Sunday, September 19, 2010

A Backpack and a Camera

(Here you can see some of my Street Photography from my trip to Europe)

I was talking with my son Caetano about his future, one of those things that all boring parents of teenagers do every once in a while, and I was trying to make clear to him that I would support him in any decision he made about his life. So I said, “If you want to be a musician, I will buy you an instrument; if you want to be a scholar, I will buy you tons of books; if you want to be a vagabond, I will buy you a backpack." I was certainly joking when I said that. Caetano is a really smart young man and he has the potential to be anything he wants to be in life, but I can’t say that I would blame him for taking this last course. I had my year of backpacking around Europe, and I truly think that it is a legitimate way of life, as long as you work just enough to support yourself and don’t get in trouble with the law.

I was 22 when my father offered me some money to buy a car like he had done for my siblings, but being completely indifferent to these machines, I decided instead to buy a ticket to Europe and a Eurail pass. That was a decision I have never regretted. I certainly learned more about history by travelling than by reading books, learned a lot about how to survive in a strange environment and get by in four different languages, and most of all met some extraordinary people. Here are some of them:

Adriana Komives (left), who went to Film school in Brazil with me, has always been one of my dearest friends. She has been living in Paris for decades now, and at the time she was my main reference in Europe. Yael, her Israeli roommate, introduced me to falafel and Hebrew versions of Jorge Ben's music.

Oron was Adriana's Israeli husband at the time (she is the shadow on the right in the background). He made me feel less than welcome for sure, but I understand: I was jumping on their wagon after all.

Alba is from Bergamo, Italy. We dated for a few days when we were in the same hostel in London. She was very young then and I think she never trusted me much, for which I don't blame her at all. We keep a sparse correspondence through email, and she is now married with two lovely children.

When I got to London my money ran out and I had to find work. Fortunately there was no shortage of jobs in hotels for foreigners. Rogerio and I were roommates in one of them (yes, they gave accommodation to all the workers), and I confess I was less than thrilled when I learned that I was going to share a room with this super tall guy with a thick Brazilian southern accent. But the first night we spent in that room, we struck up a conversation that lasted hours. Ever since he has become one of my greatest friends - a guy that I would trust 100% with my life.

Monica is a well-educated girl who had studied at USP like me and, also like me, was feeling a little aimless so took some time off in Europe. She has a Spanish passport and speaks flawless Spanish. I met her again recently. She is back in Brazil planning a photo book about Brazilian insects. I hope she does it because it is certainly needed.

Nandi is from Asturias, Spain. A woman that mixed a strong personality with a great dose of sweetness, she had been traveling around for a while, but made London her home around that time. I never saw her again, but I found her on Facebook. She is also a photographer now.

Marta introduced me to Basque culture and their weird language. She was the only one of us to be deported because at the time Spain was not a full EU member, and she was caught practicing the terrible crime of working.

I don't remember this girl's name, only that she was from Rome and had a very interesting philosophy: according to her we should only buy big things, the small ones we should put in our pockets and walk away with. We had some delicious caviar together that we acquired in this very manner. I hope she is doing all right.

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