Right now it is 2:49am and I am about 5 hours away from the end of my 8 hour trip – so the reality of my situation is, I have only begun my journey. The poor bus passenger who had the unfortunate fate of having to sit next to me as I type away at this well-lit computer screen, is tossing and turning by my side, and I have decided that this is the perfect time to blog. You see, this blog post was supposed to begin with my clever, Hemmingway inspired sentence “As I sit here, eating a piece of dry toast, from what was once a melt in your mouth fresh piece of bread, I stare pointlessly at the gate as I think of ways of saying goodbye and reflect on time spent” (I don’t think Hemmingway would really use a Leboesque sentence like the one I just splat across this word document, but please humor my intellect for a little bit)
I just came back from a small beach town, Ilheus, in Bahia Brazil, and I am still in disbelief that 1. This is my life right now, and 2. This is abnormal. I am currently living in an alternate universe where I do not have to remember the day of the week, and I fall asleep and wake up with no idea of time. The reality is, this has been my life for the past month, but has been amplified for the past week and few days.
On a Wednesday, I left Salvador, a place filled with happiness, beauty and extreme absurdities for Itabuna; a town I only know of because my co-travel partner’s brother was sent here haphazardly by the Rotary Club. Normally, when people leave Salvador to travel to other parts of the state or country, they upgrade to the Rio’s of the world, or go to charming smaller towns… I was going to the mundane. Little did I know that my life would be anything but ordinary, I was charmed.
Before this sounds like a love letter to a town, I will stop and say, Itabuna the place is as charming as the bewildered faces I encountered, as I told people that I was heading to this small town. I’m going to be cliched traveler right now and state that my take away experience from Itabuna are the people I met. All 30 that I lived with in a single house in Ibicui for Sao Joao and the 15 I shared a beach house with in Ilheus , as recovery from Sao Joao.
Yes, I really did spend 6 days with 28 complete strangers, and a girl I had worked with for 6 months in Boston last year. We headed to Ibicui, an even smaller town of cobble stone roads, houses adjoined to convenient stores which are connected to local eateries. The joint residential and commercial area is surrounded by lush farm lands and breathtaking green rolling hills. We were there to celebrate what was traditionally farming communities’ winter harvest festivities that has turned into the commercial 3-4 days of never-ending music, alcohol, friends, and encouraged kissing of strangers. The never-ending applies to all points, but important side I-want-to-be-Prime-Minister-one-day note, I indulged in all but the ultimate point (hi mommy)
People travel from the bigger cities and towns to go these small villages to partake in these daily music fests and the locals are employed as the caregivers for the day (Extreme stereotype and summarized version of events). I claim Sao Joao to be Brazil’s country music, small villages get their praise, version of Carnival, but that is not it’s true, complete story.The age range varies, but over 80% of attendees are of the middle to upper middle class who can afford renting a house and the exuberant ticket prices (I paid R$220 –That’s approximately $110 and R/M880 – for one of the parties. Saving grace it was all inclusive) Your ticket into these music fests are actual paper tickets and a t-shirt that are mostly worn, but must at least be on hand at all times while in the venue – which makes finding your friends difficult if you are to break away from the group by accident. The fascinating thing about these shirts (called abadas) is not the fact that 90% of the festival participants are dressed alike, it’s the tailoring that goes into these shirts to make them as individualistic as possible. And by tailoring I mean the time I spent waiting for the pair of scissors to cut up my shirt in true Brazilian cute and sexy fashion, a feat I wasn’t as Braziliany fashion forward as my cohabitants.
Back to the music fest: they essentially take a huge plot of land, construct 2 stages to minimize the set up waiting time (clever), set up food and drink stalls, toilets, and voila, you have roughly 15 thousand people assemble to enjoy the music and people around them.
Admittedly, after 2 days of nonstop music blasting in your supposed place of rest, and 6 hours at the 1st ticketed music festival on day 3, all the music starts to blur into one really long song of not understanding what they are singing about (language barriers). By the 2nd ticketed festival day, I was irritable, tired, and could not stomach anymore cachaca ice cream (which was really an alcohol infused slushy turned into flavored liquid by the end of the night) By the 5th day, my body shut down, and I spent the day in the house trying to figure out which shower had the warmer cold water.
A goosebump moment from Sao Joao was the first music fest where they had a big screen of the Brazil vs Italy game. Part of its beauty was seeing the sunset behind the screen and the rolling hills as a backdrop. However the hair raising came courtesy of the cheers from inside as Brazil scored that 4th goal, and everyone around me was jumping around and hugging each other. Goosebump moment 2: When you’ve been standing for 8+ hours, and it starts to rain, you just accept life and jump around and dance to music you still don’t understand. Then on the walk home, you silently weep for a hot shower (Laughs), dry clothes, and a warm bed (even more laughs)
Day 6, people started deflating their air mattresses, tossing wet clothing into trash bags and packed their belongings, and selfs, into cars for the hour and a half drive back to Itabuna. Goodbyes were concluded with promises of Facebook friend requests and well wishes. I truly understand all these travel books, documentaries, and movies I have read and seen when they reminisce about the people that they encountered on their journeys. Can I get soppy for a little bit? In general, Brazilians are extremely openhearted people, but I feel that the ones I met went above and beyond the expected Brazilian kindness. I really felt like I was welcomed into these people’s lives; they had the warmest of smiles and more importantly hearts.
I thank them all for a more than phenomenal experience in Ibicui for Sao Joao. And above the already picturesque views, Ilheus was the perfect mix of deserted beach and great companionship. As I cough my lungs out from a virus that has passed from person to person, I want to say to you all, but especially, Liz, Theuz, Rafa, Paula, Natali, Camila, Tereza, Bea, Leticia, Tine, Vanessa, Vanessa loca 😉 Carlos, Mauricio, Jessica, Alane and Anna Luisa: From Sugar Shots (THEEUUZZ, why are you doing this to me), Quadradilho de oito, Polentinha do Arrocha overload, Churrascaria, Mistos, Facebook (the energy drink), Stlova, Licor, and *singing* “A otra dia na balada….. diriding ding ding diriding ding ding” – you are beautiful souls, Obrigada!
*All these pics are courtesy of Nino and her amazing camera!