Monthly Archives: July 2007

exchange residency report

When this whole talk started, i didn’t really think about going to Croatia, I had signed up for a scholarship but though other people should go. I had other priorities, my master’s thesis to finish… And the iSummit in Rio had shown its colors: open show business, and that’s ok.

it's a circus show and we are clowns!

But then Kruno showed up in Salvador, I saw myself in that “gentle junk”. Gringo, big, blonde, he was robbed near Pelourinho because he was different, the brasilian cop even said: “what were you doing in that street gringo? did you want to be robbed?”. From the many gringos that have been in Brasil so far, I think he is very much like us. The next day I was robbed too, young kid on the boardwalk ripped the golden necklace my grandmother gave me when I was born from my neck. HA, a gringo in my own country. One of the comments he had about Upgrade!Salvador des).(encontro was the fact that we kept provoking one another: “paulista”, “baiano”, you’re not all brasilians?

I could relate to this strange artist, making music cutting cars, world citizen, studied in the US and Amsterdam, lived in Barcelona were he worked as a photographer for a golf club. And he had an idea, if we had a way to go to the iSummit, he would try to have MMKamp 07 so that a few of us could stay in Croatia for some more time and travel around, a work residency, a tour, the free traveling radio.

We then came up with the first plan, megalomaniac as always. We would all go, 9 persons: the Media Sana Crew, Djahjah, ff, Novaes, me, machado, tati…

Then we set out to make it happen, I even went to the Croatian Embassy, and the iCommons organizers were dazed and confused. They wouldn’t be able to pay for that many people, but what then? ff and Novaes would be around europe, that would make it cheaper, no way to go?

“No, we can only take one of you, we choose ff”

But ff will be in germany! Can’t you take him another way and transfer the ticket Brasil<->Croatia to someone else?

“Ok, who do you think should go?”

We worked on the proposal collectively, evolved the plan in a collaborative manner, and proposed that machado would go in ff’s place.

But no, they answered that they transfered the scholarship to me.

Right. It doesn’t work even trying to work together with them. I dreamed I was in Croatia, creating chaos while they drank champagne… Me, Novaes and Kruno, setting up the radio on the roof. I had decided, i’ll go, let’s see what happens.

Kruno went after more money to sponsor more people. Novaes coming from greece, ok. And maybe we can also bring ff, get him accommodation. iCommons tells us that it’s ok for F, it’s only 300 euros after all.

Some days latter, more surprises, we found out our workshop had been taken out of the official program…

“We thought you had given up, isn’t it possible to do your session as a “Birds of a Feather”? Oh yeah, another thing, the money that was going for ff’s ticket went for another person. our bad.”

Right, let’s go anyway.

isummit07

I learned a bit about Hrvatska in Wikipedia. Must be though being a new country, only a decade since the last war. This generation was born in Jugoslavija and then changed country and political system. Socialism is gone and the consumer society remains. But they are still at the same place. I was curious, what would the world view of this people be like after such a great change?

When I finally got there, everything is new. Old abandoned structures and everything being re-built. Very strange language. Words without any vowels! It was only in my last day that I learned you need to pronounce each and every letter individually…

We drove from Zagreb to Dubrovnik. More than 10 hours on the road. A big, brand new highway, with germans going by us like jets, and that is because i was going 140km/h…

We stopped to eat something in a typical city, the best thing was the rakija store, an old lady in front of barrels of rakija with herbs. She recommends a boat ride with some relative. It’s like this all around, need something? Go to my nephew’s restaurant, or take my uncle’s boat…

We arrived in Dubrovnik at one in the morning. Kruno left me at the hotel paid for by the iSummit. On the way, 3 curious things. The first was having to go through Bosnia and Herzegovina. A straight of about 15km is the countries only access to the sea. The other thing is finding out that gas stations don’t have anyone working at the pumps, and in roads they have robots to signal parts were work is being done, and synchronize traffic lights so cars can pass in the only track available. In Brasil it is cheaper to put people to work in the place of robots, and the person that puts gasoline in the car also needs a job.

In Croatia that doesn’t exist. It is crazy being in a country were everything is middle class. Social difference is almost inexistent. Jobs are there if you look for them, the country is being reconstructed after all. Even the roads are fresh. After all, now everybody buys cars, they need roads to run in, and after the war’s ghost is gone, tourists are again discovering the very beautiful beaches in Croatia’s seaside. Tourism is currently one of the principal sources of income for the region.

That is another crazy thing to see, abandoned socialist structures. This was the army barracks, that was the socialist cantina, and over there the miners got their lanterns and took showers. You still see “Tito” written around cities, even on the road we saw a great Tito in the mountain, high up there….

These spaces have either been occupied (folks just squat and then legalize the occupation with the local government, that will then pay for the water, light, cleaning and security) or they are abandoned. And they still have lot’s of spaces. That’s also something strange, more than enough space for people and the government that is ok with paying part of the occupation if you rebuild and take care of the place. The Mafia will then come and pressure the city government to sell the reformed places to transform in Casinos for tourists… But they resist, and 20 year rent contracts help…

The country is doing ok, apparently the money is coming in, European Union lobby,in the promise to become a member country there are lot’s of people that want to please. Kruno says that the best would be to prolong this pre-EU situation. He thinks that when they are finally in then the faucet will close. Besides that there are other strange things, like as soon as they are EU, Croatia won’t be allowed to plant olives or make olive oil, because Portugal and Greece have priority in this markets. And the people that make local sausage also will have to stop, you’ll need a special regulated, patented brand, then only one new company will be allowed to make the regional sausage… can you imagine?

Anyway, it’s an opportune moment, realizing projects with NGOs and groups has worked so far, MMKamp 07 was sponsored with funds coming from another NGO called Klubture and promotes exchange between different organizations. They paid for Novaes tickets, gasoline and road fares from the tour’s trip, accommodation and 2 per-diems that we divided between (at medium) the 4 people that were on the tour to have dinner.

Besides tourism and European Union, Croatia also makes money exporting their own lad. It’s all stone, good stone, and they have stone factories that cut up mountains and send it all away by boat to build houses in other countries. Seeing the stone factory besides a mountain is really strange.

And there is the whole consuming thing. Everyone is middle class, with credit, car of the year and washing machine. The biggest chains of supermarkets is called “konzum” and it looks that folk loved so much the transition to capitalism, being able to consume many brands of toothpaste, what a wonder! It is said to see that even though there are so many cool spaces and opportunities for excellent exchange but the engaged people don’t mix as much. It’s hackers to one side, artists to the other, and activists over there. Each group with it’s own infrastructure, it’s own squatted room, condition to work and continue doing what you want. Maybe that’s why they don’t exchange between themselves? The infrastructure is there, the means too, there is no need to join strengths to survive.

Maybe in Brasil we mix so much because everyone is fucked and the only way to advance is collaborating? work together? Creativity comes from adversity? From lack of means comes the solution? A Gambiarra? I’ve been thinking a lot about that. We ant spaces and infrastructure and means to work. But if we had it all would we accommodate ourselves, every click in its corner?

Anyway, they do some very nice work, and i really respect all of the people i’ve met and the work they are doing. The Monteparadiso hacklab in Pula for example, exists for 15 years, does a wifi project in the city, built a telecenter, and even has a net label that pressed LPs with punk bands. But they are stopping their activities because since they can’t sell beer at their club anymore, people stopped going (among other things of course). They are sad because no-one participates anymore. Young people are not interested. They are lost in MTV…

We joked about calling the Brasil<->Hrvatska exchange project of War, promoting a brasilian invasion. But War is not funny. The natural way they talk about war here is scary, as if everyone is expecting the next war. In another talk with Kruno he said: “going through war shows you how the system is screwed, and the reality they try to sell you is surreal.”

It would be better to call the exchange Peace, promoting love through diversity. Novaes resumes it well: “the important thing is distinguish between confrontation and provocation. Confrontation leads to war, provocation helps us evolve, it illuminates the way and opens up new perspectives.”

And there are many things to love in Croatia. The respect with the environment is notable, it seems that much of the forest they had is gone because of past fires. But today they build bridges for bears on top of highways (imagine a road that cuts through a park, bears need to cross, there’s the need for a bridge). Renewable and clean energy everywhere. It seems that it is cheap to build solar and wind powered systems here. In the road you’ll see windmills and solar panels all over the place. And here they build the best boats in the world. The Sea Culture is there, half of the country is seaside. Beautiful beaches by the way, stone beaches, calm and completely transparent water.

But I’m going off topic and forgetting about the tour.

Of the first city, Dubrovnik, it is worth saying that their water-polo team is one of the best in the world and people that live there are proud of the 750 years of history as an independent republic. In one of the walls in the fortress there’s even this inscription in Latin: “Don’t sell your liberty not even for all of the world’s gold”.

I was there for longer, almost a week. the iCommons Summit happened, our birds of a feather with just two participants, and the radio, that rocked, were the best party for the event happened. Even Heater came to say: wow, you guys always do the coolest things at the iSummit! i hope they remember that when we ask for tickets for everyone to go to Japan next year…

I think one of the most important things we did was the camelôdromo. In the beginning i was really skeptical about it all, but i had 15 havaianas and 6 pinga bottles in my bags. It was Ruiz that convinced me: “it’s in your blood, it’s fight for survival”. And it was. With the money we made I could contribute to the MMKamp budget and in the end I only had to exchange 75 euros to stay in Croatia for 3 weeks…

I recommend this practice as a sustainability technique to everyone that needs help in this kind of trip. It is possible to pay for yourself from informal commerce. Pinga sold better than the havaianas, and as incredible as it seems I sold the male sizes faster. One of things I found very weird, with the fluctuating exchange rate thing of only accepting reais, was that some people bought the money and didn’t want to exchange it for merchandise, what is the real value of the real? Some people buy money to keep money… Pretty money…

After that we left for the tour. Two and a half days in each city. MMKamp 07, putujuci slobodni radio (free traveling radio). Partnerships involving diverse collectives, stanicaMIR, gentlejunk, estudiolivre, radiolivre, descentro, metareciclagem. Personified in the most part by me and kruno. What i really enjoyed was doing the radio program exchanges. Thanks Balbino, Mexicano and Cris for taking over the show and the radio-frequency in Croatia. It was a nice idea.

In Zadar after a night with pinga, dazed and confuses, we lost the car keys. It’s a part of it, in the end the workshop was late but happened, and we had time to philosophy a lot about the barriers that the universe puts on your way.

In Rijeka 3 people showed up for the workshop, we set up the radio and it reached half of the city (the antenna was on the window) and everyone spent the next day having fun, playing music and doing interviews. In the end we went to a play, and surprise, the people there were using the teatro do oprimido methodology. it’s a true brasilian<-> Croatian exchange.

In labin the 4 anarco-punks that would watch the workshop didn’t show up, it’s sad to see a mega space like Lanparna empty, almost abandoned. All that infrastructure just there, sub-utilized. We took our time and visited a village, Rakalj, were we had the workshop with Igor and his wife from Holand and Zoram and Sandra. Everyone is building their own houses, so I could talk a lot about that, we already planned a exchange of mangos for olive oil. Sandra wants to build a butterfly garden, and Zoram thinks the best thing about having his house would be setting up a nudist camping. I like the natural way people here look at naked bodies. Even if they are not doing nudism people when getting to the beach will stand naked to change clothes, very natural.

In Pula we had the best workshop. People from the hacklab are very responsible. Novaes arrived and we set up their own transmitter, with a 38 meter antenna cable, built right there, to reach almost all of the city. The squat there is incredible. There’s a hacklab, telecenter, auditorium with projector, office, bathroom, showers and even a club with bar. And the best it that the city government pays for water, light, security and cleaning!

Last stop was Karlovac, me and kruno very tired, but we did a workshop even if it was for only one person! The city is very calm and the rithm was great to talk about new perceptions and perspectives.

The future of this exchange is being built. We think it is important for people to stay for a while, have the opportunity to truly now each other, working together with more depth. We thought about a model: recycling a boat, a big boat, about 70 people, and in it we set up a sailing pirate university. Just starting to build the boat is already very hard work and research. After that, sailing with it will be beautiful. Crossing the Atlantic. A new discovery…

I know i’ve written too much, and few will make it to the end. But if you reached so far let’s talk. We want a boat to make peace. Seriously.