Saturday 28th October 2006, 22:00hrs
Once again backdated...
How nice to finally meet somebody with an ounce of common sense. Sergio is a friend of two French friends that I made the first time I came to Brazil. He is a Rasta and a musician and that is how he knows them as they too are musicians. He very kindly agreed to meet me and take me out, albeit only for a few beers and we managed to have the first really intelligent conversation that I have had since being here. Okay he had that typical slightly egotistical stance of someone who has been lucky enough in life to make a living from doing what they are passionate about and the chip on the shoulder that someone who immediately describes himself outwardly as a rebel must have but he was a good person. We seemed to share the same ideas about the world and the same values about the need to put an end to social inequality and injustice although I always imagine that people are circumspect about my postion on this as I am often seen as one of the privileged, which in many ways I am... A whole nother debate for another time.
I explained to Sergio that I was having trouble making true friends, that conversations started in innocence would suddenly take a turn in an unwanted direction and he in turn explained to me the phenomenon of male prostitution that is rife over here and which I have been party to over the last few days.
For the first time, my appearance makes me stand out as a commodity. People look at me and see tourist, blonde, white, money, whatever, I’m fair game. This is something entirely different to the Brazilian way of all women up to the age of 35 being amenable to the approaches of any post-pubescent male, this is about the colour of my skin and the way that I am perceived by those around me or at least by some of those around me and it is an uncomfortable if interesting position to be in.
I am sick to the back teeth now of staying in, of playing safe, of keeping myself really to myself. I am in desperate need of people to talk to, people on the level, to go out with and relax.
Speaking to Sergio also helped me to re-evaluate and re-balance the worry that I am absorbing from the family. I am not a person who walks in fear of thier possessions or of being attacked, I generally take people at face value and one of the very reasons I am here is to meet people and to become part of a community. I have been thinking to myself that the streets really don´t appear to be as dangerous as I am told and actually i don´t see any problem with taking a bus after dark as long as i´m not doing anything silly likely roaming dark corners or taking public transport at some ungodly hour of the morning. That is just common sense. And it can be gratifying to talk to someone who has the same voice as your intuition. As Sergio pointed out there are plenty of women who work late and who get the bus home, that people are going to be more looking out for the safe-guarding of toursits than of attacking them and that taking a taxi which could drive you anywhere on your own is equally if not more dangerous. As I said it´s good to hear some common sense, to feel enabled to take part and explore a city without feeling a constant fear.
What I have also realised about the family I live with is that they are incredibly close-minded and in fact their fear is making them prisoners of their own domain. To never leave your apartment because you do not want to mix with certain types or think that you are above them, to refuse to leave the house after a certain time without taking a taxi these are extreme ways of living. People here who have money generally live in huge towering apartment blocks, sharing rooms, with porters on the locked gates. It´s a very different way of life and I am not sure how much better off they are than people in the favelas who have more of a sense of community, of openess, of security to come and go and leave their doors open for the neightbours. I don´t want to be too harsh on my family, they´re circumstances are hard but I think it´s a shame that Manuella (my age) refuses to go to the local beach because of the people there.
In contrast to Rio, I have not felt unsafe at any time here. I have felt harassed yes but this is something different. In actual fact the place that I have felt most uncomfortable is the tourist district of Pelourhino. This is the beautiful, faded grandiose, historical centre of Salvador that has taken on the worst of tourism. The shops all selling the same souvenirs and badly drawn paintings of the area, the street vendors en masse, the impoverished children begging for money, where the seething energy of the tangible want between the haves and the have-nots spirals up through the dark cobbled streets as night falls. There is generally stuff going on there, music, parties etc but as yet I have felt disinclined to hang around long enough to take part.
As we wandered around Sergio pointed out a church in the centre of Pelourhino, outside were suited couples being dropped off in black, shiny cars and a glimpse inside showed red carpets, white table cloths and the flamboyant table displays of a bourgeois do. At the bottom of the side alley just 5 metres away sat about 7 malnourished, bare-footed locals from the surrounding streets which are considered too dangerous for tourists. This Sergio pointed out was a glaring example of the discrimination that goes on. Of the rich coming in and taking over areas, turning communal buildings such as churches into private spaces to be hired out to those with the money, who want to appreciate the historical and ´quaint´beauty of an area without getting their hands dirty. This he said was a typical example of the discrimination that goes on and again is a typical example of the inherent indifference which people have adopted so they don´t notice those sleeping on the streets.