While this post does not represent my overall feelings for Salvador, these are a few words that represent my first day in the city.
Overwhelmed. Scared. Lost. Shit show. Ugly. Dirty. Rainy. Really Scared. Wet. Frustrated. WTF. Did I mention scared?
I love traveling but unfortunately I get extremely “car sick” on all types of transportation.
My trip to Salvador included a 6 hour bus ride to Bom Despacho through a handful of small, Bahian coastal towns protected by an excessive amount of speed bumps, an hour long boat ride across the Bahia de todos os Santos and then another city bus ride to the ‘house’ we thought we were staying at. In an attempt to avoid getting sick on the bus, I loaded up on ginger pills, ginger and honey candy, and ginger mints. I’m not sure if it is possible to overdose on ginger, but if it is, I did! I was also armed with saltine crackers and diet Sprite. While I defeated all feelings of nausea, I was overwhelmed by the daunting migraines, feelings of exhaustion and the urge to punch anything that came within three feet of me. Needless to say, I was ready to get there and relax. Hah….like that would happen.
Before leaving for Salvador a student of mine told me that her son lived on Salvador and that he would be more than willing to host us during our stay. Free housing? Ummmm yes! I spoke to Danillo (my student’s extremely handsome son) before arriving and assumed that our set meeting time was exactly that…set. How American of me.
Nightfall was quickly approaching as Sarah and I wondered around Salvador reeking of public transportation and fear. After an hour or so and about five failed attempts of contacting Danillo, we found the “house”. I say “house” because that’s what I was expecting and that is exactly what we did not get. Danillo lives in the co-ed university house of UFBA. It is a gigantic plantation style house that sits on Corredor da Victoria (a main street in Salvador) and the ocean. Because Danillo was not there, we were forced to wait in the commons area until he returned. When Brazilians say that they will be back in an hour or two you should expect them in 3-5 hours.
After a while, the security guards and other students began to take pity on us and invited us to stay in their room. It was already 11PM and Sarah and I were exhausted and out of ideas. They were friends of the son of one of my students…..close enough connection, right?
We got to their room and that’s when I knew our trip had just gotten a lot more interesting. The overwhelming scent of marijuana and boy stench flooded my nostrils. The walls were filled with drawings, proverbs, Polaroids and messages from previous students and travelers. We plopped our stuff down on our new bunk bed and hashed out our plan for the next day. Even though I was beyond terrified to be staying in a room with two men, in a city that hadn’t been that welcoming with someone who was just as lost as I was, I still managed to fall asleep. Hopefully the next day wouldn’t be as bad.
After a tediously long day of Portuguese courses, a samba dance class and a what seemed to be never ending trek through a terencial downpour, Sarah and I finally made it back to the Residencia Universitaria da UFBA–our home for the week. Tired, soaking wet, and yearning to sleep in my own bed, I was slightly anxious about going to bed in our shared room. I had already survived one night, but what if that was their plan? What if they loured us in with kindness and then planned to rape and kidnap us. Yes, this is where my mind goes when I am left alone to think about things. But surprisingly, what started out as unknown, terrifying territory was in that moment my sanctuary. As I was lying in bed translating Portuguese verbs in the subjunctive one of the boys serenaded us on the guitar while another friend, Oscar, sang and occasionally read poetry to the light batucada Samba beat.
My private show came to an end as my thoughts and worries floated away on the soothing lyrics of Novos Baiano’s Misterio do Planeta. Today was slightly better.
Like I mentioned before, Sarah and I took a class at a Portuguese language school called Idioma. At first I wasn’t sure if a week of classes was worth so much money, but during our second day of class I started feeling confident in Portuguese for the first time. We attended class from 8:30 AM to 12:30 PM with quite the diverse group. Our cohert consisted of a German that never showed up, a Colombian girl, a Polish who speaks 6 languages, a Dutch girl and a Kiwi.
On this day I was determined to get out and see the city, but it of course rained again. Did I mention there was a McDonald’s down the street from our house? Sarah and I, satisfying that American beast the resides in all of us, shared a few meals there during our time in Salvador. It’s strange how much you start missing things just because they’re American when you’re abroad. During my last year in the United States I maybe ate at McDonald’s and/or Burger King three times. Here in Brazil, I have eaten McDonald’s every chance I get. Maybe that explains the three noticeable kilos I have gained these last two months.
All day Brazilians had been telling us about the famous concert they have every Tuesday night in Pelourinho. So Sarah and I set out on our own despite the less than pleasant weather and the fact that we had no idea where we were going. On the bus I asked a semi-safe looking man where we should get off. He happened to live in Pelourinho and was heading to the same concert. He walked us through Pelourinho all the while telling us that we were crazy for coming here on our own…..that seems to be the common reaction from Brazilians.
The concert was cancelled because of the weather (stupid rain), but little did we know that our night was about to get a whole lot better! We ended up at a local, underground samba club called Suvaco da Cobra. The Cobra’s Armpit. It was fantastic! I love samba! I love listening to it, dancing to it and doing everything else that can be done that perfect samba beat. A blog post on samba’s history and the joy it brings to my life coming soon.
I danced all night and even ran into a friend from Ilheus. Fausto! What seemed like a ruined day turned out to be a fantastic experience of what Brazil and Salvador really have to offer–Unexpected friendships, intense cultural experiences basked in Brazilian history and opportunities for personal growth.
Don’t forget to subscribe to my blog! The last half of my Salvador story coming soon!
Samba at Suvaco da Cobra ❤