It can be a challenge sometimes to slow …. right …. down, detaching yourself from the ‘everyday you’ that uses the streets merely as a form of getting from A to B, always calculating the quickest route.
So on a sunny Sunday afternoon in Buenos Aires, SW set out to change the way eight curious new recruits perceive their urban surroundings. We chose the colourful neighbourhood of Palermo, hoping its cobbled streets, graffittied walls and lively street markets would provide some fresh answers. A lesson in the art of street love and appreciation started with seeing the beauty in everything.
“It’s not often you’re asked to find the beauty in a pile of litter spilling over and out of a street dustbin” laughed Martin, one of the group members, “so I started to think about the joy and satisfaction each individual piece of rubbish gave to somebody once upon a time.” Beauty, after all, is in the eye of the beholder. He then went on to spare a thought for the ‘cartoneros‘ (cardboard collectors who work by night and recycle the street waste) and how they must view the streets of BA.
After a series of similar Mindfulness exercises, each new recruit returned to our meeting point with smiles, stories and a new-found appreciation for an environment they knew so well.
Then for the grand finale: the group was instructed to walk the streets with a work/life question in mind. “Not too big, not too small. Somewhere in between ‘what’s the meaning of life?’ and ‘What side of the bed to sleep on?’” I explained to a group of initially puzzled faces.
The questions were varied, ranging from ‘Do I stay in Buenos Aires or should I move to pastures new?’ to ‘I need inspiration for a book I’m writing.
One by one, everyone came back buzzing with new ideas, enthusiastic to share their thoughts.
Jayson, who was looking to make the most of some new free time, went into a book shop and was drawn to a music book, then found the same obscure African instrument in the street market that he regretted not buying on a recent trip to Africa. He never thought he’d see one again, so he’s going to buy it and learn to play!
Lorna, who wanted to worry less about money, realised a few things: she is randomly drawn to lampposts (!), but more importantly, no matter how much money you have, life will always continue to move forward. Money comes and goes, so it’s about enjoying whatever you have when you have it…And maybe trying to resist buying the lovely yellow handbag she ‘happened’ to wander past three times.
All in all, it was an enlightening afternoon and a successful launch of Street Wisdom South America. Each of the eight recruits have at least one person, if not whole work teams, who could benefit from opening their eyes and hearts to the streets, so the quest continues in earnest across the Atlantic.
I’d like to thank Clemmy, Jayson, Lorna, Rosie, Gustavo, Anya, Grant and Martin for taking part.