Eidomeni Refugee Camp

On a rainy and cold evening at Eidomeni, it was decided that we would bring trays of tea to the tents instead of making people wait in line in the rain. The camp is not well equipped for days like this. Especially for the people who are using small camping tents and even more horrible for the ones who have been sleeping outside since the new border allowance rules. Flooding is a problem, distribution of food, water, everything is disrupted, and then, of course, the mud can make it dangerous for those just arriving in buses who are carrying bags, children, and trying to find a place to sleep.

But we were successful in providing 1000s+ cups of tea, even with volunteers making long walks to the railroad tracks where many refugees have been living for over a week now.

One man who had been huddling under our tent for a while was quietly on his cell phone. He caught my attention and motioned me over. With hand signals and two English words he communicated that he needed help finding Eidomeni on the map and sending the drop pin of where we were to his friend (maybe brother) in Milan. I also learned that his daughter was in Milan.   Slow internet and my lack of knowledge of smart phones other than iPhones took me a while to get the link, but we did it! A little while later he gave me the beads in the picture. I said, “Oh no, no problem, shukraan! Take them for your daughter!” But he insisted as I got teary eyed and said many more shukraans.

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You Are Welcome

“You are welcome” seems to be the slogan Cape Verdeans use for visitors like myself. Every one has said it to me at least once and with the intention to let me know that I am welcome here.

Lots to report about my experience with the Turtle Foundation and the incredible people I met there…and the incredible things I did and saw there!

But here is a short story of my experience last night on the island of São Vicente…

 As I have stressed so many times on this blog; the world is full of mostly kind and genuine people…and you realize this when you give them the chance…

The walk from the center of town to my rented room here in Mindelo is a little questionable as a solo female traveller who at first glance is clearly not from here. Mostly because the last few blocks are only residential and not well lit. 

Of course during the day is fine. I feel comfortable and there are only the occasional hisses, whistles, and/or persistent men. At night it can be a little more intensified and I have chosen to make sure to get home at a reasonable hour.    After some days here and building more of a feeling for the town I have felt more confident about walking alone at night. However, last night at my last block home, from behind me came, “Oi! Ola!” 

I turned around to find the man who at least 6 blocks earlier had said hello to me with an added, “Woah, beautiful girl!”

It was only 8pm and I could hear some neighborly voices around the corner. Even with the solace of other people around, I quickly put my boundaries up, “Obrigado, não obrigado.”

I mean this man had obviously followed me 6 blocks and not until my last block home, where there was no one around, did he decide to try to talk to me again.

“Tudo bem! Ta bom! Eu nome Joseph. I work in the Praca.”

He said it so quickly because he had read my anxiety from his presence. He kept a distance and used his hands in a way to mime a kind of “keep calm” translation.

He was so sincere and evidently trying as hard as he could not to frighten me and kept on insisting to have a normal conversation with me.

So as I’m saying, “não, não, não,” he continues with the pleasantries…

“Onde de você? Where are you from? Quanto tempo está aqui no São Vicente? How long will you stay in São Vincente? Today is my day off. I work at the hotel, Prassa in the Praca.” And so on….

Feeling comforted by the voices around the corner, I gave in and began to answer his questions in a friendly but defeated way. Defeated by what I was learning to be simply a want to talk with me.

“America?! Ahhh YOU ARE WELCOME.”

“Ok, eu vou agora. Obrigado. Boa noite, Joseph.”

“Obrigada voce! Boa noite, Medora.”

And then he walked away.

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Leaving Neverland

The eternal minutes of Corfu have now come and gone. The last weeks were unforgettable. A lot of the reason for me staying two months was for the reunion of my two friends who worked with me on the island two years ago. Lots of “twos” in there…I had been anticipating this visit since we planned it in February and my expectations were blown out of the water!

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In those last 10 days one of my favorite experiences occurred, where people from your past and people from your present come together to create a Super Group of FUN.

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We danced, we swam, we rode scooters that all looked the same, we drank, and we laughed. My goodness, did we LAUGH. It was as if no time had passed since we were together.  The new additions settled in quickly and provided the same kindness, energy, and hilarity.

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LOTS of thanks to Robin for bringing us all together!

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All the Corfu magic came out in full force and those last 2 weeks especially will stay a highlight of my life forever.

Onwards!  Now I’ve left Neverland and am in the world of pan au chocolat, fromage, and Ricard. Of course there are more things to Paris than the food and drink. For example, amazing friends who let you not only use their apartment as a storage space for luggage, but also as a home away from home for “as long as you wish.”

Today I was supposed to fly to Cape Verde. I have had this adventure in mind since the beginning of the summer when I was listening to Cesaria Evora and asked myself, I wonder where she is from? After some research I became infatuated with Cape Verde and made arrangements to volunteer with the Turtle Foundation on Boa Vista Island. I would spend two weeks living in a camp on the beach, participating in the following activities of night patrols, environmental awareness classes for the locals, and other data collecting of the turtle’s habits.

This morning I woke up at 5am to leave the apartment to catch my flight. But as most of you know, Paris is a frustrating city to travel through. After 2 metro lines and a bus (really not THAT bad), I made it to the airport 1 hour and 5 minutes before the departure of my flight.

Check in is closed.

“WHAT DO YOU MEAN?”

Check in is closed.

I begged, I cried, I stomped my foot, and then tried to appease. Nothing worked.

This is not a train station, miss. This is an airport with security measure and this is an international flight.

Too flustered to remember and use in the argument that last year when I arrived only an hour before my TRANSATLANTIC flight from Paris to Dallas I had no problems “checking in,” I said a forced, merci, and walked away.

As with these budget airlines here there are no refunds or compensation for any mistake YOU make.  Even more unfortunate for me, the airline I was using did not have another flight to Boa Vista until the next Friday.

I took my tired self “home” where my friend welcomed me with sleepy eyes and said, woah what happened?

“It’s the second time in two days your people have disappointed me.”

Then I started laughing…because what else can you do? Within 2 hours I booked another direct ticket for a good price and that was that. I fly to Cape Verde on Monday and everything is as it should be.

I mean, what is another few days in Paris? Or should I say in

MONTREUIL SOUS BOIS!!!

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The Omnipresent

This morning I was riding the scooter from Agios Gordios (the beach village) to Sinarades (the village up the hill.) This 8-10 minute drive can be so comforting at times. I know the road well and it also provides breath-taking views of the beach town. It is meditative in a way.

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I was on my way to have my daily coffee with my friend Alexandra. I had my headphones in and my mind was slowly relaxing from anxieties.  I was enjoying the over grown natural beauties when I saw something from the corner of my eye.  My friend Gabriel was riding on his bike beside mine.

This is seriously one of my favorite things EVER and has happened once or twice some summers before. We exchanged the normal formalities while cruising down the road. When we split off from each other, another two friends of mine passed on another bike and gave a friendly beep.

I am so grateful to still experience elation from such small events. However, some minutes/hours/days the same level of elation can be experienced as worry, uneasiness, or stress.

As per previous times, Corfu has been an emotional roller coaster. This is the Siren’s island after all. Where one will forget everything and be so present that the past and future appear as fantasies.

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Even when a visitor penetrates this bubble, there is not much self-history shared, but instead a complete immersion into the present life here. The community, the people, the beach, the bars, and especially the stories of everyone’s life on the island are all that seem to matter.

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Sink or swim. Fight or flight. It’s now or never. FOMO (fear of missing out.) YOLO (you only live once.) These are the phrases constantly running through my mind and that I ultimately use as tools when I have to wade through the negative emotions.

These infamous but addictive ups and downs I have been able to calmly ride out more effectively this year than previous years. These tools are the only things intrinsically with me from the past. I am so unaware that I possess them until I’m spiraling down and before I hit the bottom I put my palm to my head and say,

“Breathe. You know exactly what to do.”

Because even though every minute here can feel like an eternity, the island is also forcing the opportunity to appreciate the small things.

And this is it. The one constant and forceful power in this mysterious and mystical place; the vehemence of the omnipresent.

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The “So Simple”

Today is overcast on the island of Corfu in Greece. After three weeks of bright blue skies and sun, I am welcoming these clouds with open arms. Even in this paradise, I had started to yearn for the Gulf Coast summer days of voluptuous clouds, and theatrical rainstorms. I’ve been dreaming of the sound of thunder that shakes your house, and that sticky, balmy air that remains even when the streets are full of water.

“The so simple is the best,” my friend Spiros says while sipping on a beer.

This simple pronouncement was due to the amazing day we had had. There is a perfect beach spot, down from Agios Gordios, where now remains a refugee ship that beached there almost two years ago.

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When the boat was first discovered, in November 2013, I was staying with Spiros and his family. One morning, from the balcony of his house, we were able to see the mysterious boat. Several weeks later, the story reached Corfu that the ship had come from North Africa and had met another boat out in the Ionian Sea.   This transfer was meant to take the people to Italy. However, the port police had intercepted the new boat…this is the entire story that I know.

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So, two years later the boat remains. There is not the money or proper equipment to move it. So it stays.

Spiros and I really enjoy this spot because there are very few people, the water is cleaner, and the restaurant Black Rocks is just close enough to walk down to buy some ouzo. There is obviously stress in Greece at the moment, but what I have been reminded every time I visit my Greek friends here on Corfu is that “stress” is unproductive.

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Remember this statement from a previous blog?

“Medora, look something, the sun he does not have the crisis. The sea, he does not have the crisis. The tree, the mountain, no crisis.” Then wiping his hands as if brushing off imaginary dirt, “This is so.”

I’ve been thinking so much about this mentality. Yes, people are struggling. Things are hard right now for work, for money. However, then I look at this abandoned ship, that at some point was overflowing with people. Women, children, families. Whatever was happening in their world was so challenging that they risked everything to be taken to a place that is ALSO in crisis. What does that say about their predicament?

The contradictions I’ve been experiencing in how to follow The Greek Program (the sun, the sea, don’t worry, be happy), with the image of the wrecked ship that at one time held hope and a possible solution for so many desperate human beings and now constitutes an in-my-face emblem of the pains of the world outside of this island, have been very perplexing and exhausting.

Spiros, as always, is right; the simple is the best.   Instead of feeling powerless, lazy, not living up to my full potential, and not taking full advantage of my birth right, my education, my finances….I have to give into some naïve faith. I have to appreciate all the small things, those very things people were willing to get on a boat to try to find, that sustain the Greek people during this time of crisis, and in the end are what are not just essential for survival but what make our lives truly rich and meaningful.

So, for now, I am surrounded by amazing people, old friends, my family, and I want to allow myself to enjoy the so simple.

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New Orleans, I’m Coming Home

I’ve been in New Orleans for almost two weeks now. Jazz Fest is over and tomorrow I start working back at Sobou.

Back to reality.

However, even with all the previous anticipation for this time to come, I am finding myself really happy. Maybe it’s because of the weather and smells the summer brings. Maybe it is because I’ve been living up Jazz Fest the past two weekends, or maybe because of the reunion with my family and friends in this beautiful city…I think this elation could be a mix of all those things.

This was one of the first times I returned from an adventure and realized that no matter how many places I fall in love with around the world, New Orleans will always be my home.

I mean, I guess my love for New Orleans is pretty obvious. I spend a large amount of time telling my friends from around the world just how AWESOME and SPECIAL New Orleans is. So, of course I’m happy to be back!

As many people know who live or have lived in New Orleans, this city gives the effect of an emotional rollercoaster. The highs, the lows, the in-betweens are all amplified a thousand fold. For my 10 years here, I’ve tried to understand ‘why’ but there really is no straight answer.

It’s the moon, it’s the weather, it’s the booze, it’s the swamp, it’s the bayou, it’s because the city is below sea level, it’s the ghosts, history, voodoo, food, and/or music. There are so many possible explanations.

So, even in the midst of writing this, whatever that New Orleans magic is, is giving me a twinge of longing for the people and places I spent the last two months visiting.

I think most people are used to having the typical milestones in life. Whether it is to buy a house, get married, or have a baby, to smaller life events like going to the Mardi Gras for the first time or Jazz Fest or whatever story a “New Orleans visit” provides for you to tell for the rest of your life.

However, when you LIVE here, when this is home, and story after story, event after event, even tragedy after tragedy is happening constantly, there is no respite. There is no time to process the joys and sorrows because once one epiphany or ecstatic moment or heartbreak is over; the next one has already begun and the city gets you wrapped up in ‘the moment’ AGAIN.

Right, so the ramble above comes down to THE MOMENT. It is all we have. And New Orleans can be a big reminder of that fact.

Several months ago I remember saying to my friend Erin,

“Oh I miss him so much! I miss that place and those people over there. What am I to do?!”

Erin said, “Well, enjoy the longing.”

“What?”

“Just enjoy that feeling. The longing. The pining. Try to enjoy it.”

I don’t think I have been able to really practice that until now. Until now, when the past two months I had been preparing for since last September have already come and gone. I’m back in New Orleans, again I am longing, again I am pining, but it is ok.

It is GOOD.

Joni Mitchell’s song, “California” is a great example describing what I’m feeling.  If the title and chorus were changed to New Orleans, it would be perfect.

Thanks New Orleans for always taking me as I am.

California by Joni Mitchell

Sitting in a park in Paris France
Reading the news and it sure looks bad
They won’t give peace a chance
That was just a dream some of us had
Still a lot of lands to see
But I wouldn’t want to stay here
It’s too old and cold and settled in its ways here
Oh but California
 
California I’m coming home
I’m going to see the folks I dig
I’ll even kiss a Sunset pig
California I’m coming home
 
I met a redneck on a Grecian isle
Who did the goat dance very well
He gave me back my smile
But he kept my camera to sell
Oh the rogue the red red rogue
He cooked good omelettes and stews
And I might have stayed on with him there
But my heart cried out for you California
 
Oh California I’m coming home
Oh make me feel good rock ‘n’ roll band
I’m your biggest fan
California I’m coming home
 
Oh it gets so lonely
When you’re walking
And the streets are full of strangers
All the news of home you read
Just gives you the blues
Just gives you the blues
 
So I bought me a ticket
Back on a plane to Spain
Went to a party down a red dirt road
There were lots of pretty people there
Reading Rolling Stone reading Vogue
They said “How long can you hang around?”
I said a week maybe two
Just until my skin turns brown
Then I’m going home to California
 
California I’m coming home
Oh will you take me as I am
Strung out on another man
California I’m coming home
Oh it gets so lonely
When you’re walking
And the streets are full of strangers
All the news of home you read
More about the war
And the bloody changes
Oh will you take me as I am?
Will you take me as I am?

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Where Y’At?

Over Christmas, I went on a cruise to the Bahamas.  The trip had been a plan in the making for the past two years.  My grandfather’s girlfriend, Pat, had organized the itinerary and invited all 28 family members to join.  Amazingly, this was kept a secret, and for my grandfather’s 90th birthday, we all showed up in Miami where we definitely surprised him.

Not only was it a great way to celebrate my Papa, but it was also a really wonderful thing to spend time with this side of my family.  There were cousins there who the last I saw had been a foot shorter than me, whereas now, they are at least a foot taller than me.  The best part was rediscovering everyone’s new passions, plans, interests, and personalities.  Family is family, and all I can say is that I’m so grateful to have them!

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So yes, it’s been a long time since I have written here.  That does not mean that nothing has been happening, or that my life has been lacking of adventures.  In complete honesty, I’m lazy, and have been turning all my focus and attention on saving money for the next….the next….well, who knows what?

This time in New Orleans has been as per usual, a type of emotional roller coaster.  However, I’m sure that it is not only New Orleans causing this life evaluation, but even more so the fact that I will be 29 in a couple of weeks….ya think??!!

September and October (and some of November) gave me a lot of time for personal insight.  Especially with the aid of my dear friend, Erin, who seems to always be there to aid in hashing out the typical ‘what are we doing with life/love/happiness/potential’ questions.  This inner work made for an interesting and somewhat reclusive Autumn.  New Orleans can only allow for a little of this exclusivity before it has to impose on your daily life….

For example:

I had some rowdy Cubans neighbors (sadly, they moved away this week) who were never too shy to chat.  Especially when they discovered that we would speak with them in Spanish.  Almost once a week, I find a magazine on my front porch that is titled, “Latina.”  This magazine includes all the new and hot make up tips, fashion, and dating advice in the Latina world….very interesting stuff.

One of the regular friends, who came to the Cubans house several days a week, drove a scooter.  Granted, it wasn’t his scooter that made his presence known from within our walls, but his booming and raspy voice.  I would wake up to hear him yelling about some debate with the neighbors on their porch.

“La bandera! La bandera!!!!”

There was always something he was passionately arguing about with his buddies.

It has only been a week since they moved out, but I miss them dearly.  Especially now that I am left with our other neighbor whose house was in between the Cubans and mine.

Now, the other neighbor, he is a very kind man.  We exchange pleasantries every time we see each other but then, in the night, maybe once or twice a week, I will hear a sound coming from the house that I have only been able to convince myself has to be someone having some sort of night terrors.

At the moment, my friend, Ali, has been living with me, after Erin left for Key West.  Ali and I will be in the living room talking, and all the sudden, this horrific noise will come from the house next door.  Like someone is having trouble breathing….it is BIZARRE.

Other ways New Orleans has been forcing its company into my life in ways I cannot ignore:

  1. Floras- Floras Café has been a safe haven for me for many years.  I always seem to find some sort of inspiration there.  Whether it be from an intellectual conversation with the owner, Ali, that always ends in an invite to dinner or escape from the cold or a great place to write, Floras always seems to provide me with some sort of inspiring experience.
  1. Little Maker- Little Maker is a band that I discovered because my dear friend Becca is the violin player in the group.  They play every Thursday and Sunday.  OK, truly, truly, I love them.  After so long in New Orleans, and trust me, LOVING New Orleans music, especially brass bands, Little Maker is something different.  No matter if it is a new song I’ve never heard, the sound and style always give me a sense of nostalgia of…of….I’m not sure what?  Summer days?  Sitting by the bayou or Lake Pontchartrain?  Sailing on boat?  Haha, all I can say is that seeing and listening to Little Maker makes me feel SO DAMN GOOD.

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  1. Sobou- My job.  I’ve been working at Sobou (a restaurant in the French Quarter) since September.  It has been really awesome.  Incredibly supportive, amazing food, awesome co-workers.  What else to say?  It makes me happy working there when I think of all the experiences that have stayed in my mind from past visits to New Orleans, where we would go to a restaurant and have…AN EXPERIENCE!  Haha, I mean, where else do you go to eat, and have AN EXPERIENCE.  Not only because the food is awesome, but because the staff is real, the ambience is made for it, and when all of those things come together, it is…well….an experience you don’t forget.  One of the most beautiful and important parts of NEW ORLEANS! Right?

Just a couple of pics of some awesome co-workers…

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So, New Orleans.  I guess all of life is a roller coaster of growth, emotion, and so on.  My time here has been very beneficial.  I do have plans to travel soon, but for now, I am soaking up the little time I have left in this beautiful and strange place.

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The Sunny Side of The Street

After many kilometers, many hours on buses through South America, and even a month in Greece and France I have made it to New Orleans.  I am subletting a house in Treme with my dearest friend, Erin.  Ultimately the plan for now is to find a job, work until I save a sufficient amount of money, and hopefully within that time decide on a new adventure.

However, even the New Orleans weather has proved to be an example to the way I have found my life to be.  Only moments ago the sun was shining, Gulf Coast clouds were rolling by and within seconds came thunder, lightning, and a torrential downpour of rain.

Who knows what the future will bring?

It only takes seconds to significantly change!

This moment though, seems to be exactly how I imagined it.  Enjoying a delicious coffee, keeping the doors open to enjoy the rain, WWOZ playing on the radio, the neighbors shouting, “Damn son!  That’s some rain!” and of course the company of someone who really knows what it means…(to miss New Orleans?)

Even with this symbolic pleasure of the rain I am having some difficulty adjusting to The Big Easy.  Although I am fully aware and keep in mind a mantra of, “this too shall pass” the first step is always the hardest.  

New Orleans has changed, I have changed, and I have a trepidation that I will never be able to see the city as I once did.  My resolution for this is to change my expectations because I have A LOT of expectations of my New Orleans.

I decided that I am going to take every lesson I learned from traveling to new places and apply it here.  The story can no longer be, “Oh yes, I went to Loyola, lived here for 5 years, and then off and on for these past 5 years.”  It simply has to be, “I live here now.”

In the meantime, during my transition, be prepared for some travel stories, great photos, and a new Map!

Below is the view from my window…how New Orleans is that?!

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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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Filed under Brasil

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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Filed under Bolivia, Brasil