Saturday, April 5, 2008

O Reconcavo Bahiano

This is my first blog post written on a strange computer. In fact, it is the first blog post I´m not writing at home.

I´m writing from an internet café at the hotel where I am staying with my mom, in São Felix, right across the river from Cachoeira, twin cities of some renown here in what is know as the Reconcavo of Bahia, a fertile countryside that is... not a city of nearly three million people.

I´m also typing on a freakin´ Brazilian keyboard, which I can´t stand, they have all these different keys for the accents right where I expect my shift to be, or my apostrophe, etcetera. Makes for slow typing. It´s also why I had a keyboard sent to my mom´s house for her to bring down for me.

Ever since my mother´s first trip to Brazil, she´s wanted to come here to Cachoeira. For one reason or another it never happened. So this time I promised her that we would make the trip. My Welsh friend, who recently made a trip through the Reconcavo, recommended that I catch the ferry out of Salvador and drive across the island of Itaparica, and then work my way north up to Cachoeira. This turned out to be a brilliant plan, partly because we got to avoid the hellish highway that leads out of Salvador that is the most common route here.

We visited a couple pieces of my graffiti en route on Itaparica, and then we passed through the town of Nazaré. Nazaré is not listed in my venerable Lonely Planet Brazil (cerca 2002?), but I saw signs that said something to the effect of `Visit the Christ Statue of Nazaré.´ As just about everyone knows, Rio has the immense Christ Redeemer statue on top of one of their picturesque hillocks (in fact, it is one of the New Seven Wonders of the World). What most people don´t know is that there are other cities here in Brazil with Christ statues, some on hills, some in other places. Nazaré, it turns out, is one of those places. So we drove up and checked out the Christ statue and my mom loved it. I must admit I thought it was pretty cool myself. What kind of ruined the effect was the small forest of steel telecommunications towers located on the hill behind him- he was probably 30 feet tall, but the towers... towered over him. Or behind him. But hey, we could see him from a long way off.

Next we went, also on my friend´s advice, to a little town called Maracujipinho. This is the kind of place that really inspires me to buy a little plot of land and/or a house outside of Salvador. This wouldn´t be terribly expensive, if I only had money to spend... The problem would be that I would have to leave Salvador to go there. At any rate, this little town is know for its pottery, and that was what we were there to see. Our first stop: a house where they were wrapping clay pigs. Hundreds of them, in various sizes. The kind with a slot in the top where you can insert coins. They were ridiculously inexpensive, so we bought three- one for mom, and two for the kids so I can filling them up for them. Mom got to watch an old timer throw some pots, but no pigs. I think pigs must be harder to throw.

Next we drove to Cachoeira. This was more remarkable than it may seem initially. What is most incredible about it is that as I mentioned, Salvador is a city of well more than two million people, and creaks and groans under the weight of all of them. Mom described the city as ´noisy,` ´dirty,´and ´smelly,´and, of course, her favorite adjective for all things Brazilian: ´Hot.´ And here we were, on a brand new deserted highway, with nothing but trees and cows for miles. Not even any houses. Or any other cars! I was particularly impressed by this, as I know what most roads in the interior of Brazil look like.

The road got extremely pretty after our super-smooth, arrow-straight, asphalt-drying stretch. Up and down, twisting, turning, views of the Bay of All Saints that I call home but rarely see.

The party was over when we hit one of the more typical Brazilian highways as we approached Cachoeira from the São Felix side. These roads look like they´ve been bombed, with lots and lots of very small bombs. Driving becomes a matter of accelerating from one pothole to the next, making split-second decisions about the depth and frequency of the breaks in the roadbed, and how hard you need to hit the brakes before you fall into them. The potholes come every 10 to 30 yards, with the occaisional quarter mile of smooth pavement. Making for extremely frustrating driving, especially with a grumpy parent roasting in the sun to your rightand trying hard not to complain.

And then there we were- with the twin cities of Cachoeira and São Felix before us. Grumpy. Tired. Hungry. Hot. We pulled in and went straight to a restaurant for a long overdue lunch. Between the car and the front door of the restaurant, we were intercepted by a hippie bearing many necklaces; starting at his wrist and ending at the elbow. He ordered me to have a look, and I made the great American mistake, I said: "Maybe Later."

I thought I had learned this lesson- I thought I learned it when I was in Jamaica, my pre-Brazilian proving ground and by far the toughest place I have ever visited. You don´t tell a Jamaican maybe later, unless you mean it- because they will find you later, or they will wait for you until later arrives.

That´s what this guy decided to do. He sat down outside the restaurant and stared at me waiting for later to arrive. Despite the fact that I hadn´t so much as opened a menu.

I remarked to my mother that I don´t have much contact with hippie culture anymore, although there was a time that I did. Back then, they were mostly called Deadheads, which dates me pretty well; back then they used to call it ´Slam Dancing´ too. Here in Brazil they are called Hippies and a large portion of them walk around with big panels of black satin on which their hand-made jewelry is displayed and which they wander around trying to get you to buy. Some of this stuff is actually pretty nice, although I rarely look at it because once you do then you have to get rid of the person selling it, or buy something. Evani has a fair amount of this kind of jewelry, and it looks great on her. Actually, I should say ´had´because they are mostly made of seeds and dried flower parts and whatnot and they invariably attract bugs of one sort or another that eat them and basically make them unpleasant to wear. We´ve tried putting the jewelry in the freezer to kill off the invaders, but it´s a temporary solution.

So every time I look over this guy is staring right at me. I was annoyed anyways- he was making it worse. My mom made a gesture intended to give him a hint (not obscene), he didn´t take it. I went over to him and asked him if he wanted something. At first he mentioned the necklaces, then claimed to be waiting for some food from the restaurant. I promptly verified the inaccuracy of this statement with the proprietors, and informed them that he was bugging me. The owner went over and had a talk with him: he left. Thank God. Haven´t seen him since. Hope I never see him again.

I generally try to avoid the obvious content for these posts, and say something about the more random, which unfortunately (or not) tends to be what fills up my consciousness. So that´s essentially all I have to say about Cachoeira for now- we wound up in this decent hotel right on the waterfront, on the São Felix side, and my poor mom got served a plate of fish for dinner due to my imperfect command of the Portuguese language. She hates fish. Poor Mom.

Tomorrow´s her birthday.

I´ve had a couple drinks.

So I´m going to do what I usually don´t- I´m going to hit the Publish button without a round of revisions.

Thanks for reading.


AkuTyger said...

haha, nice. It gets easier with the keyboard though. What is worse is when you have to switch back and forth everyday - PRT at work and ENG at home. Then you start to type weird things.

markuza said...

yikes- I am befuddled enough running two operating systems on my computer and having the command/control/start/alt/ function/whatever keys switching around on me... but it is nice having easy access to those accents on a Brazilian keyboard