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Kaleidoscope in the rain

April 27

Excellent breakfast in the hotel before being picked up by Gabriela for a walking tour around the historical old town at 9AM. The Pelourinho is situated in the historical center of Salvador. Declared a world heritage site by UNESCO in 1985, it is a great example of colonial history and symbol of the black movement in Bahia. Pelourinho literally means the pillary where slaves were beaten, pillaried. The Pelourinho contains a number of churches, museums, local artists’ studios, galleries, shops and restaurants.

We had a bit of a zany tour, because it started in drizzle, evolved to a really heavy rain (which caused us and Gabriela to purchase umbrellas) and eventually subsided, after we stopped for coffee. The umbrella business was definitely the business to be in this morning. We ducked into various artist studios, shops and churches, in part to explore them and in part to escape the rain. Because it’s Sunday, many places are not open. A holiday in honor of St. Benedict was being celebrated, with music and processions in the elaborate São Francisco Church and in a Black church named Our Lady of the Something-or-other (not its actual name) and we visited the Cathedral Basílica. As we walked we saw the cobble-stoned, colorful streets of the historic district.

We walked (in pouring rain) to the Elevador Lacerda, built in 1873 and connecting nowadays the Upper City and the Lower City as an important means of transport both for locals and tourists. From there we would have gotten a panoramic view of the All Saints Bay and Mercado Modelo, except that we pretty-much couldn’t see shit (slight exaggeration, blogger’s license).

Gabriela is a fun guide and companion, and her personality engages everyone we encountered.

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After we left Gabriela, at noon, we visited a very interesting museum that combined African masks and statuary with a fascinating collection of odd musical instruments made by a Swiss craftsman. We wished we could have understood more (or at least some) about the instruments, but they were most interesting to look at, anyway.

So, there emerged a sort of pleasing kaleidoscope of an experience to our morning, not exactly what we’d optimally have planned, but memorable and enjoyable nonetheless. I hope that the photos below capture something of the scope and nature of that experience.

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Rodrigo has trouble getting near the hotel, but does eventually, minus Fernanda and Julia, because the latter has a runny nose. We try to park nearby, but nothing is around, so we engage the services of a young boy to lead us to a spot. By the time we get there, Rodrigo decides that this is not such a good idea, but needs the help of the boy to lead us out. Rodrigo gives the boy some money to change, so that he can give him a tip. I can’t believe Rodrigo has done this and, of course, the boy never returns. Rodrigo is philosophical about all this, and we’re now aware that it’s not only tourists who get taken in.

We drive to the Igreja do Senhor do Bonfim church, where a service is in progress. A young woman is tying a ribbon to the fence, like the ribbons at the church we saw this morning.

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We go into a room that has wax arms, legs and organs hanging from the ceiling, tributes for the healing that people whose pictures and letters of thanks are displayed in another wall of the room.

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We see the odd instrument that the guy played at the ballet last night, and Rodrigo tells us that it is called a berimbau, and that he knows how to play it. It seems that he studied martial arts for two years, and knows how to do the acrobatic dancing/fighting that the dancers did last night. Those who learn the martial arts are required to learn how to play the berimbau, as it is viewed as part of the same training. So, the things we saw at the ballet last night are starting to make more sense.

From the church, Rodrigo takes us to Sorventeria de Ribeiria, an ice cream place that was founded in 1931. We feel compelled to partake, Carol toasted coconut and me, at Rodrigo’s suggestion, tapioca. After the ice cream, Rodrigo takes us back near our hotels. Our good-byes are not that sad, as we’ve agreed to have dinner in Chicago with Rodrigo and Fernanda when they come for a big oncologists’ meeting late next month. We’ll finally get to meet Julia, but in Chicago, not Brazil.

Carol and I go straight to a restaurant Gabriela has recommended not far from the hotel, called Maria Mauro. It’s quite good, but not as wonderful as last night’s meal.

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In the lobby, we chat for over half an hour with a couple from New York, Anne and Charlie, a FDA lawyer. They’ve been to Rio and Iguazu Falls, and then had a fabulous time on the Amazon.

We go up to the room, where Carol packs and I work on this damn blog.

3 comments to Kaleidoscope in the rain

  • Kay Osborne

    The complexities of Brazil unfolds….more, more…

  • Zoe-Bug

    I love your pictures. I can never get tierd of seeing them. I love the one with the boy and the umbrella. See you soon!

  • Wendy

    I agree with Zo– love the one of the boy with the umbrella. Also really like the one of the cobblestone street with the man in the distance.

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