My Last Pelourinho Tuesday and an Encounter with a (Rabid?) Cat

Salvador da Bahia Travel Blog

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It was my last Tuesday night in Pelourinho (Bencao) and I wanted it to be a fun one. We'd had a few weeks of weird Tuesday nights- a guy had a seizure on the dance floor, tropical rainstorms, and a crazy local bothering us. So some of my roommates wanted to stay in but I convinced them they had to come out for my last Bencao. When we arrived in Pelourinho, it was more crowded than usual. You could definitely sense that Brazilian summer and the holidays were approaching.

There were large groups of tourists wearing nametags- "Hello my name is: Charlie Johnson from Oklahoma" I think it's really funny and a little dumb to go to an area that's known for tourist muggings and pretty much advertise that you're a gringo. The week before, a new volunteer was walking through Pelourinho and amidst the crowd and the tourist police, someone yanked her gold chain from her neck. She got it back, but it's not the best way to kick off your volunteer experience. Anyway, there were a lot of minor muggings but if you are careful and aware, you can avoid this.

We went to our regular fruitstand and ordered morangoroskas (fresh strawberries and vodka). We hung out with the regular street kids. I promised some of the kids a few weeks before that I would buy necklaces from them before I left. It's a difficult situation because you want to support them but at the same time, you feel like they need to be at home getting some sleep instead of selling things to tourists and staying out so late. But of course, it's a situation I don't fully understand. And at least many of the kids are making a few honest Reais selling necklaces instead of pickpocketing or being strung out on drugs and begging for change.

After hanging out in the square and checking out the concert, we went to watch Banda Dida and Swing do Pelo play their drums in the streets. The crowd was huge and there was a ton of energy in the air. Swing do Pelo usually starts on one street of Pelourinho and then goes to a stage in Largo do Pelourinho where they stop. But they kept going further through Pelourinho and they kept pounding away at their drums. I was dancing amongst many familiar faces and in that moment, I felt like I had assimilated. Throughout my life, almost everywhere I go, I've gotten used to not being able to blend in. So it's such a different feeling for me to feel completely at home. Until a few years ago when I started to learn I about Bahia, I wouldn't have expected to find that feeling in Brazil.

They kept playing but after some time we decided to leave to go to Habeas Copus. I was getting pretty decent at dancing to forro by this time and not stepping on quite so many toes. I decided to take a break and return to the table to chat with the other volunteers and my favorite waiter. I was standing by a table and all of a sudden I heard a cat growl and a second later felt a sharp pain in my right ankle. I was bitten by a stray cat! I kept saying, "ow, ow, ow" because I didn't know what else to do... especially knowing that rabies is a problem there and I hadn't gotten a rabies vaccination before I left... so I was a little freaked out. I didn't think I would need the vaccination because I didn't plan on working with animals. Everyone around me at the table was really confused. Eventually my roommate Romy understood that I was bitten by a cat and so we took off to find a cab to go back to the house. We got home and started dialing some numbers, not sure who to talk to. A bunch of volunteers showed up soon after- they left when they  realized what had happened. We decided the best thing was to call the house manager, Vini.

We got a hold of him and he told me I'd have to wait until the next day to go to the rabies clinic. I was convinced there was somewhere I could get a vaccination that night. So he came and took me to the hospital. One of the new volunteers, Suzanne, had been bitten by a dog in Nepal and been through a similar scenario so she came along for moral support. Vini was right, of course, and the hospital had tetanus vaccinations but no rabies vaccinations. So the doctor gave me a shot and some hydrogen peroxide and iodine to clean the bite.

I woke up the next morning even more convinced that I had rabies and that I would start foaming at any moment. Vini took me to the rabies clinic at the public medical center (free healthcare, what a concept) and Suzanne came along again. The sign said it was open from 7am-11am daily. It was comforting but somewhat disturbing. Also disturbing was the large group of people waiting for vaccinations. There was no line and no sign in sheet, just people spread throughout the open air waiting room. Somehow there was an order. When it was finally our turn, we went inside and the nurse gave me a quick shot and gave me instructions translated by Vini. She gave me a card with the dates on which I would need to get four more vaccinations and two of them were on travel days. One was the day I was leaving Salvador and another was the day I was heading home. You have to get the shots on the exact day or else they are useless. The next one would probably be fine but the one after would be tricky because I'd be getting home too late to do anything so I'd have to figure it out in Sao Paulo in Miami. After the first vaccination, I was more calm and the situation was little more humorous. When I got home and told the story, the first thing people said in response was "How did you get bitten by a cat in Brazil???" I have no idea!
tvillingmarit says:
What an adventure, hope you are okay
Posted on: May 09, 2008
samsmith_ndt says:
Wow, I hope you got over it!
Rabid animals do just attack you, don't they... I hope you can keep your teeth out of your friends these days ;)
Posted on: Jun 27, 2007
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