Saturday, 7 July 2007

December 20, 1986

I've been in Salvador a week now. Practically a native, eh? Two days ago, I had lunch with Consuelo Novais, a historian I met at UCLA. Our conversation was initially tense while I struggled with the Portuguese subjunctive, then relaxed and finally very enjoyable. Her secretary was extremely helpful and walked me to the bus for Praça da Sé.

After that, my day deteriorated considerably. In Terreiro de Jesus, a character nicknamed "Robo" (not his real name, short for Robocop) latched onto me. It was hard to shake him loose. If I were a man, I'd feel freer to make "friends in the street".

I was trying to get a good rate for $20 and one shopowner (or clerk?) was patently insulting, "talking down" to me in a garble of Italian, English and whatnot. I'm afraid I lost my temper. Then Robo stepped in and took me to another shop. He probably got a commission.

Robo has one eye and dreadlocks. He said he makes berimbaus for Naná Vasconcelos, the famous percussionist. That may be so, but I seriously doubt that his motive in taking me over was entirely pure. [I finally got rid of him by letting him follow me into a coffee shop, and ordering for myself without offering to buy him anything.]

I took off for the Lacerda lift, and was once again assaulted by vendors in the Mercado Modelo - I began to feel dazed. In the end, I bought trinkets for most of my friends, t-shirts (one for me) and postcards. I also found Waldeloir Rego's book Capoeira Angola!

To buy it, I had to exchange $$ in the Mercado Modelo at a bad rate, go back up the lift to the bookshop, then down again, wait 1/2 an hour at the bus stop (which is gorgeous, right in front of the Navy headquarters looking up at the old buildings climbing the precipice that divides the old city from the commercial sector and facing the massive lift) and cram myself into a bus along with 100 other bodies, one of them very wet, for an hour's ride back home. I went to bed early and slept profoundly.

Yesterday, I went to Z's workplace for a Christmas party, which consisted of carols, mass read by a fire-and-brimstone priest, Brazilian snack food, including shrimp and shredded chicken in savory pastry and Arabian meatballs, as well as Coke and Fanta (ubiquitous here). [After eating those snacks, I'd had lunch, as far as I was concerned, which is why snacks are called lanches in Brazil.]

In the evening, we went to a student dance concert at the Castro Alves Theater as the guests of a teacher at the federal university.

Apart from the evenings, it's very hot and humid here. That contributes to my exhaustion. There was a prolonged attack of mosquitoes here too - at night, of course. I looked for a while as though I had chicken pox!

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