Adventures in Brasil - The A Gincana Funeral

I have operated on much less sleep than normal in Brasil.  I like to aim for seven or eight hours, closer to eight.  But that hasn’t happened so much on this adventure.  Most days we leave for the mural location between six and seven in the morning.  Back home, I crawl out of bed at seven, so I just never am alert and ready to go at six o’clock.  Never!  I usually don’t talk much until the commute is over and I have coffee in my hands.  And, I don’t return to my hotel until after nine in the evening.  I’m not used to this schedule.

So, when my host Geremias said that we’d leave for the JAA jamboree called “A Gincana” at three in the morning, I tried to correct him and make sure he meant three in the afternoon.  He wouldn’t be corrected.  We really, seriously, planned to leave for the event at that hour when absolutely everyone – especially me – should be asleep.  I told him that we needed to wear black, because it was going to be my funeral.

JAA is a youth organization kind of like Future Farmers of America.  They have a gathering twice a year called “A Gincana”.   I could not translate that word on Google Translate, but I’m told it means a jamboree with competitive events for participating youth groups.  The event in Barbosa Ferraz hosted around 400 young people.

We really left at three in the morning.  I tried to sleep a little before departure.  I wasn’t very successful.  After picking up passengers along the route, our bus arrived in time for a two-hour set-up.  The event was scheduled to begin at seven.

  I understand why the young people from Barbosa Ferraz like me.  I interacted with them for two weeks.  But, I was like a visiting celebrity with the other JAA kids as well.  Some wore T-shirts with my name on it.  One team carried a banner with my name the entire day.  And as soon as I could get my morning wake-up coffee, I sat down with a friend from my first mural project.  The girl across the table nearly had a stroke.  She couldn’t believe that Phillipe Martin was actually sitting so close to her.
Dressed up and ready to celebrate

A Gincana officially started with a ceremony.  It started with an ice breaker.  And, that would be me.  I have broken the ice at recent murals with people shaking up the paint and dancing.  I make a little video, we all have a laugh, and I ALWAYS stay behind the camera.  Always.  Well, I guess “always” is kind of like “never”.  You really shouldn’t use those words because they don’t seem to hold true.  Never.  So, with the ice breaker, I was given a gallon can of paint, the music was turned on, and I danced with 400 very enthusiastic Brasilians.  The previous record number of dancers (with me safely behind the camera) was 14, also in Brasil.  Most of the 400 brought their own paint jars.  When the dancing was over, they collected them as a donation for the school.  I was impressed, but not with my dancing skills.

And then, there were the selfies.  I still have never gotten into them.  However, I have an autograph book that I carry with me.  I had two pages set aside for this.  If somebody took a selfie with me, I asked them to sign the book. 

I have five pages filled.

The day was filled with friendly competition and it was so colorful.  All teams wore T-shirts.  Of course, my favorite was the shirt I designed for one group from Barbosa Ferraz.  It was very impressive to see so many young people so positive and polite.  But, I was informed that there were rules.  One rule was if there was ever a fight or problem, the event would be instantly cancelled.  There would be no winners at the end of the day.  Everyone would just go home at that moment.  Well, we had our awards ceremony.  The kids were just terrific. 

And, even though the day didn’t include my funeral, there were all kinds of tears. 
The first were tears of joy.  In the middle of all the celebration at the awards ceremony, Geremias proposed to Dalillah.  Nobody saw it coming.  I car pooled with the guy for two weeks.  It was an hour journey each way.  He never said a word about it.  But, I’ve already told you that Brasilians are a passionate people.  And, this JAA group was like a family.  Propose in front of your family and there are going to be tears.

Geremias wasn’t done with his surprising either.  The proposal, well, even I could figure that out in Portuguese.  There was a ring, after all.  But, I had no idea when he also announced his retirement from JAA.  Again, nobody saw it coming.  Again, not a word was spoken about this in our car pool.  And again, a very passionate people cried.  Men, women, young, not so young, they all held onto Geremias and sobbed.  This was the day’s funeral moment.  Nobody wore black. It took everyone by surprise.

And, there were more tears.

As I have explained, A Gincana was a competition.  Every team wanted to win the trip to the state capital -- and coming in second or third is never really an option anyone prefers.  The team with the T-shirt I designed came in third, missing second place by one point.  Three of the boys who worked closest with me on both of the murals were gutted.  Uncontrollable, heart-wrenching, gutted.  When passionate people are gutted, there are so many tears.  I felt so bad because I knew they wanted to win that trip and go to the capital with me.  But, it was later explained that they wanted to win that trip and wear their T-shirts to the capital to honor me. 

Then, I felt worse. 

At the end of the day, I had to give a speech.  I had already spoken at the mural dedication, so I wasn’t prepared for speech two.  But, I told the young people that I’d been in contact with Geremias for a year.  I knew he was friendly.  I knew I’d be welcomed.  But, nothing can prepare you for a Brasilian welcoming.  They were “maravilhoso”.  Then, I received a plaque that will find a place of honor in my home:

        Phillip Martin

........At each victory reached or obstacle overcome, your memory will be there.

........Thank you for being a part of our history.

So, in the end, Geremias was quite pleased I didn’t die.  I think we’re both happy about that.  But, I must admit, the day provided me with a little taste of heaven on earth, Brasil.

Copyright 2016 by Phillip Martin All rights reserved.