A Carnaval Catastrophe

by kangcuzzi

Jorge Amado’s Dona Flor and her Two Husbands opens with the death of Vadinho, the title character’s reckless husband, in the midst of Salvador’s famous Carnaval. Tragic it may be, one can’t help but note a touch of comedy in the sheer randomness of the event, let alone the stark contrast between the dead Vadinho and the colorful excess of the world’s largest street party.

Thankfully, I am not dead; yet many years after Jorge Amado’s masterpiece was written, I find myself in a situation not entirely unlike Vadinho’s.

On Wednesday, David and I had our very last capoeira class at the association. It was also, without doubt, the best roda I’ve ever been part of: as it was our roda de despedida, or the ‘goodbye’ roda, our fellow capoeiristas made a point of endlessly challenging both me and David in fast-paced and electric  jogos that featured various kicks, spins and the much-anticipated rasteiras.

The rasteira — or, the trip — is, without doubt, one of the most significant moves in capoeira. Not only can it be game-changing (after all, tripping up an opponent offers one a great comparative advantage), but it also carries a metaphorical meaning that aligns with the controversial yet endearing image of capoeira as ‘malandragem’, or trickery / general tomfoolery. When done in good humor, it is always a source of good laughter and post-roda banter. So beloved is this move that one of our teachers, Marlon, told us in our penultimate class that in our final roda he’d make sure to deliver us muitas rasteiras (no translation needed) to bid us a real capoeirista’s farewell.

To make a long story short, Marlon kept his promise. And kept it all too well.

When Marlon gave me multiple consecutive rasteiras, my futile attempt to dodge gave way and I fell onto the floor, with my left foot — oh, my clumsy self! — crumpling in a very, very awkward position under my weight. Instantly, I knew something was wrong. But I grit my teeth and continued the jogo anyways, even with other opponents, until at the end of the class I found myself, exhausted, on the floor, admiring what was becoming a very swollen outer arch.

A hospital visit, a wheelchair ride, an X-Ray and a doctor’s prescription later, I announce with a mixture of resignation and good humor that I will not be participating in Carnaval 2017.

I may not be the biggest fan of crowded street festivals, but I was really looking forward to Carnaval. I mean, Carnaval has basically become a synonym to Brazil, and it doesn’t help that the constant blasting of music on the streets has gotten me hyped up for Brazil’s coolest party of all. (Trio elétricos? The home of Axé? Ahh!) Besides, I don’t think I’d return to Salvador in the future specifically to experience Carnaval, so I wanted to take advantage of my time here as much as I could.

But here I am, stuck in my room with a foot brace and an anti-inflammation pill to take very soon. A little down, yes, that I won’t be partying with the group and Timbalada all this afternoon, but definitely a lot mellower than I was last night (summary: lots of tears and crying into pillows so my homestay mom wouldn’t hear). As someone who always tries to see the glass as half-full, all I’m praying for is a speedy recovery so that I may return to the routine that I love, be it the gym, playing with the kids in the praça, or exploring the city in general. Let’s just say this is a lesson in patience… and a funny story to tell, many years down the road.

Upon much reflection, there is nothing I regret. I wouldn’t trade that last capoeira class for anything. That wheelchair ride was pretty badass. I learnt how to file an insurance claim (adulting, yay!). And, best of all, every time Hanna explained to various doctors and medical staff what happened, she began with the fact I was tripped up by a rasteira in a capoeira class, and that made me feel like the coolest of all.

I may’ve never gotten my cord, but at least I have this foot brace to show for the fact that I’m a true capoeirista. Perhaps this special batizacão didn’t occur in the best circumstances ever, but at least Jorge Amado can agree it’ll make a good story.


Portrait of the Capoeirista as a Young Woman (With a Bad Pedicure Job), 2017