Category Archives: Brasil

Salvador da Bahia

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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?”

“Diesh….Dies….”

“Dez?”

“Exacto!”

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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,

“Cobreu!”

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?

“Sim!”

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.

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No Se Preocupe Por Nada

Since my last post I have not only reached my goal of arriving to Brazil but did it all by bus.  I started February of this year in Medellin, Colombia and traveled through Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia.

About a month ago I was preparing to leave from La Paz, Bolivia to Uyuni where the famous salt flats are.

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I took a 3-day tour in a 4×4 with 5 other travelers and a local guide.  We drove around the bizarre landscapes of southwestern part of Bolivia and took photos of every thing.  I got a little annoyed with the whole system of drive, take photos, drive a little more, and then take some more photos.

I wanted to enjoy my surroundings and try to process what I was seeing.  I tried to put the camera away but the scenery was beyond words and I kept taking pictures so I would not have to attempt to describe it here.

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After the 3 day tour, I took a night bus from Uyuni to Sucre (still in Bolivia here) and took my first shower after about 4 days.  THAT was amazing.

Sucre was awesome.  Every thing was very cheap and I spent my days walking around the markets, eating interesting dishes (Mondongo-I really don’t know what it is but it was AMAZING and if you are there, eat it) and drinking mysterious juices.

I really enjoyed Sucre.  Even to the point of playing with the idea of staying there and teaching English.  However, Brazil was still in my mind.  I was not giving up on my dream and honestly, I was so sick of the altitude.  Never literally sick but I was annoyed with that fact that every time I walked up a flight of stairs it felt as if I had been running in a marathon.

I wanted to feel hot, sticky, and to taste the salt from the sea.  Brazil was going to give that to me.

With the urgency to swim in the sea, I went a little crazy and decided that from Sucre I was going to head straight to Sao Paulo.  No more stops.  My next place would be to visit and stay with a friend I had met in Greece last year who lived in Sao Paulo.

What did that decision really mean?  Ultimately, it meant leaving Thursday at 5pm and reaching my destination in Brazil on Sunday at 5pm.  That’s 3 buses and 3 nights.

The first leg was a night bus from Sucre to Santa Cruz.  I had no certainty that there was even a bus from Santa Cruz to Sao Paulo.  I had read one article about it but that information was not entirely reliable.  I spent a lot of that bus ride praying that when I arrived I would find a bus to Brazil.

It didn’t help in the fact that the bus to Santa Cruz was one of the worst I had taken in all of my travels in South America…and I’ve taken A LOT of buses.  I have to admit that it was mostly my fault because I decided to save an extra 10 whole dollars! Woo!

Yes…$10.  Every one always asks, how do you afford to travel all the time?  Well, there ya go.  In Bolivia, that $10 could be food for at least 3 days, or a room for 2 nights.

Of course, as per the majority of my bus travels, I was the only gringa on the bus.  No one bothered me though and the only uncomfortable thing was the bus itself.  On the over night buses I usually listen to music until I get tired and then I sleep for the rest of the trip.  However, this time it was not so easy.

The road for the last 7 hours of the 13 hour trip was not a paved road.  Meaning, it was a dirt road where many, MANY buses and trucks passed through daily.  The bus jerked and swayed and vibrated it’s way to our destination for 7 hours.

7!!!!!!!

I mean it was the Bumpy Road of all Bumpy Roads (Char, Syd, and people who know about the Farm that is for you.)

After the sleepless night, I get to Santa Cruz and immediately began my search for the mysterious bus to Sao Paulo.  Of course I spoke to 3 different people who claimed there was no such bus before I found the area in the bus station with more than 5 companies advertising direct connections to Sao Paulo.

This was not a lost in translation attempt.  I can actually speak Spanish now!  Right Omar??  I will never know if the 3 people who told me there was no bus were intentionally not telling the truth or if they really didn’t know.  All I knew was that I wasn’t going to believe anyone until I explored the station and saw for myself.

I got a $50 discount for being so “linda.”  Who knows how much it really could have been if I was local.

I had the whole day to wait until my 7pm bus.  During this time, I went to explore Santa Cruz and found a tarot reader sitting by the street near the bus station.

Why not?

I sat down and asked him how much.

“Trenta Bolivianos.”

That’s a little less than $5.

He pulled out all the cards and placed the entire deck in rows on his table.  That was after he sprinkled my hands with what I believe was rubbing alcohol and did some sort of blessing over the cards.

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The man then began to read the cards.

He told me I was going on an adventure.

Easy guess because I was in front of the bus station.

He told me I was going to meet a friend in Brazil.

Another easy assumption because I had answered that I was going to Brazil.

He told me I had a lot of luck.  He told me I left someone behind who I care about very much.  He told me not to worry.

He again told me,

“No se preocupe.  No se preocupe.”

He continued a story of how much luck I have and that when I go to Brazil I will be very happy and make lots of money.

Hey! That’s sounds good to me!

But the most important thing he continued to repeat was not to worry about anything.

“No se preocupe por nada.”

After another 3 buses and 48 hours later I arrived in San Jose dos Campos where I met my friend, Leonardo.  He took me to his mother’s house and I got the first hand experience of Brazilian hospitality.  I will be forever grateful to them for taking such amazing care of me.

And the one thing I keep in mind is what the psychic in Bolivia told me,

Do not worry for nothing.

I will admit I panicked a little about Brazil when I arrived.

Is it the right time?  Should I go back to my Paracas people?  Should I go back and work in Cusco?  Should I have waited for Erin?  Everything is so expensive!

The tarot man’s words came into my mind,

No se preocupe por nada.  

No se preocupe por nada.

Friday night I arrived in Rio de Janeiro and stayed with a wonderful Couchsurfing host, Dario.

“Yes.  There is samba in the street tonight.”

“Samba in the street,” I said excitedly.

“Yea.”

Less than an hour after my arrival, Dario took me to Pedra do Sal.  Everything I had dreamed of.

My dream of Brazil was coming to fruition, slowly but surely.

Now I have reached Salvador da Bahia where I am working at Hostel Cobreu in the bairro de Santo Antônio.  It is a magical, magical place.

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Let’s just say Bahia is fulfilling every single dream and/or expectation I have had about Brazil for the past 10 years.

And Dorival Caymmi keeps following me I swear!!!

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And this was just the beginning…still is…

No se preocupe por nada.  

 

 

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