Posted onSeptember 15, 2013 by Shahla & Peter Nygaard
On one side of the stage (separate from the main stage and main curtain) two stationary bicycles are set up. Peter and Shahla are pedalling facing the audience. Meanwhile someone walks on stage with a sign saying SOUTH. The curtain closes on the corner and the main curtain opens.
In the city of Cordoba, Argentina, with a backdrop of rolling hills. At an outdoor artisan market in the evening. Street lamps light the scene. There are several stalls lining a street, selling all manner of handicrafts: jewellery, candles, puppets, knitted woolen goods, incense, flower pots, toys etc. There are people walking around with insulated boxes, selling hot snacks and calling out the names and prices of their delicacies. It is chilly and people are wearing coats and scarves. Every second vendor and several people passing by are drinking "mate".
Enter Peter, Shahla and Che stage right walking slowly and passing a "mate".
Che: My friend has a stall here. He makes jewellery out of silver, wood and stones. There’s a training period for people wanting to become artisans. We take our handicrafts quite seriously here in Argentina. We like to create quality products. It’s a popular trade so the artisans are constantly influencing each other and coming up with new ideas.
Shahla: Yeah, some of this stuff looks incredible and a lot of it we’ve never seen before.
Their attention is drawn to one of the stalls. As they are studying the wares, someone rides past on a bicycle. This catches Peter’s attention.
Peter: We’ve seen quite a few people on bicycles here.
Che: Yes, we have a strong culture for cycling. In fact tomorrow night there is a bike project you might be interested in. Critical mass has collected discarded bikes and bike parts from around the city and will be reassembling and refurbishing them to give away to people without bikes. I’ll take you there.
In the cultural centre. There are several political satire drawings on display on the walls near the entrance stage left and an open air courtyard stage right. In the courtyard are several bicycles being painted green and some people in a crowd around them.
Peter, Shahla and Che enter stage left, look at some of the drawings and make their way to the courtyard where they join the crowd.
Peter: So who are these people who are doing the work on the bikes?
Che: They are bike enthusiasts from around the city who organize and participate in events advocating the use of bicycles. These bikes are in the final stages and when the paint dries, they will be given to people who will benefit from them but cannot afford to purchase a bike on their own.
Shahla: What a great way for people to get involved in their community and help alleviate the problems of traffic congestion and harmful emissions. Also it gives people the ability to get around town that might not have had the opportunity. And believe me, we know the happiness that comes with having that kind of independence.
The painters finish and leave stage right. A woman enters stage right with a microphone and addresses the audience.
Speaker: Good evening ladies and gentlemen, and thank you all for coming tonight. This is another excellent project brought to you by the folks from Critical Mass. We’d like to congratulate you on realizing the importance that projects like these have in our communities in progressing towards a cleaner, healthier, more environmentally aware world. We all hear about the detrimental effects of harmful emissions from combustion engine vehicles, about the health risks of not getting any exercise and about the terrible reality of excessive wastage so common in our avid consumer society. It takes responsible activists like these to create projects like this. One small step on the long road to a sustainable future.
Applause. Fade to black.
On the bikes in the corner, Peter and Shahla are pedalling with their backs to the audience. Someone walks on stage with a sign saying NORTH. The curtain closes on the corner and the main curtain opens.
In the main plaza in El Callao, Venezuela, with a backdrop of political propaganda in favour of Maduro. A troop of people dressed in red shirts and hats passes holding signs saying "vote for Maduro", "Chavez, I swear, my vote is for Maduro", etc. There is a red tent set up in one corner with people dressed in red shirts and hats handing out political propaganda for Maduro.
Enter Peter and Shahla stage left with fully loaded bicycles. They park the bikes and are approached by a man from the red tent.
Simon: Hello travelers! Where are you from?
Shahla: Hello, we’re from Canada.
Simon: And how are you enjoying Venezuela?
Peter: It’s been great. We’ve met a lot of incredibly nice people here.
Simon: That’s good. You know we have an election coming up. What do you think of Maduro?
Shahla: We don’t know too much about Maduro but we know that he is Chavez’s successor and that Chavez was very well loved by many.
Simon: You’re right. Chavez won the election three months ago, before he died, with seventy percent of the votes. He lessened the control that the multi-national corporations have over our country by expropriating some of the businesses run by them. The same profits that would have gone to the multi-national corporations now go to the state. The state in-turn uses those profits for social programs that will benefit Venezuelans.
Peter: We were hanging out in a plaza the other day and we saw people lining up behind a cargo truck. They were walking away with bags full of random grocery stuffs.
Simon: If a company holds on to their products for too long then the government will confiscate them and distribute them at a cheap price to the public, using the trucks as mobile stores.
Shahla: Well there seems to be an abundance of fuel here for the mobile stores to get around. The last place we saw anything like the prices of fuel here was in the Middle East.
Simon: The price for a litre of gasoline is about $0.05 now. There’s less of an incentive to get a more fuel-efficient vehicle but more Venezuelans enjoy the opportunity of independent travel. Yet another reason for the adoration of Chavez.
A commotion is heard off-stage and the same red-clad troop enters with a sound system playing popular music with pro-Maduro/Chavez lyrics. Peter and Shahla wave goodbye as Simon goes to join the troop.
In a large room with a big table surrounded by chairs made of carved wood. There are pieces of art from around the world hung on the walls. Around the table sit Peter, Shahla and Carlos drinking coffee.
Peter: You have a beautiful home here Carlos. Thank you for having us over.
Carlos: It’s our pleasure to host travelers and share what we can with them. You must excuse me for the better part of the day though because I’m involved in the election process right now. The election will be tomorrow and there are many things that need to be set up to ensure that it goes smoothly.
Shahla: Can you spare a few minutes to tell us a little bit about the candidates? We’ve heard a lot about Maduro but we don’t know very much about the opposition.
Carlos: Capriles is the opposition and I’m helping in his campaign. There have been many years under the socialist government of Chavez where we have not progressed in our industries. We rely only on our petroleum industry and we know that is not a solid foundation for our future. I feel that we need to be more involved in the global free market so that Venezuelans can enjoy the benefits of it. Now we can find it hard to get some products that everywhere else in South America can get readily. There are more problems that I feel should be addressed and I think that the way to address them is to change the ruling party. We don’t need more years of stagnation here in Venezuela, we need to embrace a change and move forward with the rest of the world.
Peter: It must be frustrating to be denied progress.
Carlos: Of course. We all want to better our way of life. But we’ll have to work for it. In the industries that we do have here, the employees don’t produce nearly as much as in other countries. They have too much job security. It’s very difficult to change staff members without a drastic circumstance having occurred. Lack of production isn’t a valid reason to fire people so they don’t feel the need to be doing their best. It’s at the point where a rewards incentive doesn’t help production either.
Shahla: I hope that you and the rest of the Venezuelan people can move onto the future with positive progress regardless of the election outcome.
Carlos: Thank you, it’s the best thing we can all hope for.
Fade to black
On the bikes in the corner, Peter and Shahla are pedalling facing stage left. Someone walks on stage with a sign saying EAST. The curtain closes on the corner and the main curtain opens.
Peter and Shahla in centre pedalling single file stationary bikes facing stage left with back drop of passing sugarcane fields.
Shahla: Man, it’s crazy hot here.
Peter: Yeah, and I can’t see any shade, just sugarcane fields.
Shahla: What I wouldn’t do for the shade of a big mango tree right now.
Peter: You’re right! Where are all the trees? I bet this place used to be a forest.
Shahla: No doubt it was clear-cut to make way for the world’s sugar addiction. Do you want another candy?
Peter: Very funny, but I can’t help but feel somewhat responsible for the disappearance of yet another healthy ecosystem.
Shahla: Don’t stress out about it too much. We don’t overindulge and that’s the best thing that anyone can do. Besides, the fault lies with the people manipulating the free market for greater profits.
Peter: I’ve heard of entire crops being burned just to regulate prices. Crops that would have been vital to areas in need.
Shahla: It’s not only that; the monoculture farming practises that they use are extremely harmful to the environment. Micro-ecosystems are destroyed that keep the area in a delicate and healthy balance and the crops are more susceptible to destruction by pests.
Peter: I guess if the land is going to be cleared of its natural flora then a system of crop diversification is a better alternative to the monoculture one. A few trees here and there would be nice too.
Shahla: I’m tired. This heat is really wearing me out. Let’s look for a camp spot to spend the night.
On a dirt track between sugarcane fields a small tent is set up close to one side. Two loaded bikes are parked beside the tent. Peter and Shahla are sitting on the other side of the tent drinking a tereré watching the sunset over the field.
The sound of a large tractor begins and gets louder. Dust is blown onto the stage at which Peter and Shahla cover their faces. The dust disappears and the tractor sound fades.
The sound of a car motor begins and gets louder and then stops and the sound of a car door opening and closing is heard.
Shahla: Someone is getting out of that car and it looks like he’s coming over to us. Maybe this is his land.
Peter: Oh good, we can ask his permission to camp here and maybe get some information about the area.
Peter and Shahla stand up as a man approaches from the direction of the dust.
Shahla: Good evening sir. My name is Shahla and this is my husband, Peter. We’re from Canada and are traveling on bicycle. We stopped here hoping to camp for the night.
Peter pours water from a small cooler into a cup with a metal straw in it and offers it to the man.
Peter: Would you like a tereré?
Man: Thank you, I would like a tereré. This is my land and we’re in the middle of the harvest right now. We’re also stopping for the night now so feel free to camp here. We’ll be starting again in the morning though.
Peter: Thanks a lot. We won’t be in your way tomorrow. We start early on the road here because it gets so hot once the sun is out.
Shahla: We were wondering where all the sugarcane goes after harvest.
Man: My crop is being sold to the bio-fuel industry. I’ve had a good year and the harvest looks plentiful.
Peter: Have you always planted sugarcane?
Man: I haven’t always planted sugarcane but it makes me the most money. Bio-fuel seems to be a good alternative to petroleum based fuel and there’s a lot of talk about dwindling petroleum supplies. Really I just want to be able to provide a good life for my family.
Shahla: We have a lot of respect for people who work with the land and want to maintain a healthy planet. We know that petroleum supplies are limited because of the length of time it takes to create them. Bio-fuel could be used to help transition the world from its dependence on combustion power and into a healthier, sustainable independence.
Peter: As good as bio-fuel sounds it still has a harmful impact on the environment. It will take more energy to plant, harvest, transport and process your crop than the bio-fuel created by it will yield. We shouldn’t forget that bio-fuel is being used to run combustion engines that create harmful emissions and release them into the air. These emissions aren’t only stinky and choke us as we ride our bikes but they change the atmosphere and contribute to a plethora of problems. The sooner we utilize alternative energy sources the better.
Man: I haven’t heard that before. It doesn’t make much sense to use more energy than you’re able to create. I want to leave a healthy world behind for my children but I can’t escape the reality of my dependence on the money that this crop provides for us. With this money I can send my children to good schools and we can afford to live a comfortable life. I’m just a farmer and what I grow is determined by the market.
Shahla: We understand the position you’re in and don’t blame you for being in it. We hope that someday the market will allow you to use your land in a sustainable way. The market system is a complex one that is manipulated by greed and often it trades logic for monetary gains.
The man finishes drinking and passes the cup back to Peter
Man: Thank you for the tereré. I have to get back to my family now but you’ve given me a lot to think about. I wish you good luck on your journey. Goodbye.
Peter: Thank you for the permission to spend the night here. Take care.
The man walks off in the same direction he entered. There is the sound of a car door slamming and motor starting. It fades to silence.
Peter and Shahla enter the tent.
Fade to black
On the bikes in the corner, Peter and Shahla are pedalling facing stage right. Someone walks on stage with a sign saying WEST. The curtain closes on the corner and the main curtain opens.
At a casa de ciclistas (cyclists house) in Colombia. Peter, Shahla and Pablo are seated around a table on a veranda, with tropical plants and a bicycle powered blender.
Peter: Thanks for letting us get some rest here. It was a sweaty, tiresome ride to get here.
Pablo: No problem. This is a casa de ciclistas. Stay as long as you want and recharge before getting back on the road. We’ve had well over a hundred people since we began hosting cyclists here. We can offer you a bed, kitchen, shower and toilet while you stay here. Please feel at home.
Shahla: Wow! I didn’t realize how many people are touring on bicycles.
Pablo: Yeah, there’s almost always somebody here. A couple from France just left yesterday.
Peter: Do you think we could use a place to work on our bikes here?
Pablo: We have a workshop area where you can use tools and any spare parts that are lying around. There’s also a pile of stuff left behind by other cyclists that you can rummage through or you can leave anything that you don’t want to carry with you any longer.
Peter: Excellent, I’ve been putting off some important maintenance jobs on the bikes because of the lack of a good space to work in.
Shahla: I think I have a couple things in my bags that I don’t want any more so I’ll check out the pile.
Pablo: That stuff is at the new house being built to accommodate the cyclists so they can have their own space and feel more comfortable. It also frees up our space as well. We’ll go and check it out now.
Pablo, Shahla and Peter exit stage right.
On a green hillside with many fruit trees is the frame of a house made with logs and sticks. The roof is covered with red clay tiles and some of the walls are filled with an earth mixture that appears to be in the drying process. A pile of horse manure lies outside with a wheelbarrow and some sifting trays on a big white tarpoline.
Pablo, Shahla and Peter enter stage left.
Pablo: This is the new house. As you can see it’s under construction but there is a room upstairs that you guys can use.
Peter: We would like to spend a little while here to get recharged for the road again so I’d also like to take part in some of the construction. Is there anything that I can do?
Pablo: If you want, you can help Jose who’s coming tomorrow to put the adobe in the walls. This pile of horse manure has been drying and needs to be sifted so that it can be mixed with this earth. But you can watch Jose tomorrow and help if you like.
Peter: The walls are all made this way?
Pablo: After the adobe dries we put a lime solution over it. After that dries the walls are complete. It’s the way we’ve constructed houses here for centuries.
Shahla: It’s a beautiful house. It looks like it will be able to hold many cyclists at once too.
Pablo: My plan is to make this place as bike friendly as I can and not have to turn weary cyclists away. We’ll have a bicycle parking area off to the side that has a water hose to spray the dirt off. The area in front, over hanging the hillside, is the common area with big sliding doors out onto the patio. Beside that is the workshop area connected to the parking lot and through the door behind the workshop is the bathroom.
Peter: This place is amazing. I’m sure we’ll be more than comfortable here.
Pablo: Get comfortable, take a shower and come over to join us for supper later at our house.
Pablo exits stage left while Shahla and Peter enter the house.
On the bikes in the corner, Peter and Shahla are pedalling upwards on an incline. Someone walks on stage with a sign saying UP. The curtain closes on the corner and the main curtain opens.
In the Bolivian mountains at a small traditional wedding. A tent is set up and several people dressed in traditional garb are smiling, drinking out of calabash bowls and dancing. A young couple are standing at one end of the tent being congratulated by people around them. A man stands by the entrance holding a bucket and calabash.
Enter Peter and Shahla stage right looking a little unsure
Jesus: Come in, come in. This is a celebration and all are welcome.
Peter: Thank you, but we don’t want to impose.
Jesus: Nonsense, the more the merrier. Here, have a drink of chicha. It’s our traditional alcohol brewed from maize.
Shahla: Oh, thank you.
She drinks from the calabash and finishes with difficulty. Finally she smiles and passes the empty calabash back to Jesus. This process is repeated with Peter.
Jesus: Feel free to dance if you like.
Jesus moves away with his bucket and calabash. Peter and Shahla move around people dancing a traditional Bolivian dance and sit on a bench on one side. Another man approaches them with bucket and calabash.
Jorge: Here, have a drink.
He fills the calabash and offers it to Peter who reluctantly takes it, smiles and drinks. The process is repeated with Shahla. Jorge sits beside them on the bench.
Jorge: So, are you having a good time?
Peter: Yes, this is an interesting wedding. Can you tell us what is happening now?
Several of the guests have begun forming a line in front of the bride and groom.
Jorge: Yes, the guests are going to give gifts to the happy couple. You can give also. All the women give to the groom and all the men give to the bride.
Peter and Shahla get up and get in the line. When they get to the front of the line, they are given another calabash of chicha and they are covered in confetti. Peter pins a bill to the bride’s dress among other bills and Shahla pins a bill to the grooms lapel. As they walk away from the couple, they are handed another two calabashes full of chicha.
Peter: This stuff is awful but I’m getting a buzz.
Shahla: I’m so full I don’t know how much more I can handle.
Lady: Hurry up and drink please, people are waiting.
A guest takes another calabash from the lady, takes a long drink and empties the rest onto the ground
Peter: Hey look, they throw some of the chicha on the ground.
Shahla: Excuse me, why do you throw some of the chicha on the ground?
Lady: It’s an offering to Pacha Mama.
Peter and Shahla breathe a sigh of relief and empty the remainder of their calabashes on the ground. They hand their calabashes back to the lady and move away.
Another woman approaches them smiling.
Lady: Thank you for coming. That is my niece getting married. We are all very happy for her.
Shahla: That’s wonderful. She’s very beautiful. How old is she?
Lady: She’s sixteen. Here in Bolivia women have children young so that they can grow up together with them. It’s normal for us to get married and have children by thirteen or fourteen. It’s a beautiful way to live.
Shahla: I’m sure your niece will be very happy. We wish her and her husband the best of luck.
Lady: Thank you for your words. Have you had some chicha? Let me get you some.
Peter: Oh, no thank you. We’ve had some already.
The lady disappears into the crowd and Peter and Shahla move away and make for the exit. They are stopped by a man with a bucket and calabash.
Man: Enjoy the wedding! Have a drink of chicha.
Shahla: Thank you for the offer but we’ve already had the chicha.
Man: Please, I insist. It’s a tradition here at the weddings to drink in celebration.
Peter: Thank you but I think we’ve already had too much.
Man: Nonsense, this is a wedding let’s celebrate. The chicha is worth a lot to us and an offer of it during celebrations should not be refused.
Shahla and Peter both drink a calabash of chicha with the man before turning towards the exit. Jesus appears at the doorway.
Jesus: I hope you’re enjoying the wedding.
Shahla: Yes, thank you for inviting us. We’d love to stay for longer but we have many kilometres left to ride before nightfall.
Jesus: I’m glad you’ve enjoyed yourselves. Before you leave, have another drink of chicha.
Peter: Thank you but this time we must refuse if we’re to be in good shape to ride our bikes. We’ve drank a few calabashes full already and I’m feeling bloated.
Jesus: Okay, but before you go let me tell you how the chicha is made. First the corn is chewed by the elder women of the village and spat out into a container. The saliva will begin the fermentation process and around the container is piled horse manure that speeds the fermentation up. After several days the chicha is ready to drink.
Shahla: It was a pleasure sharing it with you here. We don’t have anything quite like chicha where we come from but we celebrate our weddings with family and friends just the same as here. We thank you for the opportunity to take part in a traditional Bolivian wedding and we wish you health and happiness in the future.
Jesus: Thank you, and good luck on your way.
Peter and Shahla shake hands with Jesus and exit stage right
On the bikes in the corner, Peter and Shahla are pedalling on a downward slope. Someone walks on stage with a sign saying DOWN. The curtain closes on the corner and the main curtain opens.
In the Amazon rainforest. Peter and Shahla are sitting in a thatched roof shelter with a group of travellers from around the world. Everything is made of wood and the roof is covered with palm leaves. There are many green leaved plants surrounding the shelter and trees stretching up over top of them. The trees’ trunks are covered in varying amounts of vines and there are brightly coloured flowers interspersed in the greenery. Occasionally a flying insect will land in the shelter amongst the group. Leaning against one of the shelter’s support beams are four bicycles with bags attached to them.
Shahla: The forest is so thick with life here. I’ve seen more than a few insects that I couldn’t recognize and I don’t know most of the plants. Does anyone here have knowledge of the flora in the area?
Charlotte: I’ve been here for a few weeks and have gone around with a local to learn about some of the plants that grow here. He’ll be coming around tomorrow if anyone wants to go for a walk.
Peter: I’ve seen the banana plants on the way here. Are there other fruits and vegetables growing here?
Marcus: Yeah we have a nice garden area. Whoever is here can walk through it and collect the fruit and vegetables that are ripe to eat. We can cook a nice big meal of fresh food straight from the earth. This is the way for us to continue our diets. Some of the people here are dieting to prepare for a purge using the Ayahuasca medicine. Others are treating their illnesses with holistic medicine from the jungle. We don’t put any of the medicinal plants into the food so if you have something bothering you let us know and we can talk to the shamans about a plant that will help you.
Shahla: What’s the purge you mentioned?
Marcus: Ayahuasca is used in a spiritual ceremony to heal many ailments and to cleanse the system of toxins. It is prepared from a root and a vine that both grow here and the shamans prepare the brew. This medicine has an impressive history of curing illnesses that western medicine could not and it is also used to help people leave behind hard drug addictions without withdrawals. Ayahuasca offers you an inner journey that is sometimes attributed to its healing properties. The active ingredient is DMT which is naturally produced in the human brain. Normally it cannot be ingested as stomach acids break it down before it has any effect on you, but the Ayahuasca brew contains an inhibitor which allows the DMT to have its full effect. There is a period of visual hallucinations and an intense mental clarity that facilitates introspective thought. And at some point during the experience, you feel an intense physical sensation and purge any toxins through vomiting and/or defacating.
Peter: Wow. Sounds intense. How long has it been used for?
Sandra: It’s been used by the indigenous people here since long before any Europeans arrived. It is a strong part of the culture and there are stories that have been passed down for centuries about the power of the Ayahuasca medicine.
Shahla: Has anyone here taken it?
Charlotte: I’ve taken it a few times. It’s hard to give a good description of what you might experience because it has been different every time. Sometimes the visions are extremely intense and they seem to be the only reality. Other times there are no visions but I have revelations about my life. The purge makes me feel light and somehow clean inside.
Marcus: I took it as well and I have to agree that the purge made me feel like a new man. And the diet required prior to the Ayahuasca ceremony, begins the cleansing process.
Peter: It sounds like it’s been a positive experience all around. I’d be interested in cleansing my body while I’m here. And I quite enjoy moments of introspective thought.
Charlotte: It’s not only introspective thought. It also makes you feel connected to the space around you and more in touch with nature.
Marcus: If you would like to attend the Ayahuasca ceremony, it will be held in a few days at the temple. The shamans that will be present require that you diet for these few days. You will eat without salt, sugar, citrus, meat, fat and a few other things that are on a list by the kitchen.
Shahla: Is anyone else doing it in a few days?
Sandra: Yes. There will be some of us here and some locals that may attend as well.
Peter: We’ll start the diet now and think about it in the meantime.
Charlotte: Alright. Let’s go and get some food from the garden.
Everyone rises and exits stage left.
In the temple at night. It is a large circular structure made of wood and with a roof of palm leaves. There is a small fire in the centre and this lights the scene. Several people are seated around in a circle. Two elderly women sit in the circle in front of a cloth spread with bottles containing a brown liquid, a pipe, a tobacco pouch, a small cup and a bottle of "agua florida" (a scented liquid made from various flowers and herbs).
The fire in the centre dies and the coals smoulder red. One of the elderly women starts singing a high pitched song in the Shipibo language. One of the attendees rises and approaches the shamans. He kneels and the other woman pours out some of the brown liquid into the cup and hands it to him. He drinks it, hands the empty cup back to the woman and returns to his place in the circle. This process is repeated by everyone in the circle. The singing continues.
Fade to black
On the bikes in the corner, Peter and Shahla are sitting but not pedalling. Someone walks on stage with a sign saying INSIDE. The curtain closes on the corner and the main curtain opens.
The stage is not lit. A backdrop has images of psychedelic art projected onto it. A heartbeat rhythm along with voices are heard in the twilight.
Peter’s: Who is it that I see when I look in the mirror? I can see the vision of myself now as clear as day. This image that cannot begin to portray what makes me who I am. The actions that I take. The decisions that I make. They come from a place inside. The place where the memory of everything I’ve ever experienced resides. This is the place where I go to make decisions; to use the memory of my experiences and view things with a broader perspective. I would consider this the man in my mirror.
Shahla: My reality has shifted. My way of thinking has shifted. My way of thinking of myself has shifted. I am a product of my environment. But my environment continually changes. Instead of thinking of myself in terms of how I compare to things that were once familiar, now the comparisons don’t exist and there is no need to think of myself in any way at all. The images once held high have faded and the inner reality is fluid and constantly shifting. Evolving as a part of the whole.
Fade screen to black