This morning I got up and went to my old yoga studio, Exhale, in Soho. I’ve been to all of the Exhales so many times over the last five-ish years I lived in New York, post-Vietnam and pre-Brazil.  The Soho one was the one I went to most often in the last year or so before we left.  I would go in the morning and walk from there to the UNICEF office, down Crosby Street, or up from Water Street after work.  Today I left a full hour to get from Brooklyn to the Spring Street studio.  It was ridiculous.  I got to Fulton street in about three minutes and realized I still had an hour before class started, so I got out and walked up.  It’s amazingly fun for me to see New York, the most familiar city to me, with new, fresh eyes.  Walks that I grew so tired of seem interesting again.  I know it won’t last long, but it’s working for me for now.  It’s also fun to see the new things that pop up.

I noticed for the first time that there’s an Osklen down by the Patagonia store in Soho.  It was one of my absolute favorites in Rio, and I’m excited that the Brazilian chain has one in New York, too.

I also walked past a new surf shop on Crosby Street, which seems out of place, yet sort of cool.  I guess, in a way, it’s another Rio throwback, but this store doesn’t look like anything in Brazil.  A surf store for the Ditch Plains set, or for those who like to hang surfboards in their Soho lofts.

The last place that struck me as odd was this Soho Synagogue.  Huh?

So we’ll see how long it takes for me to realize where I actually live and how far, or really how close, it is to everything.  I’m sure the days of being an hour early for things will subside soon.

Menina na Pipa

February 9, 2010

Sao Paulo was pretty when we left…

But now we’re here…

You can walk for so long without seeing other people on the beach.  This particular beach is called Praia do Amor. You can see the faint indent that makes it look like a heart.  All of Pipa has these gorgeous red cliffs, with the beaches down below.  Things like this happen here…

The chairs and umbrellas below are about $5 for the whole day.  You just give your name and you can order drinks and snacks.  There’s just the right number of people and the right amount of service to be comfortable.  The water was warm and refreshing.  I’m not sure what this sport is, I haven’t done it yet–It’s not parasailing or paragliding, but it looks fun.  You stay up there for forever and it seems like the guide has a lot of control over where you go.

I did take a surf lesson today.

I was nervous.  I had wanted to learn to surf the whole time that we were in Rio, but it was too public there.  The main surf schools (a few dark, skinny guys with board shorts, a sign and a few boards) were down by Posto 7, right near Arpoador, where there are tons of people all the time.  One day when I was running down there I saw this very pasty white girl learning how to surf from one of these skinny guys, surrounded by people who surf every day before work, and she looked like a beached whale.  I vowed never to be that person, at least not with everyone watching.

Today was different though.  I noticed the sign while we were hanging out and reading and asked the guy who was in charge of the chairs what the story was with the aulas de surf.  He called over the instructor–a guy about my age who was from Natal–who nonchalantly explained that the class was divided into parts.  First we stretch (which we did, it felt great and my yoga classes in Portuguese definitely helped), then we would go over the philosophy of surfing (which as he said it reminded me of Paul Rudd’s character in Forgetting Sarah Marshall, “Pop up… no, no do less.  Pop up… No less.  Do more.”  It wasn’t like that in practice).  Then he showed me, on a board on the sand, where to position myself on the board, how to paddle, what to do when you go over a small wave, and then the three motions of standing, or actually surfing.  It seemed simple while securely on the sand.  I totally got it, he made me feel like a natural.

Then we went into the water (they gave me the black shirt I was wearing, since clearly my little Brazilian bikini wasn’t going to make it through this adventure).  With the board tethered to my foot, he glided it out.  The waves were pretty rough, and I think I sort of suck at general being-in-the-ocean management.  I never know when to jump over a wave, or dive into it, and I got tumbled around and clobbered trying to get past the break.  Finally I did.  My teacher told me to get up onto the board.  I did.  He said start paddling.  I did.  He turned me around and said (in Portuguese, the whole thing was in Portuguese), “paddle paddle paddle! Stand up!”  I sort of did, but mostly didn’t. I tried to push my body up without getting my legs ready.  After about forty-five minutes of paddling out, turning around, semi-standing up and then finally standing up, I felt a lot more comfortable.  I don’t think I looked all that pretty or graceful (yet?), but I had a blast.  I told him I’d try again tomorrow.

The thing about today, was that I got to spend all day outside, for the first time in a long time.  Scott and I have been talking a lot about our time in Brazil, reflecting on it, wondering how much we succeeded, our regrets, how much we left on the table.  I think he said it best–It could have been more, but it could have been less.  Today made me feel scrubbed clean.  After surfing and playing in the ocean I went for a long walk on the beach, climbing over rocks into the next cove, and then came back and Scott and I went for a run along the cliffs, one beach after another, endless turquoise ocean.  It was the way we drove last year, when we thought there was a road that connected Pipa with Tibau do Sul that turned out to be too rough and tumble for our little Fiat.  It’s just the most breathtaking run I have ever, ever seen.  We’ll have to bring a camera out there next time.

It’s nice to be a little bit out of our heads, and the scenery definitely helps.  For good measure, our pousada, a collection of little bungalows, looks like this.

On my run this morning, instead of the usual net of surfers at posto 7, there were surfing lessons.  I was reminded how certain sports have very awkward beginnings and take a while (or forever) to get to gracefulness.  Skiing is one of them, snowboarding-the first few tries are painful and unattractive, and it takes some effort before you are gliding in clean arcs and beautiful slopes.  Surfing, I discovered as I watched a fairly heavy, very white woman a little older than me paddle out on a board, is the same.  Those first lessons are terribly unattractive (and I felt bad for the lithe, super tan instructor who was trying to keep her on her board).  It made me realize, as I stood among the parents taking digital videos of their children slippery and wobbling in the ocean, that I don’t to learn how to surf in Ipanema, where there are people around all the time watching, just in case I look pale and awkward paddling out.

From white caps and whales to white papers–I’m beginning to write a white paper on urban roof gardens in Brazil–how they could work to supply food, improve the environment in favelas, provide a project to occupy kids.  First I need to learn about white papers (any insights, please share your wisdom in my comments section or email me) and then I need to research urban roof gardens (again, wisdom welcome). From the outset, I think this could be an incredibly cool thing.

The surfers clustered at the end of the ocean near Posto 7, where the beach curves into a huge rock jutting out into the sea.  They bobbed up and down like a net, washing up and over as the waves slid beneath their boards, waiting, facing east.  If you go for long enough in this ocean, he said to me, you get to Africa eventually.  The scope of the beach made the ocean seem manageable, but it goes all the way to Africa, a million worlds away.  But back to the net of surfers—I watched them from the stonewall that stitches the beach in with the city.  They all faced east, until they picked that one wave that looked right for them and turned back toward the land, paddling until they popped up, until the swell was enough to make them stand, and then the movements became slices along the smooth barrel of the water, edging and cutting across the flow until they settled gracefully into the foam, the power of the water exhausted, spent.

Through this the light was opalescent, glowing a sunset-ish pink through the clouds.