A Travellerspoint blog

Surfer´s Delight

Friday 27th October 10:00pm


Okay folks, here we are again, these have been posted late on so just imagine you are reading last Friday...

Isn’t it funny the way that things work out sometimes. Today started badly, somehow all those things which I felt I really had to do just weren’t working out. So eventually I decided to stop trying to force it and give in to the Brazilian way and head to the beach. I tell you, letting go of the idea that everything needs to be done right now and every minute has to be filled with useful activities and plans is one of the things that I am finding hardest to let go of. Somehow this is a place where things just happen and they happen at the right time, there’s no forcing things and no way of knowing what may be around the corner.
So I head to the beach, it’s about 4pm which means there is only really an hour or so of sunbathing sun left and evening is already in the air, the harsh heat of the day is gone. The tide is coming in and the sand which has been churned up considerably in the last week of heavy rain casts shadows across itself as the sun fades. I am beginning to wonder whether or not it will be possible to make (17 year olds aside) true friends here, how to weed out the genuinely interested and amiable from the assailants who’s number appears to be growing by the day.
Far from gathering less attention the longer I stay, the exact opposite is happening and more and more I am being approached and accosted. Usually by young men selling jewellery and who after initial niceties then seem happy to offer their services as a ‘Bahian namorado’. On saying no to such offers/requests to get to know me better, albeit whilst trying to maintain a sense of joviality and not to cause offence, I have been accused of being racist and of not trusting those that I am speaking to.
This is a place of tribes just like any other. The monied, the workers, the jobless, the poor, the surfers, the street vendors, the jewellery makers et al and it can be difficult to know who to respond to and who to walk on by. As a lone traveller you certainly meet more people and I have to say that most of those with whom I have spoken seem to be genuine although other interactions are definitely underlined by a certain amount of malice, of a desire or expectation of getting something from you although what this might be I’m not always sure. Such is the other side of the travelling coin, as we come to experience and observe other countries and cultures, irrevocably changing areas to suit the needs of tourists and outsiders, then it is only fair and obvious that those local people affected build expectations of us, what we might have, what we might want and what also they can get from us in exchange. And it is only through having these conversations and interactions that we learn from each other and also learn not to judge and that some people are good-hearted, some are voyeurs and others are out purely for their own means.
So, yes, it can be hard to read people’s real motivations for wanting to talk. At what point does a conversation become a flirtation and at what point does a flirtation become a threat? Easy friendly banter become an invitation? These are the lines that are blurred and also the times when communication differences between Brazil and the UK highlighted, as I was warned they would be!
This is not helped by the climate of distrust and fear. There is a constant message being banged into your head, that it is not safe. Not safe to take the bus at night, not safe to walk certain streets, not safe to wear a watch or jewellery, not safe to carry your bags or to talk to people. Street vendors only want to sell you stuff, people are only interested in your money. There are right people and wrong people to talk to.
Much of this is purely what I am absorbing from the family that I live with who live in a very particular way, with their own values and beliefs, some of which I vehemently disagree with and others of which I also can empathise. But it is also the very nature of Brazil. That massive ambiguity I spoke of before between this and the great positive and passionately obvious life force.
So back to the beach and I am perusing my fate, wondering whether I’d be better off in Rio after all, whether things will actually improve wherever I am.
I’m watching the surfers, considering the tribes and imagining how they appear to be a self-contained and honest lot and how also I would never dare to attempt to surf. I think it looks absolutely amazing but I would be absolutely terrible and as we know I hate to make a spectacle of myself (apart from very rare wellie-wearing, break-dancing moments for those in the know!). And 50% of surfing is the spectacle, the people watching idly from the beach, the crowds gathering on the roadside as the sun lowers and the surfers spread further and further along the emptying bay, twisting, turning, paddling hard against crashing waves and speeding gracefully along the tops of them. I decide they would be good folk to meet but also impenetrable.
I leave the beach, my head is calmer than before and I have come to a consensus about trying to allow things to happen. Trying. As the shadows cast longer and I still have had no real conversation for the day, I suppose it’s time to get off the dangerous streets and ambivalently head back to the apartment. At the moment I am judging my days on the number of meaningful interactions or conversations I have during them, one a day usually suffices to keep me going and so far today I’m scoring zero.
On the way up the steps I bump into a surfer. He asks if I surf, I laugh. He’s going to stay with friends in Brighton next month, he’s excited but worried about the cold. We’re walking in the same direction, he has a friend called Vinnie who works with street kids and wonders if I know him, he’s impressed by my Portuguese and doesn’t try anything on in any way. This person is, I am pretty sure, genuine. My smile carries me home, it looks like I might attempt surfing after all.

Posted by chlojo 11:32 Archived in Brazil Comments (0)

Salvador me amor

So here I am again with the second installment. Yesterday I went out with the adolescent and it was very amusing. He took me to explore the shopping mall - believe me I have been spending way too much time in that place. We went to the games section and played on that game where you have to score goals by hitting floating disks around a table - not explained very well I know but I´m sure you know what I mean!
We then had an ice cream and bizarrely he chose exactly the same two flavours i was gonna choose out of about 30 choices - weird. It was at this point that we got on to the subject of age.. I discovered that he he is a blossoming 17!! And his mouth damn nearly hit the floor when i told him I was 28. The poor lad I´m not sure he knew quite what to do with himself and genuinely thought i was lying, apparently he thought I was 20 - I am serioulsy considering changing my age to about 23/24 when people ask as this seems to be the reaction I keep getting. It´s very confusing and I´m proud of all that I have done in the past 28 years and don´t like the thought that this wisdom doesn´t show!
Anyway we wandered around a bit more but i just couldn´t help suddenly feeling a bit like I was behaving like a mum, telling him to finsish his drink before we went into the shops etc etc. He´s a very nice 17 year old, the kind grannies ask how to use the phone, but he´s also a big gangly kid who sucks his ice cream out of the cup and can´t sit up straight. Still it´s not as if I have anyone else to hang out with at the mo!
At the present time I am in the usual Chloe decisional quagmire. Having become reasonably settled and enamoured with Salvador I am seriously questionning my decision to return to Rio. It would seem that there is plenty of work in the favelas over here as well and there are lots of NGO´s/voluntary organisations to get involved with. The place is also a lot more chilled and easier than Rio which is a big heaving, hot, steamy and stressed city. Also here is a lot nearer a lot of beautiful beaches. However, the idea of Rio and working in the favelas over there is also strangely seductive and obvioulsy carries somewhat more Kudos. Then there is the possiblity of helping to make the film, helping Afroregge and work in possibly more exciting projects albeit probably working a lot harder. Rio is somewhat more crack cocaine to salvadors marijuana...
Aggh, the decisions. Somehow I can´t help comparing Rio to the dubious selction of men I have been attracted to of late as well, those great attractive and egotistical but dangerous ( in a spiritual sense) and disruptive relations. I guess I will just have to keep on thinking and exploring the options over here.
I have also found a fabulous yoga school just around the corner from the house, it´s full of lovely people and music and the yoga is great. In fact I´m going on a 4 day retreat to a local national park with them next weekend - i can´t wait.
No capoiera as yet... X

Posted by chlojo 05:16 Archived in Brazil Comments (0)

In the beginning...


So this is it eh, my first forays into the world of the blog...
I´m not sure how this is gonna work exactly so you will just have to bear with me and probably put up with some personal soul-searching and incredibly dry and boring commentary about where I am, what I´m doing etc - although i will try and avoid this at all costs.
So, for those in the know, i am still in Salvador, for those in the know also, there is no need to be as jealous as you might be as I am in Salvador sans sol! That´s right, since Friday night it has poured and poured and poured with rain. The sky is grey and there is drizzle and wind so my plans for tans have been seriously put on hold.
What this also means is that unbelievably my days are pretty dull. I have not yet fully taken on the roll of independent single traveller who is completely comfortable strolling around lonesone visting every cultural monument in sight, instead I am taking things slowly, slowly, step by step. However, whenever I do venture out I do seem to meet some very fascinating and lovely people.
The latest and most amusing of these is a young man named Lucas who i met on the beach on Friday (before the rain). I am vaguely concerned about this new found attraction to such fresh youngsters but I guess I have to take it as a compliment that I am not yet showing my full 28 years!
So I met Lucas on the beach when i agreed to watch his havaianas and t-shirt so he could go for a swim- normal beach etiquette over here where everyone lives in constant fear of being robbed at any moment. Literally it seems that no one feels safe anywhere, just one of the great ambiguities which permeates Brazilian culture.
Anyway Lucas is still in that awkward phase of adolescence when limbs are newly long, lean and awkwardly angular. Curtains that he has to keep flicking uncomfortably out of his eyes, big teeth and big braces, I´m guessing that he can be no more than 17. A fan of Pearl Jam, Keane and suitably impressed that I like ´Hippy - Hoppy´ as it is known over here. We get chatting, he is moving to France in the summer for two years and speaks surprisingly good english - obvioulsy a well-educated and rerlatively monied brazilian. He then attempts his first clumsy foray into flirtation, expressing I have beautiful eyes although he doesn´t quite have the experience to follow this up.
So I give him my e-mail - hey I need all the friends I can get over here - and then today I get the e-mails, he´d like to take me to see the latest horror film in the local shopping centre and the piece de resistance - he loves me! The joys eh, gonna have to put him out of his misery soon enough and let him know i´m about 10 years his senior.
The portuguese is going well so far although I am having major problems with pronunciation. It´s not just learning ´what´to speak, i am totally having to change the ´how´of my speech. Over here the voice is everything, it´s strong and passionate and without timidity and insecurity and so therefore as someone who is only just getting to know their own voice and has long hidden in mumbles, it is a real task getting it out there. As with most things though it happens best when i´m not thinking about it and then things just seem to flow although the pronunciation of words is a nightmare.
I met a great guy the other day when i was buying capoiera trousers and he took time to help with my pronunciation and have a chat. He was telling me that you can´t say ´black´people over here as it causes great offence and that they say ´negro´instead. For a country which looks so mixed from the outside, racism and inequality is fierce. For example, there are no black people on TV. What there is on TV every mornign is a portuguese version of Angela Rippon who hosts the morning show with a stuffed parrot. She is platinum blonde and flirtatious and every morning there is some sort of close up of her seductively biting into a sausage kebab or sugary doughnut, with full on sound effects. It´s hysterical.
TV is a constant in the house i´m staying with 3 generations of women and one son. They´re a really nice family but clearly have a hard time making ends meet. The job situation over here is diabolical, there aren´t enough jobs, taxes are phenomenal and woman are still heavily reliant on men as the main wage-earners. Families also live together until the kids are married off. It´s very different and has totally made me realise and reflect on how lucky we are in the UK to be so independent and of the whole culture of independence that we have. Saying that it´s great living with so many generations and everyone hanging out together as normal.
As I said things are pretty quiet, I am yet to make any friends and haven´t drunk alcohol in a week! early nights, study and reading for me although it is probably just what I need. I have totally fallen for Salvador though and am wondering whether it may be better to stay here than return to Rio - we shall see.

Posted by chlojo 15:21 Archived in Brazil Comments (0)

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