For the last 10 days I’ve been in Salvador, Bahia. :)
What did I do there you ask? :)
I hung out with my friend Duron, who is currently living there..! He’s an artist from Brooklyn, so we bonded over missing home and all the good food there is in NYC. But of course we’re happy to be in Brazil, enjoying all it has to offer.. :P
Mostly, I spent all my nights training aerial silks and floor acrobatics at Circo Picolino…
I went to an island village called Morro de São Paulo…
The boat ride to and from Salvador to get to Morro de São Paulo reminded me of taking the ferry from Manhattan to Governor’s Island, although it was a couple of hours rather than 20 minutes..
One the boat ride back from Morro de São Paulo to Salvador, I met some lovely kids from Recife and São Paulo…
After we were back in Salvador, Bruno and Henrique offered to give us all a ride home since they had rented a car. It is such a luxury to be able to travel by car in Brazil. I love it. They dropped me off at the Museum of Modern Art, since I wanted to check out the famous “Jam no MAM” night (a jazz jam session at the museum that happens every weekend).
Later that evening, Bruno and Henrique invited me to go out with them to some gay clubs. So they picked me up at my hostel and we headed over to a couple of gay clubs. The second club, San Sebastian, is one of the biggest in Salvador, and we danced ’til 4am…
…Man, I haven’t done that since college. Okay, so college wasn’t that long ago, but clubbing till dawn is exhausting. Jesus. My transition from college kid to old granny is almost complete. Also, they played mostly terrible American pop. Not even GOOD American pop.
I visited the Elevador Lacerda…
I went to a bunch of shopping malls (one was Shopping Barra)…
…Malls are such a thing in this country.
I always thought malls were a very American thing, but Brazilians LOVE them some shopping malls. Especially in Salvador, malls are a huge attraction I think because they represent comfort and luxury. They’re always gigantic, clean, bright, and cool (serious air conditioning) — the exact opposite of what’s immediately outside of their walls.
Duron also took me to a small, un-touristy, little beach called Praia do Buracão, which means “Beach of the Big Hole”…. Um, yeah, I don’t know why it’s called that.
I made a friend at my hostel too! Carlos, who worked at the hostel where I stayed (Hostel Porto Salvador), is a sweetheart. He offered to show me around the city a bit, and so we went to the Museum of Modern Art.
The museum even has its own private beach..!
And there was a strange exhibit involving a naked man and a lot of hair….
I also ate lots of traditional Bahian food like acarajé (a black eyed pea fritter, deep fried in palm oil and usually served with fried little shrimps, green/red tomatoes, and hot peppers)…
…as well as abará (which is just like acarajé, except the fritter is baked, not fried).
Initial observations (and probably gross generalizations) about Salvador:
- Um, it’s kind of scary, if you don’t know what the fuck you’re doing (like me).
- Traffic is just as bad (if not worse) than Rio.
- Bahians are really nice :)
- THE FOOD. Bahian food is the best Brazilian food there is. Rio can suck it. In general I find food in Rio de Janeiro to be bland and oversalted. In Salvador, they really know how to use spices. YES.
- Race is a big deal. Much of the city’s population is black, aka Afro-Brazilian. I’m not an expert in the matter, so I’ll spare you my un-nuanced understanding of race in Bahia.
- Class. Rich ass motherfuckers, poor ass motherfuckers. A lot of the latter. (This is true of a lot of Brazil, and the world, though.)
- Having a car seemed to me to be one of the most obvious markers of class (not unlike Rio de Janeiro). If you have a car, you’re probably white. And if you have a car, you have access to a lot of ritzy places that you can’t just get to by foot.
I think, in general, Salvador is also slightly more dangerous than Rio de Janeiro’s South Zone (Zona Sul, where I live). The following example isn’t really indicative of anything, but it definitely set the tone for my time in Salvador.
One night, around 9:30pm, after circus class, I walked to the closest bus stop near circus school which is located kind of in the middle of nowhere (a neighborhood called Pituaçu). The streets were pretty deserted, except for the occasional car. Some guy in a car drove up to the bus stop, rolled down his passenger-side window, and asked me where I was going. I ignored him.
Then he asked, “Are you going to Barra? I’ll take you there.” I was, indeed, going to Barra, but I was definitely not getting in the car with him.
He kept talking to me and trying to get me to get in the car with him, but I just kept on ignoring him. Eventually he drove off.
An older man who looked like he was in his 50s walked up to the bus stop with a woman who looked like she was in her 70s. They waited for a while until a bus pulled up and she got on. The man turned to leave but, upon catching my eye, stopped, and said, “Are you alone? It’s not very safe to be here all alone as a young lady you know…. I’ll wait with you until your bus comes…”
He then waited with me for a little bit until another car drove up and stopped by the sidewalk. This time it turned out to be a fellow classmate who had just taken acrobatics class with me at the circus. His mother had picked him up at the circus, and they were on their way home.
“Where are you headed? Jump in, we’ll give you a ride. It’s really not safe here at this bus stop…”
I thanked him, relieved. I turned to thank the old man who had been waiting with me, who simply nodded and said goodnight before turning to walk away.
…Suffice to say, after that, I never waited at that bus stop again, and always asked for a ride to a safer/more crowded bus stop from someone at the circus. And I felt like Bahians really take care of each other. :)
All in all, I learned a lot, and I saw a part of Brazil that I had been hoping to see. I was actually the only person in the dorm room at my hostel, so I basically had my own room and bathroom to myself while I was there. Still, since there’s no subway system in Salvador, the only way to get around without a car is by bus, which generally takes a long time. And I thought Rio de Janeiro was bad..!
I’m suuuuper glad to be back in Rio and am feeling very thankful for all the things I have… :)