Much of why I wanted to come to Brazil was to witness the energy of the Afro-Brazilian Culture which habits the country's eastern coast. As I arrived, I gently let it unfold. My seatmate on the plane was a heavy Bahian Mama who only spoke Portuguese - somehow we sorted out that she'd been visiting her ex (a very skinny guy) in Sao Paolo and that sometime after having a kid together she'd fallen in love with someone else. We giggled at the photos she took on her cellular of both of us sitting together eating Azul airways potatoe chips.
Outside of the airline terminal I waited for a colectivo that would take me to "Aeroclub" the neighborhood of Albert, my new couchsurfing host. Eventually the bus came--and his directions worked just fine. (Look for a house with a green wall that's between these two restaurants which is directly next to a hotel-suppy store.). Albert's house is big and full of potential, but at the moment it has pretty much nothing but an excellent Internet connection and a couple of air mattresses. I managed. Albert is one of those well-traveled people with a top-notch education (graduate degrees from Stanford) whose current passions are eco-sustainability (he has a plot of land he's developing up in the mountains) and couchsurfing. His home is like an intellectual flop house wherein he handpicks interesting people to come by and visit. He sponsors internships for recent college grads and keeps his fingers poked in many cultural holes. While here my services as a sexologist have been called on several times to help wayward visitors sort things out.
Albert, my host, enjoying morning coffee (and of course conversation)
Soon after my arrival he announced that there would be this amazing band playing in the old city and that we should all go down and hear them. Being that it was going to be packed with people and the risks of thievery would be super-high, I put on a thin dress, sandals and stuffed 10 Reales in my bra. For safety I left my purse and beloved camera back at the house.
The bus followed the edge of the harbor down to Pelhourina, the old city of Salvador. The area was once the capital of Brazil -- and the king of Portugal/Brazil chose to have his residence here rather than in non-tropical Portugal. We got off the bus near a central square and the energy was thick with Bahian women cooking up fried patties which they then stuffed with shrimp, veggies and a pungent sauce. Beer abounded as did fresh whole coconuts. The band was playing below and we ventured closer. It was as crowded as a Santa Monica pier concert ...with super-intense Bahian energy. I wanted to get closer and then we saw a pickpocketer in action examining a wallet with credit cards and a gold chain. It spooked me, despite that I came with nothing to steal (other than my Bahian virginity).
Eventually we found a quieter cove with a different band and danced. I felt like I'd arrived--finally groking the Bahia I'd so wanted to feel. After a while we ambled back to the main plaza, ate, drank and chatted with an ever-expanding table of couchsurfers. When I couldn't keep my eyes open another minute we got back on the bus and took the long ride back to Albert's home. The bus itself became a party as the riders continued to belt out songs and dance. What an amazing spot of the world!