The Addiction of Silence

9 Jul

“return to the circus, believe again”

When I was in Perú in December 2011, I had an interesting conversation with an old colleague and friend of my father’s. Upon hearing that I work at a local circus in Germany as an aerialist teacher, she told me about Peru’s only circus school: La Tarumba. “You should try to visit them, they are famous for their high quality artistry,” she said. I didn’t need convincing. Say the magic words “circus school” and I’m on my way.

The directions she gave me were equally mystifying: she named the street but couldn’t remember what block the school was on, so she said: “It’s painted in colourful circus colours, and it’s opposite the siren.”

A circus school opposite a siren. I was happy.

I’ve been in Lima the last few days (I fly back to Cusco tomorrow), and one day was on a mission with my father when we happened to pass the street his friend had mentioned. Spontaneously we jumped off the bus and began circus hunting.

As it turns out, La Sirena is a chain shop selling household utensils like shiny taps and hoses. It announced itself in large letters and we promptly looked in the opposite direction. Buildings in Perú are generally very colourful, so that wasn’t going to be a helpful description. What gave it away was the mimicry of a Big Top, which obviously harboured the rigging for aerial arts!

They were lovely and welcoming at the reception. I told them I was from a circus school in Germany and would it be possible to receive a short tour of the school building? The lovely Geraldine Sakuda became our proud and kind guide. She led us around, answered all inquisitive questions and proudly informed us that the school was the only official circus school in Peru, now on its 28th birthday, and offered a 3 year programme in which their students (who came from all over Latin America) learnt all circus disciplines as well as musical instruments, pedagogue and directing. In later years they specialise in a circus discipline of their choice. After graduation, most students returned to their countries or cities to teach; others returned to La Tarumba as teachers or performers in their Big Top.

In the circus, no matter where you are in the world, you’ll find a bit of home. I nostalgically touched the aerial cords and tissues as we walked by. The school makes the training materials themselves but import high quality ropes from the United States. If I understood Ms Sakuda correctly, the school has a class of 20 students a year.

As we stood talking, the students remained engrossed in their training. The ones we saw were only 6 months into their training but already working at a high level. It was especially endearing to see that no matter where we are, we all train the same things. I loved “being back”.

As Ms Sakuda led us around, she proudly stated that the school had been built in 1910, making it a surprisingly old building for Miraflores. The school had taken great care to paint and decorate with great love and care, making good use of the high walls. The building was in great shape for its age and it was obvious that La Tarumba operates in a highly professional manner. 28 years of experience were serving them very well.

the music room

eat your heart out, Ikea

I was very impressed by our visit to La Tarumba. What always strikes me in Perú is the relentless initiative. Whereas in Germany it is comparatively “easy” to find financial support for various projects and mad artistic ideas, starting something in Perú often feels like fighting against a powerful current. There’s no help from the government, you have to pay for everything yourself and wages really aren’t that high. You want to build a house but wood is expensive and the nails are so rubbish they bend when you begin to hammer them. Speaking to friends in Perú who have their own businesses, are starting NGOs or opening schools to help people, I am so struck by all the difficulties that I am amazed anything is accomplished at all. We’re quite spoilt in Germany, complaining when the government doesn’t back us enough – but I think that’s just the way it should be and we are right to complain.

In Perú it’s very much “I have a dream” and the rest of your life is a fight. To add kerosene to the flame: the concept of “circus life” hasn’t always been very respected. Especially in Latin America, the tradition of circus people being gypsies, homeless, beggars and thieves still dominates. It wasn’t without a fight and many high quality performances, that La Tarumba finally received national recognition.

And stayed sweetly down-to-earth, as their welcoming manner showed.

The following day continued my favourite theme: flying.

Leaving central Lima, directions are given according to their kilometer distance up or down the Panamericana. At KM 42, a curious crowd gathers every Saturday and Sunday, in a tradition that dates back to the 1970s, when a group of scientists wandered through the desert and began throwing themselves off the hills. They were all flying amateurs then, seeking the best wind for practise. Among them was my father. I asked him how they had come to choose this particular hill at KM 42. “We tried flying off every hill and this one was the best because of its various starting point possibilities and good wind coming from the ocean.” How many broken bones, noses, bruises and scars come from “flying off every hill”? The others laughed at memories of how often they almost killed themselves showing ff.

My father’s somewhat of a celebrity at KM 42, lovingly called “suegro, father-in-law” by all the younger fliers. When they met me, they admonished me: “You’re the daughter of el seugro? How come this is your first time flying?”

My day at KM 42 began with a wild tour on the Quad bike. How could I ever have thought that motorbikes are the best fast thing ever invented?! The Quad is my new baby! No problems over rocks, it can climb an almost vertical mountain face, and every bump is smooth and sweet. It is also the best way to explore the desert. My tour guide, Pepe, drove us away from the coast to where the mountains began to darken and take on a firmer consistency than sand. We climbed every peak and swooped down, racing the wind across the desert floor. We drove into one particular narrow trench at top speed, climbing up the other face so quickly that when we reached the top of the trench, we literally flew over the edge and landed a few meters away. Fan-tas-tic.

After a memorable tour around the desert (learning to drive the Quad myself, not braking on time as a sand dune ended suddenly, crashing and watching my instructor go flying into the sand – perdon, Pepe!), I made my way up to the paragliders.

The instructor’s wife took one look at me and shouted to her son: “Put more weights on her backpack!” She then hugged me and said, “You’re as skinny as your father. He flew into the air like a piece of paper.”

They had admonished him for his various crash landings with the hang-glider and were now impressed that at age 72, he was learning to paraglide.

The instructor led me to a paraglider lying in the sand and told me the basics. “This is this, this is that, you do this, I’ll talk you through it. Okay? Good. Your turn.”

with the instructor’s assistant, who joked: “My name is Ziggy, like Ziggy Marley, because my father’s a great smoker.”

I have a recurrent dream about flying. In it, I’m standing around quite normally when a sudden warm gust of wind lifts me into the air. It lifts me high above the buildings, high above the mountains, and higher still. It lifts me high into the clouds, until everything I saw and everyone I know becomes unrecognisable in the landscape. But I am never afraid. I know that I’ll land eventually – and I do.

With a paraglider attached to me, the dream came back with a force. I told Ziggy, the instructor’s assistant of my dream. “I know it’s ridiculous, but… is there any chance of that happening?” He laughed. “No, and if it happens, we know how to bring you back down.” He checked the walkie-talkie that was strapped to my chest. I could already hear his father through it, giving me my first instructions.

You’re holding the brakes in either hand and the idea is to catch the favourable wind and run down the mountain – but not pull the brakes while you’re running. Sounds pretty damn obvious, but when you’re running against the wind clutching the ropes of the paragliders, it’s hard not to lower your hands to the point that the brakes are pulled. Luckily, Ziggy is there to pull you so that you don’t have to take on the surprising new force on your own.

Flying. 3 things:

Firstly – the world is noisy. Shortly before your take-off everyone is shouting. You’re being pulled back and forth, you’re trying to run, your instructor is shouting through his walkie-talkie and the sudden wind is pounding in your ears. At take-off, I was surprised by a sudden silence. A silence so delicious, so beautiful – unlike a silence I have ever heard before, unlike the silence of being alone. A silence so generous and strangely addictive, that I would fly up into the air again & again if only to experience it again.

Second – the take-off is so surprisingly soft, almost like falling into a soft tissue that is slowly rising in a gentle wind. After running, crashing, shouting, the actual moment of being in the air is a soft relief. And I found the wind to be just as soft.

To the intense annoyance of my friends, I am terrified of rollercoasters. So their excitement at taking me to the fair is rained on by the fact that nothing will get me on a ride. (I’m also scared of heights but, given my hobbies, no one believes me anymore.) So I was afraid that flying a paraglider would be like riding a rollercoaster: with that dreaded moment when the wind changes and that horrible sinking feeling that crunches your stomach. But on the paraglider, it’s not like that at all. Every rise and fall is so gentle it’s nothing but pleasure.

Thirdly – I felt safe. I don’t know why. At KM 42, the wind is a natural and kind force, much like a hand cupping you. I felt the wind, what it did, and could react.

Landing is a different matter altogether. As your paraglider loses height, you begin pulling the brakes down to your waist. As your feet touch the ground, you’re supposed to start running while pulling the brakes all the way down to your legs.

I crash-landed both times in a manner that had everyone on the hill in giggles. An especially humoured group of young men filmed me on both occasions and proudly showed me the “best of’s” afterwards.

This is what happened: my feet touched the ground and I began running, but I must have only pulled down one of the brakes so that half my paraglider remained up in the air. As I ran, it pulled me to one side, I lost my balance and fell. I lay on my side as the half that was still in the air continued to fly and dragged me across the desert. I tugged at the brakes until the flying half finally gave in, fell and peacefully draped itself over the desert face, leaving me tangled in all the colourful little ropes. Tangled – and so bloody happy.

Now carry the paraglider back up the hill and do it all over again.

But it’s not enough. After wrapping things up at KM 42, we headed out the coast of Miraflores. What began as a few delighted fliers discovering a favourable wind in the 70s, is now a highly successful enterprise advertised in every guidebook as a must-do. A tandem flight of 10 minutes will cost you 150 soles, approx. $ 56. Nowadays the fliers have equipped themselves with Go-Pro cameras so that you can take a video of your flight home with you.

Even on a grey winter afternoon, the flight is spectacular fun.

And because I know how much you enjoy videos, here is one! It’s rather short, I know, it’s a teaser, because the internet connection in Perú is slow and dodgy. But if you want another one, let me know and I’ll try uploading a longer one.


Thank you to everyone who made this fantastic day of flying possible (my parents, Ismael, Pepe) and to everyone who enjoyed the joys of flying with me!

Now I know what you’re thinking: “O isn’t she having fun!” Well, yes, I am – but partnered off with research, food for Munay. Thank you to the people who’ve written me to wish me well in my writing in Peru. Your comments and emails are what gives this blog flesh. ♥ I was initially sceptical at starting a blog but since it’s birth a year and a half ago, it has been rewarding ride. Now I have a dialogue with you, I can communicate all my frustrating little writing problems, and a way to show the progress. I no longer feel like a writer locked in her attic. So – thank you. ♥ I can’t tell you how much it means to me that you’re reading.

Being in Lima this week has given me the space and silence I needed to tackle a dialogue problem I was having between the main characters, Anahata and Ti. I’m a lot further now, even though writingMunay is beginning to feel like wading through a murky bog. I feel like I’m making such slow progress, and it’s frustrating. But I can’t force it. So I go as far as I can, get up and putter about the apartment (or blog) and go back when I feel refreshed. That’s one advantage I have over other bog-waders.

A few days ago a friend pointed me towards Leanpub, which is an online possibility to publish work-in-progress. Poking about their website got me thinking about self-publishing and e-Books. Is there any interest out there to get Qayqa as an eBook? Anyone who actively uses Kindle? Let me know your thoughts!

To that I want to add – I’ve noticed some sweet shyness when it comes to replying on the blog. I love it! Your thoughts can reach me on facebook/rittisoncco or over my website

A few days ago Mark got me very excited by telling me he’s done a few sketches for Qayqa. Ever since then, I keep slipping into dreamy states of joy. I look forward to working on the illustrations for Qayqa with him, and organising her basic layout. And in my next post I’ll publish more on how Munay is doing, along with some excerpts. There are some paragraphs bits and pieces I would like to share.

I leave you with good and bad news. According to a BBC report two days ago, Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s brother confirmed that the winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature has dementia. Read the report here:  I am great admirer of Marquez’s work and wanted to mention the news. If you don’t know his work, get yourself Love In the Times of Cholera. His work is incredible, a leader in magic realism, and a teacher to the literary world.

The good news:

Meet Phallostethus cuulong, a delightful fish recently discovered in Vietnam. To find out more about him, follow the link:  He makes me happy and I especially love this x-ray photograph of him.

And if you want even more delightful creativity: after a 7 year break, Fiona Apple is back with yet another eloquently poetic and creative album, and this video should explain why she is one of the few people I would want to rent a house in Iceland with for the winter and write:


Sorry the post was so long.


15 Responses to “The Addiction of Silence”

  1. Andreas July 10, 2012 at 6:20 am #

    Hey. Toll, aber Das ist immer total viel zu lesen. Wäre toll, wenn deine artikel themengeteilt wären, dann kann ich über die stille lesen und nicht erst den ganzen zirkus 🙂 lg und. Viel spass noch auf deiner Reise.

    • rittisoncco July 11, 2012 at 4:42 am #

      Yes! I was very enthusiastic about the circus. I’m glad you enjoyed the theme of silence and I’m delighted to know that you’re reading. 🙂 This post was indeed a spectacularly long one and I usually try to make them shorter. Blog posts are a great challenge for writers, a great opportunity to learn to keep it short. I will keep you in mind the next time I write – or actually, try to blog more often, that way there’s no traffic jam and subsequent explosion of thoughts. 😉 Herzlichen Dank für Dein response. One more question: do you kindle? ebooks?

  2. Andreas July 11, 2012 at 8:01 am #

    Hi Ritti. I usually don’t read that much. as you know, i’m massively into sound 🙂 but when i read, than almost in digital format via my iPad. There are a few ebooks i read, but also on the ipad as an iBook. I would recommend these, bevause the ipad is the most selling tablet on the market and if you bet the chance to release on of your book on these plattforms, that should benefit your career. So i’m ot that deep into ebook, you have to. Find out yourself, how that works. There ares ome distributors out there for shure 🙂

    Good luck

    Ps: yes, i’m reading your blog ( sometimes) 😉

    • rittisoncco July 17, 2012 at 9:09 am #

      Dear Mister “Massively Into Sound” 🙂 How did you enjoy Fiona Apple’s strange little music video? Her new album is delightful. What I love the most about her music is her lyrical eloquence. Interesting about this new album (in comparison to previous ones) is the sly dropping away of instruments mid-song, so all we have are occasional drums or perhaps a shy little flute accompanying her voice. However, in a spontaneous (and, admittedly, limited) , I was told that not many men enjoy Fiona Apple’s music. How do you feel about her stuff?

      Thanks for the info on your iPad reading. I’ve been happily informing myself on the various alternatives and became quite infatuated with Kindle. This seems to be one of the highest selling ones, using its connection to Amazon. Luckily writers can publish over various eReader media! What options are there for sound? Soundcloud?

      Given the choice, I think most people in Germany still prefer “paperbooks”. I recently met some young Americans who told me that in the United States the Kindle is slowly but surely taking over. It will be interesting to see if this wave will continue in Germany. In any case, the massive array of alternatives the internet is providing is really fascinating, and I’m going to try to keep up with it more and not be so stubborn towards progress anymore. 🙂 I was just tricked into Twitter. I think you were right to start using it so long ago.

      Now I wrote an essay again 😉 Sorry!

      • Andreas Usenbenz July 17, 2012 at 9:16 am #

        Hi. I didn´t recognized the album of Fiona Apple 😉 But i will give it a listen. A lot of statistics say, that the ipad is killing the kindle because you can do a lot more cool things with it as the funny kindle thing. i don´t like it, because it really suck, buying a device for reading books ? i want something thats more versatile. playing games, surfing the web, reading and writing, listening to music…such things ,) but hey. mcheck things out. Not everything is the same for everyone. (right ?)

      • Andreas Usenbenz July 17, 2012 at 9:17 am #

        Ahhhh ! btw: iTunes ist the most selling shop for music and audiobooks…

      • rittisoncco July 17, 2012 at 9:29 am #

        Yes, that’s exactly the excitement: one is multifunctional, the other is strictly for reading. I recently watched a great interview by Kindle author on the subject of iPad vs Kindle:

        I think they’ve both got their brilliant sides, it really depends on what you want, doesn’t it, and there will always be a tug-of-war between the two! I would probably go for Kindle, just because I tend to be old-fashioned and like having one thing for, well, one thing. And later on, I’d realise the benefits of multifunctional things and regret it. 🙂 I’ll tell you one thing: having an eReader with me right now would certainly lighten my backpack! I’m hauling 9 books around the Andes with me and that’s no bloody joke. An eReader is sounding pretty damn good right about now!

  3. friedrich glorian July 13, 2012 at 8:44 pm #

    Was spricht der Bestsellerautor Paulo Coelho? Das: „Ich habe über acht Millionen Fans auf Facebook, mein Blog lesen zwei Millionen Menschen im Monat. Ich kann dort direkt zu meinen Lesern sprechen.“ Und weiter: „Einer der wichtigsten Teile im Leben eines Autors ist es, direkt mit seinen Lesern in Kontakt zu treten. Dadurch versteht man sich selbst besser. Es hilft mir als Mensch, nicht nur als Schriftsteller. Gestern habe ich mit einem Freund aus Montenegro gesprochen, der mir von montenegrinischen Legenden erzählte, dann habe ich mit einem Chinesen gechattet. Sie sind meine Freunde, auch wenn ich sie physisch nie getroffen habe. Ich unterhalte mich mit ihnen, ich lerne extrem viel und habe extrem viel Spaß dabei. Es ist, als würde man in eine Bar gehen. Schriftsteller sollten unbedingt in Bars gehen!“

    • Andreas July 13, 2012 at 11:25 pm #

      Sollten sie !

    • rittisoncco July 17, 2012 at 8:53 am #

      He also said: “Doubt is what pushes us ahead. Long live doubt!” I must agree with our man, being in contact with your readers is endlessly important – perhaps now more than ever, now that we have the internet and can do so, easily. I wrote Paolo Coelho once, to tell him that I liked “The Zahir”. He replied and said thank you. Perhaps it wasn’t really him, perhaps it was. I wrote a couple of other writers whose books touched me, just to tell them that, and every writer I wrote, replied. Two months ago, I flew to London to meet Hugh Thomson because he replied.

      The question about being in touch with your readers is the same as “why do you write?” It’s all about a dialogue of thoughts. I think we all lose this objective as we struggle to pay the rent, so it’s good to be reminded that all we originally wanted was to get our words out there and afterwards have a beer with the people who enjoy our work. Thanks Friedrich for again another brilliant share. I’m beginning to get addicted!

  4. Andreas Usenbenz July 17, 2012 at 9:27 am #

    somehow va very nerdy and playful album. somehow reminds me to Hanne Huckelberg. Unusual mixing – good audio engineering 😉 – but i think it´s a bit too variety theatre for my taste 😉 – But i like the lofi style of the album. But good sounding, good dramatic and very interessting sounds in there….

    check this out ….

  5. Andreas Usenbenz July 17, 2012 at 9:32 am #

    do you also carry your laptop with you ?

    btw: A link to Hanne Hukkelberg

  6. rittisoncco July 17, 2012 at 9:45 am #

    Yes! 🙂 I’m sitting on my hostel bed in Cusco with my sweet little netbook, listening to drunk people singing on their way home. I don’t mind carrying this baby around, but I can’t bring myself to take my 9 books to the many book exchanges. It’s really silly of me, I know, but my books are my babies. Their tattered spines and dogeared pages are like wrinkles on a face.

    Great thing about Peru – no GEMA prohibition on Youtube. I’m listening to Skin&Soap there. It reminds me a bit too much of Tegan & Sara. I love the song titles but I can’t get into her singing.

    I liked that you said “nerdy” about Fiona Apple. Absolutely!!! *hahaha*

  7. Artie Murley July 20, 2012 at 6:10 pm #

    I was recommended this web site by my cousin. I’m not sure whether this post is written by him as no one else know such detailed about my trouble. You are incredible! Thanks!

  8. AJ Ferrioli January 28, 2014 at 10:37 am #

    Hi, just wanted to tell you, I enjoyed this post. It was
    practical. Keep on posting!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: