Name: Maia Lannes
Where from: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Roots: Native Brazilian
Who did you grow up with?
I spent my childhood in the countryside, in a state in the central region of Brazil, called Minas Gerais -"General Mines"- because it is rich in gold, iron and precious stones. My parents were divorced, so I lived with my grandmother, from whom I learned about medicinal plants and herbs; my mother, who taught me above all to love and to respect every form of life on earth; and my sister who would read story tales for me. We had chickens, a dog and trees. I used to climb the avocado tree and think that if I would go really high I would be able to see far away countries and foreign people. 'How do they live?', 'Which language do they speak?' Then I used to share these questions only with the avocado tree...
What do you like to do with your friends?
Now I have friends from all over the world: Some are rich, some are poor; some are PhDs, some do not know how to read; some live in the city and some live in the jungle. I am very grateful to each one of them for sharing with me their unique way of being and their wisdom.
What has had an especially strong influence on the direction of your life?
As a child, I used to dream about traveling, seeing other lands and meeting people from other countries. But soon I understood this would be a very difficult dream to fulfill because my family didnÕt have too much money, and also because there was a dictatorship in Brazil and people could not leave the country. So, when I was 16 I got my first job and worked for two years to save money and buy my exit visa. I succeeded! And for the next two years I traveled by myself around the world. I made many friends, learned how to speak other languages and how to appreciate the natural and cultural diversity of our planet.
What is your favorite food?
Tropical fruits freshly harvested from a tree. There is nothing like a fragrant mango, a papaya or a star fruit that is still warm from the sun light...
What would be your advice to young people today?
Learn about other cultures and different ways of living. Every culture has its own unique vision, but there is a common ground among us all and we are all connected.
What are you afraid of?
Intolerance and spiritual arrogance. This happens when people think that only their religion is the right one. For example, during my travels I have met and become friends with Buddhist monks, priests, Jewish and Muslim mystics and shamans. I believe we are all born from the same essence of love and learning to understand and to respect alternative forms of spiritual expression is an important step for creating peace on Earth.
What was a challenging thing you have done?
I like to learn foreign languages. I speak English, Portuguese, Spanish, Italian, French, Japanese and some Russian. I believe that learning another language is like building a bridge between two countries. It brings people together and promotes the discovery and the understanding of new values. ItÕs away to expand our soul...
What are you not so good at?
At school I used to have a hard time with mathematics. Then one day I was reading the autobiography of Russian movie director, Sergei Einsenstein, who was also a mathematician, and became fascinated about his way of describing how mathematics is present in everything in the universe and how it helped him create his art. This brought a new light to my own way of dealing with the subject.
What are some really fun things you have done?
I have a background in journalism and documentary films. IÕve worked for newspapers and an Educational TV channel. Doing a documentary is fun because it reveals the extraordinary present in the ordinary: Any subject, anything has its own magic and purpose, be it a stone, a bird, a tree or a human being...
What is the place you are most looking forward to visiting?
I would like to dedicate some time to learn more about the indigenous people of the Amazon rain forest, its unique fauna and flora.