Peachy

The whole house smells like fresh out of the oven peach muffins. It smells like summer, like bare feet and carefree lounging, even when the task for the day is typing my final thoughts about the topic I’ve been researching for months in the most academic way possible.

I am taken back to conversations had standing on red ground, sitting on wooden benches, eating corn straight from the fire, or fish just out of the river, sharing a cuia of refreshing tereré while listening to stories of fighting and resistance, bravery and optimism.

And now an insisting tiny vertical blinking line is urging me to draw analytic conclusions, establish some sort of verifiable knowledge, “contribute to the field”…when all my thoughts are drifting southwest under the immensity of blue that hovers over us all, as do the wise words of another man with the earth firmly under his feet:

Há Metafísica Bastante em não Pensar em Nada

A. Caeiro

Há metafísica bastante em não pensar em nada. 

O que penso eu do mundo?
Sei lá o que penso do mundo!
Se eu adoecesse pensaria nisso.

Que idéia tenho eu das cousas?
Que opinião tenho sobre as causas e os efeitos?
Que tenho eu meditado sobre Deus e a alma
E sobre a criação do Mundo?

Não sei. Para mim pensar nisso é fechar os olhos
E não pensar. É correr as cortinas
Da minha janela (mas ela não tem cortinas).

O mistério das cousas? Sei lá o que é mistério!
O único mistério é haver quem pense no mistério.
Quem está ao sol e fecha os olhos,
Começa a não saber o que é o sol
E a pensar muitas cousas cheias de calor.
Mas abre os olhos e vê o sol,
E já não pode pensar em nada,
Porque a luz do sol vale mais que os pensamentos
De todos os filósofos e de todos os poetas.
A luz do sol não sabe o que faz
E por isso não erra e é comum e boa.

Metafísica? Que metafísica têm aquelas árvores?
A de serem verdes e copadas e de terem ramos
E a de dar fruto na sua hora, o que não nos faz pensar,
A nós, que não sabemos dar por elas.
Mas que melhor metafísica que a delas,
Que é a de não saber para que vivem
Nem saber que o não sabem?

“Constituição íntima das cousas”…
“Sentido íntimo do Universo”…
Tudo isto é falso, tudo isto não quer dizer nada.
É incrível que se possa pensar em cousas dessas.
É como pensar em razões e fins
Quando o começo da manhã está raiando, e pelos lados
das árvores
Um vago ouro lustroso vai perdendo a escuridão.

Pensar no sentido íntimo das cousas
É acrescentado, como pensar na saúde
Ou levar um copo à água das fontes.

O único sentido íntimo das cousas
É elas não terem sentido íntimo nenhum.
Não acredito em Deus porque nunca o vi.
Se ele quisesse que eu acreditasse nele,
Sem dúvida que viria falar comigo
E entraria pela minha porta dentro
Dizendo-me, Aqui estou!

(Isto é talvez ridículo aos ouvidos
De quem, por não saber o que é olhar para as cousas,
Não compreende quem fala delas
Com o modo de falar que reparar para elas ensina.)

Mas se Deus é as flores e as árvores
E os montes e sol e o luar,
Então acredito nele,
Então acredito nele a toda a hora,
E a minha vida é toda uma oração e uma missa,
E uma comunhão com os olhos e pelos ouvidos.

Mas se Deus é as árvores e as flores
E os montes e o luar e o sol,
Para que lhe chamo eu Deus?
Chamo-lhe flores e árvores e montes e sol e luar;
Porque, se ele se fez, para eu o ver,
Sol e luar e flores e árvores e montes,
Se ele me aparece como sendo árvores e montes
E luar e sol e flores,
É que ele quer que eu o conheça
Como árvores e montes e flores e luar e sol.

E por isso eu obedeço-lhe,
(Que mais sei eu de Deus que Deus de si próprio?).
Obedeço-lhe a viver, espontaneamente,
Como quem abre os olhos e vê,
E chamo-lhe luar e sol e flores e árvores e montes,
E amo-o sem pensar nele,
E penso-o vendo e ouvindo,
E ando com ele a toda a hora.

 

In English

Meu tempo é quando

After two years without a proper summer, and the harshest winter yet, it looks like I’m going to have several months of bare feet and sunshine, even though officially Autumn just started here in the Southern Hemisphere of this beautiful globe we inhabit.

It’s been almost two weeks since I first stepped out into the sugarcane ethanol-filled, wonderfully humid and warm air of São Paulo and have been living surrounded by lush green mountains and valleys as well as tall and colorful concrete walls, fueled by coconut water and goiaba juice.

I spend most of my days thinking, talking and writing about those who called this land home long before “we” unshipped with an unshakable (and unjustified, false, arrogant, destructive) assuredness about what the future, read “evolution”/”civilization”/”development”, looks like that has permeated society until today. And the others who (try to) work to deconstruct this very idea. 

I can’t help but being constantly torn between feeling useless in my privileged presumption that there’s anything I can do, say or write and the almost hopeless dutiful certainty that not doing anything is not an option.

Then I take a deep breath and take it one day, or hour, or minute at a time. One decision at a time.Image

 

Literary hibernation

It is only when I start rejoicing at the average daily temperature rising above the freezing point of water that I realize I have been literarily hibernating (no, I don’t mean “literally”), at least on the production side of the whole verbal internal mirroring process.

I have been consuming words. Tens of thousands of them. Most of them put together under the presumption that they somehow can produce what has come to be known as “scientific knowledge”, whatever that is. Most of them concerned with food and (human) rights, or, better said, the existing world structure that allows for and even promotes lack thereof.
It has been extremely thought-consuming, I must say, and rendered every other thought I might have that is not in some way capable of producing socially or politically relevant action irrelevant, superficial in my head… but even those who are are irrelevant and superficial in the grand scheme of things. So I return to my little scheme of things of deeming relevant all that feels worth grabbing a pen for and is verbally expressible.
It is puzzling and, frankly, often impairing to try to find a rational way of establishing such a normative thing as the “right” thing to do, choice to make, way to live.
I am tempted to accept it is not possible. Which doesn’t mean it isn’t worth striving for. (And being the hipocritically judgemental person that I am, I don’t plan on giving up on it, just maybe ballancing it out.)

RH

So… First and foremost, happy new year.

Until now, 2013 has brought me a lot: a new home to come home to unending conversations at the kitchen table, discussing postcolonialism while chopping up vegetables, or while baking blueberry muffins after shopping at the farmers’ market, to sharing relaxing glasses of wine over conversations about nothings or tasting (and re-tasting) polish vodka; tons of pictures of snow, frozen lakes and bunnies; a new part-time occupation that allows me to put in practice all that I have been thinking about in theory (even if most of the time this means sitting at a computer sending out e-mails and making phone calls); a heart-warming visit to the almond-tree filled south, to my temple of literary knowledge, my well of calm, peace and love; and the beginning of the end of this part of my academic journey, with the start of my research project and the  issue of deciding what “big scientific question” my thesis is going to answer.

Looking forward to whatever else is coming my way and making travel plans for my already itchy feet.

Quiet

One of the things I enjoy the most in my Amsterdam life is the rhythm of it. The cadence of my routine melts into the natural breathing of the world around me like the honey cascaing from the spoon into my hot cup of tea. And, unlike what I expected, the shortness of daylight does not make me blue, it just mellows my rhythim, it quiets me down.

On most days I open the curtains to a dark street spotted with electric lamp light. Yesterday, like most days, I sat down, under my blanket, next to the tall window, and watched the pale sunlight come up while sipping my coffee and reading the daily news. But yesterday, unlike most days, there were no pink stripes of light to color the sky. The sky wasn’t even grey, as it is on rainy days. It was white. And soon I realized that what seemed like raindrops falling in weird directions, were actually snowflakes whirling around in the cold December wind, at first melting at the first contact with the muddy street. 

I got my bike from the storage room and biked to the center, like most days, but this time with far less fellow commuters, which only added to the peaceful quiet of riding through a silent snow covered park, snowflakes cutting into my cheeks.

It only lasted an hour or two before the rain washed it all away, and I really regret not taking a picture. But for someone who grew up with snow white Christmas pictures but no actual white Christmases there’s something magical in all of this.

Crises

“Every age, every culture, every custom and tradition has its own character, its own weakness and its own strength, it beauties and ugliness; accepts certain sufferings as matters of course, puts up patiently with certain evils. Human life is reduced to real suffering, to hell, only when two ages, two cultures and religions overlap… Now there are times when a whole generation is caught in this way between two ages, two modes of life, with the consequence that it loses all power to understand itself and has no standard, no security, no simple acquiescence.” (Steppenwolf)

Hermann Hesse wrote these words in the late 1920’s Germany, a time (and place) undoubtedly shaken up by profound changes in cultural, political and ethical realities, a crisis.

Today we are getting accustomed to hearing that crises are the “new normal”. Maybe it’s an intrinsic part of what some call the “second” or “post” modernity. Maybe reflexivity necessarily leads to crises because certainty and continuity are constantly questioned. Whatever philosophical, psychological or sociological justifications the great thinkers of our time come up with, the truth is we experience change, a lot of it, and of a profound kind.

I don’t want to speak on behalf of “my generation” but I can speak for myself when I say I don’t feel like I’m in between two ages, but in a time where you cannot speak of ages in a traditional sense anymore (and I doubt if we ever could, but I didn’t live in another time so I cannot say). There is no transition, no direction, there are multiple and multidimensional changes happening all the time.

I know it’s kitschy to talk about change, today of all days. And although I do have the 24 hour media spectacle running in the background, I am not thinking of this 4 year old change, I am thinking about crises, structural changes that are affecting several sectors of every “society”. I refuse to accept that the structure is the sole unquestionable defining force behind what’s happening and what can be done. People define structures, and, more directly, some people are granted power by these created structures to change them, or adapt to them. We do have a certain amount of freedom to decide, however limited by (constructed) structural constraints. No reality should be taken for granted.

Clearing my head

José James and hot cup of red fruit tea after an afternoon nap is turning out to be the perfect recipe for clearing my head (especially after a couple of days of preparing for a debate on development, an issue that has kept my mind more than busy with critical thoughts about this crazy world and what I want my role in it to be)

It’s been a month since I last posted here, considering that I haven’t been here much longer than two months it’s almost unacceptable. I’d like to say that I’ve had no time, that the University has been keeping me too busy and that I’ve been spending every free second exploring this beautifully autumny city, but although this is partly true it is also true that I’ve always needed these moments to clear my head, and I’ve always done that by putting things down in writing.

I’ve been trying not to settle into a routine, but I guess it could be nice to turn some of the things I’ve been doing this month into habits like after-class reading at the library overlooking the Singel canal (or at home on lazier days), saturday mornings at the farmer’s market buying fresh veggies, week evening and weekend morning yoga classes in a amazingly naturally lit room full of windows, sharing delicious hummus sandwiches at a student run cinema-café, homy movie nights on rainy days (I guess I’ll have  lot of those), just strolling around my favorite parts of the city, like Jordaan or de Pijp and window shopping at vintage shops.

I’ve been home for a couple of lovely days. It felt like a reminder that, in the end, you just want to share all of the amazing new experiences you have.

 

leaving yoga class

waking up at sunrise

before the cold came

 

Jinx

I am not a superstitious person at all, but after yesterday’s remark about the weather I enjoyed an indoor evening to the soothing sound of the rain falling outside and woke up to an unstable-looking sky.

In spite of that, my plans to meet a friend and go to the farmers’ market stuck and I’m glad they did.  Strolling through my favorite neighbourhood (Jordaan) while taking in the smells of fresh fish, fruits, vegetables, wild mushrooms and bread was definitely worth the risk of getting a little wet.

One good thing about this rainy weather is you’re forced to keep a relaxed pace. So when you’re in the middle of the market and the rain starts to pour, you just stop a little while, and wait until it’s dry enough to go to the nearest café where you sip a warm capuccino while the rain doesn’t stop. From my experience, chances are you are still going to see the sun shine in between small periods of rain.

(Another great thing is the green smell of all the plants and trees in the park when you’re riding home)

The bad thing about this weather is getting a cold, or at least what feels like a cold.

 

Chore day

Dust cleaned, floor vacuumed, laundry washed and dryed. My Ikea furnished room is smelling of fabric softener and cleaning products, my two pet african violets living on the window sill got their weekly hidric nourishment, as did my basil plant in the kitchen. Doors and windows are open to let the mildly warm dutch Summer air flow through my lovely new light filled home.

It’s time to sit on my huge and lulling sofa and dive into the wise words of Grotenhuis and van der Wegen, a.k.a. the authors who are supposed to lead us through the (a)mazing world of statistics applied to Social Sciences.

After a night of partying in a former 19th century church turned iconic music venue, which included some pre-dancing to good music at a bar followed by some moving around to inferior quality music at Paradiso and ended with an unexpected but immensly appreciated immersion into a rhythmic, soulful environment of real hip hop dancers moving to deep house music, a day of taking care of cleaning, grocery shopping, studying and blog updating seems like the appropriate programme to end a week of statistics classes, picnics at the pier and after uni drinks by the canal.

Surprisingly, the amsterdamian sky has been kind to me so far. With few exceptions, there have been pretty much dry (although not always sunny) days, and even a couple of cloud free warm enough to go the beach ones. (Btw that trip to the beach included a more than 30 km bike ride – the exact distance will never be known because we got lost a couple of times). Let’s hope I don’t jinx it by writing it down.

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my new pets

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having lunch in between classes just outside the University

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people watching in markets just became one of my favorite activities

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picnic on the pier

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relaxing after class

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bar bathroom wall


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About time

Time is strangely influential in our view of our own lives for something that is so artificially constructed (although tightly tressed with Nature’s sightly ways)

It’s been two weeks and one day since I arrived in this beautiful Atlantis-like city.

I might as well say it’s been a couple of fresh-aired stirring bike rides through paths that twirl around hawthorns, oaks, weeping willows and cypress, some dreamlike almost scale-growing experiences of realizing I’m as close as ever to living underwater, hundreds (if not thousands) of exchanged open smiles with friendly strangers (of all shapes and sizes although most are tall blond and on a bike), three days of (very) intensive knowledge gaining, with a lot of “mandatory” reading in between, and the bittersweet lining: the constant lingering of saudade and the rare bordering unbearable feeling that sometimes all of this seems meaningless if I don’t have those most dear to me to share it with. 

So I hope returning to my blog will help ease these gloomier moments (which I promise are not that frequent or intense – the beauty of this city wouldn’t allow it)

 

It’s about time I started writing from down here

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P.S.: This song gets stuck in my head all day after I bike through either one of the amazing parks I live nearby

 

P.S. (for those who know me better): the supermarkets are filled with Spekulatius, honey cake, Smurf gums, and potato salad – yay :)