We met Rodrigo during our first days in Trancoso. He was one of many beach vendors who approached us flogging their handmade wares. Most had great stuff on offer but for every dozen who passed, we seldom seriously considered more than one. Rodrigo, however, was different. He spoke a bit of English, for one, which made things easier. He was also a complete hippy – a happy, free-spirited man with a contagious smile. We couldn’t help but like him.
Rodrigo was selling the hats and other goods that he weaves from coconut palms. Michael was on the look-out for a good hat to ward off the Brazilian sun and to take along the rest of our journey. Rodrigo didn’t have anything that fit Michael, so he offered to make him one. That was the beginning of our friendship.
For the next few days we kept an eye out for Rodrigo on the beach and in the Quadrado. Just when Michael began to think he might have to settle for a mass-produced hat from China, he stumbled upon him. Rodrigo had just woken up in his classic VW van/home/shop. He spotted Michael and the kids on their way to grab a few breakfast groceries and called out. He’d been looking for us. We’d been looking for him. To be sure a hat was had, we agreed to meet later that day at the best sandwich shop. He’d weave a hat then and there.
While he wove, Rodrigo told us his story. He was Argentinean. He had lived in Europe. He had even married and settled in Berlin for a while. He divorced, moved back to S. America and drove his van from Argentina up through Brazil. Trancoso wasn’t his destination but when he found it he couldn’t leave. Four years had since passed and he had lived in his van that entire time. He was happy having very little. So happy he convinced his parents to leave their longtime home in Argentina and move to Trancoso too. We were transfixed by his story and by his hands, busily at work weaving while he spoke.
When he finished the hat, so impressed were we that we asked if he’d be willing to teach the kids a bit of palm weaving. We’d been looking for alternative lessons and what could be better in Bahia. Plus we just wanted to hang out with him.
Rodrigo came by the other night for our lesson. He showed up in his van, his casa, which was fascinating to the kids already, and spent the next couple hours showing them how to weave with coconut palms. He wove a basket and then he showed the kids how to make a rose, a grasshopper and a fish! The children are now so obsessed with weaving that they have woven about 150 roses in the past few days!!
It turns out that Rodrigo is not just immensely talented, kind and happy — he’s athletic too. He climbs the coconut palm trees to gather the fronds! His talents have not escaped notice of the other residents of Trancoso though. He’s woven baskets and décor (a giant sail fish) for the super cool, eco hotel, Uxua. He’s even woven a roof for a friend’s cabaña.
We are busily thinking of other things he might weave for us someday and hoping the beautiful basket Rodrigo gifted us makes it back in the post to London.
P.S. Easton and Quin made a little video this morning (Easton starring and Quin filming) with a tutorial for how to weave a rose. I thought it was too cute not to share! : )