A Slice of Heaven

Trip Start Oct 11, 2006
Trip End Apr 23, 2007

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Flag of Brazil  ,
Sunday, February 25, 2007

From deep in the Peruvian jungle we emerged, a little sweaty but spirits alive, and walked across a bridge into Brazil.  The language immediately led to some confusion, everyone saying "Oi! Oi!" like they were kvetching, but "Yo" is a much better translation.  Crossing the border, the roads were immediately smoother and the drivers faster, and we wisked our way east and rapidly towards the coast, to Bahia, to rolling hills full of waterfalls and world-class swimming holes, and on to Salvador de Bahia,  the center of Afro-Brasilian coastal culture and capoeira, with a huge Carnival in prep when we arrived.

As a man from Salvador explained to us, Brazilians´ greatest passions are fútbol, the beach, and religion.  In that order.  He expained that Brazilians are so happy because everyone has access to the culture´s greatest riches.  We have to add Looking Good to the list, because it is a national passion as much as any of the others.  We have found Brazilians to be friendly and kind, going out of their way to help us. We speak very little Portugese, but the thumb´s up is a great substitute.  Positivity is all we need to communicate.

Carnival!!!  The week-long party was stunning.  These people know how to party.   It´s all organized in social units called "blocos", groups of neighbors or friends who form a party team.  The teams often spend months in prep, choosing uniforms and costumes, forming a marching band and a dance troop, practicing, organizing food and drinks, decorating buildings and streets, and generally preparing for the biggest party in the world.  And it is. In Salvador the streets were going to be too crowded for our tastes, so we headed up to Olinda, a much smaller town with a lively carnival, still so lively that we could only take a few days before retreating to the beaches further north.

On the streets and beaches of Bahia and the northeast coast, Capoeira circles draw crowds.  Capoeira is a playful fight-dance with African roots that looks like a blend of breakdancing, gymnastics and kung-fu.   It´s accompanied by a beautiful, rhythmic chant with drumming and coconut-shell one-string violins that makes you want to dance.  It can be an intense battle of swinging limbs and gravity-defying acrobatics, but the coup de grace is never delt.  When the moment is reached both players know who won, and the beat goes on.
Our final destination on this continent is paradise.  We arrived in Jericoacoara just before sunset and walked down to the beach.  Bathed in a golden light was a beautiful little town lined with tall palm trees at the edge of an expansive beach stretching out towards the horizon.  On the sand playground were fútbol games, capoeira circles and dancers, on the endless sets of waves were windsurfers, kite surfers and bathers, and at the far end of the beach rose a huge dune climbing towards the sky, full of people watching the sun sink slowly into the water, all smiling.
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