After a busy first few weeks orienting ourselves with the summer intensive program part of our study abroad experience, we were given a weekend to explore on our own. And so began my adventure with Rebecca and Ryan to the island of Itaparica, which lies in the Bahia de Todos os Santos, directly across from Salvador. After one turnaround, two bus rides, and twenty questions later, we arrived at last at the “fehee boachee” that would take us across the bay to the Ilha. The breeze, the bay, and the boats were glorious; and as I drank in the view, the other passengers lounged in their cars or on top of their motorcycles, eating snacks and drinking from the bright-yellow cans of beer that are ever-present to celebrate any and every occasion.
When we got to the island, however, and scanned the bleaching boats splayed on the deserted beach in front of the darkened windows of little painted houses, we realized that we had no idea where we were going or what exactly we were going to do there. After the bustle of the disembarking crowd dispersed, our uncertainty was quickly seized upon by a multitude of van drivers, or motoristas, pitching the prices of their various destinations. Then one taxi driver appeared and wouldn’t leave our sides as we raced through the gauntlet of hungry hawkers, until we finally stopped, allowing him to flash his certificate as an “official tour guide of the island” and to give us a price much lower than those that we had been hearing. As we re-traced our steps on our way to his car, we had the pleasure of proclaiming our procured price to our previous prospects, who widened their eyes in disbelief, and then shrugged and laughed once they saw our driver, putting their arms around him and saying that he was truly of “gente boa”, or good people.
After traipsing over the speed bumps in the little dirt-road port town, we were soon whizzing by the luscious green foliage of the interior of the island. Although the plan was to take us straight to the historic town of Itaparica on the top tip of the island, our guide pulled over to the side of the road in the middle of the forest, beside a crop of small of buildings. Initially the most hesitant to go with this guy, at that point, I was sure we were being kidnapped. After pointing out the first group of houses as the compound of a historic terreiro, or house of Candomblé, on the island, our guide told us to get out of the car because he wanted us to see the pousada, or hostel, of his friends. Oh boy. As Ryan awkwardly engaged in small-talk with the owners, a Dutch man, who recently inherited unexpected money and so opened this pousada, and his Brazilian wife, I wandered around taking pictures, while Rebecca carefully watched our guide as he grabbed two coconuts, hacking off the tops and handing them to us with straws, to see if he put anything else in the fresh, sweet água de coco.
Thankfully, the other van drivers were right about our guide being gente boa, and after we made on more stop to drop off a credit card at his sister’s house, we eventually made it to the little old town of Itaparica, whose painted buildings reminded me of Pelourinho, the famously historic bairro of Salvador. The entire experience was perfect proof of the kind of island-living, “sem estresse”, or without the stress of the big city, that our guide constantly professed to be the greatest attraction of Itaparica. Ironically, however, the stress-free living of our guide added more than a little stress to ours, unused as we were to the laid-back lifestyle of “vida na Ilha”.
On the way back home, when I clambered over several people to poke my camera out the other side of the boat, I almost cried as I saw the most beautiful rainbow arching across the city skyline, settling at last in the water. It was a reminder that God is faithful, and just as He was with us that day, He would be with us on the many more adventures that are to come.
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9)