Saturday, December 13, 2008

Lambada? Seriously? Hell yes!

Barra nightlife - yes!

I didn't think I'd get to go out much, as I'm on my own and from all I've been told and all I've heard, I shouldn't go out at night on my own. But dinner time is okay, and last night I went down to the beach looking for a place that had been recommended, not finding it, and winding up in the same place I was at the first night - Portal Do Mar. Right outside by the entrance was Felipe, my travel crush/apartment manager. He was with another guy from the office whose name is Carlos, I think; a tall, lean black man with a brilliant smile and very nice English. I spoke with them for a moment before being spotted by my flirty waiter, and went inside to have some food.

The Brazilian food I was familiar with was mainly steak, grilled steak. Bread, yuca, beans & rice... that sort of thing. But Bahia's influences are much more African than elsewhere in the country, so there are dishes here that are specific to the state. I had a red snapper moqueca, which is basically a fish stew made with coconut milk and palm oil (which is a staple here), as well as lime juice, tomato and onion. It didn't taste as exotic as I thought it would - which is certainly not a complaint! I think the guides I'd read don't take it into consideration if you grew up eating South American food which uses similar ingredients and styles. It was yummy. But I was really wowed by the pirao (which is a Brazilian thing instead of just a Bahia thing), which was sort of like polenta: yuca flour and seafood broth, thickened. Mmmmmm... Oh, and I had my first caipirinha, which you can get in the States too, but it tastes better in Brazil - especially if you're gazing at the ocean in Barra while drinking it.

There were a lot of people hanging out, having beers on the sidewalk. A troplicalia band was playing on the sidewalk down the block. It was Friday night! Felipe & Carlos had been joined by a very hot friend; I just kept thinking about how I assumed there were lots of sexy people in Brazil, and was seeing evidence of it every second I was there. Then I thought, "Wait, maybe they are all gay!" I was in a restaurant with 3 rainbow stickers on the windows (this was why I went in the first time - gay friendly is my scene, after all). I'd seen Felipe there the other night too... Wouldn't it be just like me to crush on a gay? Actually, no, I'm better at that. The next thing you know, Felipe and Carlos are inside (sadly, the hot friend had left) sitting at my table, buying me drinks. We chatted for about an hour, and both of them offered to show me around a little while I was in town. Oh, everyone is so friendly here!

Carlos had to go, so Felipe and I walked back to my place, since he happens to live in the building next door. He also had another client on the block who had locked himself out, and decided we should grab that guy and all go out to a bar and go dancing. Yes! I loved that plan! So after dropping off my leftovers and a quick shower, we reconvened and met the Belgian. (I never got his name, actually.) He was with a (sexy) Brazilian woman, and the four of us went to Bohemia Music Bar. The Belgian was very sweet, but obviously a little disappointed that the place was packed with guys when we got there. More women started showing up as it got later, but the DJ was still on (playing Madonna and stuff) and we were all waiting for the band.

Once the band went on, things got really fun. Every song they did, the whole crowd knew. I kinda love that. It isn't the same when a cover band in the States plays, because these songs (in a Latin country anyway) are practically standards, if not actually standards, and they sure seem a lot more fun than most US standards! I mean, can you sexy dance to a US standard? I think not.

We were all dancing at that point. I had on a long dress to cover (and hopefully deter) my mosquito bites, but all the beer was helping me to forget about them. "You dance like a Caribbean!" said Felipe. "I'm only half gringo, you know," I replied. The Belgian was laughing at his inability to dance, so I grabbed his hips and said, "Just shake these." I gave him a little push and got him going. He did okay!

Then the band burst out into the Lambada. You know, "The Forbidden Dance." My cheese-o-meter went through the roof, but everyone in the room was still stoaked. "Lambada!" Felipe yelled, and grabbed me for forbidden dancing. But I didn't know it (I can move, but I don't know "the" moves) so he led me through, and, well, I don't know what's so forbidden about it - except that in the States we never want to hear it again. It's a whole thing in Brazil, though, because that's where it originated and that's where it will live. I learned a couple other dances that will probably never return to my brain again, because that night ended with all of us happily drunk and crashing out around 3am.

I woke up this morning at 7am because someone drove by the place with a speaker blaring something out of the bed of a truck. It was like a stereo just was turned on with the volume at 11 directly in my head. Now I don't really get hangovers, but I'd only slept a couple hours and was not feeling my best. Going back to sleep wasn't an option either, as someone's phone in the complex started ringing like crazy. This apartment has a kitchen with an adjoining washroom that has a half wall, for air circulation I guess, overlooking a small courtyard. Which is part of the reason there is only so much I can do about the mosquitoes - you can basically never close the windows here. Because of that, you can also hear conversations if held near this open space, echoing into the courtyard. Music, TVs, telephones... lots of reverb. I was up.

So I ate my leftovers and went to the beach. There was evidently some sort of competition being held - swimming and volleyball. And all old guys. The volleyball players were supposedly 60+; I'm not sure about the swimmers. There were also lots of boats out and about, TONS of people everywhere, and vendors, vendors, vendors. I didn't get any pictures as I'd left my camera behind - I'd been told many times to go to the beach with nothing but your towel if you can; stuff gets stolen off the beach all the time, especially when it's crowded. So I spent the day lying in the sun, ready, and occasionally hopping in the water to cool my inflamed bug bites.

The beach was so great, I'm going to have to force myself to check out other parts of Salvador, but I have faith. And bug repellent. And sun block.