Thursday, December 11, 2008

Bugs, Boys & Brazil

Here is the first official report from Brazil.

Oh, did I forget to mention that's where I'm going? Not if you've spent any time in my personal space in the last couple of months!

After a couple long and bouncy flights, I arrived in sultry, sweaty Salvador, Brazil. My wonderful friend Kitaytay has a place here that I get to crash in - a few blocks from the ocean and next to one of the most hopping bars in town, evidently.

I took a taxi driven by Forest Whitaker's twin brother, who had a great laugh and a general disrespect for traffic rules. As did most of the other drivers, but not to as horrifying an extent that I remember Colombia being many, many years ago. This driver really wanted to talk to me, and I would have loved to have talked to him, but after having been awake for a day and a half and knowing close to no Portuguese, we found it just wasn't working. I somehow asked him to put on some music he liked - which he did. And he sang along.

After a moment of decompression at the apartment, I went for a little wander. I like to get the feel of the neighborhood, check out what's nearby... buy a jug of amoeba-free water. You know. Kitaytay's place is located in Barra, a nice suburb of Salvador that's nothing but coast. I'm under the impression that's just how the city of Salvador works - plenty of beach action, just the way I like it.

I went down the main drag, Ave. 7 de Setembro, along Porto da Barra, the main beach. The sun was just going down, and there were people everywhere. Voluptuous babes in bikinis on bicycles, shirtless men sitting on the boardwalk walls drinking beer, vendors selling jewelry and t-shirts, and lots of joggers. On my brief walk down I found myself oh-so-sexily dripping in sweat, and can only imagine how much water weight alone they must have lost on that one run. I walked behind a man who was sort of skipping and singing for a bit. I didn't pass him, because in my experience, that is usually a sign of some form of insanity. On my way back, I must have passed 3 people who were singing and or dancing, so I figure this town likes its tuneage. I'd heard that Bahia is a musical place, and so we'll see how that turns out.

I stopped into an empty restaurant with a lovely menu - lots of steak. And yuca. How I do love yuca! I grew up on the stuff. I'm also an unrepentant meat-eater, and vowed that "Steak will be had!" on this trip. Since I was completely exhausted but needed to stay up just a little bit longer, I opted to start my stay here with a nice meal. The waiter hit on me immediately - or perhaps he was just really, really friendly. His name was Lihourino (and God knows I couldn't have spelled that right) and he obviously knew that flirting is an excellent appetizer to steak.

While I was eating, Felipe, the manager of Kitaytay's place, happened by and popped in to say hello. I decided to have a little crush on this guy because he's sort of dorky cute and has a stutter. Mmmmmm... stutters! He knew the waiter and we all talked for a bit, then he told the waiter to treat me right and make sure my steak was perfect, and was off into the night.

After dinner, I absolutely had to crash, but the bar next door was over the top loud and partying. Normally, this isn't a problem for me - and it wasn't tonight either, as I immediately fell asleep on the couch. This was a bad decision, because when I woke up I found that my calves and feet had been mauled by mosquitoes. Oops!

Today found me getting this Macintosh laptop working (who knew that Brazil is anti-Apple? I do now!) and getting online to... sigh... work. Yes, I still have to do some work while I'm here, but hopefully not too much! But after that triumphant deed (which would not have been possible without Max, who knows nothing about Macs but is just one of those computer guys - or perhaps Max inherently understands Macs? Doh - sorry,I couldn't help myself), I finally went out to explore Barra.

Sights to be seen! The Porto da Barra (main beach), and the Farol da Barra - a lighthouse originally built in 1534 which also houses a small nautical museum. The museum features items from various wrecks (guess the light was out), models and illustrations of Portuguese vessel evolution (there's even a drawing of a Neanderthal on a log!), and - coolest of all - those same ships done in miniature, in bottles. Yes, an entire display of ships in bottles, about 16 of them, all relevant to the museum. It was awesome. Then on to Morro Do Cristo, where a friendly statue of Jesus holds one hand out to the sea ushering the ships in. (Maybe the aforementioned wrecks couldn't see him, although he is painted white.)

There were also lots of lizards on the lawn admiring the view. Lizards the size of my foot. I'm not afraid of lizards - I like them very much. Unless they hiss at me or show some teeth or something; that's just not friendly. I didn't have to worry about friendly though - there was enough whistling and hooting coming from the inside of cars or male passers-by to let everyone in town know that everyone in town is more than friendly. I don't know how some of these guys are able to have conversations, since they are a bit preoccupied with just about every woman on the street. I have to admit, hearing anyone drawl out "liiiiinda" at me (which means "beautiful") as I pass, with my hair big from humidity sticking in a stringy mess to my sweaty back and getting caught under my armpits, and flaring mosquito bites all over my legs and feet, was kind of nice. Until I heard the next lady get it too - then you start to think, maybe it's all about sheer numbers and probabilities.

I found a supermarket on the way back, and had to go in. Cheese - I needed cheese! And while I was at it, I figured I might as well pick up some fruit and stuff. In the check out line, the lady behind me was singing. She was the best singer I'd heard so far, and I couldn't help but smile. She was in her fifties, a little chubby with curly black and gray hair, wearing a fetchingly patterned brown and beige floral print shirt. (Brown & beige flowers? It's new to me too.) When she caught me smiling, it only encouraged her. She started to do a little dance too, and hammed up the singing a bit. Now the checker and I were both laughing. She said something funny then, and I really wish I knew what it was.

I got home and started washing my fruit when I felt a tickle on my arm. I assumed it was just another scraggly flyaway hair, but no, it was a white spider about 2 inches wide. I HATE spiders. Not in a screamy girl kind of way, but in a "that spider no longer exists in any universe" kind of way. It was living in the grapes. I found its little spider home. Obliterated that too.

Dinner eaten, beach washed off (of course, I walked along the shore as much as possible), and hair... um... ignored, I settled in to indulge in a little TV. Really. One channel shows all sorts of American TV in English. Hey, I'm a bit jetlagged, okay? Besides, I would never have seen my new favorite commercial in the whole world, which I will now share with you.

And now, to figure out what comes next...