We’re Carnival

06Feb08

Originally written on February 6, 2008 

Ola todos! 😉
 
I’m starting this email feeling a little bit down because after 6 nights of the carnival, it’s very difficult to get back to the normal and not to feel the vibe given off by millions of people.
 
Yet again I’ve made my way to Brazil, to escape the cold Canadian weather and join the largest street party in the world. I’ve seen Rio de Janeiro and its carnival, but there was still Salvador to do, and I’ve done it now.  

Farol do Barra, Salvador

 My friend O.G., who invited me to his hometown, has been nothing but wonderful when it comes to the hospitality. I’ve met most of his friends and family members, and everyone has been very kind. The warmth of Brazilians and South Americans in general always shocks me a bit. It really feels nice, but this is nothing one could expect in North America. As I’ve said to a friend today, where else does a dentist greet you with two kisses on cheek? Moreover, everyone jokes here and makes fun of one another. Me, being a gringo, is always a target. A newly made friend D.N. was introducing me to various people during the carnival. I tried to be as polite as possible to them, and say a couple of words in Portuguese. Yet I couldn’t understand why they looked strangely at me. As it turned out, he really didn’t know all of them, and he was introducing me to random strangers. You should have seen me blushing! 

Praia do Forte, Bahia

Prior to the carnival, we went to Praia do Forte where a conservation site for sea turtles could be found. The beach is stunning, and the Atlantic Ocean is warmer than in Rio (probably around 25C). Yet it was the turtle farm that blew me off and made me realize how vulnerable these turtles are. Five out of seven sea turtle species live in Brazil, and the country is doing everything to prevent them from the extinsion. One of the species actually grows up to be up to 700kg in weight. It’s absolutely amazing. 

TAMAR Turtle Reserve at Praia do Forte

Aside from that, Brazil has been doing a lot to preserve the environment. The newest shopping mall has it’s own solar and water recycling system. Cars are running these days on gas (not gasoline) so one needs to get out of the car each time the vehicle needs to be filled up. Apparently, there is always a possibility of the car being blown up while filled with gas.  

Pelorinho, Salvador

Salvador as the city is very historical and beautiful, especially the old colonial part called Pelorinho. It was great to take a stroll in the morning and visit one of 365 churches in the city whose entire interior has been covered in the golden leaves. 

Igreja Sao Francisco, Salvador

The city is the capital of Bahia state which is also known as Black Brazil. This was the place where first African slaves were brought to the continent. The African roots are evident through the Bahian culture, and black people actually take pride in being called Negros. I wonder how long would I live if I used that word in Canada? lol…
 
The food is very heavy in comparison to the one in Rio. They don’t eat as much fruits and vegetables, and aren’t obsessed about the physical appearance as Cariocas (people from Rio). The Bahian cuisine is also very unique to the rest of Brazil. (I.M., O.G. eats at least several acarajes per day. We are joking with him that he’s turning into one. lol)
 
The carnival, itself, is a 6 day long party which gathers around 2 million people on the streets every day. It starts around noon for children and in the early afternoon for adults, and it ends at the dawn. I would bet there is nothing like it in the world, as this is the largest street party by the Guinness Book of Records.  

Carnival 2008, Salvador

The carnival is a collection of processions called blocos; there is around 25 of them per night. Each bloco has a huge truck on which a singer is situated. Around 4-5 thousand people make a bloco, and they are recognized by the t-shirts that they wear. The t-shirts called abadas (costing between $25-500 Canadian depending on the performer) are actual tickets for the bloco which moves over the distance of 8km within 6 hours. This carnaval doesn’t have pomp and grandeur as the one in Rio does, but the people make it the most fun. 

Carnival 2008, Salvador

Despite being very dangerous, despite my bruises, slightly twisted ankle, almost losing my voice from singing and screaming at one point, I still miss it. I miss dancing to the exhaustion with newly made friends, making out with random strangers in the parade (lol… what? lol…), pushing in the crowds, bier being spilt and flying in the air, the sweat, the laughter, singing and joy that it brings. The carnival has got it all – from the fireworks to confetti and rose petals being thrown out from a helicopter (it completely blew me off when I saw that), from national celebrities to the international ones such as Naomi Campbell, it’s got it all. I’ve ruined my favourite shoes dancing 8km four out of six carnaval nights, and I don’t regret it. I’ve probably lost/sweat off some of my weight as well. 

Naomi Campbell at the Carnival in Salvador

 Hopefully, I’ll get a chance to show you small video clips and bring all this closer to you. The carnaval can be very overwhealming for us, foreigners, but if one can see beyond the language barrier and taboos, one can have the time of life.
 
I’m leaving Salvador tomorrow and heading to Sao Paulo which will be very different. I will miss this place, especially all people who have made it so wonderful for me.  

Avenida Paulista at Night, Sao Paulo

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