What floats your boat: the things we’re truly passionate about
Finding out what our colleagues enjoy doing when they're not at work is a great way to get to know each other better. Today, we meet a capoeirista and a furniture restorer.
A circle forms to the ritual rhythm of the beating drums. Two figures move into the center, and simulate combat, their footwork and graceful movements like a playful dance as they glide past each other, never touching. Guided by a teacher, several pairs of combatants take their turn in the center in successive displays of skill and flexibility. There is much camaraderie and team spirit in capoeira, both a sport and an expression of Brazilian popular culture that Néstor Muñoz, the Gas Plant Lead Supervisor at Comodoro Rivadavia, adopted six years ago and has been practicing ever since.
"A capoeira teacher came over from Brazil and began to teach at the gym I used to go to, so I signed up for a class. I was immediately attracted to the way it hones your motor skills, the graceful leaps, and the role played by music," said Néstor about his hobby. Capoeira is in fact the second most popular sport in Brazil, although calling it a sport falls far short of its complex significance and heritage. A blend of dance with martial art moves, a throwback to ancient pagan forms of worship (its music is descended from African cultural rituals), the capoeira has its origins in the quilombos, the hinterland communities of escaped black slaves that formed in Brazil during the 18th century.
“Whereas other martial arts are more individual, capoeira is more of a group activity, it’s very unifying, and you quickly build a good group of friends. It’s a lot of fun,” explained Néstor, from the El Tordillo Gas plant.
The rhythm of the dance is marked by the berimbau, a primitive stringed instrument that is played percussively; the atabaque, a drum which rests directly on the ground; and a pandeiro, a smaller handheld drum. Capoeira dancers launch acrobatic kicks into the air with pronounced, stylized movements.
"I go to practice some two hours a week, and aside from the classes, we often meet up in other locations. In the summer, when the weather is nice, we go and practice at the beach, or in the park," added Néstor, who already shares his hobby with his seven-year-old daughter. "I started taking her along, she loves dancing, and we’re already dancing together."
As in all martial arts, in capoeira there are masters (mestre) and a color-coded skills grading system, displayed on the corda or cord worn around loose white pants. After some practice comes the baptism (batizado), where a nickname is assigned according to a person’s particular skills or way of being. "In my case they call me lijeiro, which means fast," said Néstor.
"Capoeira makes you feel really good, because it combines dance and lots of physical activity: it de-stresses you and makes you a much more sociable and tolerant kind of person," he explained. "It makes you look at life in a different way, and produces a great sense of contentment and tranquility for me."
The art of restoring and renewing
Although she always had a natural talent for manual tasks, she took several workshops, and after a change in her personal circumstances, her hobby took on a life of its own. Mercedes Zinkgraf has been an assistant to the Vice President of Cuenca Neuquén and Vaca Muerta, Martin Bengochea, for almost two years, and today she spends all her free time restoring furniture.
“It’s something I inherited from my paternal grandparents, this special attraction for arts and crafts, but it was only during the pandemic when I began to renovate my family's furniture by myself. I started with my mother’s things, and then moved on to mine,” reminisced Mercedes, who runs her own venture, La Charpenterie.
“I love old furniture and all the stories it has to tell,” she explained. "Their value comes from people's affection for them." She recounted the time a client came to see her and asked her to "look after the bedside tables that belonged to my grandmother." The principles of reuse and the circular economy govern her routine.
On weekends, and at times during the week as well (after her working day ends), she gets down to stripping and sanding furniture, leaving the natural wood exposed and revealing the different grains and knots running through the wood, which, she explained, is the latest trend.
"The secret is to do what you are passionate about, and this is all part of a process of internal growth that I am super proud of, and would like to be able to continue over time," said Mercedes.
In addition to using water-based products and giving things a second life, Mercedes has just opened a workshop based in an old shipping container. There she works with a carpenter friend who reviews the structure of the furniture, and shares plans to recreate new pieces using disused wooden parts.
"I love stripping paint, staining, varnishing and discovering the hidden grains lying in the wood that mark the passage of time."