Brazil - The Making of a Novel - Part 9
The Journey; Salvador, Bahia, July 7 - July 14
(Landed at 3.40 a.m.) Early morning arrivals are disastrous, especially when coupled with congress of six thousand medicos starting tomorrow. Good-intentioned cab driver drops me at sea front. Gray sky, showers, pre-dawn humidity. First hotel full, second $50 a night. Find myself walking back toward Centro after stop for Coke at kiosk where my “jacket Americano” is main interest. Also my $1 note for Coke. Scrawny woman creeping in and out of shadows to beg a cigaretta.
Finally made it via VW taxi to “Hotel Imperial” in Centro at 6.15 and get room at 900 cruzeiros (91cr. to $1.) A benign fleapit. Shocking pink walls. Cockroach at eye level when I wake five hours later. Noise. Deadly shower system (loose electric wires dangling from heating unit) but probably a lot better than what lies ahead and able to keep me within my $30-a-day budget. (And, as usual, contradicting LdJ's observations on “horribly expensive Brazil.”) I had perfectly adequate dinner of chicken, feijoas, rice, salad, beer and tip for 330cr. ($3.50)
First impressions of Salvador come from the large black population. Were this not Brazil, you could expect to awake in a West African seafront town.
First encounter with abandonados particularly memorable in visage of two little girls who'd steal many a U.S. heart. Sad if one considers all the implications beyond the empty soda tin thrust toward you but yet not pathetic.
There was a liveliness, a vivacity, as in their response when a customer at the snack bar ordered a glass of water which he tossed over them! In contrast, a young boy who was approached stopped to talk with the prettiest of the two girls, gave her a fond clasp on her shoulder - no money - before going on his way.
The urgency of getting down to serious work after the Portuguese experience impresses upon me. By 4.30 I've spent two and half hours with the Bahia information people who seem much more on the ball. Arrange to spend day with Henriques Caldeira. I'm impressed with the “sense of history” shown by these first contacts: Dona Linda Conde, who spoke of a plantation that's been in her family for 250 years; Henry who is Jewish and traces his ancestry back to the Dutch/Portuguese connection and Dona Gildene who is a great-great-great + granddaughter of Paraguaçu, the Indian princess who married Caramuru. Dona Gildene also has Dutch ancestry. (Must check influence of Dutch influence down here.)
This first brief foray suggests Bahia is font of Brazilian culture. Am also beginning to realize importance of maintaining this journal to remember all that comes at me and to have this “self-communication” each evening. This self-imposed silence for one so garrulous as me is unusual!
I go to bed quietly hopeful and prayerful. Have, as I did in Portugal with the likes of Serrão, prepared a list of “interests.” Pray God that they come up to expectations. I close Day One with a sense of cautious optimism.
|Princess Paraguaçu and Caramuru|