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Can you feel it?

IPP Brazil 2002 Drums
“Marginal Stories” is the title of a book by the writer Luis Sepúlveda, in which he tells stories that have happened to him parallel to his everyday life and which build and give meaning to a great part of his existence. From him I have borrowed this term to tell you one of my marginal stories.

Those of us who were born in the seventies and after have always lived in an occidental world, where we have been raised and taught to rush through time. In other words, we must hurry to stop being children, to race through adolescence so we can start our productive life as grown-ups. In this productive life, of maybe 20 years, we are supposed to apply all our academic knowledge with the main purpose of making money for us and our families, and then spend all that money in every product that the market can offer us.

What I have mentioned before is our personal life, which then mingles with wars, fashion, poverty, food, illness, parties and other everyday situations. In the end, we are grown and raised to live a completely linear way of life, no other possibilities to ponder, no second choices allowed. Some young people go so fast down that line that they never even become aware of that situation. However, things aren’t so tragic if we give ourselves and other people the chance of seeing things from another point of view. 

There, we were to work with young people of the community on the theme of “quality of life” in their own social reality. As a participant, there was something very clear to me from the beginning. The reason for my being there was that of leaving my everyday linear life and my desire to support the personal development of others, to work both with them and for them.

That afternoon, that night, and for the rest of the IPP, I really understood and lived every second of my stay in Ituberá. I realized the meaning of it all, that my work there was simply to break the linear lives of the people and my own; to make a pause to share our stories and blend them into beautiful moments together amongst hugs, chats and laughter; to form ever-lasting friendships…

For me to explain to you how you can see things from different perspective, I will tell you a marginal story of mine. It took place in Ituberá, Brazil, when I was being part of an International People´s Project (IPP). In the beginning of December, 2002, I arrived to Brazil with three wonderful friends, Silvi, Marijo and Monica. Together we formed the Costa Rican delegation and we joined six more delegations: Australia, Brazil, Egypt, Italy, Holland and Sweden, in a small rural town called Ituberá, near the city of Salvador, Bahía. 

What was my major fear? It was that of being there and feel that my work wasn’t enough for us to fulfill the expectations of the young people of the area, in the short three weeks that we would be there. Every single day during my stay in Ituberá I had to deal with this fear, not knowing or noticing all the changes that were happening around me in the community just because of the fact that we were there. It is here where this marginal story begins.

On a hot afternoon, just a week bore the end of the program, I went to the town’s supermarket to buy some candies for the theatre group1. I noticed that a young boy who worked at the store was calling me through gestures. As I approached him I recognized him, he was one of the many people that I greeted every day when I was walking downtown, in a street, at school, or at the market…

After he said hi, he asked about work with the theatre group and told me how since he had heard about the program to work with young people from other countries, he had wanted to be part of it. Just days before the IPP began, though, he got his job at the supermarket and he couldn’t afford to turn it down. The chance to earn some money to support himself and his mother didn’t knock on his door every day. Then, he added that he didn’t feel that bad anymore that he didn’t get to be on the program because, anyways, we, the foreigners, had already changed his life, and for that he wanted to thank me. This last comment made me ask him to forgive me, for my Portuguese wasn’t so good and I didn’t understand clearly what he was telling me. To this, he repeated that we had changed his life and life in Ituberá. I asked him why he thought that, and got his answer: in this town, as small as it is, maybe you won’t believe me, but many people don’t know a thing about me and they don’t even say hello to me because I am black. You guys, on the other hand, you who come from so far and so many different countries, with thousands of important things to do and to think about, you always take the time to say hi to me and smile, and that has made me think that I mean something to other people, other than my family, who appreciate me for who I am. Do you think it would be possible for you to take this t-shirt to the school so you can all sign it and I could have a memory of you guys?

“Marginal Stories” is the title of a book by the writer Luis Sepúlveda, in which he tells stories that have happened to him parallel to his everyday life and which build and give meaning to a great part of his existence. From him I have borrowed this term to tell you one of my marginal stories. I have it written in the book of my existence since I was part of this IPP.

Rodolfo Zúñiga, Costa Rica

IPP Ituberá, Brazil, 2002

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