6 Week Update
Salvador da Bahia Travel Blog› entry 11 of 13 › view all entries
I have been in
Last weekend, I went with a group of Brazilian friends to the small town of
CandomblĂ© deities have individual personalities, skills, and ritual preferences, and are connected to specific natural phenomena. Each OrixĂˇ can also be connected to a Catholic Saint, a technique used to help cover up the fact that they were practicing a religion outside of the law. Every person is chosen at birth by one or more "patron" spirits, or OrixĂˇs, identified by a priest. These OrixĂˇs are evoked during the public ceremony, and the people fall into a trance-like state. After having fallen into trance, the OrixĂˇs perform dances symbolic of their attributes. The ceremony begins at night and could last up to six oâ€™clock in the morning, depending on the amount of OrixĂˇs present. The ceremony was unlike anything I have ever seen, though after attending it, many of the day-to-day things I have seen around
I even had a chance to spend a week in the Amazon rainforest with a Native guide. It was, by far, one of the most amazing experiences of my life. The jungle is a captivating place; I was in constant awe by the vastness of its beauty. I saw many animals I never expected to see in the jungle, such as fresh water dolphins, both pink and grey. It was amazing to see a Boto, a pink dolphin, which looked almost prehistoric. I had a very knowledgeable guide that taught us the surviving tactics of the jungle. We hiked and canoed during the days, caught our own food, and slept in hammocks under the canopy of the many lush trees of the rainforest. It was an incredible trip that I feel so fortunate to have experienced.
I have been keeping busy in
My Portuguese has been advancing quickly and I am now having private lessons in an advanced level. I have begun reading a novel in Portuguese that my host mom has lent me. I live with a wonderfully hospitable family directly across the street from the language school I attend. NĂˇdia, the mother, is a joy to be around. She is so positive and open and loves to chat with me about everything from spirituality to literature. She has a twelve year old daughter, Amanda, who is a sweet girl that I have been giving English lessons to as well. The father works in the interior of Brazil and only comes home on the weekends, and her other two daughters are studying at university in Rio de Janeiro. They have been more than helpful in my adjustment to Brazilian culture. Unfortunately, I was unable to get in touch with Rotary for over a month since my counselor was in New York. With help from Natalia at Evanston Rotary International, I was finally able to get in touch with the local club and have been attending their meetings for dinner on Wednesday nights. My counselor has invited me to dinner with his family next week.
Bahia is a very hot and humid place, and the people are warm and hospitable. They are in no hurry for anything and live a passive life, taking pleasure in simple things. There is a strong presence of poverty, yet the people seem genuinely content. Ninety percent of the population makes less than minimum wage, a distressing $300 Reis a month, which equals to about $150 US dollars. A large portion of the population is excluded from this statistic because they make their money by digging through rubbish to find recyclables, begging for money, or selling trinkets on the beach, the street, and in the busses. Many of the street children and people living in favelas are not included in any of these statistics because a lot of them have no identification. It does break my heart to see so many children on the street begging for money with the depressing knowledge that many of them are already addicted to drugs by the age of nine. Just the other day I saw children sniffing glue in the middle of a park in broad daylight. I know that I cannot give them money for that reason, and do buy them food
when they take it (some refuse food), and have to convince myself that volunteering my time is actually worth something.
classes. It is so defined that there are neighborhoods and even shopping centers for Social Class A, Class B and Class C. Most of the time one is easily defined by their skin color, the darker being on the lower end of the social pyramid and the small percentage of light skinned people on top. They have over a hundred words for different skin color in Portuguese. Unfortunately, there still exists a level of racism, even though the city is over 80% Negro. Many of the buildings have two elevators, one for the people who live there, and another for the maids, which are all dark skinned. The city is an odd mixture of poor and not-so poor. The sidewalks vary from hand placed stones that look like mosaics, and dirt. All along the beach, people sell coconut water right out of the coconut, acarejĂ© (a traditional Bahian food), sticks of cheese heated from a tin of coals they carry around, shrimp, fish, and anything that will get them even the smallest amount of money from tourists. All along the streets are fresh fruit vendors. Right between two high buildings with ocean view are small favelas with houses made of mud, no solid doors or windows and dirt roads. Most favelas consist of many small apartments the size of a bedroom stacked upon eachother with a dangerous amount of electical cord strung from everywhere to fuel the whole community. Men dressed in classy business suits walk between shoeless children. It certainly is a city of contrasts.
However, the general feeling is good and people seem to take joy in the simple fact that they are alive, the sun is shinning, and the beautiful tropical scenery. There is always music playing and people are always smiling. Despite the many depressing sights I see on a day-to-day basis, I see a genuine happiness. They are filled with a beautiful energy. They play music on top of trash cans, use anything as percussion, sing, and dance everywhere. After all, Samba is the dance of the favelas, and it is the poor that inspired Carnaval. Brazilians seem to make the best of every situation. Just the other day I was on a boat coming from the islands and it was raining with cold water splashing from the ocean. I could easily have felt miserable, shivering on that boat, until a group of Bahians began to play percussion and dance. Their spirit warmed everyone on that boat from the inside out. Iâ€™ve never seen so many smiling faces as I do here in