Nature and color. These are the two aspects of another country I like to focus on when I visit. I love to observe the different vegetation, geological structures, smell, and overall layout of the natural setting of a country. Color is observed on buildings, clothing, artwork, and historical objects, and it’s fun to analyze whether there is a pattern within different areas, the race or class of the people walking around, or the age of the objects or people in question. A new country is my classroom, and I am the ever eager anthropological student carefully studying my surroundings.
I had the pleasure of visiting Salvador 3 different weekends, Brasilia once for a grad school classmate reunion, and the national park Chapada Diamantina. Salvador and Chapada Diamantina are both in the province of Bahia. Brasilia is the federal capital of Brazil. All three of these areas were very different from what I have described previously about the rural areas I was living in for 2 months, or the time I spent in Rio. Considering this, it was a constant reminder of how expanse Brazil is as a country.
Mars landing! I felt like I was in outer space the second our plane arrived to Brasilia. The very prominent orangey-red earth covers the majority of the city, except for the very large man-made Paranoá Lake. The futuristic government buildings also added to the feeling that I was in an episode of “The Jetsons.” It was an exciting trip because we got to see 2 Brazilian classmates of ours (Philipe and Pedro) who were working in Brasilia for the summer, 1 Nuyorican classmate (Christina) working there, and our classmate Ye (see Part 1 post) who flew in from Rio for the weekend too.
We were only there for 2 short days. The first night, we ate at the fancy Brazilian steakhouse called Fogo de Chão, where I discovered a weird liking for chicken hearts. This gathering was organized by one of our Brazilian classmates in order for alumni, current students, and prospective students to network. For me it was a fun way to catch-up with my classmates and get to meet everyone I didn’t already know. They served all sorts of food in different ways. They had food laid out like a buffet, and it was all you can eat except for the alcohol. That meant I ordered a variety of sucos, or natural juice drinks. There was some food that wasn’t laid out in buffet style, and they would bring it to our table. The meat was always brought to us too. On large knifes that looked like swords! They cut off pieces based on how much you want if you want any at all. It was muito delicioso, gostoso, e soboroso! Side note: the only aspect of Brazilian cuisine that I didn’t like was that they added farofa (mandioc flour) to everything. I personally thought it made everything taste too dry, especially the meat. Though, it did have a good flavor to it, I enjoyed everything more without it unless I didn’t have rice to soak up some juicy bean deliciousness.
The rest of our time in Brasilia was spent with Phil and Pedro taking us everywhere to eat at different places around town like the Nordestino (Northwestern) restaurant Mangai, going out dancing, and walking by the Lake. It was overall too short of a trip on “Mars.”
We spent 3 days and 2 nights in the awe-inspiring Chapada Diamantina. Though it is in the same semi-arid province as where our rural research took place, it has no problems with the burgeoning rivers and streams throughout. We probably only got to see at most 1/3 of the immense park, and we only stayed in the little town called Lençóis. There really is no better way to describe the breath-taking nature we experienced other than with pictures:
Click on this link to view all pictures we took from the Chapada Diamantina trip.
Salvador was an enchanting city, much like Rio. I loved the African influence and the colors that adorned everything and everyone. Salvador has way less mountains than Rio did, and it seemed less cosmopolitan. Salvador is equally well known for their carnival celebration. We had the pleasure of staying with a fellow grad school classmate’s parents (my awesome grad school mentor, Olive Gabriela) who lived there. We stayed with them twice, but one weekend we stayed in a small hotel by the beach Praia da Barra one night followed by a stay at a small bed and breakfast in the downtown historical district Pelourinho. Though we loved staying with our “Brazilian host family”, it was a bit far from all of the fun stuff to do so it was great to stay by all of the main attractions for one weekend. We were equally privileged to learn about their Bahá’í faith, and the small but extensively diverse community of Bahá’í’s in Brazil.
A delicious dish I ate almost every time we went into the city was Moqueca, a seafood stew with coconut milk and varying vegetables or condiments depending on the place we went to. I made sure to compliment every meal with fresh squeezed juice like guava fruit juice or lemonade, with the occasional caipirinha of course. I was also very fond of what Bahianos called Bomba Baiana which was açai mixed with milk and banana. Refrescante!
I had the pleasure of meeting up with a foreign exchange classmate I had in high school during my senior year, his name is Rijavã. In addition, I saw a Jenny, a college classmate who was born in Cuba, and who was studying abroad for the summer through the University of Michigan. I introduced Rijavã to Jenny 🙂
My two most favorite things I did in Salvador were 1) watch the Balé Folclórico da Bahia (because DANCE is ma life), and 2) visited the biggest island off of the coast called Ilha de Itaparica (though the boat ride back almost landed all of us in a puddle of our nausea). The Balé was a beautiful display and artistic expression of Afro-Brazilian roots, music, and history. The island was an alternative vacation spot with a nice view of the Salvador skyline and surrounding body of water. There was also a coincidence in running into a former Young People’s Project colleague, Lauren Veasey at the port when we first arrived to the island. It was funny because I had been thirstily reading her FB posts a couple of months before my trip about her trip to Brazil and her involvement in Capoeira (Brazilian martial Arts) there. Little did I know, she was still there and it was a joyful surprise reunion!
Click on this link to view all pictures we took from the Salvador trips.