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Monthly Archives: August 2009

Salvador_cityscapeSalvador Cityscape. Bahia de Todos os Santos.



Anyone who advised me against eating street food in Brazil, avert your eyes. This one’s delicious.


Acarajé and Bahia go hand in hand, or at least acarajé fits nicely into Bahia’s hand. About one in every three women in traditional Bahian costumes wandering around the Pelourinho is making this street food, frying the tapioca (?) dough in balls, to then cut open and throw in a sweet pepper paste, some other goop, and then some shrimp on top. Impossible not to get it all up your nose when you bite into it.



*I had been told about this when at the Jazz and Blues Fest in Rio das Ostras, but couldn’t remember the name when it came time to order. I knew it sounded something like…ah, yes. jacaré. I’ll have a jacaré, please.  What I actually asked for was an alligator. Whoops.

Salvador_CriançapercuçãoDrum corps everywhere.

Youth, Salvador, Bahia.

Salvador_percussion class

DUM. Da-dum. Dum. DUM. Da-dum. Dum.

Amos, Mario and I took a percussion class from a professor that has played with the likes of Gilberto Gil and many others I forgot. We learned samba, candomblé, and afoxé rhythms. Loved it. Next step, Olodum!

Salvador_Bizú berimbau maker2At the Mercado Modelo, after being introduced to Bizú, the berimbau maker, I find out that he knows Yoji, my capoeira mestre, very well. Again, like a homecoming of sorts, finding people who know my people.

I bought my first berimbau, that day; he made it by hand right there. The berimbau is an instrument used in capoeira, to lead rodas, or games. It originates in Africa, and is actually thought to be the origin of the guitar. Fitting to be learning both here in Brazil at the same time.

Salvador_Pipa kid

Menino soltando pipa. Kid flying a kite. Pelourinho, Salvador, BA.

The historic center of Salvador, the Pelourinho, is situated on a hill that forms the “upper city”; the “lower” being the port and markets. Back in the day, the port, situated on Bahia de Tudos os Santos, was incredibly busy with importation of enslaved Africans. Salvador used to be the capital of Brazil once upon a time, so it was the main port for the African diaspora.

Salvador_Angoleira Roda

The Pelourinho was (reportedly) where slaves were purchased and sold, and, as some reports claim, publicly punished at times. Today, it is a UNESCO world heritage site, tourist destinação, and hub for capoeiristas, percussionists, and Brazil-lovers alike. Even Michael Jackson filmed the video to “They don´t really care about us” in the Pelourinho, with help from percussion school, Olodum.

 Salvador_MichaelJackson remake

Apparently Michael Jackson still haunts the place…

…just kidding, just kidding. It´s just Mario. Tranquilo.

Salvador_Movie set

After learning that the start of our classes was postponed for a couple weeks, a friend I’d met in the Amazon and I took advantage of the opportunity and headed to Bahia. Salvador!  Going to Salvador was like a homecoming, there’s no other way to explain it. Essentially, learning about Salvador–through training capoeira–was the reason I wanted to move to Brazil in the first place. Immediately after arriving, I was already in enchanted by the city, the old historical center laid out around small praças, connected by precariously cobbled-streets (which may or may not have won out a few bouts in the balancing game in the late night hours). Being in the city, though, was as if I was transported into a story I’d been told a hundred times. The sounds of percussion and berimbau, seeing  colonial architecture, acarajé, capoeira…

By accident (or coincidence) I went to train a few classes of capoeira at the same school that my amigos from ABCapoeira in Minneapolis train in. What luck! 

Salvador galera

The week was an open-ended song, with such an air of happiness. Could be the freedom from work, could be the feeling of finally reaching a sought-out destination. The place, combined with the galera we assembled made it like no “week off” I’ve ever taken. Absolutely effortless, ultimately joyful.

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Francisco and jacaréThe second night camping in the mata, it was just me and two Australian girls plus our guide. Instead of hiking to Egypt and back, we boated into the forest (again, very cool, surreal), and reconstructed camp. It was nice to have just three people, as opposed to 14.

 That night,  Francisco stayed a jaguar vigilante. “Rebecca, this is not the time to go to sleep. It is the hour of the predators.” Okay, I’m awake, I’ll just look at this giant tarantula five feet from me. Or the jacaré that has come to eat the remains of the chicken…alligators can’t jump, right?

campfire_amazonas 170bSeriously the best night of the trek. We woke up with the sunrise, and went canoeing farther into the forest and yes!! We saw monkeys! Monkeys eating breakfast, monkeys getting ready for work, monkeys on their morning commute….totally makes up for the bad ghost stories we tried to tell the night before.

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Manaus is a hot, humid, and kind of agitated city, and other than the goofy group we assembled to do a photo-scavenger hunt one 85-degree afternoon, nothing was holding me there. It’s got an aura of grandeur, having been built during the rubber boom at the turn of the century, which translates to some cool old buildings, all in need of a coat of paint. I was there for the forest, though. Needless to say I was more than happy to leave.

Chad and I booked a tour with a company that took us 3 hours by bus out of the city, plus another hour up river to the lodge we’d base ourselves from. We were on “black water,” which is slightly acidic, so there thankfully were hardly any mosquitos. We were prepared for everything short of a jaguar attack, but it was so nice not to have to worry about mosquitos, though. More time to think about bats, alligators, and other night creatures…

Our first afternoon, after crossing the wide river (see above) and spotting dolphins, we rowed into the cool, damp forest, the only sounds being birds and the swish  of the oar sliding through the water. The river was really high, as July was the end of the rainy season, so it formed a swamp-like effect in the trees–igarapé. Man, I’ve never canoed through a forest before–well, to be fair, I still haven’t; our guide did–but it is something else, gliding through trees I normally would have walked around.

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We spotted macaws eating noisily, two toucans sharing secrets, and a gigantic spider having a snack. We fished for piranha (I caught two!), which we ate at dinner. Kinda spiny, not much taste. Novel, though, through and through.

 We camped as a group in the jungle, which was sweet. We hiked for about an hour and a half to a site, set up our hammocks, and hoped that nothing was going to eat us. 

camp hammock_amazonas 165The first night I awoke to something whisking down through thte trees–crack! crack!–and snap! Right into my hammock landed a seed of sorts, the size of my fist. Crazy monkeys! I shook my fist at them in my sleepy stupor.

Francisco, our guide, would occasionally hack of a piece of bark and pass it down the line, telling what product is made from it. I think we had malaria medicine, digestional-aids, Vick’s vapor rub…and a whole other handful of remedies to fill the cabinet. It’s really amazing, actually, to see firsthad what I only understood in theory–that the rainforest provides for all needs. What bad it may have (ie: malaria mosquitos, poisonous snakes and spiders), it provides the antidote too. Francisco showed us the bark he makes tea with once a week as malaria prevention.

 Walked and walked, listening to birds and our footsteps, breathing the forest. Belleza.

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an airplane view_amazonasNo, this is not a Krakauer book, nor is it even relatively film-worthy, but like many who have gone before me into the Amazon, I felt a sense of grand adventure leaving Rio de Janeiro’s bustling Zona Sul after Moms, Pops, and Ceola fueram embora for one of the last areas in the world that still has uncharted territory.

Mesmerized by the expanse of green forest that seemed to stretch on forever, I watched as we flew over the meeting of the waters, where the dark Rio Negro is joined by sandy brown Solimões, for an incredible effect from the air. Within a short time we were walking out of the airport into equatorial heat, into the “jungle” others call the city of Manaus.

Crazy hot, bustling with people everywhere, it was a reletive surprise to be in a big city in the middle of the Amazon. Built up during the rubber boom at the turn of the century, the city still has an aura of grandeur, found in buildings like the Opera House, and other grand, palace-like places. Really, after Chad and I figured out our trek business, we had a day or two to kick it in Manaus. The hostel we were in was great, and along with the goofy galera we gathered, it turned out to be the best thing in the city.  We endeavored on a made-up scavenger hunt, found ourselves in the middle of yet another festa julina, and then finally departed the concrete jungle for the actual one, just over there.

sunset_amazonas 004

(*This post has much to be added, past the limits of an internet cafe….will post some interesting delights soon! Stay tuned.)