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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

One step at a time…

Dear family, friends, co-workers and supporters of Sewadars,
As we approached March month we were faced with the challenge and realization of how slow moving things really are in Africa J the main reason being that the infrastructure and the culture is so vastly different from what we are used to in the West. We keep hopes up with our Sadhana, regular meetings with Dr. Pinto, by staying focused on the end goal and our constant discussions and search to find qualified teachers and professionals that we can train and work with to mold into the Sewadars vision. We have learned to practice non attachment to our desires and results based on when and how we want them but to rather accept that things fall in place as they should and need to. Well now into March we feel we have reached good progress that is cause for celebration based on the speed things move with here. We found 3 hectares (equivalent of 7.5 acres, 3 football fields) of land in the province of Bengo thanks to the donation of Mr. Anibal Da Silva, Vice Minister of Petroleum (also Claudio Lamsa´s uncle). This land is perfectly situated so that we can start growing the local plants for the School and the holistic healing aspect of the teachings. Dr. Pinto is very enthusiastic and eager to get started and we are now planning to organize a trip to visit the filed. It is located approximately 3hours from Luanda and is in a cooperative that is designated for agriculture and wild life preservation. We know that the land can only be used for agricultural purposes and that the fields surrounding it would be used with the same intent. There is water in the vicinity so as we understand it is ideal for plants. The idea of the field is to provide with plants that are regularly used in the future clinic of Sewadars and are of higher demand since this field will be more easily assessable that another potential field that we may obtain in Malanje area which is 423km away by car and is approximately 4000 hectares. This field is on “loan” basis and donated by a group of individuals that want the field to be used rather than sitting vacant and neglected. There have been no agricultural activities on this land for many years so we are assured that this large field can be utilized for organic farming and plant growth.  With these two fields we are optimistic that we have a good start as far as supporting Dr. Pinto in growing his medicinal plants and continuing his so needed work to heal the population in the slum area.  
Our immediate next steps in the project are as follows:
1)      To visit the fields and organize weed clean up and planning the appropriate plants to plant in the respective fields
2)      To continue with the administrative aspect of Sewadars such as update and perfect the power point presentation for larger groups such as Chevron, Total and other leading corporation as well as government offices such as Ministry of Social Affair (Poverty Department) and other already well funded NGOs that want to assist local projects
3)      To continue our search for qualified volunteers and staff for the  school/orphanage
4)      Find a location close to Luanda city for the actual school location
There are many more steps of course but these are the more urgent and if any one of you wants to assist us in anyway please contact us as we need an army of people to create a change. We are in need of support financially, with manpower, web support to create and host a website and of course always your well wishes and positive energy to keep us uplifted and our spirits focused.

Yoga Classes
Our classes were paid in full within two weeks of us starting to teach in February. We feel positive about that Kundalini and our Hatha classes have a place here in Luanda. We still have room for drop ins so those of you who live here in Luanda please come by on Tuesdays and Thursday nights 7:45pm-8:45pm. Most people are very interested in the Kundalini style because it is so different and of course so effective on all realms. Both of us feel very fortunate to have the opportunity to share our love for yoga and we feel this is really strengthening and deepening our own practice.  We love our students and appreciate their enthusiasm and effort in learning more and staying open to the effects of yoga. Though we are at the starting stages of building the community we feel that we have our little group of yogis that are committed and genuine about experiencing life through yoga. Angola has many complexities and yoga is a form of relaxation that we strongly believe can offer peace and relief to some of the external problems that the population is faced with.
Marimba Experience
Yes, you see right Claudio Lamsa is performing live at the Angolan Museum of Anthropology .  We went there as we heard that there was this great Marimba teacher offering classes to people. When we arrived Claudio Lamsa was thrown right into live performance with the teacher and one of his students with him since many years.  It was amazing to hear how good the three of them sounded and for Claudio Lamsa to experience the joy of performing live and improvisational like that. There was no time to practice only that the teacher was able to show one or two quick movements and beats before he basically said “sit here and play now we have to perform because the visitors are coming through”. Also some of the visitants that were passing through the exhibits got so taken by the music they started dancing with the local traditional dance style (see pictures).  Even donations by the crowd were given as the performers do not make enough with the museum salary. Claudio Lamsa of course donated his share to the teacher and the students J.The Marimba is a local instrument from Malanje and ironically the family lineage of Claudio Lamsa is from this province so when the Museum director who was guiding the foreign groups through the museum introduced the group he also said that Claudio Lamsa was a local from the area of Malanje. He was introduced as a group member of the Marimba group and as a local Angolan, what else can a performer ask for?

Fun facts about the Marimba from Wikipedia;

The traditional instrument

The marimba (also: Marimbaphone) is a musical instrument in the percussion family. Keys or bars (usually made of wood) are struck with mallets to produce musical tones. The keys are arranged as those of a piano, with the accidentals raised vertically and overlapping the natural keys (similar to a piano) to aid the performer both visually and physically.
The chromatic marimba was developed in southern Mexico and northern Guatemala[1] from the diatonic marimba, an instrument whose ancestor was a type of balafon that African slaves built in Central America.
Modern uses of the marimba include solo performances, woodwind ensembles, marimba concertos, jazz ensembles, marching band (front ensembles), drum and bugle corps, and orchestral compositions. Contemporary composers have utilized the unique sound of the marimba more and more in recent years.
The term marimba is also applied to various traditional folk instruments, the precursors of which may have developed independently in West Africa balafon. The tradition of the gourd-resonated and equal-ratio heptatonic-tuned timbila of Mozambique is particularly well developed. These instruments are typically played in large ensembles in coordination with a choreographed dance performance, such as those depicting a historical dramatization. Gyil duets are the traditional music of Dagara funerals in Ghana.
Traditional marimba bands are especially popular in Guatemala where they are the national symbol of culture, but are also strongly established in southern Mexico, Honduras, Nicaragua and Costa Rica, as well as among Afro-Ecuadorians and Afro-Colombians.

Click below to read a press release about the Marimba in Angola
Click below to see YouTube performances of the Marimba  
Click below to see 2year old Gambian Jail plays Kora and Balafon

Carnival Time
Who says you have to go all the way to Brazil for Carnival experience…. J The Carnival at the Marginal in Luanda was a mini Carnival in comparison to Rio De Janeiro but nonetheless an exciting one. What was so amazing to see is the mixture of poor and wealth people coming together to enjoy the carnival time. There were young and old dancing, laughing, performing together and having a blast. We became “celebrities” that day as we ended up on TV watching, enjoying with the crowd. It was a fun day filled with innocence and the basic element of human nature to just forget and have fun despite all the turmoil around their lives and the continent.

Fun facts about the origins of the Carnival and the meaning;

What is carnival?
It is an annual celebration of life found in many countries of the world. And in fact, by learning more about carnival we can learn more about ourselves and a lot about accepting and understanding other cultures.
Where did the word “carnival” come from?
Hundred and hundreds of years ago, the followers of the Catholic religion in Italy started the tradition of holding a wild costume festival right before the first day of Lent. Because Catholics are not supposed to eat meat during Lent, they called their festival, carnevale — which means “to put away the meat.” As time passed, carnivals in Italy became quite famous; and in fact the practice spread to France, Spain, and all the Catholic countries in Europe. Then as the French, Spanish, and Portuguese began to take control of the Americas and other parts of the world, they brought with them their tradition of celebrating carnival.
The dynamic economic and political history of the Caribbean are indeed the ingredients of festival arts as we find them today throughout the African and Caribbean Diaspora. Once Columbus had steered his boat through Caribbean waters, it was only a few hundred years before the slave trade was well established. By the early 19th century, some six million slaves had been brought to the Caribbean. Between 1836 and 1917, indentured workers from Europe, west and central Africa, southern China, and India were brought to the Caribbean as laborers.
African influences on carnival traditions
Important to Caribbean festival arts are the ancient African traditions of parading and moving in circles through villages in costumes and masks. Circling villages was believed to bring good fortune, to heal problems, and chill out angry relatives who had died and passed into the next world. Carnival traditions also borrow from the African tradition of putting together natural objects (bones, grasses, beads, shells, fabric) to create a piece of sculpture, a mask, or costume — with each object or combination of objects representing a certain idea or spiritual force.
Feathers were frequently used by Africans in their motherland on masks and headdresses as a symbol of our ability as humans to rise above problems, pains, heartbreaks, illness — to travel to another world to be reborn and to grow spiritually. Today, we see feathers used in many, many forms in creating carnival costumes.
African dance and music traditions transformed the early carnival celebrations in the Americas, as African drum rhythms, large puppets, stick fighters, and stilt dancers began to make their appearances in the carnival festivities.
In many parts of the world, where Catholic Europeans set up colonies and entered into the slave trade, carnival took root. Brazil, once a Portuguese colony, is famous for its carnival, as is Mardi Gras in Louisiana (where African-Americans mixed with French settlers and Native Americans). Carnival celebrations are now found throughout the Caribbean in Barbados, Jamaica, Grenada, Dominica, Haiti, Cuba, St. Thomas, St. Marten; in Central and South America in Belize, Panama, Brazil; and in large cities in Canada and the U.S. where Caribbean people have settled, including Brooklyn, Miami, and Toronto. Even San Francisco has a carnival!
Click on the right for the video of the Angolan Carnival

Political Tension

Days around the Carnival people also decide to rally against the ruling government and the current President Dos Santos. Though the hype and talks of that there could be something that would lead to an uprising the day of the event March 7th there was very few participants and it was a non violent demonstration. One of the things that possibly defused the demonstration was an effort on the part of MPLA, the ruling party in Angola for the last 30 years, by creating a peace walk the day before the scheduled uprising. The peace walk was to engage people in remembering that they are in peace times and that though there are problems in this country which is poverty stricken with majority of the youth unemployed, they are at least no longer at war. MPLA wanted to awoke the sentiment that no one wants violence and war again and that the uprisings would only lead to that. There were talks about that Angola would follow the footsteps of Egypt, Tunisia and Libya but many also speculated that the people of Angola were more afraid of the war again than overturning their President.  The 35 year war left a deep scar and people in Angola are now really just wanting to rebuild the country with hopes that they will eventually find a better democracy and better living conditions for the majority of the people rather than the few elite. This will take time to change but most are hopeful that it will occur even if not during their life time. The days before 7th March we were told to remain in the house and most offices and business were closed that day in anticipation of this demonstration. It was really interesting to hear the different opinions and speculations of people. Each had their own twist and version, some were really frightened (mainly expatriates or non Angolans, out of which few even left the country) while others were totally calm and confident that Angola would in no way follow the footsteps of the riots in the rest of Africa. Socioeconomic background also had an effect on the predictions of the people. The workers such as the drivers and non skilled workers though they too wanted peace to prevail were more vocal about their discontent for the government and support for the demonstrations than the more skilled and wealthy. We ourselves were a bit cautious, stayed home that day and kept a neutral mind about the whole thing. Nothing major happened and we hope to see that with time the people of Angola will be able to create the change that they are in need of and desire.

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