Hi friends! Sorry for being incommunicado this past week. We had various Internet problems—we had to return our modem thingie to Denise, who had lent it to us, and the hotel promised us wifi in the lobby but it only worked about a third of the time. And I was too busy to go hunting for Internet cafés.
But anyway, we’re in Salvador now, and our hostel has semi-decent wifi, so I can blog again! Hooray! Here’s what we’ve been up to since last I wrote:
Friday before last, we traveled outside Fortaleza to a sugarcane farm/cachaça factory. The farm is very small and dates back to the days of slavery, and they make some money on the side by hosting tours of it. They’ve converted the “casa grande” (slavemaster house) into a historical museum, which is dedicated to informing the Brasilian public about the horrors of slavery, as well as the importance it has in Brasilian history. As I stated before, Ceará was the first Brasilian state to end slavery, so the museum has some information about that, too. It was really cool, and we got to drink some 40-year-old cachaça, which was delicious. I also bought an excessive number of cachaça bottles to take home. The brand of cachaça that this particular farm produces is called Douradinha, and it’s excellent—way better than the typical Ypioca stuff you can get all over Brazil. After seeing the farm, we visited a small “eco-tourism” resort that had natural waterfalls.
Last weekend was a trip, literally and figuratively. Annette and I accompanied Denise, Tshombe, and their daughter Bea to Canto Verde, which is a tiny and very non-touristy beach near Fortaleza. The community of Canto Verde, which is a fishing community, has decided to adamantly resist touristic development. The only people who are permitted to build on the land are people who grew up in the town, or are related to (by blood or by marriage) someone who did. Because of this, it’s basically just houses, one or two barracas, a few shops, and dunes. It reminded me a lot of Fire Island, in a way. It was gorgeous, and we stayed in a really cool little house that was maybe 30 yards from the ocean. They fish there using traditional wooden boats, the same that have been used in that region for hundreds of years. Several times a day, a few dozen men, young and old, rig up the boats and go collect fish. It was interesting to watch.
The weekend was quite relaxing, up until Sunday when we were about to leave. We went to go eat lunch at a barraca, and during that time, Denise’s dog Jade (whose name I just learned how to spell correctly—it is pronounced “Ja-gee” with a soft J) disappeared. Tshombe and Denise looked all over for Jade for a couple hours, but found nothing. Then Denise mentioned to a local woman that she was offering a reward, and like magic, the woman suddenly seemed to know where the dog was. She was about to lead Denise to it, when, sitting at the barraca, we witnessed a group of young men running across the sand, carrying Jade. Someone in our group started yelling “That’s our dog! That’s our dog!” and as soon as the men heard this, they did a 180-degree turn and started sprinting in the other direction. A couple of Denise’s friends pursued them, and got the dog back, even though the men were saying that it was really their dog (which was obviously a lie). We left very soon after that. What happened—we suspect—is that the men (who may have been in cahoots with the woman Denise spoke to) kidnapped the dog and planned to accept a reward for “finding” it when its owner came looking. Crazy, huh?
Anyway, we all returned safe and sound. Monday through Wednesday, we had more Portuguese classes and completed our last week of volunteering at the community center. We actually did manage to paint a mural there. The children didn’t participate as much as I’d originally planned, because having them participate was somewhat chaotic, but they did get to put their handprints all over a wall. We worked really hard on the mural and it came out beautifully. Seriously, it’s amazing, and the place looks really great now. My role was basically art director/designer, though I had some design help from others in our group. I will be sure to post pictures. On Wednesday, we had a going-away party with all the kids and mothers from the community center. It was such a lovely occasion. Happiness and sadness, all at once. I’m going to miss them!
This past Thursday, we had our final Portuguese exam, and then Annette, Tatiana, and I all went to a beauty salon in Fortaleza, because I wanted to get my nails done. We ended up spending quite a while there, because Annette decided she wanted a haircut, and I also opted to get an eyebrow wax. (Brasilians are all about the hair removal, so you can trust them to do it right!) Except it wasn’t a wax, because for whatever reason, the woman who did my eyebrows decided to pluck them instead. I guess it’s because I told her really specifically what shape I wanted, and she wanted to get it right? I don’t know, but I certainly wasn’t expecting it! It hurt like hell, and it took a lot longer than a wax would have, but she did a very good job. Don’t worry, my eyebrows pretty much look normal—just a lot nicer, and more shaped. I guess you can say I had a truly authentic Brasilian experience ;-)
Yesterday morning, we said goodbye to Fortaleza and flew out to Salvador at about 7 am. Salvador, which is the most famous city in the state of Bahia, is BEAUTIFUL. It’s incredibly vibrant and has tons of great things to see. The city has held strongly onto its African roots, which is a nice change from Fortaleza. For various complex reasons, people in Ceará tend to downplay their Native American/Indian and African origins. Most people there are some shade of brown, but black people are few and far between. Bahia is much different—there are many more black people here, and Afro-Brasilian culture is actively celebrated. Capoeira is very popular in Salvador, for example.
This post is getting long, so I’m going to end it here. I will write a few more posts this weekend, taking advantage of the wifi, and there I will post pictures and give more details on our exploits in Salvador. I hope all of you are doing well!