Tuesday, July 29, 2008

First Days in Salvador

Arriving at the apartment close to 2AM, we slept heavily for several hours til just after dawn. Then we dozed and woke repeatedly until 10ish. Alain, the agent for the apartment came promptly at noon, full of vinegar and plastic smiles. Bruskly, he recited the details of his life and the needs and responsibilities of the house. Born in Egypt, raised in Syria, lost his virginity in Paris, built a real estate career in L.A. and realized 16 years ago that he needed another kind of life, so now he is doing real estate & property management in Salvador
Quickly, he began cluing us into how to light the stove, wash clothing, use the TV's, access the net,buy bottled water and charge the complementary go-phones. It all came out in such a flurry, I felt as though I should have taken notes or recorded it. In part, I can say we were spent, but as such he could have taken time to insure that we were clear on all aspects of the place. In the end, we had to call and email him several times to fill in the gaps we had missed in this audience. He left in the same whirl that had brought him in.
After we caught our breath, we showered and prepared to change money, get some food, take a walk, buy groceries and check out the neighborhood. From our 18th floor view to the street the air was fresh, like San Francisco Bay, the sun warm and friendly, though not blisteringly hot. On the corner was well stocked fruit & vegetable stand run by a caramel toned man. He sported an stubbled head, gravely voice and a warm smile. After circling the hood a bit, we settled on a local bar restaurant about 2 blocks from home. The Moqueqa de Camarao was good the Cascanha de Siri was decent, but i misunderstood the waiter and ordered Maltbier instead of Pilsner. (Read OE/Old English).After lunch we charged our phones, checked out the beach-full of overtanned hangerson, skimpy suits, a 17th century fort and too many men hawking too many things that weren't on my agenda. We found a BomPreco-the local market chain which embodied both Food Emporium and C-Town.
Shortly thereafter we went back home and collapsed for a much needed deep sleep. We woke up the next day, earlyish and I made some phone calls to solve my new computer problems.....I couldn't access the net and was getting various error messages on the computer. In addition, I began to address some of the folks on the various lists that we had been given too. We found a few, Eneida, Valdina, Zeno to be precise. We decided to check out the Pelourinho and figured out the bus and made our way into town.
Salvador's historic district is divided into Cidade Baixa and Cidade Alta. To access the upper city, there was an express elevator for 5 cents. We got off the elevator in front of a magnificent palatial mansion, which had been the first governor's mansion. Established n the 16 hundreds, and rebuilt in the 19th century. We strolled through the house, shooting pictures and slowly made our way through the main thoroughfare of Pelourinho seeking out history and culture, both Portuguese and African. In the Praca de Se, (Plaza of the Cathedral), we stopped at the Museo de Misericordia, (museum of mercy/compassion). They had an exhibit of recent interpretations of the Orisha in abstract sculpture, textiles and watercolor. Leaving the exhibit we made our way to the second square we were welcomed by 4 women of varying ages dressed as Mae's. I tried to sneak a photo and they caught me. They let me know that a photo cost money, but if i paid them their fee they would give the money to their terreiro. We could have photos taken with them. We sat and talked with them briefly and walked on to explore the square. We found the Museo Afro-Bahiana which had a nice synchretic history of African Art juxtaposed with the spiritual significance and imagery attached to the sculpture, implements and objects that are customary in African exhibits. One of the high points was a nice display of large six foot wooden carvings of the Orishas done 20 years ago or so, by a Frenchman (?) who came and fell in love with the area and the culture. The museum segued into a museum of archaeology and anthro, which displayed artifacts from this area as well as indigenous artifacts from the Amazon. In the end we found a traditional buffet lunch of authentic Bahian fare at tourist pricings. Everything was quite tasty and the second floor setting was quite charming since it overlooked the square. Landing back on the street we were once again accosted by a variety of uniformed and licensed souvenir hawkers offering jewelry, t shirts, and rustic instruments. we pushed through these salesmen and the bevy of tourists to recross the square we found a capoeira demonstration and our 4 friends, seated still in front of another church. I believe this square held 4 churches. We decided to check the alleys and side streets for some of our contacts and found the Olodum drum practice session, a local museum of folk art and the Teatro e Fundacao de Jorge Amado on the site of the Pelourinho Square. Pelourinho means pillory, and this had been the site of slave beatings. The pillory pole is long gone, but many people are in place to cue you into the history. We watched at one of the cities hundred or so Acaraje stands, while a local Mae Santo made acaraje and barra. Feeling tired, we walked back up to the square, where our 4 new friends convinced us to follow them into a large gem dealer and jewelry store. We sat with Inicia and she showed us a variety of stones, gave us a history of gems and the family that had run this establishment for over 30 years. We toured the facility and their modest museum of gems and stone carving before heading back to the elevator and west to Barra.
When we arrived at home, the phone rang, and Eneida, (one of Danny's best friends in Salvador was calling to invite us to her gallery). Michele suggested that we walk, and up the steep hill we went. In the end, the walk was much longer than we had anticipated, and we nearly held Eneida up from her early evening appointment. We did manage to make the connection, see the gallery at ACBEU and enjoy her company for a bit. Back home, we relaxed and I made a simple dinner as we prepared to rest and I tried to understand how to resolve my computer shenanigans.

1 comment:

Amy C Evans said...

what an adventure! i'll be a regular visitor to the blog, so i can soak up some sun, eat some food, and experience what you're experiencing all the way from mississippi! big love, amy