Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Coming to Bahia do Todos Santos

the long flight seemed easier than i had expected it would be.
We arrived at Kennedy 20 minutes later than i had wanted to get there, around 7:45 AM, and I never mailed the letters that i had had to get out. Thinking that I, we would find a postbox we just kept going. I had my first sense of where we were headed when I saw a family with a retinue of luggage stroll up to the VIP 1st class. Two agents started helping them immediately. One seemed to be a manager who stopped working in the area she had previously been focused on. This family of 6 tanned and ebullient people festooned with all manner of Luis Vuitton on the market were then escorted by the two agents to the luggage xray and drop off area. Once they were through with this process, (45 minutes later). The two women did not come back to help the bulging line of close to 200 people. two tier society here we come.
once it got to be about 8:30-45 AM the agents seemed to pick up their pace and the line slowly snaked forward. We looked for a money exchange shop, but it wasn't open, though we had been told that it was....As the flight prepared for takeoff, my phone rang, and it was Robert Corkin the new US Foods rep for Rockville Md. I quickly obtained his contact info, before the stewardesses called me out. The flight was seamless, the food was better than US flights and we even got forks, knives and free Guarana, wine or beer. We were given a nice warm breakfast of scrambled eggs, potatoes, doughy bread and jam with either grilled thick cut smoked ham or roast turkey. Lunch was a pressed sandwich, a cheesecake with passion-fruit glaze, a simple salad more doughy bread and a petite bottle of extra virgin olive oil. The place-mats, in Portuguese, described how olive oil was made with integrity with simple farming practices that hoped to insure quality and good flavor. This was then drawn as a metaphor for TAM airflight services.,Such a simple touch, but well worth the effort. It far surpassed the low fat, insipid faux dressings that i am used to on domestic airflights. I watched at a few movies, but spent most of the time sleeping. We arrived in Sao Paulo right on time, and were able to breeze through customs. It seemed much easier than the scenes I have observed of foreigners coming through customs at Kennedy. As foreigners our bags were searched at luggage pick up, and then suddenly we were whisked into the main lobby of the airport. Though it was nearly 10PM, the airport was abuzz as though it were rushour. We found our way through checkin without problem changed some money to pay for our cabdriver in Salvador and prepared to find our gate. As we entered the elevator to go up two flights, I heard some whistling and yelling behind me. I thought nothing of it, until the doors closed and I asked Michele where her carryon bag was. She became teary and thought the worst. We descended quickly, and it was right beside the elevator doors. We had been the object of the catcalls, and had not heeded their warnings. Lucky for us, that people were not desperate, or that there were so many witnesses.
We found our gate and took a seat in preparation for our layover. Being antsy, I began to explore the waiting area and found a curious kiosk that held a smart bookshop that in addition to the magazines, newspapers and standard novels, literary and trashy, they offered many recent titles of popular American, British & French authors in translation; they also offered textbooks, history and nonfiction titles. Along the opposite wall was a little cafe with all of the usual suspects that i had just observed in the recent black comedy hit, "Estomago". Chicken Snacks shaped liked giant breaded Hersey's kisses, empadas filled with cheese or chicken, bolhinos de bacalhau, sliced ham, "brownies" flan and cream filled cakes. In addition to the espresso beverages and guarana, there was Mineral Water, Beer, Don Domeq, American Whisky, Vodka and Cachaca. A variety of options for just about any taste. Shopping with my eyes, I had my fill and returned to share details with Michele. Shortly afterwards the flight was called and we boarded a smaller plane for Salvador. Moving through this airport, observing the crowds and reading the departure/arrival charts I learned that airtraffic continues deep into the night, with scheduled flights posted as late as 3:00-4:00 AM to points far north that would require connections. I decided it must be all about the heat, conserving energy, reducing fatigue, tcb.
we received a simple snack, more wine, local tv options and Guarana. In approximately 90 minutes we landed in Salvador. As we descended towards luggage claim we sited a smartly dressed family escorting a Mae or Iyalorisha. Her grandson or nephew was nattily dressed in a matching "applejack style hat, vest and pants, no shirt. His ensemble was a raw cotton print of pink and beige. His mother or elder had red trim over her white skirt and blouse. Their "Mae" sat patiently in her white robes as they carefully tucked in her delicate gray curls, shining as if freshly oiled, wrapping it all in a carmine tignane which identified her station and gave her a regal air. She He closely resembled a young Milton Nascimiento.Few other people got off with us, so our luggage came quickly. Our hired driver, Pire was there promptly to pick us up and ferry us to our digs in Porto da Barra, (pronounced Baha).
Outside by the sidewalk driveup area I saw several barracas or semi-permanent food stalls hawking acaraje, pipocas (popcorn), and other local snacks. I grabbed a shot and we were off. As is typical it was nearly 40 minutes drive to get into town. The city seemed large in scale and highways were built on several levels often encompassing a river or fronting the beach. At one point we were both struck by the giant sculptures of the Orishas set inside the center of a lake as though dancing under the moonlight. We arrived without problem, unloaded our gear, and prepared to find our way to the apartment. Pire, worked like a bellman, trying to carry our bags, hold doors open and herald our arrival as though we were his houseguests. Unfortunately for him, we had only 60 reals (Hay-Ice), the e-note we had received had specified that he would need $50-80 reals for the trip. He seemed content with the sum, said goodnight and descended the elevator to his little Fiat.

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