Croatia Chronicle: Part Two
Our morning lesson is done, and we have some time to spare,
which we spend lounging on the steps in front of Bastia
In an instant, everything changes. The air reverberates with a deafeningly deep BOOM ! BOOM! BOOM! The little poodle whimpers in terror and shoots back into the bar, his tail tucked tightly between his legs. Gunshots? Bombs?
Before we can wonder further, there is an earsplitting yell, and then,
the most amazing man I have ever seen. Dressed in a wild medley of colors that
somehow look just right on him, with jet-black hair woven through with even more
wildly colored ribbons, he comes dancing up the road, grinning from ear to ear,
singing lustily, beating a snappy rhythm on a large drum slung over his
shoulder, talking all the while in a strange tongue uttered with such
expressiveness and passion that it all seems to make sense. Electric energy
crackles in the air. The day snaps awake. Gone is the lazy languidness, the
sleepy sluggishness. In his wake, two men, whom we instantly dub his Slaves, come
panting up the streets dragging his bags and a ragtag assortment of things – more
drums, masks, glittering wigs, costumes, sticks, miscellany.
He has warm, black eyes, thickly lashed, and a deeply
dimpled smile. And enough charm and brio to set the world afire.
This, we soon learn, is Olinda Brasil. A free spirit, who
gives new and richer meanings to the words free and spirit, a peg who fits
into no hole designed thus far by society, a member of the faculty who in many
ways needs to grow up far more than any of his students, a mystery wind who
sweeps through people and places, leaving behind a happier, livelier world in his
As the days go by, I realize and appreciate what a unique,
special human being he is, what a delightfully balanced blend of contradictions
and paradoxes. He calls himself Olinda
One of the Slaves turns out to be Olinda
In the evening, we have our first Carnatic music lesson. We
are full after a delicious dinner at Bastia
The Lost Forest
The Mirna River valley below Groznjan
In the warm evening, the air filled with the glow of the setting sun, we go exploring down the hillside. I see my first artichoke plants! In a garden on the side, there are masses of lavender, waving in the wind, scenting the air with their sweet smell. There is basil, thyme, rosemary, and hiding shyly below, a small patch of strawberries (which we shamelessly steal).
Wild Garlic Flower
The air is fresh, clean and warm. We walk past a grove of
olive trees, and then join the main road that leads back to Groznjan. We take a
peek at the Mushroom Cave
We hike back up the road into Groznjan, and are ready for
The Carnatic music lesson is held in the Dance Studio, a
spacious room on the top floor of the music and dance studio building, its
windows thrown open to the piazza outside Bastia
We start with a few simple Sarali Varisaigals, beginner exercises, and it is a delight to see how much they enjoy it and how “cool” they think it is! They are thrilled when they see how these lessons, so easy in the beginning, methodically and swiftly gain in complexity, with the more advanced ones positively byzantine in their structures.
The lesson goes on late into the night. Nobody wants to stop. This is a challenge for them, this new system of notes, new syllables, new sounds, new rhythmic patterns, and they beg for one more exercise, and then just another one more.
The birds have fallen silent when we finally wind down, and the moon and the stars are out. The warm, gentle breeze carries the sounds of our voices, and the sleepy night streets of Groznjan ring with the sounds of Sarali Varisaigals.
To be continued.