason I went to his page was to see who he was. More importantly because I was very intrigued by something in that article. And that is such a non popular notion but I really understood it.

Somehow he said it that being freed was harder than to be a hostage. If you are to say that to anyone. They would invoke the “Stocholm syndrom”. Yet this is not really why I thought it was so powerful. It is something else. The return to freedom, in a world where suddenly you can realise the superficiality of it all. The invoked tones.  The questions.  All of this is unbearable.

This is not even knew. I guess in manufacturing consent it is quite clear.  But the idea of the whole west being addicted to pleasures, chemical releases…. Addiction to Freedom, is always hard to tell people.

How many steps further you have to go to understand that a total search for “that” freedom cannot be disentangled from total abandonment of responsibility to the world where you live in. Where you actions do matter!

And so I go back to my love of Mountains, the admiration of those who do not need to conquer them for the chemical release that comes from that. They were born there.

In my mind I go back to Tibetan  lamas who are capable to be in silence, self-contained,  and are able to control brain chemistry through meditation.

In my mind I go back to the indigenous I have met in South America, who tell you all over to not take away a person from a hole. Let them lay there.  I used to find it cruel. Yet, it is not. It comes from an awareness of discovering  self resilience, strength, and the value of one’s own life.

I doubt any Tulku, or Shaman abandons anyone. They are there in silence.

So when I read Shane Bauer I can but think, that I understand he found his strength his value. And was almost convinced he was freed. Only to realise that Freedom is internal, to be externally Free in a world where  most people have not found their own strength leads you to feel completely lonely. Free in a world of disconnection, oppression done under your name.

It is painful to see around you all of those addicted to something vaguely related to Freedom. It almost makes you hate freedom. It almost makes you want to be trapped so that you can at least know who your enemy is. But, in the end, we must realise that this is not  freedom. Freedom is inside.




The article by Shane Bauer is here prison 3