Wednesday, August 13, 2008

First Days on my own.

Is it a guy thing or what? I woke up with that headache, just where it had been when I had dozed off before I rolled over on the volume control and blasted myself into wakefulness the night before. Now I tried espresso, aspirin and One a Day PC Vegetarian Vitamins for Men to quell the pain. After an hour I was on my feet. I realized that I needed to stay in Salvador for too many reasons if I intended to go to Boa Morte, so I called my friend Zeno and asked if at least, "Could I leave my bags with him, while I found a place for a night or two?" He suggested that I stay with him. The night before I had left a message with Alain the house manager to see if he had a room in his portfolio.
At 10:00 AM fast talking Alain with the snake in his grass, called to ask if I wanted to seem some apartments. Kenny the full figured boisterous man we had seen in the lobby. You know the one, cannot hide their Americanness, and probably don't want to really. We had seen him on one of our beach walks in the company of a more zaftig fellow, I believe also from Brooklyn. They seemed to be on a flesh hunt, possibly just eye-fucking, but anyway--you got it. The three of us jumped into Alain's brand new Ford Focus and looked at a couple three apartments. One was right on the beach with great views and a wonderful pool deck if you wanted to avoid the crowds. He said he gets $6000 Reals a night during Carnaval. It is right on the parade route, so you could have a boffo party but it would not be about sleeping at all. I got the lay of the land, was glad for the view. Told them al that I would think on it, and jumped a bus for Itapua. An hour later I had dropped my bags, got an acaraje from one of my favorite stands, yeah it gets like that. Maybe I should break it down.
Soak some black eyed peas until you can shuck the skins off. Mash them to a pulp. Whip them a bit. Then shape them into cakes. Heat some palm oil in a deep casserole. Add an unpeeled onion to the simmering oil for flavor. Fry the cakes until tawny russet brown. Drain them, slice them laterally and begin to fill them. The hot sauce has the smoked dried shrimp, palm oil, onions and chilies. There is a simple salsa like condiment, not spicy at all. Vatapa- the bomb! A blend of ground peanuts, cashews, the aforementioned shrimp, breadcrumbs, coconut milk, ginger, malagueta peppers and palm oil. Throw in 8-10 shrimp and your off; all for $3.50. Reals that is. Maybe two bucks. And it is light and fluffy. The fried bean cake is fluffy like a light biscuit. I found a busstop close to Zeno's house, but it took forever for a bus that I could use to get there.
An hour later I got back to Barra, went home, worked on some computer stuff, tried to secure a spot to sleep in Cachoeira and tie up loose ends. Paid Ana the housekeeper her tip and left to drop some clothes at the seamstress. I needed some hemming and light repair done. I also asked about having a zipper fixed. They told me that they would have to replace it. I said, "yeah, ouch-how much?" Eight Reals, maybe $5.25. That works. From there I went to Citibank to get cash. Looked at my accounts and realized that the party is over for now. Not good. Boys and budgeting...nuf said. Found a bus toward Iguatemi to get me to the Rodoviaria, (major bus station for out of town excursions). From where I was I had to go by the historic district almost all the way up to Bonfim to a tunnel in the hillside, a long stretch of highway to be dumped by the side of a major highway under an overpass. A few yards behind the stop there were three major caged in stairways that could carry folks across the highway in either direction. On the northside was a large bus station, where I bought my passage for Cachoeira. You have to register with your name, no I.D. You receive a receipt, or proof of purchase and a little mini plastic card analogous to the savings cards we receive at supermarkets. This is what you need to swipe on the bus. Everyone said that this festa is so popular, especially with Black Americans that I needed to buy my tickets in advance. From that stop, I took another bus back to Itapua over highways, past the airport and back to the lovely beach that makes it so sweet. Another 90 minutes travel. The second bus was so crowded that in true Salvadorian fashion a woman sitting down offered to hold my carry bag and mochilla (backpack). Once space opened up, I grabbed a seat and relieved her of my burden.
I decided to keep it simple, so as I got off the bus I stopped at the street vendors. I will never forget my visit to my G.P. eight weeks ago for two reasons. First the man who came in behind me on recommendation from his hotel, looked greenish, and proceeded to look worse as we sat waiting to be seen. Twice he got up to ask how long for his turn to come up. Whenever he sat back down he would begin to writhe with pain. Needless to say, it was the first time I saw an ambulance squad come to a doctor's office. I hope it worked out for him. My larger point is that, when the doctor pulled out the recommendations from CDC for Brazil and I realized after a deep gulp that this was going to be possibly a $500 visit, I started questioning the need for all of the innoculation cocktail. When we got to the Hepatitis A & B series, the information brochure asked, "Check yes or no to the following questions: Are you and I.V. drug user? Do you engage in male homosexual sex, including anal penetration? Are you an adventurous eater?" See where I am going. I was like yeah, I am all about C. We wouldn't be even considering not chowing on acaraje et alia. So, off the bus, I decided to try this fresh corn roasted over a hibachi like grill. I had memories of summer 'cues, la la. Well I felt like a hungry sow being fed burnt, leathery weathered warm corn. Yum. I thought, how can they have so many delectable fruits and whenever I go to buy them the sellers specifically ask how soon I will eat each piece so that they can pick for perfect ripeness. And now this? I wanted to throw, no spit it out, but I was hungry. I moved on. Two blocks later, I saw this stand I had walked by many times before. Batata and Sundried Beef snacks. I sidled over and read his menu. He had these oversized croquettes made with a base of either potato or mandioca (cassava) puree. In the center you could get cheese, cheese and roast chicken, sun-dried salted beef, beef and cheese, ham, etc. I went for Frango e Queijo (cheese and chicken) It was truly superlative. Miles above my corn. To seal the deal I walked two more blocks to my acaraje buddy, Sira. But instead I went to the Tapioca e Beiju stand. I got a coconut, butter and cassava beiju or griddled crepe. Another winner. I was done. When I got to Zeno's house I decided to sit outside for a moment. I found a hip pocket park on the corner with a nice stone sculpture to Yemanja. I took a few pics, caught my breathe and then went in.
Immediately upon entering Joao hid under the arm of the sofa next to where I was sitting. He is Zeno's 3yr old grandson. In short time he was in my lap, talking rapfire, (for a 3 yr old) stories of his superman, aranaja homen (spiderman) and G.I. Joe like soldier figures. He conjured discussions, faux massacres, full tilt right brain shenanigans. I downloaded my pictures and we looked at them together. We laughed, he played hide and go seek with me as the secret witness of where he hid out, and then we traded vocabulary words and phrases. Kids are great at grounding you when you are new to a language. Out of the blue Zeno called me to dinner. I was touched. We had an interesting and simple meal of: coffee with options to make it cappuccino, fresh maracuja juice (passion fruit), fresh baked bread with butter, sliced cheese and roast beef and fruit if we needed it. We spoke of my research and my impressions of the city. I shared today's pictures with him. He smiled. I settled in for some writing, emails back and forth to Kidville to make sure the new store opening goes smoothly from my departments end, and I got a nightcap of a surprise chat with Michele. It was a good day. Boa noite.

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