Sand, Sea, and Salvador

One of my favorite conversation questions with people I meet is: “Qual é sua praia preferida?”  Or “What is your favorite beach?”  I never knew that there were so many different types of beaches until I came to Salvador.  The diversity of shore that lines this peninsula is astounding.  What is particularly amusing to me, however, is the way in which Bahians talk about and classify the different sections of shoreline, when to me, it’s really all one big long beach.  But just as each bairro has its own unique characteristics, so the look and feel of each piece of praia changes according to its location on the peninsula and the neighborhood that’s settled beside it.

The farther north you go, the more room you have to breathe in the air and spread out your conga in the sand without laying in someone else’s shadow.  These beaches, like Praia do Flamengo, or Itapuã, are still a feasible day trip away and are the preference of many Bahians that I talk to, who dislike the crowded beaches in the bay, describing Porto da Barra as “sempre cheia das pessoas” as they wrinkle up their noses and flap their hands like talking mouths.  While my introverted soul rejoices at the more “tranquilo” atmosphere of the northern  beaches outside the bay, I loved vibrant community feel of Praia de Boa Viagem which still hugs the curve of the bay in Ribeira, where the less “chic” Brasilians live, work, play, where funky blasts from bayside barracas (thatch-roofed seafood stands) and where young (and old!) men do flips off the crumbling stone dock.

While I have learned that every praia is unique, some things seem characteristic to any beach in Brasil: there’s always a soccer game played by buff guys whose butts are squeezed into skin-tight speedos, a paddle board game played by old, pot-bellied guys whose butts are also squeezed into the same skin-tight speedos, congas in the sand, kites in the sky, and of course, the beach vendors that hawk everything from picolés (popsicles), to caipirinhas, chilled água de coco (a coconut with a straw), and freshly fried cheese on a stick.
The infamous Porto da Barra.  I took this photo early in the morning, so the beach is still fairly empty.  Usually you can hardly walk through all the beach umbrellas and people sprawled on the sand.

The infamous Porto da Barra. I took this photo early in the morning, so the beach is still fairly empty. Usually you can hardly walk through all the beach umbrellas and people sprawled on the sand.

The view from Porto da Barra includes Ilha da Itaparica in the distance speckled with red barges and brightly colored fishing boats that sit close to the shore.  I took this shot during an aguathlon (running and swimming) that my friend Rebecca did.

The view from Porto da Barra includes Ilha da Itaparica in the distance speckled with red barges and brightly colored fishing boats that sit close to the shore. I took this shot during an aguathlon (running and swimming) that my friend Rebecca did.

Porto da Barra is about a 20-minute walk from my house--the closest beach.

Porto da Barra is about a 20-minute walk from my house–the closest beach.

A sand sculptor recovering some of his work after a storm.

A sand sculptor recovering some of his work after a storm.

Praia do Itapuã is much farther north outside of the bay.  You take the orla bus, which is all shoreline view as you wind your way up the peninsula.

Praia do Itapuã is much farther north outside of the bay. You take the orla bus, which is all shoreline view as you wind your way up the peninsula.

To the right of us, the peninsula and the city

To the right of us,  closer to the city

To the left, endless ocean shoreline

To the left, endless ocean shoreline

Fishing boats in Itapuã

Fishing boats in Itapuã

Farol de Itapuã

Farol de Itapuã

More lighthouse views.  There was a man fishing off the rocks

More lighthouse views. There was a man fishing off the rocks.

Silly shadow pictures

Silly shadow pictures

The sun began to set and we knew it was time to get home.  While I love the beaches farther to the north, it is safest to leave around 4 and not wait around until evening comes.

The sun began to set and we knew it was time to get home. While I love the beaches farther to the north, it is safest to leave around 4 and not wait around until evening comes.

Black and white view of Salvador

Black and white view of Salvador

Amanda being Amanda

Amanda being Amanda

Eu te amo meu Brasil!

Eu te amo meu Brasil!

Praia do Flamengo is the farthest beach to the north that can still be a day trip.  After church one Sunday (which is in the same direction), my friend Rebecca and I got back on the bus for what seemed like forever, until I didn't even recognize Salvador anymore.  There were actually houses instead of high-rises!  And quaint little communities of condominiums by the shore.

Praia do Flamengo is the farthest beach to the north that can still be a day trip. After church one Sunday (which is in the same direction), my friend Rebecca and I got back on the bus for what seemed like forever, until I didn’t even recognize Salvador anymore. There were actually houses instead of high-rises! And quaint little communities of condominiums by the shore.

There were a lot of tables in some areas, where most people were sitting and enjoying fish, clams, beer, and little, speckled hard-boiled bird eggs that are popular to eat on the beach.

There were a lot of tables in some areas, where most people were sitting and enjoying fish, clams, beer, and little, speckled hard-boiled bird eggs that are popular to eat on the beach.

Conga and Havaianas in the sand

Conga and Havaianas in the sand

The waves were a lot more rough because we were far from the protection of the bay.

The waves were a lot more rough because we were far from the protection of the bay.

Kites

Kites

Soccer and empty coconuts on the beach.  Often there's some dog going crazy trying to tear the coconut apart.

Soccer and empty coconuts on the beach. Often there’s some dog going crazy trying to tear the coconut apart.

Cute little boys.  There were a lot of families at this beach.

Cute little boys. There were a lot of families at this beach.

Walking along the beach, following the ruts of the picolé cart

Walking along the beach, following the ruts of the picolé cart

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Parabéns: Turning 21 in Brasil!

Wow, what a birthday week I’ve had!

On Monday, the day before my birthday, I decided to make brigadeiros for my students at Siloé, the Christian, non-governmental organization where I teach English classes with my friend Rebecca.  Determined to keep stirring until my arm fell off, I cooked the brigadeiros too long, and when I retreived them from the fridge, they were hard as a rock.  The classic sprinkles that usually adorn these doces were not going to stick.  Still I molded the stubborn substance into balls of taffy-texture, placing them in the regular mini-paper muffin cups.  After Aurea gave up after one attempt to take a bite, I fled to the store hours before my class to buy ready-made chocolate doce de leite to form into brigadeiros with sprinkles.

After the most rhythmic rendition of the happy birthday song in English, my students eagerly reached for what I claimed was “taffy de chocolate”, a typical American candy.  I explained that it works best if you suck on it for a while, and that it is very popular in the United States.  Much to my surprise, they loved them!  And even after I passed out the store-bought version, the taffy-like brigadeiros were clearly the preferred candy.  Rebecca, however, insisted that I tell them the truth, which I did, much to their amusement–but I assured them that taffy really was a thing in the United States!

On, Tuesday morning, September 10th, my actual day of birth, I made brigadeiros again for my American classmates in Portuguese class that afternoon, before running off to an early morning meeting with a Toni, my presentation partner in communication class.  Unfortunately, he didn’t show up, but at least I got hugs, kisses, and “parabéns” from my other student friends on campus.  Ironically, to stand someone up is called “dar bolo”, or to give cake, so I guess Toni “me deu bolo”, or gave me cake for my birthday. 🙂

After Portuguese class at UFBA, the Federal University, my friends surprised me with a miracle–a dark chocolate and maracuja ICE CREAM CAKE!!!  I didn’t even know ice-cream cake existed here.  It was Rebecca’s idea to help me celebrate with ice-cream, since I always say I’d choose that any day over cake.

On Saturday, Rebecca and I took the bus to Praia da Boa Viagem, which is in Cidade Baixa, and we met some of her African friends from Togo and Benin who are here learning Portuguese and in her class at the University.  Far away from the high-rise apartments in the center of the city, I loved the feel of the community, the music from the barracas on the beach, and the clear turquoise waters of the bay.  As I sat in the sand, I watched some boys as they flipped off of a stone dock, that edged out just far enough so that they landed in deeper water.  The clouds deceived me and I skimped on sunscreen, which is why in the following pictures my face looks like, as Aurea calls it, a “camarão”, or shrimp.

There were two little boys with the cutest smiles who enjoyed giving us a show of flips and cartwheels in the waves.

There were two little boys with the cutest smiles who enjoyed giving us a show of flips and cartwheels in the waves.

View of the peninsula of Salvador

View of the peninsula of Salvador

Saturday night, my host mom Aurea insisted that I invite everyone from the study abroad program to my house for a party.

A true Brazilian birthday party with both sweets and salgados.  Aurea's sister made the most delicious brigadeiros I've ever had and a huge cake.

A true Brazilian birthday party with both sweets and salgados. Aurea’s sister made the most delicious brigadeiros I’ve ever had and a huge cake.

Thanks Amanda for my first bottle of wine!

Thanks Amanda for my first bottle of wine! (And to my host mom Aurea for my dress!)

Rachel, Aurea, Me, and Amber.  Rachel made M&M cookies for me!  They were my first cookies in Brasil. :)

Rachel, Aurea, Me, and Amber. Rachel made M&M cookies for me! They were my first cookies in Brasil. 🙂

Rochelle, Rebecca, and Amanda

Rochelle, Rebecca, and Amanda

So at my party, I was telling a funny story in my usual animated way, and my host mom

Even my reticent host brother Junior and his girlfriend joined us for song and cake, and gave me a gift of delicious Brazilian chocolates!

Even my reticent host brother Junior and his girlfriend joined us for song and cake, and gave me a gift of delicious Brazilian chocolates!

walks in, saying “I see you’ve already starting drinking the wine!”  Everyone bursts out laughing, knowing that I hadn’t had even a drop of alcohol yet!

After one small sip of wine (and four of five brigadeiros), I was giddier than ever, as I was so excited to find a drink that I liked.  Everyone else said it tasted like grape juice, which is why it was so good. 🙂

Finally, Aurea turned out the lights and everyone started singing “Happy Birthday”, first in English, then Portuguese, which I thought was never going to end….and just when everyone stopped singing, my host mom Aurea began with some song of blessing, with Junior and his girlfriend joing in too.  At last, I took a deep breath and blew out the candle in the little plastic cup that my mom held beside the cake, so that no wax would drip on it.  With big bowls of pipoca (popcorn), we sat down and watched Aladdin on my friends laptop, with everyone narrating their own version of the story, as the volume was too low to hear anything other than the voice of Genie.

The lyrics to some of the Portuguese version is below:

Parabéns pra você
Nesta data querida
Muitas felicidades
Muitos anos de vida!

Chegou a hora de apagar a velinha
Vamos cantar aquela musiquinha
Parabéns pra você (clap 3 x’s fast during the “pra você” part)
Parabéns pra você (clap 3 x’s fast during the “pra você” part)
Pelo seu aniversário.

Que Deus lhe dê muita saúde e paz
E que os anjos digam amém
Parabéns pra você (clap 3 x’s fast during the “pra você” part)
Parabéns pra você (clap 3 x’s fast during the “pra você” part)
Pelo seu aniversário.

É pique! É pique! É pique, é pique, é pique!
(first two are slower, last three are fast, each with their own claps)
É hora! É hora! É hora, é hora, é hora!
(first two are slower, last three are fast, each with their own claps)
Rá-tim-bum! (slow, clap on each)
(Name of the birthday girl/boy) 3 times

Cartwheels and Capoeira

It’s a dance.  It’s a fight.  It’s a form of art.  Like everything else in Brazil, the unique cultural mixture that is capoeira is hard to pin down into any one category.   The cultural influence of capoeira in Brazil is seen even on the futebol field in the graceful movements of Brazilian jogadores and the litheness with which they execute bicycle kicks that sometimes result in goals.

Capoeira originated in the Kongo/Angola region of Africa where indigenous men practiced kicking games for sport.  When brought into captivity in Brazil, the Afro-Brazilian slaves continued to perform capoiera in rebellion against the white, Euro-Brazilian’s abolition, adding choreographic elements as well as music in order to disguise the fight as a dance.

“But the capoeiristas say that in life, as in capoeira, you have to keep doing the ginga, dancing between the blows” (Delgado & Muñoz, 1998, p. 90). 

An example of the ginga thanks to Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Ginga_de_dos.gif).

An example of the ginga thanks to Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Ginga_de_dos.gif).

The first thing that we learned in our capoeira class was the ginga–the characteristic walk of the capoeirista–a continually swaying side-to-side step, similar to the rhythm of swing in jazz.  The ginga is part of the “elements of choreography” that were introduced by the early Afro-Brazilian slaves to disguise the sport’s more violent nature.

In Bahia, the birthplace of capoiera in Brazil, the sport is widely accepted as cultural art form and embraced as part of the national identity, as it is practiced everywhere from the streets of Pelourinho, the classrooms of mestres, to the health clubs of the elite.

The capoiera school that we visited--located in Campo Grande, the center of the city--practiced Angolan-style capoeira.  This older, more traditional style differs from the Regional style of capoiera, which was created in Salvador by Mestre Bimba in the beginning of the 20th century and places greater emphasis on fighting technique and is faster-paced.  While Regional-style capoeiristas wear white-pants, the colors of capoeira Angola are yellow and black.

The capoiera school that we visited–located in Campo Grande, the center of the city–practiced Angolan-style capoeira. This older, more traditional style differs from the Regional style of capoiera, which was created in Salvador by Mestre Bimba in the beginning of the 20th century and places greater emphasis on fighting technique and is faster-paced. While Regional-style capoeiristas wear white-pants, the colors of capoeira Angola are yellow and black.

We then added a move where you bend down and almost tap the floor as you sway from side-to-side doing the ginga.

We then added a move where you bend down and almost tap the floor as you sway from side-to-side doing the ginga.

After doing some stretches, we began learning some of the basic moves.  Here we are practicing the swaying step of the ginga.

After doing some stretches, we began learning some of the basic moves. Here we are practicing the swaying step of the ginga.

We then added a move where you bend down and almost tap the floor as you sway from side-to-side doing the ginga.

We then added a move where you bend down and almost tap the floor as you sway from side-to-side doing the ginga.

After doing some stretches, we began learning some of the basic moves.  Here we are adding a kick in middle of the ginga (side-to-side swaying step).

Here we are adding a kick in middle of the ginga.

A defensive move.  I felt like a lot of capoeira, especially for beginners, is learning to move defensively. You are constantly guarding your body.

A defensive move. I felt like a lot of capoeira, especially for beginners, is learning to move defensively. You are constantly guarding your body.

We paired up and practiced a kind of crab-walk around each other across the room.

We paired up and practiced a kind of crab-walk around each other across the room.

Ha, here I am trying to hop across the room in the position of a push-up.  The mestre literally just bounced--straight as a plank on his hands and tip-toes--across the floor.  I am literally dying because it was pretty much impossible!

Ha, here I am trying to hop across the room in the position of a push-up. The mestre literally just bounced–straight as a plank on his hands and tip-toes–across the floor. I am literally dying because it was pretty much impossible!

After learning some of the basic moves, we formed a roda, which is the circle in which capoeira is played between two people, while the rest look on.

After learning some of the basic moves, we formed a roda, which is the circle in which capoeira is played between two people, while the rest look on.

The musicians, whose rhythms guide the movements of the players in the roda.  In Angolan-style capoeira, the bateria, or row of instruments, is composed of three berimbaus, single-stringed instruments with a wooden bow and hollow gourd, two pandeiros, or cymbals, one agogo, or bell, one atabaque, or hand drum, and one ganzá, or rattle.

The musicians, whose rhythms guide the movements of the players in the roda. In Angolan-style capoeira, the bateria, or row of instruments, is composed of three berimbaus, single-stringed instruments with a wooden bow and hollow gourd, two pandeiros, or cymbals, one agogo, or bell, one atabaque, or hand drum, and one ganzá, or rattle.

While the musicians play, the rest of the roda chants along to the music, answering the call of the lead musician/singer.

While the musicians play, the rest of the roda chants along to the music, answering the call of the lead musician/singer.

Finally, my turn came to play against one of the mestres.  Oh boy.  You begin by squatting opposite each other, clasping hands, and then simultaneously cartwheeling to begin the game.  My goal was just not to get kicked in the face.

Finally, my turn came to play against one of the mestres. Oh boy. You begin by squatting opposite each other, clasping hands, and then simultaneously cartwheeling to begin the game. My goal was just not to get kicked in the face.

I played pretty defensively--it was hard for me as a beginner to pick up on her cues of what she was going to do next.  Good capoeiristas move in sync with each other, completely cognizant of the other person's position even when their back is turned, instinctively ducking beneath a swinging leg at the last second.

I played pretty defensively–it was hard for me as a beginner to pick up on her cues of what she was going to do next. Good capoeiristas move in sync with each other, completely cognizant of the other person’s position even when their back is turned, instinctively ducking beneath a swinging leg at the last second.

When the mestre stood on her head, I wasn't quite sure what to do, so I attempted a kick at her face....apparently, I was supposed to go up and bow my head at that moment, signifying respect...whoops.

When the mestre stood on her head, I wasn’t quite sure what to do, so I attempted a kick at her face….apparently, I was supposed to go up and bow my head at that moment, signifying respect…whoops.

Here are some of the instruments: (from left) ganzá, agogo, 2 pandeiros, and different styles of berimbaus.

Here are some of the instruments: (from left) ganzá, agogo, 2 pandeiros, and different styles of berimbaus.

“As embodied play and an enduring social practice, capoeira is testimony to the many creative and potentially liberating ways, even within the severest constraints of social inequality, in which people re-shape their bodies, themselves, and their relationships to the world and those around them.” (Wesolowksi, 2007, p. 363)

Dois de Julho

While the rest of Brazil celebrates independence on September 7th, here in Salvador, Bahians take the streets on “dois de Julho” (July 2nd), when after several battles the province finally expelled the Portuguese, several months ahead of Emperor Pedro the First’s official declaration of independence.

Along with the rest of city, we headed to Pelourinho, the historic heart of Salvador, where the major independence day parade takes place.  The parade occurred in several acts, as each part was punctuated by breaks during which the onlookers, which had previously separated to the sides, flooded the steep narrow-bricked streets to buy the flags, cotton candy, ice-cream, and sweet coconut-lime juice which is basically ambrosia in a plastic cup.

However, after several spurts of marching bands, the parade commenced in full force and everyone joined in, spectators marching alongside feathered natives and uniformed bands, a jumbled mixture framed by the tawny uniforms of the police, who separated the celebration from the few of us still observing the spectacle, perched on the outside edge.  Even so, the Brazilians in our group urged us to move our hips along to the beats of the parade, blurring further whatever divide there was between the dancers in the streets and the spectators on the sides.

View of the old Medical School Building (1808) from our parade spot.

View of the old Medical School Building (1808) from our parade spot.

Many of the decorations were actually remnants of the Festival of São João that happened days before we arrived in June.

Many of the decorations were actually remnants of the Festival of São João that happened days before we arrived in June.

Fighters of independence

Fighters of independence

One of many marching bands

One of many marching bands

The vendors here never cease to amaze

The vendors here never cease to amaze

CIEE staff and student monitors! (From left: Jacob,  Nataniel, Flavia, Luize, Rebeca, Renaldo, Mariel)

CIEE staff and student monitors! (From left: Jacob, Nataniel, Flavia, Luize, Rebeca, Renaldo, Mariel)

Polícia

Polícia

Another band

Another band

I have no idea what this guy is doing with a cow's head...

I have no idea what this guy is doing with a cow’s head…

On duty

On duty

All-female drumming group

All-female drumming group

The hat makes the outfit

The hat makes the outfit

Some of the participants in the parade were dressed as actors in the story of independence as Portuguese soldiers, slaves, and indigenous Brazilians.

Some of the participants in the parade were dressed as actors in the story of independence as Portuguese soldiers, slaves, and indigenous Brazilians.

A float representing the characters involved in independence.  On top of the float is the indigenous, Brazilian, European racially-mixed figure of the Caboclo, which symbolizes Independence.

A float representing the characters involved in independence. On top of the float is the indigenous, Brazilian, European racially-mixed figure of the Caboclo, which symbolizes Independence.

Even Jesus made an appearance in the parade

Even Jesus made an appearance in the parade

Demonstrators

The parade was much more political than any other I’ve seen, most likely due to the recent “maniftestações”, or protests, that have been occurring throughout Brazil’s major cities, including Salvador, over the high cost of transportation and the politicians’ precedence of World Cup 2014 above the problems of the people.  Certainly President Dilma Rousseff’s inattentiveness doesn’t help the situation.

"To fight is not a crime.  Liberate our prisoners."

“To fight is not a crime. Liberate our prisoners.”

Lining the streets...

Lining the streets…

Protestors: "There does not exist a cure for what is not sickness."

“There does not exist a cure for what is not sickness.”  At several different points, I was crushed against the wall as packs of protestors passionately chanted slogans.  And yet, the atmosphere was still jovial as the people watching cheered on those demonstrating, and the entire procession remained peaceful.

Spectators, such as Luize, even grabbed demonstrates signs to pose for pictures in support of their cause: "I also want a better Brasil."

Spectators, such as Luize, even grabbed demonstrates signs to pose for pictures in support of their cause: “I also want a better Brasil.”

Big eyes

Big eyes

As with any celebration in Bahia, the festivities concluded with everyone clearing the streets, headed to the nearest restaurant to memorialize the day with beer, moqueca (fish and vegetable stew), and, of course, a feast of feijão (comida típica da Bahia).  Que gostozo!

Into the Interior: Chapada Diamantina

Contrary to what any map might tell you, the state of Bahia is made up of two parts: the city of Salvador and the “Interior”.  After asking countless cab drivers, college friends, and professors about the origin of their birthplace, I have learned that if you are not from the city of Salvador, then you are from the other “half” of Bahia–the interior.  It doesn’t matter if it’s thirty minutes or three hours from Salvador, everything outside the bustling bounds of Salvador’s metropolis is classified as the “interior”.  If you press for details, then you will hear the names of little towns called “Senhor do Bonfim”, “Santo António de Jesus”, and “Euclides da Cunha” (also the name of a street by my house).  But as most people start and finish their pre-city existence with the one-word answer “interior”, my interest was piqued to discover what really composed the rest of Brazil’s fifth largest state, comparable in size to the country of Kenya.  Thanks to CIEE, my “intercambio” program here, I spent a weekend in Chapada Diamantina, six hours into the interior of Bahia.

“Chapada” refers to the steep cliffs that edge the multitude of plateaus whose wild beauty is what make’s the park’s topography so stunning.  “Diamantina” tells the story of the discovery of diamonds in the hills during the mid-nineteenth century, and the mining legacy that followed.  Created in 1985, I got to meet the man who helped the area receive national park status, which sparked the ecotourism that completely transformed the sleepy town of Lençois, and continues to drive their economy today.  While their fathers were burning down trees and burrowing caves into the cliff-sides in search of diamonds, young men and women learned to care for and protect the creation in the park, becoming guides for hiking to the waterfalls, snorkling in the natural pools, and climbing down into forgotten caves filled with stalactites and stalagmites.  As visitors oooh-ed and ahhh-ed at the breathtaking nature, the chests of locals puffed out a little more, and they walked a little taller down their dirt roads, as they began to see new treasures in the hills surrounding their old town.

Lençois was like stepping back in time, with narrow dirt roads that wound down the hills to the cluster of painted houses in the heart of the little town.  Apart from signs for internet cafes peeking out of doorways, you could catch glimpses of the mining era, a century-and-a-half ago.  Locals claim that there is never any crime, and even at eleven o’clock at night, little children were still darting between the candle-lit tables of late-night diners in the streets.

Unfortunately, I couldn't see much of the interior on the way, as we had to travel at night for safety reasons due to much traffic on the roads during the day

Unfortunately, I couldn’t see much of the interior on the way, as we had to travel at night for safety reasons due to much traffic on the roads during the day

Arriving in Lençois at sunrise

Arriving in Lençois at sunrise

Lençois

Lençois

DSC02002

Exploring the town

Hiking to Riberão do Meio, a natural rockslide and pool

Hiking to Riberão do Meio, a natural rockslide and pool

I went down the slide twice--it was so fast!

I went down the slide twice–it was so fast!

The water was full of iron and very orange

The water was full of iron and very orange

Squeezing juice out of sugar cane.  The juice was literally sugar in a cup.

Squeezing juice out of sugar cane. The juice was literally sugar in a cup.

Hens and chicks (for Dad)

Hens and chicks (for Dad)

Red dirt

Red dirt

The galera at Rio Mucugezinho

The galera at Rio Mucugezinho

More iron water

More iron water

Poço do Diabo

Poço do Diabo

The cachoiera (waterfall) at Poço do Diabo.  I had fun watching people land in the water at the end of the zip line.

The cachoiera (waterfall) at Poço do Diabo. I had fun watching people land in the water at the end of the zip line.

A cahoiera

A cahoiera

A pretty blue libélula

A pretty blue libélula

The middle child standing exactly in the middle of Bahia!

The middle child standing exactly in the middle of Bahia!

cheesing

cheesing

About to hike Morro do Pai Inácio

About to hike Morro do Pai Inácio

Climbing Morro do Pai Inácio

Climbing Morro do Pai Inácio

The galera reppin Brasil on top of Morro do Pai Inácio

The galera reppin Brasil on top of Morro do Pai Inácio

Views from top of Morro do Pai Inácio

Views from top of Morro do Pai Inácio

More views

More views

Being still

Being still

Gruta Azul: The water in this cave is actually clear, but appears turquoise when the light hits it during a narrow sliver of the afternoon, reacting with the calcium in the sand

Gruta Azul: The water in this cave is actually clear, but appears turquoise when the light hits it during a narrow sliver of the afternoon, reacting with the calcium in the sand

Some vacas

Some vacas

The mouth of the cave "Gruta da Fumaça"

The mouth of the cave “Gruta da Fumaça”

The cave was huge, filled with stalactites and stalagmites

The cave was huge, filled with stalactites and stalagmites

The cieling

The cieling

I think the funniest part was hearing the guide pronounce "stalacteechees" and "stalagmeechees" in Portuguese

I think the funniest part was hearing the guide pronounce “stalacteechees” and “stalagmeechees” in Portuguese

Formations

Formations

Lydia, the cave dweller

Lydia, the cave dweller

Four brave adventurers in a jeep, ready to hike to Cachoeira da Fumaça!

Four brave adventurers in a jeep, ready to hike to Cachoeira da Fumaça!

View of the valley and the town we hiked from

View of the valley and the town we hiked from

Views from the hike

Views from the hike

The canyon of Cahoiera da Fumaça

The canyon of Cahoiera da Fumaça

You can't see me trembling, but the guide's hand on my ankle was all the security I had

You can’t see me trembling, but the guide’s hand on my ankle was all the security I had

Cachoiera da Fumaça, the highest waterfall in Brasil

Cachoiera da Fumaça, the highest waterfall in Brasil

Overlooking the canyon

Overlooking the canyon

A little lagarto that I found

A little lagarto that I found

The waterfall is so high up, that the water evaporates on the way down the canyon

The waterfall is so high up, that the water evaporates on the way down the canyon

Views on the way back down

Views on the way back down

The rocky plateaus that give Chapada its name

The rocky plateaus that give Chapada its name

After surviving the 6-hour hike, where we literally bounded like mountain goats up the rocks of a dry riverbed, we went to a natural pool to cool down.

After surviving the 6-hour hike, where we literally bounded like mountain goats up the rocks of a dry riverbed, we went to a natural pool to cool down.

The coldest pool in which I've ever swam, high in the mountains of Brasil

The coldest pool in which I’ve ever swam, high in the mountains of Brasil

Showering in the waterfall

Showering in the waterfall

This place was my favorite from the whole trip

This place was my favorite from the whole trip

Infinity pool...

Infinity pool…

Chapada Diamantina completely changed my concept of Brasil’s topography, with was previously composed entirely of stereotypical images of beaches and rainforest.  These rocky mountainsides, lonely plateaus, and the dry landscape (think Arizona in the tropics) interspersed with glorious waterfalls splashing into natural pools forever opened up my mind to the vast diversity that is Brasil.  Now I am back living in the salt-water, sea-side city of Salvador, but I definitely want to return one day to the agua doce (fresh water) pools and waterfalls that are the true diamonds of Chapada Diamantina.

Praia do Forte: A Piece of Paradise

The first weekend trip I made here in Salvador da Bahia was to Praia do Forte, about a 2-hour van-ride north of the city.  After the crowded beaches of Salvador, the long, white sandy strips with only little pockets of people seemed glorious.  While the town was overtly touristy, with the main street packed with pricey souvenir shops and expensive cuisine, the little painted houses lining the side streets and back alleyways reminded me of my experience last summer in Nicaragua.  Unlike in the big city of Salvador, little children ran around unsupervised after dark, and I felt entirely free from danger strolling the beach alone with camera in hand.  The safety of a small town was truly a welcome relief for my mind, which after one week was already exhausted from all the adjustments and the constant awareness that is already second-nature to urban Brazilians.

Castelo Garcia D'Avila, the only feudal castle in the Americas, built between 1551 and 1624.  The property controlled by Garcia D'Avila was once the size of one tenth of Brazil's current territory.

Castelo Garcia D’Avila, the only feudal castle in the Americas, built between 1551 and 1624. The property controlled by Garcia D’Avila was once the size of one tenth of Brazil’s current territory.

The chapel attached to the castle

The chapel attached to the castle

Inside the castle

Inside the castle

A window into paradise

A window into paradise

The Galera! Front row: Amanda, Aide, Jennifer, Chanel, Tori Second row: Amber, Erika, Stephanie, Annie, Marissa, Eric, Me, Rochelle, Brandon Third row: Antonio, Cristobal, Rebecca, Jacob, Chris, Jordan, Xhyl, Luize Back row: Ryan, Kelly Max, Eric Fischer, Nick

The Galera!
Front row: Amanda, Aide, Jennifer, Chanel, Tori
Second row: Amber, Erika, Stephanie, Annie, Marissa, Eric, Me, Rochelle, Brandon
Third row: Antonio, Cristobal, Rebecca, Jacob, Chris, Jordan, Xhyl, Luize
Back row: Ryan, Kelly Max, Eric Fischer, Nick

Big, old, Banyan-like tree. The roots were crazy!

Big, old, Banyan-like tree. The roots were crazy!

The cutest little macaco

The cutest little macaco

Jacob, director of CIEE in Bahia, Mariel, an awesome student monitor, and Luize, CIEE staff and the most amazing person ever!

Jacob, director of CIEE in Bahia, Mariel, an awesome student monitor, and Luize, CIEE staff and the most amazing person ever!

Massah Brodah!  We met a poet, and while I couldn't understand the words, I appreciated the rhyme.

Massah Brodah! We met a poet, and while I couldn’t understand the words, I appreciated the rhyme.

A Praia

A Praia

Paradise in a picture

Paradise in a picture

Peace and palm trees

Peace and palm trees

Lots of fishing boats to keep up with the delicious sea food offered here

Lots of fishing boats to keep up with the delicious sea food offered here

Projeto Tamar, which researches and rescues sea turtles

Projeto Tamar, which researches and rescues sea turtles

Another turtle

Another turtle

One of the stingrays finally paused for a picture

One of the stingrays finally paused for a picture

At Projeto Tamar, I held the most slimy and disgusting sea slug thing!!

At Projeto Tamar, I held the most slimy and disgusting sea slug thing!!

The size of a Leatherback Sea Turtle...he's got a couple inches on me...

The size of a Leatherback Sea Turtle…he’s got a couple inches on me…

Wale skeleton at Projeto Baleia Jubarte (Humpback Wale)

Wale skeleton at Projeto Baleia Jubarte (Humpback Wale)

Rebecca and the wale

Rebecca and the wale

Sunset behind the palms

Sunset behind the palms

Night-life at the infamous Bar do Souza (first row: Brandon, Me, Rebeca, Annie, Jennifer, second row: Mariel, Eric, Amanda, Cristobal)

Night-life at the infamous Bar do Souza (first row: Brandon, Me, Rebeca, Annie, Jennifer, second row: Mariel, Eric, Amanda, Cristobal)

Cool palm tree in the middle of the street

Cool palm tree in the middle of the street

The town was so children-friendly.  We ran into a capoeira group that included children!

The town was so children-friendly. We ran into a capoeira group that included children!

Piscinas Naturais: We got up early in the morning to explore the natural pools that form amidst the reef at low tide

Piscinas Naturais: We got up early in the morning to explore the natural pools that form amidst the reef at low tide

There were beautifully bright blue-and-yellow fish in the natural pools as well as spotted eels!

There were beautifully bright blue-and-yellow fish in the natural pools as well as spotted eels!

There were these crabs everywhere and also millions of little hermit crabs inside every shell clinging to the reef

There were these crabs everywhere and also millions of little hermit crabs inside every shell clinging to the reef

I sat down in one of the pools and promptly popped up again howling after getting poked by one of these sea urchins.

I sat down in one of the pools and promptly popped up again, howling after getting poked by one of these sea urchins.

Part of a landscape shot I took--unfortunately I can't upload the whole horizon in this format

Part of a landscape shot I took–unfortunately I can’t upload the whole horizon in this format

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Walk along the beach

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Surfers start young in bahia

Adventure to Praia do Imbassaí

Adventure to Praia do Imbassaí

We took a riverboat to the beach at Imbassaí

We took a riverboat to the beach at Imbassaí

There were restaurants lining the river by the beach, where people literally sat at tables in the water munching on fresh shrimp and fish.

There were restaurants lining the river by the beach, where people literally sat at tables in the water munching on fresh shrimp and fish.

Ocean at Imbassaí

Ocean at Imbassaí

To the left were restaurants on the water, to the right was endless beach

To the left were restaurants on the water, to the right was endless beach

Eating lunch by the sea, sheltered from the storm (Rebecca and Eric)

Eating lunch by the sea, sheltered from the storm (Rebecca and Eric)

I was duly impressed...

I was duly impressed…

I was captivated by this little Sandpiper girl

I was captivated by this little Sandpiper girl

Bright hibiscus flowers everywhere

Bright hibiscus flowers everywhere

I came back from the trip with my head full with wonder, my heart full of praise, and my skin full of sun!  I only wish my camera could have better captured the beauty of it all.  If you’re interested in finding out more about the places and the projects I visited, check their websites out here: Praia do Forte, Castelo Garcia D’Avila, Projeto Tamar, Projeto Baleia Jubarte, Praia do Imbassaí.

First Impressions

I made it to Salvador, Brasil, and so far the only casualty has been my macbook.  Because I do not have a “faceebookee” (as the Bahians say), I will be posting photos here.

View from the Tip of Barra Peninsula

View from the Tip of Barra Peninsula

Farol da Barra (Barra Lighthouse) Perched on the Tip of Barra Peninsula that Pokes Out into Bahia de Todos os Santos (All Saints Bay)

Farol da Barra (Barra Lighthouse) Perched on the Tip of Barra Peninsula that Pokes Out into Bahia de Todos os Santos (All Saints Bay)

Peeking out with the Peninsula behind

Peeking out with the Peninsula behind

View from my window of Hospital Santo Amaro (key direction point for taxi drivers)

View from my window of Hospital Santo Amaro (key direction point for taxi drivers)

View of the bay

View of the bay

Me, Brandon, Stephanie, and Cristobal (Saudades de Brandon e Cris)

Me, Brandon, Stephanie, and Cristobal (Saudades de Brandon e Cris)

Elevador Lacerda, the first urban elevator in the world (1873)

Elevador Lacerda, the first urban elevator in the world (1873)