Brasil... home of the neverending Carnival!

Monday, March 17, 2003
Oi, amigos! I just got my photos from Carnival developed.... and a few from Ecuador. Most of the Carnival ones came out crappy, way too dark... what did I expect, it was the middle of the night! There's a couple of good ones though of people - Carla, Mark, Hugh and a GREAT one of everyone on the metro, in costume, completely soaking wet from the deluge of rain we endured! It's hilarious!

The last thing I did in Rio was mail four extra large Carnival costumes to my parents house (um, Mom and Dad, you should be expecting four large computer boxes filled with pink feathers any day now!! Forgot to mention that, sorry!). It better be worth it Hugh and Carla... it was the biggest project ever. Imagine trying to fit 3 large computer boxes with feathers sticking out the holes, 2 people, and 2 extra large backpacks all in one taxi. The first taxi wasn't big enough for everything, so we hailed a SECOND taxi as a replacement. At this point, the whole neighborhood was involved.... or at least laughing and pointing at us!! After an hour and half in the line, and a trip to the papeleria for some brown paper to cover the boxes, the costumes were safely on their way.

I had said in my last email that I was heading to the north of Brazil.... and here I am! I showed up unannounced at the airport (after the post office episode) hoping for a flight to Recife... which amazingly enough I managed to get almost immediately! Things were looking good til the sickness set in. I don't know whether it was food poisoning, bad water or WHAT, but mid-landing I had to duck into the bathroom practically knocking people over along the way. I felt like I would die right there on the plane.... but fortunately the airplane cleaning people told me to get out and die elsewhere. Which I did. I must have really looked bad, because these two really nice airport cops came and rescued me from the sidewalk. They started grilling me with questions, because as they told me later, they thought I had gotten beat up! A few days earlier I had tried to learn how to surf. I failed miserably and in the process managed to get a baseball sized bruise on my arm. Once I assured the police I had NOT been beat up, they brought me to the First Aid clinic for the duration of my 3 hour layover, and despite the doctor's disapproval, he let me sleep in the cot until my flight. At one point I woke up and the doctor wanted to inject me with something, god knows what.... and all I could say is, "Don't even come near me with that!". I managed to convince Doc that I was fine and just needed to sleep.

I managed to make it through my next flight unscathed and immediately went to bed upon arrival into Olinda. The whole next day it hurt my stomach even when I just walked around. Fortunately, my hostel had a bath tub sized pool for me to lounge next to and I promptly planted myself there for 24 hours. I finished both my books, and then I felt much better! Then, FINALLY, I got to see Olinda. Just in time too.... because even though it was then one week after Carnival, the streets were hopping! It appeared that no one had informed them that Carnival was over. There were street parades, costumes, girl drum bands, and people everywhere! Apparently, I found out the next day, it was the 700th (maybe 600th, who is counting really) anniversary of the city. Olinda is one of Brazil's oldest cities and it's beautiful. I had heard that Olinda and Recife (sister cities across the river from one another) are the best place to celebrate Carnival. I wasn't even there until the aftermath of the festivities and I would have to agree. It was exactly how you picture Carnival to be, and more. The festive ambience just seeps from the balconies and paper mache decorations hanging off of them. Each street in the Old Town are lit up like the stage of a theater. I walked around for hours and hours while I was there.... for those of you who have been to Rio for Carnival I would even suggest coming back to Olinda for their version of Carnival.

After Olinda and Recife I went even further north to Natal... home of a just a few of the 8000 kilometers of beachfront in Brazil. Incredible! I spent a little time there and left yesterday morning thinking I was heading to Aracuja. My mistake! I must have read the bus schedule wrong, but there was a 9 hour wait at the bus station for the rest of the journey there. I just couldn't bear to wait it out that long in the scorching heat. I decided I just really didn't want to go that bad.... so instead I took the overnight bus to Salvador do Bahia. If you have been to Rio and thought the women wore teensy weensy clothes and bathing suits, not when compared to Salvador! I tried on a GRANDE shirt today in one of the shops and I could hardly even squirm into it. The lovely sales lady seemed to think it looked great though.

Salvador is really interesting, it was founded by Amerigo Vespucci. It became an important city for Brazil mainly because of sugarcane and slaves. Salvador claims to retain their black culture more than anywhere else in the New World. And, I have only been here 12 hours, but I believe it! They have this Catholic/African religious ceremony called Candomble that involves animal sacrifice... and I found one to go to tonight. Guests are not allowed to wear black, got that? I'll let you know how it goes. Okay, off to get the rest of my film back from processing!!

Ciao for now! Alison


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