Friday, February 12, 2010

... on salvador

My never-say-no-while-traveling policy had me breaking my vegetarian vows within 30 minutes of arriving at the hostel in Pelorinho, the historic center of the northern city of Salvador (,_Bahia). The entire hostel was occupied by 40 civil engineering students from the interior of the country and two of them invited me out to grab some ´authentic´ Bahian food. I found myself eating deep fried bread stuffed with red pepper paste, hot sauce and shrimp.

Later that night while washing my face in the communal bathrooms, two more of the engineering students were practicing their english with me (yelling their english, actually, as if I would have a hard time understanding otherwise) when a third walked in in a huff. He disapproved of their english speaking; said that we were in Brazil dammit and in Brazil we speak portuguese. I should be speaking portuguese. I assured him that I wanted to speak/learn portuguese. He gave me a contemptuous look and stomped away. His friends apologized, ¨Sorry about him. He is really BLACK.¨ Really black? What the hell is that supposed to mean? I was so confused I didn´t respond. If in Brazil a black identity is synonymous with linguistic nationalism, I am both impressed and a little amused at the irony.

Spent a day with Fré, a Colombian artist who has been traveling for three years, making enough money drawing caricatures in the street for tourists and selling a large painting here and there to hotels. We went to ciudad baja to drink some beer overlooking the beautiful bay dotted with fishing boats both small and large. He invites two Brazilian girls to have drinks with us, thinking himself a genius (one for him and one for me, naturally). He of course is ignorant of his error, and I ended up timidly flirting for the next five hours so as not to ruin Fré´s chances. In the end they were both out of his league (as I knew from the beginning) and uninterested in his new-aged hippy-artist-vagabond antics (and terrible pick-up strategy if I say myself). They liked me more (they called me a respectful gentleman--haha).

Beyonce is coming to Salvador. Tickets cost anywhere from 170 to 650 reas (about 90 to 350 dollars). I ask my friend Ernest how many Bahians would be willing to pay (or could even afford) so much just for a concert. He said, ¨well the venue has about 10,000 seats...¨. I guess they love them some Beyoncé.

After three nights int he touristy Pelorihno, I left. Couldn´t stand it. I went to stay with a friend I had met off of His name is Ernest and he lives about 1.5 hours north of the city with with mother and grandmother (also his father, who owns a tourism company, and his niece and nephew on the weekends). He neglected to tell me this until I showed up at his house. No worries, I told myself, this isn´t awkward at all.

I cooked dinner the first night for Ernest and his mother. They didn´t like it. They thought the pasta was ¨raw¨ (as if, it was al dente!) and his mother called by roasted potato, onion and pepper melody ¨...diferente...¨.

Ernests´ grandmother is a riot. When she was in the house there was a constant soundtrack of her screeching criticisms and orders at everyone in sight. She was constantly yelling at her great grandchildren to stop playing, shut up, and sit on the couch to watch whichever telenovela (soap opera) that was on TV (during which she offered continuous commentary on its ridiculousness). In the mornings she yelled at me to drink juice (I made the mistake of resisting just the one time and said I was happy with water. She poured me a glass, pushed it into my hands, and watched me gulp it down). One morning she told me, ¨I yell a a lot don´t I? I don´t have patience for children. Never did. Not even my own!¨ It was the only time I ever saw her smile.

After repeatedly turning down coke during dinner at Ernest´s, his mother asked if I knew what coke was.

After three days of alternating my lounging between Ernest´s pool and the beach I left Salvador for Lencois, 6 hours by bus inland and nestled in the mountains. More on that later.

muito love and many beijos