Saturday, April 17, 2010

Adiós

Its been a few weeks now, and I had time to think back on my week in Brazil. It has been great in many ways. I have met some really warm locals, I have caught up with some of my best friends, who gathered in Salvador from all over the world (Italy, UK, New Zealand, United States) to share this happy event with Alessandro and Taise. I tried as much as possible to make time to see the place too. And Salvador is certainly a place to see. In many ways.


The city has many faces. A pretty historical district, dotted by colorful houses, a high city and a low city connected by an enormous elevator. There are some touristy and pricey areas near the beach, those areas that host one of the craziest Carnival parades in the world. The city population is mostly black, although it is not hard to spot some beautiful mixture of races.

Poverty is a big issue. If I thought San Francisco had a lot of homeless people, Salvador definitely beat it it its richer city districts. Then there are the poorer city districts. We walked near one by chance, while trying to reach a local market. Taise refers to it as favela. And definitely, it met the expectations I had to see unsafe, old buildings, dirt roads, people sitting around. The city council did not seem to care, since they built a structurally questionable viaduct right above it.

As one might expect in a poor city, crime rate is high. Especially in the richer areas. Everyday I spent at the hostel I had a chance to hear about people being pick pocketed, or mugged, not just in the dark alleys we would tend to avoid anyway. That worried me a bit, since I already had lost my luggage, and easily stood out as a tourist despite my attempts at buying local clothes.

The beach was so beautiful though, and every morning you could see people of all ages working out there. Kids playing football, youngsters playing Frisbee or foot volleyball (which is amazing to see), adults jogging and seniors doing pushups, right there by the sea. I have to say, coming from the US, watching these people bodies felt like seeing the next step in human evolution. Although it was probably more like the previous step in human involution.


Reading the press (yes, I found that I can read Portuguese), and watching news on TV, I got the feeling that Brazil is a country full of great people, proud of their country and of how quickly it is becoming a world power. I was saddened by the little sustainable it is though. People were boasting about finding some new oil reserves, and despite the widespread usage of biofuels, the origins of it can be partly connected to the destruction of the rainforest around the country. More in general, there seems to be little respect of an environment they have for so long taken for granted. Then again, as a westerner, who am I to throw the first stone.

 What about the food? The local cuisine of Bahia derives its roots from Africa, more than from the rest of South America. Muqueca is definitely something to try. It is something between a Spanish paella and an mild Thai curry, made with African spices and coconut milk. It looks like a seafood soup, served with flour and rice separately. Something common to the rest of the country, they love their meat. Things as a churrasco are visible in many places, although they seem to be very much of a luxury meal, more for the tourists than for the locals. More in the everyday menu is the carne ao sol (meat dried of a day or two in the Sun), served with a delicious manioc and cheese puree. My drinks of choice, good for rehydrating from the burning sun, was almost always a raw coconut, which I recommend to try with the local liqueur, Cachasa.