Wow! Who would figure that it would take so long to get through just the first day? This blog is gonna zoom right along, I can already tell!
Our awakening to the three chimes of death was just as pleasant as ever, but we made it out of bed nevertheless. Morning ablutions in a new place are always strange. Here we had the added benefit of a non-handicapped toilet height, and the lurking fear that a clog was right around the corner. PLUS, I was having to get used to the deodorant Jean had bought me. I asked for plain old Old Spice, and she brought me Rite Aid's "compare to Old Spice". Most of the time, that gag works fine, but not this time. I couldn't get used to this weird stuff. Plus, with all the sweating and confusion and chimes, I had completely forgotten Carol's words from a couple of nights earlier: "We usually drink bottled water here."
I filled the water glass with water from the tap, took my umpteen morning pills, and chased them with the water from the little glass. At that point I kind of remembered the bottled water thing, but thought it would be too much trouble, and anyway I had already taken the pills and aren't I just about immune to anything?
We had an incredible breakfast, and this is the picture of that breakfast, which I lied and showed in an earlier post as "the first breakfast". Okay, so this is really the second breakfast.
It was hot.
Nelson's masseuse, Luciana, was coming to the house that morning, and Jean wrangled a massage with her after Nelson's.
Carol had mentioned that since we were interested in daily Salvadoran life, that she was going to the market that morning if any of us were interested. Of course I wanted to go, as did Pettus and Robo. Jean couldn't go because of her massage. Patricia was up, but said "no thanks". Daniel was still asleep in the air conditioned lair of comfort.
We got in the SUV, accompanied by a bunch of Carol's great Portuguese to the gate guy, a lot of thumb upping, and my first realization that the gate guy kept birds! He had three (I think) cages with birds in them. Couldn't tell you what kind, but Carol could.
Now what does that tell you about your gate guy? He is tuned in enough to keep birds. He is reliable enough to keep birds. He is happy and thumb-uppy, as are the people around there. It's the Bahian spell of coolness. They are so cool because they have to be. It is extremely hot there in summer.
Oh, I said, "I live through Alabama summers of 105 degrees, blah, blah,blahblahblahbla. But when you kind of don't expect it, like, in the middle of YOUR WINTER, it's discombobulating. And I sweat like that in Alabama, too. But Alabama has air conditioning. You can escape from the heat. In Salvador, the heat obviously becomes a part of you, because you can't afford to cool it down.
Well, at least Carol's car was air conditioned. I asked her why she drove an expensive SUV. She really didn't know. In her neighborhood, Rio Vermelho, Carol is very well recognized and liked and is not seen as a cocky outsider type. The SUV, I think, gives more weight to her presence in the neighborhood, and elsewhere in Salvador, SUVs are more prevalent.
We drove right down her steep hill and took a turn or two and were at the market. Right at Carol's feet, literally, was an orgy of smell, color, sound, etc. Everything fresh, as you would expect, but I mean FRESH. And as far as location, if you were clever enough, you could probably figure out how to roll there from Carol's house.
This market had everything for the Brazilian chef. Everything was fresh. Like, totally fresh. The fish didn't smell fishy. All the earmarks of quality were present.
Did I mention that it was hot?
We started to cruise the booths. I had my camera in duffel position #2, for lower security requirements. In other words, lens cap off, camera stuffed in bag carried at side.
I was confident that a thievery would end up being like something in a Peter Sellers movie with my screaming in my Portuguese, while the culprit knocked over display after display. I eventually carried it out of the bag, still trying to blend in as much as possible. Oh yeah.
Oh the things we saw!
No wonder the fresh shrimp guy is smiling. I'd rather have the fresh shrimp. The dried shrimp is used in countless Brazilian dishes, however, and ordinarily I would have been more interested in the flavor possibilities, but for some reason I was feeling a little revolted by the thought of all that dried shrimp in my stomach. Hmm. What was up?
I continued on, immensely enjoying the experience, including the smells. Robo was kind enough to use his head as a reference point for the size of the shrimp and his skin color as a reference point for the freshness. I was beginning to get the idea that he didn't care if I took his picture whenever I wanted to. I like people like that. He also posed willingly in front of the nice rooster painted on the wall. It was neat. Kind of like something at the Alabama State Fair. It looked very American. But it had been there long enough to have seen a lot of market days, and its age and seniority were impressive.
Notice the Havaianas that Robo is wearing. They're the craze in Brazil, and obviously here, too. I saw an ad for them in New York
Magazine. Their TV ad campaign in Brazil is fantastic. Funny, sexy, spot-on. They're great, no doubt. The ones Carol got us had a tiny little Brazil flag on the thong part. The story I heard from Patricia is that Giselle Bündchen
(Brazilian supermodel, who came to US attention on the arm of Leo DiCaprio and now hangs with Tom Brady) is making her own line of flip flops and sandals (not Havaianas) hot in the U.S.
But it's as if they were the greatest thing since sliced bread, and so new and hip and all. They're just flip flops from our childhood that used to cost 59 cents at Woolworth's! Came in all the colors. Same material. Same propensity to blow out. Fantastic product. One of their most distinctive features was your having to get over "flip
flop shock," which inevitably set in for about a day when you first
started wearing them in earnest at the start of summer.
I was glad to see this classic so well recycled and received. They cost about 12 to 15 bucks here. I think they were about 5-7 American down there. Long way to travel from 59 cents, albeit 59 cents from 50 years ago.
We proceeded on through the market, stopping to gawk at the likes of
the octopus (above) and other stuff so exotic, so unfamiliar, and so
utterly common to the people who were speaking the language I couldn't
By this time, we had acquired the company of a nice Bahian lad named Ian (pronounced Yuhn)
, who was more than willing to push the grocery cart, help with the vendors, and in general make himself as useful as he could. He couldn't speak a lick of English, but was fascinated with our Americanness, I'm sure. He was all smiles, all help, and actually trying to make a tip or two instead of just hanging around the market. Carol speculated that he was the child of one of the vendors, and that many of them had grown up on that same spot, doing the same thing. But never did I get the idea that anybody there really hated their jobs. Bahian smooth. That's what they were. I began to think of how many of them had grown up with the rooster painting.
In the next picture, Ian is helping to pick out and weigh a soursop
. Looks like something from Yellow Submarine
. We also went in search of a good jackfruit
, but had no luck that day. Carol was great about serving us every unusual Brazilian fruit and vegetable she could find, explaining it all as we ate. It never ceased to blow my mind how many different types of foods there are on the earth, and how they can be nonexistent in one place and common in another.
Pettus and I wandered outside to look at the flowers and stuff. By this time, I was so brave and at home that I was casually taking pictures of anything I felt like, always asking first, of course. Nobody said "Não". I think some of them must have thought I was from an American travel show. They get those more frequently these days.
How crazy are these flowers? The ones on the right look like those things you use to dip honey out of a jug. They are so unreal looking, but symmetrically perfect and beautiful. Nobody tops nature. Of course there was a dog, and of course I began to pine for our two papillons, Zoey and Spike. They're unbelievably obnoxious, but are so entertaining to Jean and me that the downside is worth it.
Whenever we go out of town, I always "personify" Zoey and Spike using other dogs, and oftentimes other animals as well. Spike is easier to impersonate because he's the dumber of the two. Even beach birds remind me of Spike when I'm missing him and Zoey.
Strolling back inside, we hooked up with Carol, our assistant and Robo. I was hot and I was thirsty. What a great time to run across this next item--tobacco, I think.
Woo! Needed some water bad. Carol bought us all drinks, and I chugged mine while explaining in my fabulous virgin Portuguese to the guy that sold it to me how I was sweaty. I can't spell it properly right now, but will correct: estoy suado i
s what I heard when Patricia told me how to say it. So I would go around Salvador telling everybody that I was suado,
as if they couldn't tell by looking at me. Of course, they probably had no idea what I was saying, and just wondered what the sweaty guy was babbling about. But when I was saying it correctly, it would usually get a giggle out of the girls.
Of course there's no "checkout," since you buy your stuff from each vendor, so when we were through looking, we were ready to go. Ian took all of Carol's stuff out to the car, and in what became quite a production, another guy joined in to make sure that Carol got out of the parking lot with no mishaps. I think she tipped our assistant about one Real (plural, Reais), and maybe even gave the parking coordinator something, too. Maybe some change. But as she explained to me later, it's a good thing to have these people looking out for you and your car, not only for security reasons, but also because they will always find you a place to park.
On the way out, Carol pointed out a guy who sold a type of porridge out of a little metal heat box on wheels. She said he comes through the neighborhood and the stuff is delicious. I got the idea it was like smooth grits with sugar, possibly cream of wheat. At any rate, I think it was a hot cereal that was tasty with sugar and milk. There are lots of Salvadorans that make their living serving food to the public in a floating fashion. Consider also the water guy, who totes the bottles of water up Carol's steep hill and brings them to the door. There is absolutely nothing slacking about the Bahians.
We serpentined ourselves up the steep hill back to the house, got the happy thumbs up from the gate guy, said "hey" to the birds, and barreled in the house. Suely and Carmen were working on lunch. Jean had just finished her massage. The activities were very domestic and comfortable, only in a language that I didn't understand. It just killed me.
I can't say much about lunch, except that it was fresh, delicious, and totally local, with fresh crazy fruit on the side and manioc flour front and center. For some reason, my appetite was severely depressed, and I only wanted water. Strange.
I took a couple of shots whilie we sat around after lunch, with the highlight being the proper homage to Our Lady of the Ping Pong Table by Robo and Daniel. Perhaps I should have joined in. Maybe it would have helped alleviate the tiny knot in my stomach.