On the other side of the globe
There’s all kind of mixed feelings involved – when you are traveling. So so many. Perhaps that’s why people enjoy it so much. It keeps your mind guessing. What will happen next? How will this be problematic? How will I overcome the next situation? And, at the same time, we get attached to a spot. We find that there’s so much more to be understood about that place, than what first meets the eye – or the tourist.
Our preparation month on the road in the Canarian island was soon to be over. We really felt we kinda mapped out the place pretty well in a month. And yet, there were so many things still to enjoy doing and return too. So, now Gran Canaria (more precisely, Las Palmas) is on our “Let’s go back and stay there for a while” Wishlist. And we do have some lessons caught along the way on how to do the next trip more enjoyable for us, with more local knowledge in our pockets. That’s always the case. When you are new to a place, it takes a while to understand how it really works and to adapt it to your lifestyle.
That was not the case though for Seville. We’ve been there before. Different times, same astonishing architecture, an exquisite style that wakes up delicacy in the rhymes of Spanish poets. As we were having one night in Seville before we were flying to the other continent, it was imperative to walk the streets of the city. It was much cooler than expected, with quite a few degrees less than on the island. And that just reminded us very quickly why we are on the move. Winter is truly coming.
In our early morning (woke up at 3 am in Las Palmas), back on the continent, we witnessed so many small stories: the mustache man with the handkerchief, the women with the castanets and the old beard man with the beautiful dog. All these on the alleys of Plaza de Hercules – a spot that a very long time ago was a big river bay.
And the sun then set quickly over this muse city, making everything even more enchanting. There is much more that we still need to understand about Seville, a place of streets filled with songs and laughter. The Cathedral and the Alcazar Palace remain to be seen on a future visit, though we’ve gazed, through the romance of the night, at the beautiful flamenco overture, played just in the main square of the city.
How better to end the night than just by enjoying a good meal in a nice specific restaurant, where we got some delicious cuisine before our big flight towards the new continent?
Truth be told, the weather did change from the Canary Islands, and the air outside did show the change that will soon commence – winter is on its way. We are getting out just in time. And our health was not in the best conditions, a bit more sick than we expected before a cross Atlantic flight, both of us with a running nose, even Maya – but she the least. Weather changes and aircon from airplanes don’t work well on our bodies at all. Though, nothing was going to stop us.
To get to Brazil, Salvador – the best way for us was a flight that had a short layover in Lisbon, Portugal’s capital. As they are close countries, ex-colonial history and so on, the connections forward to Brazil were fortunate, in relates to our immersion. But, we did have some unfortunate delays with our flight. That actually led to spending one night in a hotel, just to catch another flight the next day. We requested the delay this way. We learned from previous experiences that it is something that should be provided by the air company. In our case, what they initially proposed as a solution was prolonging our cross-Atlantic flight from 8 hours direct, to 24 hours travel time, with a layover in Sao Paolo. Not a proper solution for an 8 months old, I would say – so they just had to let us stay and give us the next day direct flight to Salvador.
We took the best of the situation and were glad to see the city for about 2 hours. Not much, truly. Lisbon, the same as Seville, is one of the cornerstone cities of Europe, and so much hidden gems were laying around.
The best thing is to actually ride one of those old wooden trams and just go up and down the hills that the city is built on. The number 25 tram is the most famous one, as it goes all the way up to an open viewpoint that has the most beautiful perspective over the city and the ocean.
Still, November in Lisbon is cold and humid. And the Atlantic was about to take for us another turn – from its other side, for the next few months. Time flew by and we needed to go back to our bags and to fly.
And here we are, in the airport of Lisboa, just about to embark in this adventure. Our first cross-ocean travel, as a family, as explorers and wanderers of the earth. The airport is luxurious, have seen only one that resembled it, the one from Abu Dhabi (or the one from Baku).
One second and we are over to Salvador. Actually, it seemed to take much longer, a few good hours. We had our nerves stretched and our patience tested, with all the tiredness involved, with the running nose and cough – all exposed to the strong aircon all over again, with all the mental pressure of us reaching such a new culture so soon, all of these with a baby to protect. Maya did cry a bit, but in the end, we landed well and all safe.
Took a while to take our luggage out of the planes cargo space. And once we got out, this tropical rain hit us so hard that it was mesmerizing. No other way than to take a taxi to Dandara’s house. It was almost 1 am, and the best option for us to reach the city was around 25 km away and a very fast flickering digital taximeter aboard. When we got there, the driver was really suspicious about the area, he strongly advised us not to get out of the car. And so we didn’t – until Dandara came out and greeted us. Welcome to Brazil.
DANDARA, THE CAPOEIRA MASTER
South America is a big, big continent. Much bigger than Europe, so when we first actually started to talk about traveling towards that, it was not very clear for us where we would go first. Vlad’s initial idea, when dreaming about exploring this part of the world, was to travel with the motorcycle from Central America and to continue along the Andean Mountains.
But, as this was a different kind of expedition altogether, we chose the spots based on what we desired from this endeavor. Sand, beaches, nice weather, all these you can find in many places in the world. What really drove the decision to get to Brazil was first and foremost a chance encounter that later became a friendship between two young couples.
Our friend, Adi aka Electroclown, is one of those musicians that have tribal influences in his music. He is also a Capoeira passionate practitioner, a skill he started developing in Chapada Diamantina, with Master Lua Santana. In his trip, he also met Dandara, who hosted him in Salvador and who participated in Adi’s immersion in this fantastic culture that still is, every day, part of his identity as an artist and performer. So, what better place to meet the Afro-American culture in Brazil, with the berimbau and the djembe, than beautiful Bahia? Salvador was an excellent first stop for us here. The plan was to get into this beautiful culture through capoeira, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, samba, and culinary aperture.
Here we were now, after a long history and worlds connecting, in Dandara’s house. An interesting space, very hot, with just one ventilator to cool down the entire space. A lot of instruments laying around in the main area. And the most appealing space was the terrace, overseeing the ocean, with a white crocket hammock and tiny shells all around. Funny thing, after such a long flight with the aircon on, after so much cold in Seville and Lisbon, to get into this excruciating heat that makes your body humid all the time, and to persist in being sick because of a ventilator blowing to close to you while sleeping.
We spent a few nights in Dandara’s house, up until our first volunteering work was about to get started. During this time, we bonded a bit with the Capoeira master and with her daughter (a smart and pretty 17 years old girl), even though our knowledge of the Portuguese language was very, very rudimentary, with just a little bit of Duolingo tested out and a couple of soap operas seen, many years back. Lucky for us, Dandara was speaking Spanish and her daughter was fluent in English.
For us, she was an unexpected host, to say the least. She was almost always accompanied by friends, young people that helped her out in various chores. Dandara was now focused on creating her own line of clothing and was teaching herself how to do different styles of sewing. We did talk a bit about the mixed culture of Salvador, the strong African influences that root the city, the colonial stronghold and the evolution of commerce into the heritage of the city. She also told us some long time ago stories, like her traveling by boat with her baby girl, to move into Amazonia. We were impressed by her life experience and by her cultural knowledge, as well as by her beautiful, fit body. With her as an inspiration, one would definitely want to include samba, capoeira, music, and spirituality in their life routine.
Truth be told, we only explored a bit of the city of Salvador, and that was only during the day. It was more for me to walk along the shore of the ocean with Maya in her wrap as Roxana was working on her IndieGogo campaign for the soon to be released book: An Illustrated Travel Journal. The city has mastered one unique quality – the dualism of high contrasts. That aspect is visible to even the most untrained eye, as it floods your senses of beauty and disgust. Not really a city we would revisit in the future, more like a stopover to another.
After a few days of being there, we were ready to move on, even if we already had a routine and the days started to flow. It was so weird that our comfort in such a hectic metropolis was going by Uber at the mall, but those were kind of the only places that seemed familiar to us and that felt safe. Back home we are avoiding a “mall & taxi rides” kind of lifestyle, we mostly like to spend the time outdoors – and walking, even in the city.
But here, we discovered ourselves finding this as a shelter in the unknown. Uber drivers and especially white people were advising us firmly on taking care of ourselves around here, by totally avoiding favelas, by avoiding Pelhourinho or any other streets, for that matter, after sunset. A paradox we discovered in our last days of Salvador was that Dandara was feeling safe in her neighborhood and was very chill about the area. So she transmitted this feeling to us as well, at least to the streets and the beaches nearby (and this during the daytime). This was just one of the many paradoxes Brazil was about to unveil.
And the hot summer days have just started, in Salvador. Just in time for us to get out of there before we got melted by concrete heat. Maybe because we arrived accompanied by rain, we also got out of Salvador, that first time, on heavy rain. We were on our way to the first volunteering spot, up north, on the coast. We got picked up by car and got to the car under the umbrella – with feet soaked up.
Just later on, in our travel, when we got back to this pivot big city, and we took a ferry to get out of it again, we saw all that dualism of high contrast standing clear, in front of our eyes: from left to right, pollution and grey skies above favelas and then opulence of skyscrapers under clouds and blue. Isto e Salvador! And the Brazilian adventures just began.
post written by Vlad