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Written by: Chris Dawson

23 May 2000

I’m now entering the my third day in Salvador. There is, so far, much to like. The people are beautiful and they seem to know it, which makes them doubly so. The view from the beach is fantastic. The city itself, from what I’ve seen in two days, is full of deep history beneath the cobblestones. Before I left Portland I was having second thoughts about coming here but I know I have made the right decision now.

So far I’ve only really come in contact with people who speak English well. Aside from my roommate who speak English not at all, that is.
The first person I met was Jussara, the daughter of the woman who is renting me the room. Jussara is medium height with a short bob for hair and the typical Brasilian countenance. She is almost too friendly for me to bear sometimes. Coming from America you grow suspicious of people who are overly friendly and I’ve had to catch myself thinking that there must be a reason that she is so nice to me, when in fact it is most likely because that is the way she is.
Tonight we were going to head out to go Salsa dancing but because there is no phone in my apartment there was no way for her to contact me and I, her, so I assume they went off without me.

I also met Jandaira, the mother of Jussara. Full of smiles every time she sees me, but there is little communication between us because of the language barrier.

Today I finally met the Brittos, the family that helped me find Jandaira and Jussara. Rose Britto is the aunt of Louie, a friend of mine from Portland. She is very kind. I also met her husband today.
He is retired and for now I gues that means he can nap when he wants to. I also met their daughter Ryan. Ryan and I spent a good part of the afternoon together. I think Ryan likes the company of someone like me because she can speak English. She took me to lunch at a ‘Comida a Quilo’ joint, of course, called Big Beef. I don’t like the idea of paying for the food I eat by weight since I am not paid by how heavy I am, but the food was pretty decent.

After that we went to the Mercado Modelo. This apparently was the site of a slave trading business. They now sell arts and crafts from local merchants; lots of talismans and sculpture, busts, almost all in bright colors to contrast the dominant theme there which was dark black women in pure white dresses. The building where the Mercado sits in two stories with a basement. The basement is covered with water except for concrete slabs placed to act as a walkway. The water is only a few feet or so deep but is extremely murky; one child behind us grasping his father’s hand tightly worried aloud that there might be ‘tuberão’ (sharks). There were definitely sharks on the first and second floors, kid.

Afterwards we stopped outside in the back to see the Capoeira fighters. Capoeira is a different kind of martial art than I have seen before. Lots of high kicks and spins, but landing a blow was something that only the lower students did mistakenly. I like the informal nature of Capoeira; it seems like there is a rhythm you find with experience but not necessarily something you would get from a teacher.

Next we followed the elevator up to Pelourinho, the haunting grounds of many of the characters from Jorge Amado’s novels. All the streets were pure cobblestone and treacherous. We sat in a cafe outdoors and sipped limão and coca leite(?) from two straws. A pregnant woman gave me a cloth bracelet upon which tying around my wrist I was told to make three wishes. I wished for happiness in my love life in Bahia, happiness when I start my job and happiness to my family.

As I write this my body itches. This bed has bed bugs and there are mosquitos about. I am not sure if it is better that ther are silent but not one of them made even the slightest buzz the first two nights I slept here. But if this is roughing it then I really can’t complain.

I never finished my introductions. The two men I live with are São Paulo, like the city I think, and Luis. Both are extremely friendly and talkative, about what I have no idea, but it is nice to hear them speak to a complete stranger like me without hesitation. I cooked up some leftovers for dinner tonight and Luis offered me his hot sauce (pimenta) and some flour type of stuff that I’ve seen before but don’t know the name of. Then we talked for an hour or so and he gave me a pen from his company. After that he brought out his television and he tuned it to the news for me. None of what I am writing here makes any difference in the grand order of things but I am not sure that is the point. I am profoundly astonished, when I think about it and see it in cold black ink here on this paper, at the level of generosity and kindness shown to me since I have arrived in Salvador. Maybe that is why, without exception, everyone I have asked so far, loves living in here in Salvador. I plan to keep asking but I think I know the answer why.