The brain and my mind

I’m going to share my story of how when I was classified as a patient and to so many who look up to me, my brain was so wrecked and broken. And I know that there are even people who see me, as I was. But many see me that I am incapable of everything. But I tell you why, falls make me learn about life.

In any case, every time I wanted to see countries along the way, I thought that seeing them along the way would suggest the meaning of life. Even before and after being a patient in the Hospital.

But I want to write, as I still can, and as I perceive how it seems to me to be reported by the brain. So I’ll break down how I was ranked in various ways.

Don’t think that I don’t value medicine, it’s the opposite. It’s the way I understood medicine, like alternative methods and cultures. So I discovered how everything is in our mind. So I’ll tell you slowly.

I started to feel different things and I was 26 years old. I was traveling in Morocco with my husband at that time Haiko Ballieux .

I wanted to go to Morocco for a while. I had left to visit the country of 3 very important people in my life. When I moved to the US in 2001, I met Leila, Mounia and Mustapha in college. All those who will make me teach things in my life. So I wanted to go and see what it was like there. I managed to go there in 2007 .

When I arrived in Marrakesh, Mounia had already done many beautiful things, and had even arranged a trip to the Salar. And I also wanted to go to Rabat, and to Casablanca. As Haiko had to go back to London I decided that I would get to know the country better, as I was getting enchanted.

I continued on to Chefchaouen and was blown away. .
I had been traveling alone for some time and the gentlemen invited me to travel in their car.

He was buying art from Morocco to sell in Spain and he thought it was dangerous for me to travel alone and that he might show me places along the way. I wasn’t afraid, but I thought it would be interesting to see the path, and Ceuta.

But when I was loving traveling around Morocco and the culture, I crossed over from Morocco to Spain. I was in the car and I think the beginning of the warm-up of the mind must have started. I’ve already stayed in a hotel and wanted to go back to Morocco, but without a car.

Going on foot was easy, but crossing the African border into Europe is a shock. From the side of Europe come the Africans who are desperate because nothing has worked in Europe. And when I crossed I saw Africans desperate for a better life on the other side.

I found a taxi and stopped in a city, I don’t remember the name of the city. I just kept thinking about what the border was like. I remember that at the border I was first in the Spaniards’ car, we were white and we didn’t even need to wait for anything, we didn’t even see the black Africans anymore. Already on foot I saw the black Africans and they told me that I should go ahead. I said I was the same as everyone else, but a man said to me “I think you don’t know the reality. “

I couldn’t even say anything because, among whites in Brazil and throughout America, and Latin America, we know how much discrimination there is, and in Europe. I had lived in all these areas of the world.

I remember wanting to stop traveling and go back to Marrakesh. When I arrived I told Moon everything, and that I came by bus and people don’t even respect traditions. The time of Ramadan had begun.

That night I went to sleep and with a thousand thoughts, I started to feel like I didn’t know what was going on in my head. I remember wanting to tell Moon, but getting in the way in the middle of the night. I was so confused I didn’t know what it was. I was afraid, because it seemed that he couldn’t get away from me. Because it happened in the middle of the night.

I started feeling a strong shock in the head and discovered involuntary movements in the fingers of one hand. And so I erased what erases you and the next day I told Mounia.

When I got back to London, I was on the flight and my right hand started moving. Next to me was a doctor, and he asked me if I took the medicine. I told him everything, I never have to take medicine. He told me that I should go see a doctor

I just saw the place of public doctors. First a general doctor came, and I had to tell him what happened, I told him and he called the second one and I had to repeat what I told him, he called the third doctor and told me that I needed to go to the hospital. That is, he realized it was a neurology case.

It made me desperate.

In October 2007 I was admitted to St Mary’s Hospital, in London, where they did an MRI that showed demyelinating lesions in the brain. I fell asleep in the Hospital for the first time.

I go against the hospital’s instructions to collect cerebrospinal fluid, leave the hospital and not take the prescribed anticonvulsants. I had even asked Haiko not to tell my parents.

I started looking for alternative medicine treatments.

But in 2008 and I was talking to my mom, and my Skype words wouldn’t come out. So I wrote it down. It was calm, but my mother bought it quickly to start seeing me sick.

As I left my mother’s writing
“ 2/14/08 – She is speechless while talking to me on Skype. He arrives in Brazil on the same night and is admitted to Hospital Samaritano, where he stays from 02/15 to 02/26, under the care of Dr. Getulio Rabello, neurologist. There she undergoes all kinds of tests and nothing wrong is found, but she already leaves with a slight sequel in her speech (exchange of syllables) and Dr Getulio even suspects Multiple Sclerosis.”

That made me desperate, taking the exam, touching your body, your head, etc.

But I don’t even want to talk about exams. I want to tell you about the positive things. Because I’m learning how many beautiful things we learn through the falls.

It was even in the hospital, I learned that I was accepted for my master’s at the LSE, I wouldn’t have learned cognition. Nor would I have fallen and gone to India and learned Buddhism and meditation.

But I also want to tell slowly because I will be classified with several diseases, and I have also been in the hospital when I didn’t take medication for Epilepsy, and even when I didn’t take it. I already lost talking and walking and coming back. Forget things and remember. I’ve had hallucinations, pain, etc.

But I’m telling little by little that I’m even happier and better than I fell. So every second I breathe, I already see my life. Almost everything is here you need to break free like me,
With love,

The path of the exchanges of our lives.

Yesterday I took the bus here in France. I usually see in many areas of the world yong people seating in the train and in the bus.

I always seat if there is no older people. It amazes me how most people don’t care about older people with canes and do not stand up to let them seat.

Maybe it is because I have already broken my leg, been in coma and had my lag modified. And of course because I am close to my Grandma who is 94 and is conscious and read in 3 languages and even has broken her lag and has a walker.

I am back to walk , mountains etc and my grandmother is back to go out with her friends alone, but I have realised how hard it is to lose abilities.

I admire older people. There are areas of the world where they do. But I guess many dont.

Yesterday, as I was giving places to a lady who came to the bus she felt like it was not necessary, another lady, that was close and it was fundamental. So she accepted and I told her I would look the bag of food that she had.

The other old lady told me it was very rare someone cares about the elderly. I told her I love Asia because to me it seemed they give more value for the lessons of life.

Just by speaking and helping a lady with her walker to get out of the bus.

She was amazed that I helped and she told me it was not typical in France. I told I admire and as I blocked to say a word and the lady was direct: “ getting older”.

I agreed. I said how much I admire the knowledge the elders have. I tell her that it is why I admire Asia and some reasons that have nothing to do with traditions but to value the enormous amount of knowledge that people who get old have accumulated.

Today as a friend of mine who is not in Paris told me to go listen to music.

It was wonderful. But while I could know easily about one famous composers of . It was in a church and I was so curious of one song and again I decided to speak to an older couple who was there.

I learned from them the pianist was Elio di Tanna,

Playing Bach, Beethoven, Erik Satie,Franz Lieszt and him.

It was in the church, Eglise Saint Ephrem-le Syriaque, here in Paris. The couple even spoke of the controversions of one composer who was too modern for the time he composed.

I agreed music is so controversial in modernity but I loved to see older people and young listening music.

During the day I had gone to the Louvre. I have been there in the past but this week, Monday protest, Tuesday closed, today full. Info all tickets by internet. People dont give much info. It is very said to see the elderly coming without an idea. All the info it is in the internet. I wonder why these ideas of diminishing workers . It will always makes them loose jobs and the elderly loose the ability to see them. Hard to think all could depend of the Internet.

I wish people would realise before getting old. How much wonderful change we should exchange with with elders. Hard it is the path for all of us. We should learn from both sides, and help from both. That is the value of life.

I love freedom and all beings should have it without fear.

I wonder how do we change so much in our life. I am now in France. Last year I was again in Asia. I love so much meeting people around the world that makes me wonder how do we have change by the time.

I admire people getting older and giving value to things and do not run and admire life and beings. I guess I admire travelling calmly because I have always done it. I love hearing the stories that people tell me in a slow style. I will always consider that the people I have met with profound stories will mean more to me than years on university.

I admire being allowed to study and to learn to be creative, critical but after two comas how could I remember more about people that I met in seconds . People who were not afraid of nothing. People that always heard the others and animals that are free.

Knowledge I barely believe it is coming from tv or books or school. To me it comes from speaking to to people and to observe.

Today I decided to tell I am here in France in Auxerre. Yesterday as I was looking at the river laying down and suddenly Andre told me. Wow look the Duck is close to you. I looked and loved it. I love freedom. Some days before we were in Dijon and I was there watching the ducks. Made fotos and I saw a couple of about 90 years so I felt likely I should say “sorry to disturb”

The lady told me the ducks usually run away from people. I spoke to this older couple and they told me to go see the museum that was now open. I realized she was older because they would forget what they have said. But I admired that they were there in front of the river and telling about things, even forgetting and saying the same. I admire that they did not give up life. They older people, forgetting things, told me about the museum.

André and I went to another lake because the museum was closed. There I saw even more ducks and even papers of explanations of what kinds of ducks, the differences of ducks. It was Wonderfull to see the younger and the older there to walk and see the ducks.

We went to the museum the following day. That was great. It was amazing. I was surprised how much enormous it was this museum. I thought it would be small for going there because it was an older lady who told me to go. They were people of all ages. I was amazed to see older people who do not take the elevator, they walked a lot in this museum.

Anyway as I come here and I lay down to see the river, the Duck comes to stay with me. An older lady was surprised to see the duck so close to me. She asked me how that had happened. I explained I did not know. The duck just came. She could not believe. She had studied about ducks and had never seen that. I spoke to the duck and she ( the duck) sat with me. I gave food that the lady explained it was grass. She could not believe he would come so close to me. She asked millions of questions, how could I did it? What had I have done it.

I told her I was singing ” Om Tara tuatara the Soha” which is a Tibetan mantra for tara. Before the duck had come. She still could not understand. I thought a lot and I thought and said maybe it is because I am a vegetarian, I feel sad to see animals in prison just to make humans happy. I said “Maybe the Duck knew that”

Of course a French lady could not understand it. Asked me if the duck was mine. If would go with me. I answered, I never want to put anyone in prison. I admire the duck because he flies, walks, and swims.

Days before I was in the house of Christian and Milou and there there is a free Cat. I had told her I love Cat. And I admire that she let her Cat free to see the nature.

She who is Jewish and very close to tibetans told me Cats is about curiosity. Freedom. The following day comes to me a word of HH Dalai Lama talking about his Cat.

It made me remember how I had admired the cat in Ubatuba that was also free and from a lady that had 3 cats. 2 usually would go out, only one likes to be home. I admire that lady that I don’t know.

I thought about that these days. And then came to my mind the Monkey that years ago came to my hostel in India and became a friend. Monkeys I always see as a an animal that is showing where is his territory. He became a friend. Writing it makes me remember last month I was looking for a long time a Squirrel. It is so beautiful. I saw it in Mexico when I was with Alondra.

Then it comes to my mind me and Andre in the most beautiful beach of Ubatuba where we were looking to sea the seagull , then comes to my mind I climbed a mountain in Mexico where the indigenous told me, because I asked what it meant for him he said to ask permission of the mountain to go to the mountain and to look and see what I feel. I did it. I went up with not fear and as I sat I looked maybe an eagle flying in front of the little mountain.

Then came to my mind Andre and I in Vietnam seeing butterflies and rabbit.

Those were free.

But also we saw elephant but that I find it is sad.

I love freedom that we all should have. I know many people think differently . I just write to say I have not changed I will always defend freedom for all beings.


Portugal Rio Douro


We woke up at 6 am so as not to run the risk of being too typically Brazilian (meaning: always late). We were to meet Jorge, the owner of the restaurant that has delighted us in the last few days. He invited us for a day-off up the River Douro to visit the vineyard country, the real home of Porto wine (among other very fine wines, of course).

We arrived before 9 at the station, amazed with our own punctuality. I wonder how Swiss Edu has become, and how British I have. I guess that in my case it comes from my Grandma who is always ahead of time; nothing annoys her more than letting people wait for her.

Jorge came punctually, too, and laid down his plans for the day. He was not able to arrange something with a specific Quinta (a little farm) whose wine he usually buys for his restaurant. But we should take the train all the way to Pinhão anyway, and see what we could manage from there.


So we set off, with no plans at all. We didn’t mind, we had already spent an evening with Jorge, he had told us that he was just back from 8 months traveling in India and Thailand; that he is married to a Brazilian and had visited Brazil several times. As Edu put it, after a certain time traveling the world we no longer travel places but rather people. Friends set the routes, people to reencounter define the way. That’s why we didn’t mind whatever we would do in the day, the real gift was knowing more about Jorge, telling him about us, striking a friendship, a bond, for new travels in the future.

It was anyway a beautiful train journey following the Rio Douro. We talked about life, economics (the Portuguese government is at the verge of total collapse), the situation of Brazil and Portugal, in some ways so similar. We share a very dumb political culture and a whole set of wrong models.  Jorge: “Brazil is trying to change things, to educate the people with laws, top-down, but this is no evolution, no education, it’s simply imposition.”

In Brazil there are also many jokes with the Portuguese in the uncomfortable role of the dumb ass. Much like the Belgians for the French, Austrians for Germans etc. We talked about that, too, wondering if there was some kind of mutual perception that led us to it, apart from simple prejudice or an atavic anticolonial feeling. I thought at first that maybe  people here were way more literal when in a conversation, i.e., not developing much beyond what was asked. In a brief research in my mind I realised this seemed to be the case everywhere. In every single place I have been, there are always some people who anticipate problems and offer different answers, while some other people are just plain literal. Anyway I just felt ashamed by the thousands of jokes I have heard in Brazil.


And then we reached Pinhão, and we walked under a blasting sun until Jorge made some magic and arranged a private journey for the 3 of us. We ended up taking a boat down river Douro. Valdemar, the sailor, a man in his 50s who had never been to school, tells me that he feels very sad for his 13-year-old son when he sees him spending his whole time in front of a computer. He’s missing the world, he says. He puts himself in a compartment where all he chooses is similarity. Valdemar then told me about the fossils and cave paintings that were found in the region and that had put many historical theories in check. And then he told me how he loved the river, and most of all meeting people. I asked him who where the people that most intrigues him, he said it is the Israelis.

Holy Jesus, I thought… no, not here…! Could it possibly be that even in a boat in north Portugal I would have another round of Palestine/Israel discussions with a boat man who had not been too much in school? But I couldn’t help myself, I had to ask why.

“They are very friendly, you know, but there is a sadness that they all seem to carry. I don’t know where it comes from. I noticed this sadness once in a family I first met, it was present in every member. I first thought the family had some kind of terrible story in their life, but then I met other Israelis and the same sadness was there. It is not explicit, in the open… it’s just some kind of saddness mixed with fear in their heart.”


The talk didn’t go further, though. Before I could ask more, Jorge called me to see the wine terraces and the topography of the area. Green terraces, old manor houses, it seems people here are self suficient and they plant and grow all they eat.


We eventually reached our destination about an hour later. A friendly Portuguese lady took us to Quinta Nova, a vineyard owned by one of the richest families in Portugal (Amorim) that also has a restaurant and hotel. We had the most amazing food; a special fig dish started the feast, which was flooded by wonderful wine and ended with an orange pudding and, of course, Porto wine.

If that had not been enough, we were still offered to enjoy the swimming pool. It lays on the same level as the vine terraces in a fake horizon, and the sun was inclement. We swam, laughed and talked while contemplating the vineyards and the Rio Douro all the way down.


I was so thankful to Jorge that I could not even explain. He told that it was not common to invite strangers like this to go out and spend the day together on their free day. “The Portuguese are reserved people, and I was afraid I scared you off, but then, we had connected so much.”

what we saw from the pool…


It is true. O Caçula, Jorge’s restaurant, is a jewel we found by total chance. I had never imagined we would make a friend in Porto in such a short visit.

And now, as Edu is packing his bags to go to Switzerland and I make my way to Lisbon I feel my heart tighten. But it is ok. I have felt that before, it is that painful feeling that anticipates Saudade.

And it is also the feeling you often get when you are in the right track. When you know in every cell of your bone that your departure affects you and the others you are leaving, and that you will always think back at that time with joy and happiness; the pain comes from  our inablity to accept that we must keep walking just a few more steps till you re-encounter those you once left.



The Fado, Saudade and Joy, in Porto, Portugal

Cidao 1

Porto is slowly becoming my favorite place in Europe. I just feel so happy now, so in place, the days have been so sunny with breezes, the skies soo blue and next to me is Edu, someone who fully understands me and my whole journey. Someday I will tell you more about Edu… some of you have met him now, but he entered my life after all that had to collapse had collapsed, after I got rid of all the loose ends I had to close. He saved me from my most violent epilectic fit in Brazil. And he entered my life in my own house, meeting right on the first day my dearest friends, and then my closest family. He met my grandmother. And then he edited my book as much as he could. So if you are astonished why some of my emails reach you without mispeelings and other mistakes, it is always an indication that he is with me. And let’s hope this will be forever 🙂


Ok, I was not supposed to to write that much but my life has been like that… of being so exposed and explicit. and while my previous emails were called Around the World, this now is called Being in the World. I am tired of being slightly off worlds. Because my old desire to see people and cultures has not died in the hospital, what has died is my fear to be in the world and face it. I am here. And I am happy to be.


I received so many lovely messages that moved me enormously, also from people I had not heard of in ages. One in particular was from a friend I met in India in 2008 and we never talked again. She wrote to say she had always read me. It is a very deep and personal email that flooded me with joy and a desire to share my joy.


Here in Porto the people are wonderful. And now that I feel more in place I am able to hear people properly. And since Edu is like me and loves to listen to people, and is just as interested in others as I am, we do very little and yet it feels like we know this place since forever. From within.


We made a friend, Jorge, who owns a very special restaurant that saved us from starvation when the internet suggestions failed. We were searching for a specific restaurant that we couldn’t find and Zé Pedro, the waiter at Jorge’s restaurant, got out of his way to show us the other place, which was closed. We decided to walk all the way back because his friendliness deserved to be rewarded. We hadn’t even seen the menu, but ok.


It was the best decision we could have taken. Not only the food was superbe, but Jorge, who we did not yet knew was the owner, told us about his love for Porto, that he had been recently to Brazil, and he gave us an address of a place where we could listen to some fado. “It is not a concert hall, it is apparently a place where the locals sing”, he said.


So the day after we decided to see the place. We took another friendly cab driver who at first just murmured hello but as he got closer he began to shout to people on the street and I made a comment of how popular he seemed to be there. “Of course”, he said, “I AM from this neighbouhood!”


And then we arrived at the place. As I saw it in front of me I thought this is the BAR DO CIDAO in Porto!!!

Cidao porto


It was completely packed with old people, but not just. Listening to an old man singing fado, I was taken aback: the whole little cafe stood in silence while the man sang, some heads swang to the rhythm, some mouths followed the lyrics. There was no place to sit, and nothing really proper to eat. I imediatelly started to cry (of joy, even though I was hungry as a dog).

Fado here:


And then suddenly the owner, a lady with the strongest and most authoritarian voice in the precinct, would scream in between songs like a school teacher demanding total silence.


But the noise came from outside. Inside everybody stood sill listening and drinking wine, and beer and eating all kinds of fried food.

Velhinho e eu

During the breaks I could talk to the old men, all fado experts. One of them told me that if I wanted to listen to professional fado I should go somewehere else. When I asked about where I could find genuine hearty fado, he told me I could not find a better place than there, the Adega do Douro. He gave us a chair (a real treat in a place packed like that) and told me that the fado is played in only a few keys. A singer would come to the “stage” and give only the key to the guitar players and tell them what kind of Fado they wanted to sing (fado, fado canção, fado humoristico etc).

Edu Porto


But the main idea is that people write their verses (“quadras” or “sextrilhos”) at home and then come and sing. As I sat there, I kept imagining how much of this tradition was actually mixed to Brazilian choro. Choro is a kind of Brazilian jazz mixed with African rhythms like lundu. I thought, as i heard one song after the other, of how Portuguese Brazil is in its emotion, in its fundamental connection to the feeling of “saudade”.


The best explanation I ever read of the word “saudade” is a nostalgic feeling of the past in the hope to relive it in the future. I believe people all over the world feel saudade in one way or another (Brazilians say there is no translation, but Edu tells me the Germans have a word for it, Sehnsucht… and in English it is something very close to “longing”… ), but hearing the Fado yesterday I knew that so much of our Choro (which means “weeping”) comes from this longing. This romatinc longing for experience, for something actually lived, and not for ideas or ideals.


I sat in this lillte cafe feeling i was the luckiest person on earth not only because once again I had found the way to the heart of a particular culture, but also because I was not alone. For the first time in my life, I had next to me someone who could see that as well.


And so I made these videos to share with you what the real fado feels like.


Eventually we left the Fado to go back to Jorge’s restaurant (O Caçula) and then we spent the whole night talking to him, and in the end he offered to take us tomorrow to see where the real Porto wine, and his family, come from.


So, Fado is sad, is funny, is longing. Above all it is social interaction, it happens when people come together to tell each other what is happening in their lives and their deepest hearts.


If I wrote a fado today, it would long for all the people I met on the road, I feel saudade for all of you who are in this list. But my fado would also carry the joy and hope to see you again somewhere IN the world.


And as Fado can also be funny here it is the Fado Humoristico

My First Interview- Mosaic the Path In Between

Dear friends as I keep getting questions about people who cant get my book. And I def want that all of you who want to are able to read it.. Here it goes:

1. It is only available online now…
2. You can buy it in any amazon in any country you are!!!!.
The link i put was the one local to the UK but you can find it in any amazon inthe world 🙂
3. You do not need to have a kindle to read it.
You can download the application of kindle for ipads, smart phones, computers for free
Here for downloading kindke app
The book is called
Mosaic the Path in Between
You can get it in any amazon!
This is the link to the UK one,
 if uou are not in the UK go to the site of amazon in your country and search for the book with the title
Mosaic, the path in betweev
If you have any problem let me kbow!  🙂 and if you are reading .. Please let ne know about it!!
Love Jules in Rome in ny way back to Asia 🙂


by Eduardo Simantob, (Journalist, Zurich – Switzerland)

1. You have been to a few hotspots in the world (Kashmir, Palestine). How is it to travel in places like this, being a woman?

JF – People ask me this quite often, but I had to pass by a certain psychological “preparation”. I used to fear going to a place as charged as Palestine, but there was a situation I lived once in Paris, in a very dodgy neighborhood, where I was faced with a very hostile encounter with a young Algerian in the street at night. But eventually we had a very interesting exchange, and the estrangement and hostility turned into empathy and understanding. Suddenly I felt I was ready. That night I felt I could go anywhere. Palestine, Kashmir, slums in Brazil, any conflict zone.

In all of these places I was welcomed. Not because I was parading as a savior, simply because I was just plain human. People know it, they can feel it. When you try to be respectful people act accordingly. More often than not my Palestinian and Kashmiri friends were intrigued by what they called “my goodness”. They usually took me in, and often told me I had to be very careful in the next village. Once I left them I should pay more attention, not all people are as nice as they were, they would say. I guess this deep fear of the unknown is a common thing everywhere. And though I know most of my friends shiver just to think of me talking openly to strangers…. I can’t avoid it. I find the risk of dying or being hurt really less scary than the reality of not knowing the other.

2. How does the fact of being a Brazilian woman affect the access to the people, and to the stories you tell?

JF – Being a woman makes it harder and easier at the same time, though I don’t know how it is to be a man. But being a woman makes it possible to be anywhere in a more gentle way. All people I met had mothers; some had sisters, and daughters. Whenever people were aggressive I usually asked about their family. I never felt scared for being a woman anywhere. Fortunately it has been so long that I do not feel harassed that I barely know how I react to this. I usually talk back to people. And they get puzzled, and eventually start telling me their stories. Or else, when they could not talk to me, they would offer sweets in a bus, or a smile… I really cannot think of a time when I felt really scared.

Being Brazilian also makes a huge difference. I did not notice it immediately… but soon enough I realized that by the fact that Brazil is mainly known for football and carnival, it made people relate to me very differently. Not having a history of being a colonial power, or an imperial power (although in Latin America this perception is a bit different) often allowed me to ask whatever I wanted. Having been born in Brazil also prepared me to the idea of syncretism and to accept difference, in spite of all economic problems arising from the enormous inequality that exists there. We usually boast how we are used to difference, but it took me a long time to feel at home in Brazil again. And if there is one thing I do admire from where I come from is the usual acceptance people have towards difference. And of course, the proverbial optimism and joy. Being Brazilian allowed me to always laugh and to be emotional at things. Seeing difference was the norm in my life rather than the exception. So people often ask me about football players or Carnival, which are happy events. It makes my journeys significantly easier.

3. You avoided taking sides when describing the conflict zones you travel through, and keep the politics in the back. But how could you describe yourself, politically?

JF – My book came out of a series of emails I sent to people to explain the place I was in. I was, and still am, more interested in people than in the political reality of a place. I studied international politics and social sciences, so I was not unaware of the political facts on the ground. But I felt misinformed by it. I find it very important to know the history of a place, yet what always moves me are personal stories. And the more I wrote about them the more I realized how similar we are in the world.

As an anthropologist I always defended the plurality of the world. I wanted to cherish the languages, the cultural manifestations, and as a student of psychology I also always felt we were exactly the same everywhere. It did not matter even whether I spoke the language of the place, soon enough I could grasp what was going on.

The reason I never write that much about politics in my e- mails is because politics permeate the world where we live, but if we focus too much on it we are taken by ideas and lose touch with the human aspect.

I don’t even classify myself politically anymore. I am interested in people, but without ever losing the notion that we are the same in diversity. It is tricky when you think of borders, that on one hand they should  preserve differences, and yet, on the other we should  not allow them to fully separate us  from the other.

4. And spiritually?

JF – Brazil is a very syncretic country. I was born in a Catholic family who is not practicing and that doesn’t attend church. As a child I believed in nothing, and had no affiliation to any specific religion. As soon as I could define myself as something, I would say I was an agnostic. Later, following the trends of the time I became a fundamentalist atheist. Until I met a friend who is deeply involved into religious studies, and asked him whether he was a “believer”.

He said, “I guess I am a believer trapped in the body of an atheist”. To what I replied, “I guess I am an atheist in the body of a believer.” We became very good friends ever since. I believe both of us relieved our atheist parts somewhere along the path. I have always felt both.  Sometimes a believer trapped in an atheist body, sometimes an atheist trapped in a believer body. Never were the two in the same place at the same time. Till the day I stopped trying to be that coherent. Nowadays I am very interested in religious beliefs, but my biggest religious practice has to do with compassion. A value I learned to understand better with Dostoyevsky’s “Brothers Karamazov”, and that I see in almost all religious manifestations in the world.

5. What is the meaning of the “path in between”?

JF – I wanted to call my book ‘In-betweeners’ because I always felt we were trapped in between worlds, ideas etc. But something that happened in Brazil made me realize that we do not have to choose all the time. We do not have to be perfect. We have to make a Mosaic. Mosaic is a celebration of art. It is a celebration of what is made by hand, the art of the possible. Taking things that were broken and making something better with them. Something beautiful. And celebrating what is most human: living the symbolic.

Art is for me the best manifestation of humanity. And a mosaic is a form of art that leaves the idea of perfection (in disruption) aside. A mosaic is beautiful because it is made of pieces. We are all made of pieces.

What matters is the journey, not where we come from or where we end. This movement to go back is a search for belonging and we belong both to the All and to a specific thing. We must go back to realize that we are inheritors of all the joy and pain that exists.

The middle path is a Taoist idea, a Chinese concept. But it is something beyond that I wanted to bring, because it has nothing to do with being in the middle as being “right”, “correct”, but of being really in between things, conflicts, ideas. It contains the idea of the middle from Buddhism. But not a perfect middle.Just in between, in what humans are; in this human experience we can make a mosaic.

But this is just one narrative. There are others and they should all be heard. Because it is only in hearing the other that we find our own voice. And I have finally found mine.

6. What was your plan when you started to write your blog, and how did it change in the course of your travels?

JF – My book is in fact a series of emails I started to write to my friends when I first went to volunteer in Asia.

As soon as I started asking people whether what I wrote about them was ok, they told me they wanted to be part of my list to know about the other people I met. Soon many of the people I had met were reading my stories somewhere else. This has fundamentally changed the way I wrote because all that I saw I wanted to share with people I had left on the journey. So my emails were always an attempt to share with others what I saw.

Once I started going back to places, my writing changed again. I remember a class I attended at the LSE where Professor Fuller explained how his experience with the people he researched made him much more accurate.

“When you write about people in Tuvalu and they do not read you, you can say anything. Now when you talk about Indian Brahmins and they will read you and be in your audience, you have to be more careful”.

I often thought of those words when I wrote about Palestinians and Israelis. I always knew they would read it. I needed to be as accurate as I could. That is why, when I published my book and I asked people whether I could write about them, they said yes. Not only they knew me, but they had read me. They knew what I wrote was what they had told me.

7. Did you change much of your writings when transcribing your blog to the book? Is the voice you found in the book the same as the one in the blog?

JF – Most of my writing is exactly as it was. The only corrections were made by my editors for most of these emails were typed from my I-Phone or I-Pad, and I simply never edit anything. I don’t know how to, and was always on the go.

8. Do you think that your experience as an anthropologist is more an advantage or a hindrance to your sensibility?

JF – I actually am not sure. I believe I was born an anthropologist because of my interest in the other. In the beginning I used social theories, political theory, cognitive theory to attempt to understand life. Then this was all thrashed. I guess I took from anthropology the admiration for a plural world, and from cognition an interest in the things that connect people. From my Professors Rita Astuti and Maurice Bloch I learned that what people say and what people think can be fundamentally different. Maybe from my whole time in academic life this is the most important lesson I have learned. What people say usually has to do with society, now what people feel and think…. that is way harder to tap into scientifically.

9. You studied music and have composed quite a few songs. Is your music some kind of link to Brazil, or do you feel it more in tune with your international experience?

JF – Well, I started to compose when I was a child. I used to feel that Brazilian music touched my soul while other music travelled to other places in my body. Nowadays I do not feel that anymore. I remember hearing Klezmer in Brazil and feeling I was a nomad. Music connects me to my body, and that is where home is to me.

10. Do you still feel like writing songs?

JF – I am not sure. Since it is quite hard for me to sing now, because of a health issue, it is difficult to say. I love playing with a French musician called GaspardDeloison, a very talented boy I met in Asia. Gaspard has the ability to transform what he hears in something more beautiful. He is so humble that he can’t see it. If I ever were to record a cd it would have to be with him. Yet I prefer nowadays to just play the piano (which I can’t actually play).

“Mosaic, The Path in Between” can be purchased for kindle. You do not need to have a Kindle to read it.  If you do not have kindle you may download a kindle app for free on your phone, Ipads, or computers.

For Kindle here:



“Mosaic” is the journey of a woman who always

felt lost, but who never feared the Other, and went after It. It is the journey of a woman coming of age while trying to understand boundaries as well as her roots

in search of a sense of home. It is a human journey through her body and with a soul open to

record the so many voices that helped her finally find her own. The voices of Thais, Palestinians, Israelis, Tibetans, Europeans

and so many others, calling for a gentler world, a world in which all of us feel less alone.

The book does not follow a strict chronological order. Instead, it delves on an inner path. Mosaic starts with an old self of the author, still naïve but at the same time quite skeptical of faiths, dogmas and deep-rooted beliefs, leaving a precocious and short- lived marriage to do voluntary work in a school in Thailand. It is a seemingly harmless world, and her travels then also follow no plan or any specific curiosity, until she decides to focus her PhD in a research about how Israelis and Palestinians perceive and act upon the very idea of peace. Suddenly the individual stories and the humanity of the people she meets become much more interesting than any academic work. The PhD will eventually be dropped, but the trip will rage on up to the limits of physical endurance, as she is faced with odd health issues, the proximity of death and a reassessment of spirituality. She starts to realize that “home” transcends geography; it is made by people, by love, by managing to conciliate her roots with the antennae that connect her to the wider world.

The book also includes original illustrations done by artists Thomaz Bondioli (São Paulo/Amsterdam),Valérie Ciriadès (São Paulo/Belgium), Sandra Naxara(São Paulo) and Mounia Dadi (Marrakesh). Original graphic design made by Gustavo Soares (Rio de Janeiro).

“Mosaic, The Path in Between” can be purchased for kindle. You do not need to have a Kindle to read it.  If you do not have kindle you may download a kindle app for free on your phone, Ipads, or computers.

For Kindle here:

Mosaic, The Path in Between


Julieta Falavina (1981) was born in São Paulo, Brazil, but attended French schools in order to follow a constant curriculum while following her parents’ errands. At the age of 19 she won a Fulbright scholarship and graduated in Music and Anthropology at Hofstra University (New York), later continuing her studies at University of Amsterdam (Social Sciences & Conflict Resolution) and finally settling at the London School of Economics, where she completed her Masters in Cognitive Anthropology

and started the PhD program. She was also teaching assistant at Birkbeck College and University of East London in Political Approaches to Social Conflict (2011).

Julieta’s nomadic life started at a tender age, having lived in Buenos Aires and in South Australia still in her teens. While pursuing her academic career in Europe, she traveled extensively in South America, Southeast Asia, India, North Africa and the Middle East. In 2009, while volunteering in Thailand, she began to narrate her stories via e-mail to about 20 friends. The characters in her stories started to become readers, too, firstly to know what was being told about them, but then to also follow the world through the eyes of someone they knew so well. Soon the mailing list had more than 500 names, many of them replicating the stories to their own friends. In parallel, Julieta kept two blogs, one in English and another in Portuguese (with different contents), where newcomers could read what she had written before. As a prolific songwriter, Julieta has also dozens of songs composed in several languages, and many of them can be seen in her own YouTube channel. She is fluent in Portuguese, Spanish, English, Italian and French.

Links: (blog English) (blog Portuguese) (YouTube Channel)

“Mosaic, The Path in Between” can be purchased for kindle. You do not need to have a Kindle to read it.  If you do not have kindle you may download a kindle app for free on your phone, Ipads, or computers.

For Kindle here:

Mosaic, The Path in Between

Posted on May 4, 2013


Dear friends as I keep getting questions about people who cant get my book. And I def want that all of you who want to are able to read it.. Here it goes:

1. It is only available online now…
2. You can buy it in any amazon in any country you are!!!!.
The link i put was the one local to the UK but you can find it in any amazon inthe world 🙂
3. You do not need to have a kindle to read it.
You can download the application of kindle for ipads, smart phones, computers for free
Here for downloading kindke app
The book is called
Mosaic the Path in Between
You can get it in any amazon!
This is the link to the UK one,
 if uou are not in the UK go to the site of amazon in your country and search for the book with the title
Mosaic, the path in betweev
If you have any problem let me kbow!  🙂 and if you are reading .. Please let ne know about it!!
Love Jules in Rome in ny way back to Asia 🙂

“ It is not because I do not know my way. It is because I love you. And when we part we should know that. we should make it as a ritual. So that I know that  a piece of me is going. And i kneed to know that.”


Dear friends,


I know I owe an email to you. I started this email on the plane. And I will finish today as I am about to fly tomorrow to London.

Bear with me, I still make the same mistakes as usual.


So it starts…

Here I am again, on a plane. The first 4 hours I slept non stop. I was exhausted. For those of you who do not know I am flying to Switzerland to show my book in a sort of literary Salon.


Yes, that’s the news… I finally published a book!

Last year I started to write for a Magazine called Varal do Brasil, and while I was in Colombia they sent me an email inviting to join them in this literature salon in Geneva (May 1st-5th 2013)


I thought it was cool although I did not have any book to show. Once I came home I told my father and he said it was preposterous… especially because it was already the end of January, there was simply no time to write, edit and publish anything. “Think about next year”, he said.


My friend Claudia Alcantara, however, took the initiative and enrolled me in the Salon.


Claudia used to have a very normal job, and she disliked the curls in her hair, which is something very common in Brazil, some old traces of racism hard to die. She also disliked the way hairdressers worked the issue. So she decided to find out how the process was done. She ended up writing a manual to straighten hair and it started selling all over Brazil.


Hairdressers were impressed and started to ask her whether she also had some related products to sell? She didn’t. After a few emails with the same request, she decided to say yes.


She went around, studied some chemistry and invented a product based in the stuff that already existed, and she mixed chocolate into it.


Nowadays Claudia is the owner of a cosmetics brand called Cadiveu, and she sells her products for over 50 countries. Cadiveu has a brilliant website and you can read more about it here


Claudia is someone who always believed in good ideas. She sold a product before it existed because she believed it could exist. She enrolled me in a literary salon to show a book in Geneva before I had a book.


And now I am in a plane with two suitcases filled with books.


It is called “Mosaic, the Path in Between”.


Mosaic, is the art of what is possible. Nowadays I even think of it as the art of the impossible.


This book is a call for a more human world. It contains many of the emails I wrote throughout these last years…. It contains 4 mains ideas… Al Naqbah ( the great disaster when Palestinians lost their homes, but here I expand it to the huge disaster that most of us do not know where wer come from), borders ( what are they for?), Inbetweeners ( the feeling of always being trapped between worlds), and a search for home.


It contains the voices that many that I encountered Thais, Moroccans,  Israelis, Palestinians, Tibetans, Colombians, Braizlians and soo many others… to eventually reach the voices of my own family.


It is a treaty of love,…. that could not have been made in 2 months if people all over the world had not helped it take shape/


I owe special thanks to Andrey my Russian friend in Sweden for reading it, commenting it, and even helping edit it when we were all running out of time. Haiko Ballieux, my ex husband, my great friend from Holland who edited from the UK and the US,  Eduardo Simantob who is Arabic and Jewish and Brazilian and who edited from Switzerland in all of his spare time, Andrew Tope, who is British who edited on a plane between the US and UK. Then I have to thank the people of the Design Gustavo Soares, who I know since my Uni time, who designed this book in Rio while we still edited. He did the design in his spare time, while worki full time  and taking care of his 1 year old daughter,  Thomaz Bondioli  who is Brazlian/Portuguese and lives in Holland for making all maps and Illustrations. And Victor Mendes  in Sao Paulo for making the files online so that we could be doing this all over the world.


The Maps are hand made. They represent my experience.  Middle East map was particularly difficult for us to make. But once I was approved by a Palestinian and an Israeli I cried.


Then I must say that, the time was running so short that we had to ask  other people from other fields to help us.  Sabrina Rabelllo, brilliant  composer, and  who did  Phd in physics  at Kings College and Post Doc in Harward!, Henrique Sa Earp who did PhD mathematics in Imperial College and now is teacher at the univrersity of Campinas in Brasil. Marcello Sorrentino who did his Phd  in anthropology at the LSE where I left mine :)   Marcelo Fortaleza Flores who is an anthropologist and filmaker who lived in the AMazon for 6 years and had studied with Krishna Murti, taught me in the US, then at the Sorboonne. And Elizabeth Ings who is British  and is a writer and whom I met meditating in Vipassana. Finally Marisa Silveira who is in the US, and is from RIo and did her Phd in Linguistics at UCL also edited parts of this book.


Then came the art…. Thomaz decided to make some amazing illustration to represent the tougher chapter. He asked me to tell him. I sent him a song I had composed  and he made the illustrations of the chapter called Amit.Image

Then came Sandra….


Ok, Sandra came before. Sandra makes amazing Mosaic. And I asked her why she made Mosaic. And she told me she did them because she like doing art but was clumsy. She broke things. So she made a Mosaic. I told her that day, in the beach… that is beautiful. Mosaic is the art of what is possible. A celebration of that has been shattered but we make something beautiful with. That is how may book went from being in Betweeners to Mosaic…… Because it was a celebration of these in between things… the art of what is possible.


And so  I asked Sandra whether she could send me a picture of a Mosaic. She did. We had one day. The resolution was wrong. And she told me she collected the pieces to that mosaic by the thames… pieces she imagined that had floated…. had a journey. We managed to get the resolution by Sunday ok. We had to delivered by Monday morning.



Actually I managed to convince Jacqueline the lady responsible for Varal to Brazil and for me being there now to allow me to bring the books with me so that we could get 2 extra days. Now we needed till monday morning.


Then my childhood friend whom I had not seen in decades came to visit and now as the very famous fashion designer Valerie Ciriades came for a visit. I asked her. Can you do me one drawing. She told me she no longer drew. She only did clothes. For when Jules? Tomorrow… And so I told her. Seat when you have time and read the part of the book mosaic of voices…about my family… which she knows well…. and if it comes you send it to me. It came… and to me it is how she sees me. It makes me happy because it is how I like to see myself today.. feminine, delicate and like music.


And  then Monday we were all ready to send… and Gustavo had a doctors appointment….. and  then Mounia wrote me to Congratulate me….Mounia Dadi in Morocco. The brilliant painter, and my dear friend


It was in her house that I first had my  first ever epileptic attack. It was after seeing her art. Her whole following collection she  later told me was inspired on what had happened to me. So as I was about to print the book on monday… It felt now.. it is ready it has  to have Mounia’s painting


I asked her and she immediately said yes. and sent what she felt it represented me searching others. I sent an sms to Gustavo… Gu Don’t kill me… we need to put one more image. Can we please….??


Resolutions wrong, electricity down… all working magically for her painting finishing my book.


I knew it was then right!


It was over.


We sent at 4 monday to Fabio my Grpahic Producer, and also a great friend of my father…. and he told me He was uncertain we could have them before monday.. when I flew.

I suddenly wanted Sunday because I wanted to release my book, our book in Brasil… and it was all ready at 9 am saturday.

We released at the casa do Nucleo with Benjamim Taubking palying piano ( though he had to travel soon), and me telling the story ot the book.  I won’t tell the story now. I am tired, I think I have said it all now.

I am on plane. I fly to finally deliver the book to Geneva. Just like Claudia believed one day it would happen.


The release was beautiful we made a mosaic…. a mosaic that features pieces put by my 88 year old grandmother and my 5 year old cousins of second degree. My dear dear dear friends were there. And now I fly. They all hugged me very strongly telling me staying 6 months away was too much.


It is true…. as I fly here..  I agree… I ll miss them too much. That is thought when you have finally made home inside. Then you can realise all the homes you had all over. All the love you have to all and you feel this uncontrollable desire to go there… and give one more hug, an now, our book…. which all of them feature,


So that I wrote on the plane. Here I met Edu my main editor. Who told me, we need to edit proper now, and then we would release online on amazon. I cried. I felt my book was not good. I still went to the fair. edu explain to me over and over the book was good. But it had to be edited by one person thoroughly. He read my my whole book. And we are doing that.

He drove to fair. And I met amazing people. There was so much. So many people I felt so tired. ALl the tlack of sleep suddenly appeared. And I made a new friend. Nairubia and indigenous gril from a tribe called Iny in the island of Bananal. She put her hands in my lip. Closed them. She touched my face. She was there as the artist of the illustrations of the book. She was so special that I walk out.


She look into my eyes. Adns she said. He knew of your pain, dont ever let the light go away. Darkeness is just absence of light. She touched my face. Caressed my temples. She sang. And she said


“ I have nothing to teach you. You know. but one thing. dont get out of the litght anymore”


And then she gave me a profound gift. She told me people like me make her want to live. It imediatelly came to me the conversation I had with an anthropologist who told me the indigenous were different. I looked into her eyes. And I knew what I preached in my whole book was truly real. That day I felt… I don’t know indigenous people. As Nairubia touched my faced. Released the tension from my eyes. I knew compassion exactly the same anywhere is always [present. I cried.


I asked her whether she wanted me to take her back to the place where authors were and she said yes.


“ It is not because I do not know my way. It because I love you. And when we part we should know that. we should make it as a ritual. as if a piece of me is going. And i kneed to know that.”


I knew fully what she meant. I walked with her. we toasted with juice. We hugged. and I felt in place.



Then I cam home. The house of the travelling family you will read about. I met them on the road. Seing them again was like a part of me was being made put back. They cooked for me, they hugged me. We remembered all that once was. I am happy.Image


Edu took care of me for all the time he could. They take care of me now, and tomorrow I fly to London.



It is all good in this side of the world. And it will always be good wherever I am because I am in place.



from Switzerland

By the Seine

I seat in the TGV on our way from Paris to Marseilles. Seating in front of me is my 87 year old grandmother that no amount of complex problems in the beginning of our trip has shaken. Next to me is my 21 year old cousin, together we are going to travel Provence. Every year my grandmother says this is her last trip, but every year we see her looking happier and younger in these always beautiful but undoubtedly exhausting trips. So here we are enjoying the beauty of France.As I mentioned in my last post I was supposed to meet my friend Yonathan who is a brilliant Israeli pianist. We did and It was an absolutely fascinating night.We sat for a while in a little jazz cafe but then I suggested we walked. We met midnight in Paris, in the most agreeable summer night, and under a full moon.

We walked by the river bank of the Seine. We went down the stairs to get closer to it. We passed some young people drinking and smoking. We chose an empty bench to seat on and talk. Yonathan who is quiet and reserved was impressed by all the movement around.

We talked, and talked and suddenly a drunk man approached us saying something about the past thousand of years of human history. He had just interrupted me explaining my friend why I always talk to strangers…

I asked the man’s name.  Assab, if I am not mistaken. And then a long night started. The man carried a guitar on his back. He came from Ethiopia. He knew all there was to know about Semitic languages. He was drunk but he made full sense. It seemed sometimes like a dream. He explained he was a musician and that his grandfather was the brother of Haile Selassie’s wife and did not want him to be a musician.

At first I did not take the talk so seriously but as he went further and further into the explanations of Ethiopian history I did no longer even care how true this was. Then he told me he had once played with Brazilian famous composer Gilberto Gil. Hearing this, yet not convinced, I asked him to take his guitar out and show us something from Ethiopia.

I was accompanied by an absolutely brilliant jazz pianist and somehow I did not expect what was about to happen.

We were by the river which was placid reflecting the lights and the beauty of Paris. We were surrounded by young French boys and girls of north African descent. They were drunk and smoking weed. they were loud. They were exactly what so many people are afraid of. They had this energy of youth wildness, mixed with economic frustration, and desperate unresolved cultural and national identities. They wanted to be French but not.

But once the Ethiopian took his guitar out and started to play in different Ethiopian languages little by little stillness came. The youngsters had come before that, seeing the guitar on his back they wanted him to go to their circle and play. Assab said he was going to play to us, if they wanted to listen they could, but that they should move.

It seemed a bit unreasonable logistically as we were 3 and this group alone  had more than 10. They were unconvinced, and went back to their place. But as soon as Assab’s voice suddenly started to float around the river bank we all became flabbergasted. We were suddenly all quiet. People started to move their little gangs towards us. Assab who could speak tigre, tigrinya, amharic, arabic, and so many other languages played the sound of Africa .

And then came a Moroccan from the desert. He was a gorgeous black man looking incredibly Gnawan. He was carrying what looked like to be a guitar case. The group around us begged him to stop. He seemed to be famous in Paris, maybe in Africa as well. He hesitated but listening to Assab music he did.

He opened his case to take out a Gimbri (three stringed skin-covered bass plucked lute used by the Gnawa) people.  Suddenly, we were making music. My Israeli friend took out a flute that had broken out but in his music genius  he could still steal some melody out of it. The beautiful African girl next to me joined the songs in new invented melodic lines. I sang in Portuguese over the Ethiopian, desert, Gnawan sounds

The boy who looked like the sharpest and angriest at first suddenly said

” I never imagined this morning I would have such gift this night.”

Neither had I.

North Africans greeted themselves in their Salem aleikums . They often wondered where I came from. I asked them to guess. They guessed I was Italian usually. Yonathan, my Israeli friend, was usually taken to be Arabic. Assab when confronted with Yonathan being an Israeli Jew said

” Oh well, I am also originally Jewish and then history takes place. Invasions, expansions , conversions. it does not matter really, does it?”

Assab was a fascinating character and I did not expect anything else from him. I was however surprised when seating in between Yonathan and Ahmad.

Ahmad was loud,  extremely tribal about being north african. He greeted with extreme joy other north africans, and stronger joy and noise Moroccans. I sat there wondering what would happen when that talk would come.. As I just knew it would.

There was something fascinating about the fact that they all felt it was very important reinforcing similarity between these people coming from different places but it happened together with cherishing the culture of where they came from. I wondered now surrounded by predominantly North African Muslims how they would act to Yonathan once they found out he was from Israel.

I was not scared or worried, I was just curious. Yonathan is not like me who just talks to people so I also wondered how he felt about being  there.  And then suddenly the question came. Ahmad asked me where was  Yonathan from.

I told him to guess and he said ” Arabia”

Some silence stood still  and then

Yonathan said

” Israel”

” Palestinian?” ahmed asked

There was some  probably millisecond of silence but it seemed like ages. I thought of the irony of it… People cant even tell these differences looking. They can only identify labels…

” No. I am Jewish, yemenite descendent.”

Ahmad smiled took his hand out in Yonathan’s direction and said

“Salem my friend”.

Yonathan shook his hand. It was a hand shake that happen above me, it  happen crossing my body.

And that crossing made my thoughts meddle. As a result of my last post I got answers that made me think about that hand shake over my body. A Brazilian friend of mine who  comes from an elite in Brasil told me she thought I was looking the world through an Western European academic point of view where labels mattered. She thought in Brazil that was not the case.

I argued that maybe not to us because we had been blind by being always part of a Brazilian elite. We had never had to think about whether their was any consequence being what we were, but that was not true for all Brazilians. it was a consequence of being an elite. I agreed with her that studying in The western world had probably modified me, but I often think it is more in the sense that I am capable to see these labels now, not that I create and impose them. I could, of course, be wrong

Then I received a message from another Brazilian friend who thanked me for writing the last post. She told me she understood it well as she was Lebanese descendent in both sides.

As I sat under this crossing of hands I thought about it. There was some sense of acknowledgement of difference and acceptance to it at the same time.  But there was this huge silence just before and though and I wondered why I felt no fear. I realise a part of it is due to me being Me (.always trusting…) But the other huge came from me being Brazilian. And on that case, like in most others in my life, It meant nothing. Not nothing as in a pejorative sense but in the great sense of all, the one of being allowed to let people be empirical as the national label you carry is in this case quite politically neutral.

I sat in between a Muslim Moroccan who did not com from a Moroccan elite, and an Israeli Jewish brilliant jazz piano player. And I realised that silence I did not fear carried with it a million of possible old as time prejudices. And when the smile and handshake came I thanked the music. I thanked the shared time we had all spent before we identified our labels. And then listening to the Ethiopian song in the background I thought of the thousands of years of human history that started my conversation wi both Assab and Yonathan. In these thousand of years humans have always been trying to reconcile this desire to be particular and cherish their own kind while at the same time encountering others. It is so good when both happen simultaneously in music. Even better if you are by the Seine and the moon is full.

The Slums, and the border of within

People were always intrigued that I was never afraid of crossing borders to arrive in places that most people do not go to. It is true that when I crossed the wall to stay in the houses of strangers in Palestine I was slightly scared, or that when I visited Bolivia on my own I was at first apprehensive, or that when I decided to celebrate Ramadan in Kashmir (against all advices) I had a small hesitation. But never did I actually believe it was difficult to get to those places. I took all forms of transportation to arrive in the last village in Nubra Valley and climbed a rocky mountain, which was a few km from Pakistan without thinking it was far. I always ignored these voices of hesitation because I wanted to meet the other. As I have often put it: I wanted to hear those who have no voice.


So when my aunt, who teaches in a Waldorf school, invited me to spend one week volunteering in an association in one of Sao Paulo’s slums I was quite intrigued to realised I thought it was so difficult to get there. I did not really research the association I just asked her where it was. And my first thought was that it was too hard to get there, too far, too dangerous. I did not voice the thought, out of shame, but the truth is that my first impulse was of ‘impossibility”.  It is just out of the question to go there, I thought. This thought brought me immediately the question: How could it be that I who cross all kinds of borders. I who fly for days, and take several times buses for dozen of hours, and ricksaws, and tuk tuks, and boats, and shikaras in countries I often know no one nor speak the language found it sooo hard to take 3 buses to get to a slum in my own city of Sao Paulo?


It is because going to the slum in Sao Paulo involves crossing the borders of within. And those are way harder to cross. The return to my own country allows me to finally hear all of those who have no voice next to me.


It is also not without reason that I was apprehensive. As I talked to my Israeli friend who was talking on the Gaza situation I decided to research the statistics of homicides in the area of the association I was going to go to. In one of the neighbourhoods I was passing by only in one year (a bad one) 1777 people were killed. We are talking of one neighbourhood that houses 300 thousand people!


But so it is that puzzled by my own prejudices I decided to put my back on my back, retrieve my adventurer soul, a bit left aside since I arrived here, to cross all the borders of my own prejudices.


I took the first bus seeing things that were at first familiar. I drove it till the last point by that time not recognizing anything else anymore. On this bus alone it took me 1,5 hours. As I took this bus I kept thinking of the thousand (or maybe millions) of workers who take this journey (that only one part took me over one hour) every single day.  The second bus in another hour was going to take me to Jardim Angela the neighbourhood, which was considered in 2001 by Unesco as one of the most violent places in the world. It was truly like being in a different country for me. I knew nothing around and when I finally took the third bus with my backpack on my back intrigued to see how green this area was I was asked whether I was a foreigner.


I was puzzled. Has the time I have spent abroad changed me so much? And pondering about it I remembered that when I visited the neighbourhood where many illegal African immigrants live in Tel Aviv (which is so feared and avoided by my Israeli friends) people often started conversations immediately in English. I am usually taken for being Israeli in Israel and all over the world, but in that neighbourhood they never thought I was. It puzzled me then, like it puzzled me here. But I came to realise that that assumption had to do more with my attitude then with my looks. The truth is that the only volunteers, or people who were not from this poor neighbourhoods that went there were foreigners. This conclusion brought me another insight. Maybe it is because for all of us it is easier to help where we “know” of the less the context. It is probably easier to be empirical where our societies have not tainted us by prejudice of so called “factual information.


People looking like me in the slum are foreigners. They, probably like me, are not capable to cross the borders of within in their own countries so they take buses and planes and do it somewhere else. And quite honestly it does not matter to me where we help and encounter the other. It is the fact that we do that matters. It is in going to those places that we might start to learn to challenge our own prejudices which are always there does not matter what we do or where we come from.


And so it is that I arrived. I arrived in the Jardim Horizonte Azul. I arrived in an association that did far more than my wildest dreams. An association created by a German woman in the end of the 70’s. The work of this lady has transformed the lives of babies, children, adults, and the physical structure of three very poor areas in Sao Paulo. I in crossing the borders of within have been able to finally see what I always knew from the world. It does not matter where we are, we are always so alike.


It was an intense week. And I want to write properly about it. I want to write about the different experiences I had. But I will do it in parts. So first I will start here. Where it started for me. It started on the simple but incredibly hard first step. It commenced on the internal one, on the decision to go where you learned never to go to, nor to see.


On the way there, on the first bus, I stood next to an old lady. She had a perfect posture that was not destroyed by the years, nor the hard work I could see marked by the lines in her face. I hesitated on whether to tell her about it or not. She did not look particularly happy, nor did she look sad… It was just a resignation of someone who takes probably many buses to go to work everyday. I thought she looked so beautiful, in her flawless posture, in her austere presence. And I wanted to tell her about it.


So I did. She was touched. And decided to tell me her life. She told me she was 78. And then she told she came from the slums from a very poor family and that she had been the first black woman in one of Sao Paulo’s prestigious Universities. She had studied pedagogy. She had worked very hard in being the best student there. She told me she had studied to prove the world, and herself that the colour  of a person skin does not matter. I heard her quite moved.  And pondered about our country that prides itself of having no racism. I heard the woman in a mixture of admiration and sadness. I admired her austerity and strength but was sad that somehow she had needed to fight so hard against racism. I also felt uncomfortable that she searched in me some sort of validation. Then I realised I also searched in her, and in our conversation a validation. I expected in our brief encounter to erase the centuries of separations between classes, which in Brasil is highly correlated with colour. I was also searching for some kind of redemption.


I had no idea on that bus how much I would understand that better on the days to follow. How much I would understand how the capital culture, as Bourdieu puts, it is used to reinforce social distinctions. I never imagined how much of our relationships would be coloured by these distinctions. I never knew on that moment how much of my prejudices I believed not to have would be massacred listening to the poetry night in the slums. So I can’t let you know in one go. It takes time to discover the association, their work, the people, the art, the boundaries, the social and physical structure of the poor suburbs of Sao Paulo.


On that bus I carried my backpack as a foreigner. Because yes, that is what I am. A stranger. A stranger who is always searching for connection. We all are. On that bus I started to cross the frontiers of within. And I invite you all to do it. To help, to see those we have heard are so different than us. If you still can’t do it next door go far away. But go because we cannot afford to just stay still watching TV and reconfirming our untested judgments. I invite you to learn more about this world I have discovered this week. A world that was always there, next to me, a world which inhabitants work on our houses in the centre, our bars and restaurants, beauty parlours, stores, buses, subways, constructions, supermarkets etc. I invite you to learn about what happens to their children when they take every single day this journey, I thought it was impossible, to come here and work on this side.

Travelling Families- Nong Khai Thailand

“This place is wonderful but it is not for kids. NO TV!?” I explain the customer that Julian, mut mee’s owner, likes to encourage guests to meet on the garden to talk to each other. “Well not if you have children. If you have children you have to have a TV otherwise they drive you crazy. They move too much. Hearing this I do not know whether to laugh or cry.


But this man is wrong. Working for the little time I have here I have noticed an amazing trend. The parents who do not want to be bothered with their children have this crazy children running around, who get very angry at the absence of a TV. Those are usually on a holyday looking desperate to go back to their comfortable homes. On the other hand I have met a few other families. Families of travelers going around the world, hoping to get more time together, and pleased to be able to show or discover the world in its diversity with their children. These families have the most amazing children.


I met for instance a French couple with their 10 year old daughter. They had left France because they did not want her to grow up in a place that was so “pessimistic”. They first went to Guadaloupe, then to Madagascar, and then here. In each place they stayed for a while. The girl Eva was one of the nicest 10 year old I have ever met. She was curious about the world. She told me about the places she had been. She wanted to learn about my travels.


Then came another French family who I had less time to spend with as I only met them on the last day they were here. It was their second time at Mut Mee. But three years before now they had been on a 14th month family trip around the world. The now live in San Francisco. It was the exact same feeling. They were curious, lively, and bright and had even before their teen years seen the world, and so many different cultures.


In India I encountered a few families as well. They always amazed me.


But just as I was pondering about the crazy children who needed TV, I see arrive a really lovely family: parents traveling with 2 children. One is 3 and a half and the other 9. Even before I talk to them I know they are travelers and not tourists.


When I show them the room the Raphael, the 3 year old is excited because there are pebbles in the shower.


“it is so Beautiful”


He gets to the garden and realizes there is a Buddha.


“We must water it”


I get him a little pot with water and there he goes watering plants and Buddhas around.


Every single person in the garden is marveled by the cuteness of the boy. His 9 year old brother is talkative. He is intrigued by the plants. He helps Raphael. They do not ask me if we have TV. They are amazed by the trees.


When I get to talk to the mom she tells me they are on a 2 year old trip. They have finished the 1st 6 months. I asked her whether it was hard.


“Much less than I anticipated. It took 2 months for all of us to meet. We were all used to our own lives. We both had jobs; the boys never spent that much time together. It was strange at first but now we are a family. A family that travels together.”


Little Raphael comes back with his empty pot. He does not ask for water but I refill it so that he can water everything else. Suddenly, as I look back at him looking at things I suddenly realize what I think it is. These children who do not watch TV all the time they seem to really SEE the world. They are intrigued by the pebbles, the statues, the trees, the tuk tuk, the rooster singing. These children seem to be simply more present.


I reconsider. That man (who needed the TV for his children) in being wrong was very right. Children without TV move more. As Raphael comes around with his little Ukulele composing a song about everything that is around I am really happy he moves, and talks and is not paralyzed in front of a machine.