So, I have been volunteering at Hostel Cobreu in Salvador, Brasil for one month now.
This morning I went to buy the bread for breakfast.
“OK so I take a right, then a left, then a right on Zapatistas street, and it is the first bakery on the left?”
“Sapateiros, not Zapatistas.”
This is the 3rd or 4th time Leigh, my boss and friend, has corrected me. I do not know why I insist on calling the street Zapatistas. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that I would never be caught there after dark.
Even at 7am one Sunday morning, I found myself searching for the bakery that was inevitably closed like every single shop on the street. All the storefront metal doors were closed and locked and the few people about were so zombie-like I felt as if I was in a scene from The Walking Dead.
However, this morning was different. I walked outside and immediately looked up to see bulbous rain clouds scattered in the sky. The weather lately has represented the typical tropical climate; storm a little, sun a little, and repeat. Luckily, it appeared as if I would miss the rain.
Unlike my first time down Sapateiros all the stores were open or opening. Cafes, restaurants, clothing stores, and people on their way to work. It was a completely different perspective than my first experience.
I walked passed the bustling lojas,
Man, 2 reais for huge salgados! What have I been doing this past month?!
Salgados are the savory pastries of Brazil. You can choose from a variety of types stuffed with chicken, cheese, shrimp, or carne. They are delicious and very filling.
20 reais for that cute dress! This is my new favorite street!
Best way to learn a language? Immersion. I found the bakery and this is where the immersion came into play.
“Oi….ummmm….Hostel Cobreu?” I started.
“Blah blah blah otra menina blah blah blah.”
“Ela….dize…meu….vou…aqui…necisito pao….eu trabalho a Hostel Cobreu….CobrEu.”
“Ah ok, quanto?”
These men were so patient and kind like the majority of Baianos. I am constantly guessing or making up words and it is always a humorous process. It is incredible the appreciation for putting in the effort to make an attempt to communicate in Portuguese.
Salvador has been a really interesting experience all around. I am constantly reminded of New Orleans with the distinct contrasts of all different types of people living so close together. The commonality that stands out the most to me is the disparity of incredible beauty and ominous darkness that thrive in both cities.
People from New Orleans, or who know it well, know what I’m talking about; the joy and the suffering, the charm and the grime that define the famous city.
However, Salvador takes all of those components and intensifies them.
The beauty, the intimidation, the friendliness, the not-so-friendliness, the drugs, the drunkards, the music, the dancing, the community, and the every day love/hate relationship this city embodies is at a level I have never experienced before in my life.
The local way of life is so visible and obvious in all the small actions. For example, when I walk with my friend Acaiah in the Pelourinho or Santo Antonio, we are never in a rush, we slowly stroll along the streets. There are a couple of harsh hills and we leisurely climb them. No one would be caught hiking up or God forbid running up one. Unless it was a thief who had stolen a cellphone from a noticeable tourist (I’ve totally seen that happen.) Therefore when I go out, I keep my money in my bra and leave all electronics at home. Except of course when I’m walking with Acaiah.
Acaiah is that guy in the neighborhood, no, in Salvador, who everybody knows. Once we walked to the beach, about an hour walk through the city, and I swear within every block we stopped for a ola or oi, que fue?!, Este é meu amiga Medora, bro hug for guys, a kiss on both cheeks for girls, and usually a laugh, smile, and/or joke.
I will save the details of all the amazing people I’m surrounded by every day for next time.
Ahhh Salvador. There is so much to say. There are so many important details. But I believe it is a place that is different for every one and the only way to have an opinion is to come here. For me, Salvador is indescribable because there are so many contradictions in the lifestyle and city itself.
Yes, I am tired of being bothered on the street. Yes, I was sad when there was a bus strike and we had to wait 3 hours for a 15 minutes drive home. Yes, I was upset when the strike continued to the next day and I couldn’t go to the beach on my day off. Yes, I get frustrated when I politely attempt to explain to strangers on the street that I do not want them to walk me home.
Yes, I love seeing incredible live music every night.
Yes, I love going to Barra and being spoiled by the beach boys who rent out umbrellas, chairs, and bring you coconuts, beer, or water.
Yes, I love when I go to the questionable side of town to get my fruit and vegetables because it is significantly cheaper. Yes, I love walking around my neighborhood and seeing beautiful people and things!
Yes, I love when a stranger yells at me on the street and initially I ignore him but he catches up to me, and explains that I should never ever walk down the street I was heading towards, and then kindly walks me back to the main road and leaves without asking for anything.
A lot of my reason for traveling the way I do and why I’ve been doing it for 4 years now is because I have found that I am addicted to learning. More specifically, learning by experience.
These small accomplishments (IE getting the bread this morning) are so profound and thrilling some times these events will give me a high that lasts throughout the day.
What is exhilarating about Salvador is that the every day experiences are manic. One person will smile at me while I attempt to speak Portuguese, the next will scold me, asking what the hell am I doing in Brazil when I do not speak Portuguese. One person will yell at me wanting to harass me. My instinct and schooling from my friends here is to ignore these interactions. Soon after another person yells at me. I keep walking and ignore it but then I hear,
My curiosity overcomes my teachings and I turn around to see that it is Moises. Moises is our charming, friendly, and amazing taxi driver. His positive energy is contagious and I walk over to talk through the window to him.
“Oi, Moises! Tudo bem?”
“Bem! Blah blah blah blah blah blah chuva blah blah bom blah blah blah praia?”
Then he gave a full belly laugh and continued talking.
Somewhere in there we said a polite good-bye and I smiled all the way home thinking,
Man, that was awesome.