Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Sorrindo na Bahia

No matter how far the dollar slid and no matter how many testy consulate officials I had to sweet-talk, I was hell bent on a trip to the state of Bahia in Brazil from the beginning of my stint in the Southern Cone. Indeed, the visa process was a real hassle (and this in "reciprocity" for the money and hassle caused to Brazilians when applying for visas to the US), and the dollar has not ceased to amaze me with its impressive gravitational force. But in the end it was fated as I got my visa and recovered from pneumonia just in time for the trip.

Bahia is home to Salvador, described by many as the beating heart of Brazilian culture. Bahia and its emigrants have given birth to so much of what makes Brazil famous, including samba and the martial art-cum-dance called capoeira. As an aspiring student of capoeira, this was an important pilgrimage for me, and one I hope to repeat at many stages in my life. Here I am at Salvador's classic "money shot" in the Pelourinho, the historic district and site of the Portuguese Empire's original capital in the Americas.

I was lucky enough to have my favorite cousin join me for the trip, the one I and all of Denver affectionately call Primo. He flew all the way from Mexico City, and despite his nightmarish stories in air travel I know he had the time of his life. Here we are with two of my newest and bestest friends - Rodrigo (in the Mexican hat - a gift from his old beach buddy Primo), and Osvaldo. They are both Salvador natives and showed us a great time around the city. I really hope to see them soon, ideally in the Carnaval block party of pop star Daniela Mercury.

Salvador was as beautiful as I imagined, but no Primo adventure is complete without a an idyllic island getaway. So we decided to take a mid-week trip getaway to Morro de Sao Paulo. Although the island is entirely touristy, we was very pleased to find that almost all of these tourists were Brazilian. Here is a picture of the beach where we stayed. The gentlemen farthest to the left are playing capoeira, and I had a blast joining in with them.

Here's another picture of my capoeira friends at sunset, and probably my favorite shot I took on the trip.

One thing I can't get enough of whenever I am in Brazil is the fruits. Umbu, acerola, graviola, and caja were some of my favorites. It's a nice change of pace from Uruguay, where apples, oranges, peaches, blueberries are equally un-exotic fruits are all my pesos will get me. Here is Primo sampling some of the local flavor.

Perhaps the only thing preventing the trip from being a complete fantasy cruise was the fact that Brazil has gotten extremely pricey! As my Fulbright counterparts in Brazil and my credit card statement will attest, the Brazilian currency is kicking butt, and living comfortably in safe areas in the big cities is more expensive than many places in the US. A magazine I bought was almost US$10 (a domestic one), and a Big Mac costs the equivalent of over US$5.00 (making the real overvalued by a whopping 33%, according to the Big Mac Index).

But, without a doubt, the currency could skyrocket and Brazil would still be soooooo worth it. And the friendly folks at the Brazilian consulate in Montevideo could get me to do just about anything for the new visa I'll need this coming summer (so I hope they're not reading this).

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