Monday, October 29, 2007

Porto Seguro

Porto Seguro, a city south of Salvador, was the site of my most recent adventure. CIEE, the program I´m a part of down here, brought us all on a trip to this city. We left on Friday, meaning I had to skip all of my classes that day to get to the airport on time to leave, and shockingly enough, the flight was delayed. Haha, oh Brazil, you are teaching me so much patience. Anyhow, we get to this city and settle down in the little posada (little hotel-like place, only where they have a yard, pool, trees, etc which make it different from a hotel which would just be a building with rooms). We all broke up to go explore the city for awhile before we went out to dinner at this little restaurant with all kinds of salads, vegetables, and other yummies. One thing I´ve noticed here in Brazil is, no matter how fancy or common the restaurant is, they will ALWAYS have french fries on the menu or, in this instance, on the buffet. Anyhow, we ate. Long story short. After stuffing our faces (i don´t know how many times we have to go to a buffet and feel disguisting after eating too much that we will learn to stop when we are satisfied instead of holding on to the american point of view of eating as much as possible in order to ´get your money´s worth´ ) we had the rest of the night to continue exploring the city or do as we choose. The city was pretty touristy, in the sense that there were little stands everywhere selling jewelry, knick-knacks, shirts, and more jewelry. When it got too dark and sketchy to continue looking around, we all returned to the posada and enjoyed the night while sitting in hammocks, swimming in the pool (ok it was mainly me, but then i got kicked out by the desk clerk, saying that the pool hours actually ended at 10pm, and i wasn´t allowed to be swimming around at 2am). Well geesh, there should have been a sign. I took that as a suggestion to just be quieter so I continued swimming at my own risk...only silently this time.

Saturday, we were all taken to this Indian Reserve, which I thought was pretty neat. These Indians, the Pataxós, were oppressed and, in order to conserve their heritage and history, decided to set up this reserve and give tours, etc to earn money to be able to afford keeping some of their land and traditions. Anyhow, they took us on a tour of the reserve, and showed us some of their animal traps. Very cool! They explained how the traps worked and set them up and demonstrated for us. They also showed different ways of communicating with eachother without actually speaking or yelling (when the person was far away). These methods included different animal-like calls and, my personal favorite, utilizing a large *about 5ft in length* leaf from a common tree that is banana-shaped to produce a loud, resonating sound. How it worked? Well, let me enlighten you. The leaf was large, as I said, and banana shaped. Well, they would hold on to the stem of the leaf while the rest would rest on the ground. They took a mallot, or a thick stick, and pounded the stem of the leaf. The stem was probably 2 inches in diameter. The impact would create a resonating, deep sound that would carry a far distance. They would have different sequences of pounds to mean different things. Three hits would be a message of `i´m over here, where are you?´. The person receiving the message would hit his leaf similarly and the two would walk a while and then repeat the message until they found eachother. If someone was in danger, they would hit the stem repeatedly over and over to indicate danger and a plea for assistance. It was really interesting. I even got to try out hitting the leaf and sending my own message! It was pretty amazing to see how much sound was created with such little effort. After the tour, they did a little ritual for us. We also sat and listened to one of them telling us different cultural customs, such as their dating ritual. I thought this was super interesting. When a boy was interested in a girl, because of certain traditions of the two sexes not interacting much during their youth, the boy would toss a tiny stone at the girl. If the girl was also interested in the boy, she would toss it back. They would continue the relationship in this way for some time, also exchanging glances through the cracks of their homes. If the boy then decided that he wanted to marry the girl, he would toss a flower to the girl. If she accepted the proposal, she would toss a flower back. Once this exchange was made, the boy would then be obligated to go through a series of tasks to prove he was worthy of marrying the girl. One of the tasks involved him carrying a wooden post the weight of the girl across a distance. This was in order to prove that, in the case of an attack or other emergency, the boy was fit enough to carry his wife to safety. If he was unable to accomplish this task, he had to start over again with the pebble-throwing, etc. which would set him back a significant amount of time in his plans for marrying.

After the reserve, we came back and went to a restaurant overlooking the beach. It was a churrascuria, which is a big buffet of salads, fruits and veggies, and the waiters bring around big chunks of meat on skewers to offer to everyone. Mmmmm so good! After dinner we were all sitting around the posada in a food coma when one of the girls in our group announced she was going to get a piercing. She was going to go alone, and I thought, hey, I´ve never seen anyone get a piercing before, I´ll go with her! She was happy for the company and two other girls decided to come too. When we got there, they said that only one person could enter the room, so they chose me because, according to them, I´m the mom of the group. haha, OK! I went in, held her hand, and half-watched them poke two holes in her ear in order to put in a bar. Ewww...I hate needles. I got a little icky feeling, but I looked at it as a step closer to overcoming my fear of needles. Slowly but surely. It was really funny, though because the other two girls were poking their heads in the room with cameras and curious, yet grossed-out faces. It was a cool experience. At one point I looked at her ear and saw two hollow needles just dangling from her cartilidge. It made me laugh and cringe all at the same time.

Sunday, we had the option of going snorkling at this coral reef a few kilometers out in the ocean. No way I´d pass up an oportunity like that! We went and it was amazing! On the ferry ride over there, there was music playing and we were dancing and singing. When we arrived, we jumped in the water, walked to the reef, and were instructed on where we could and could not go for our own safetly and the protection of the reef. We could only be there for about an hour due to the rising tide which would soon cover everything in 3-6 meters of water, making it difficult and very dangerous to stay out there. I snorkled in the major pool of water in the middle of the reef. I thought about exploring other parts, but the pool was so big and I kept finding amazing and beautiful things where I was, so I stayed. I saw tons of brightly colored fish, coral, and other sea animals. At one point I looked down and saw a sting ray! I followed it for awhile and watched its interaction with other fish passing by. It was soooo cool! Another time, I was near some coral and out of the corner of my eye saw lots of little reflecting lights. i turned and saw a school of fish just staring at me. they were all facing me and watching me with interest. It was amazing. It was their eyes that I saw reflecting and when I noticed that they were watching me, I faced them and returned the curious stare. We remained there for about a minute just observing one another until they got a little frightened and swam away. Multiple times, I saw a school of at least 50 fish gathered at the bottom of the pool exploring something. It was really breath taking. I can´t even begin to tell all of the amazing types of fish and animals I saw. I specifically remember, however, a larger (about a foot long) neon blue fish swim by me. Wow. I also saw a small black with yellow stripes fish hiding in the coral. Some day I´ll having to look up all the kinds of fish I saw to put a name to the colors and Oos and Ahs. I didn´t see any clown fish, unfortunately. It was OK though, because the things I saw were outstanding.

The tide was rising and it was time to get back on the boat, so we all boarded and began the hour ride back to shore. I ended up falling asleep laying down on the boat and woke up part way through, in a sleepy stupidness and thought to myself ``I think I´m getting burnt´´ So, I rolled over and fell back asleep. Yeah, not so smart. I really think I need someone to think for me for awhile after I wake up. When we got back to shore, I noticed that I was a little pink. `` I think I got a little burnt,´´ I thought. A little burnt was definately an understatement. Well, this is the first time I´ve had an entire body burn. Legs, thighs, butt, back, shoulders, face, chest, stomach, arms, the whole deal. I´m fried. I went home exhausted from the lack of sleep the past few days, and the energy stolen from me from the sun/sunburn, and feel asleep in a hammock. I woke up about two hours later because of the pain. It hurt sooo badly. I spent the rest of the night, including waking up multiple times throughout the night, and the next morning (today) hardly able to move, sensitive to touch and any exposure to the sun, and frequently putting lotion and aloe on. Oh mom, you´ve told me a million times to put sunblock on, and I just don´t learn...I know, I know. Well, floating on my stomach in the middle of the ocean at high noon, and then falling asleep on the ferry were not exactly two great combinations for keeping me from a burn. Out of the 21 people that went scuba diving, about 15 of them got burnt. Oh well, it was sooo worth it. Today, we left to get back to Salvador and the most common sound heard all day was ` Ouch, don´t touch me, it hurts!´ Haha. Oh, one of these days we´ll learn that the sun is a little hotter this close to the equator and when being exposed to it for long periods of time, sunblock is a good idea. One of these days.

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