After my two week stay in São Paulo I took a plane up to the other end of the country to state of Ceara. I spent almost two weeks in Fortaleza and Jericoacoara at the Choro Jazz Festival. The festival is a production of Capucho Produções and is partnered with California Brazil Camp which is how I knew about the festival. It was fun to see Capucho in charge and running this show instead of lurking around like he does at camp :) This time it was Dennis the Brazil Camp director who got to be the lurker. Just kidding! But seriously, I was so impressed with the whole operation. Three days in Fortaleza plus six days in Jericoacoara with workshops during the day and concerts at night, all with world class musicians. And all FREE thanks to government and corporate sponsorship. Fortaleza was a good chance to get in the swing of things and check out some of the workshops and concerts. But the real adventure started when four of us hopped in a hired pickup truck scheduled to drive us almost 200 miles to Jericoacoara. We stopped in Jicoca so the driver could let some air out of the tires. Then the last hour was a bumpy ride spent driving on sand, along the beach, past giant dunes, and into this beautiful beach town with sand instead of pavement.
The town has four main streets and a population of 3,000 (4,000 if you include tourists, and a lot more if you include the donkeys and cows everywhere that walked me to class). The sand was a challenge to walk on, but it was a constant reminder for me to slow down and stop rushing everywhere since I physically couldn't rush. Capucho had posted a class schedule online but with no locations at all. People kept asking each other where to go but nobody knew. Like so many things here that just seem to work themselves out, I figured the class locations would present themselves at the right time. And by word of mouth and a lot of directions given by local shop-owners, we all found our way. I spent a lot of time in inspiring workshops with Gabrielle Mirabasi, Teco Cardoso, Arismar do Espirito Santos, and Mauricio Carrilho. Then unexpectedly at the end of the week we were told we'd be performing on stage before the shows that night! Gabrielle Mirabassi and Alexandre Ribeiro flanked me on stage and there was such a great energy playing and dancing around all three of us together. What an honor.
Alexandre led a roda de choro every evening and a full on jam session every night late after the shows. I played in the rodas and made good use of the choros I've been memorizing. The jam was a bigger challenge for me - trying to navigate when to sit in, when to take a turn, when to call a tune, etc. Alexandre saw me at the bar and asked me why I wasn't playing more. When I started whining about how I didn't really know what to do, I didn't know that particular song they were playing, my dog ate my homework, etc etc, he literally pushed me into the circle and told me to play. I was glad for the kick in the butt and really appreciate his support and mentorship.
And then another chapter of my trip had passed and I hopped on another plane to another paradise. Not before a grueling ride back to Fortaleza. This time instead of the private truck I took a bus. That first trip back over the sand felt like the Indiana Jones ride at Disneyland, but in a seatbeltless rickety metal bus for an hour. This trip has been bumpy but this place teaches you to roll with the punches. I am constantly reminded of a quote from The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel which I watched on the plane. Judy Dench talks about adjusting to a new environment in India: "Initially you're overwhelmed. But gradually you realize it's like a wave. Resist, and you'll be knocked over. Dive into it, and you'll swim out the other side."