The Rainy Season

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Well, it's a funny old world, but as well as having virtually no English it turned out that Sonia was also extremely limited in the dentistry department, though we're pretty sure that if she continues with the correspondence course she'll soon be allowed to practice on animals.  But after several weeks, multiple visits, much pain and many Reais Lindy's crown was still disintegrating every time she chewed on anything as hard as an ice-cream, or sometimes even if she didn't!  Danilo the surgeon, on the other hand, not only made a fine job of repairing the hernias, but had also taken us to his yacht club for lunch.  And there we met Eduardo, fluent in English and married to the British Honorary Consul.  We swapped phone numbers and set a date to meet up.  Over dinner the subject of dentists came up.  Lesley was shocked "You just don't go to dentists in that area.  In fact you don't really go to areas like that at all.  And certainly in Salvador any sort of dentist doesn't live on a small yellow yacht in the public marina!"  Lesley arranged an appointment with her dentist Marco.  He also spoke no English, but was an excellent dentist.  He also had a boat, but  1. It wasn't in the public marina.  2. It was big and  3. He didn't live on it.  These are certainly things we'll be taking into account next time we select a medic.

Lesley and Eduardo also pointed us in the direction of shops and supermarkets where we could actually find things that we wanted to buy and gave us the low down on some of the realities of life in Salvador if you happen to be white and (relatively) wealthy.  Like don't walk anywhere except in the shopping centres ( called - shoppings) where there is always armed security, or in the very upmarket areas - and we shouldn't overdo the walking even there.  Don't catch the bus - at least one a day is high-jacked and robbed at gun point. Etc, etc. The tourist areas like Pelorinho on the other hand are pretty safe you can always see at least two heavily armed policemen.  They're on almost every corner because they're never comfortable to be out of sight of each other!  So, dont wear jewelry or watches of value.

Salvador is a huge city (3 million people) and the shopping malls, private hospitals, tennis/yacht clubs and upmarket apartment blocks seem like any European city - except for the very visible armed security. Only a very small - mainly white(ish) - percentage of the population exist in this rarefied atmosphere. The rest of the city, which you pass through to get between these places, is much poorer and less safe, some areas completely no-go even for the heavily armed and flack-jacketed Military Police.  The middle classes of course avoid these areas.  They travel between their safe havens by car and do everything possible to avoid being anywhere unsafe.  They also have the option of sending their servant - most middle class Brasilieros will have at least one live-in servant.  None of this is intended as a criticism of the middle classes, they are to a large extent the engine that drives Brasil and if we lived there we would certainly live our life the same way.    

Almost every Brasiliero we met agrees that for everyone's benefit the enormous gap between the richest few percent and the majority of the population has to be reduced (and once one leaves the city, the contrast is even more marked), but there's not much evidence that reduction is taking place, though to be honest it's hard to see how much can be changed very quickly without collapsing the economy.  This balancing act between the peoples' aspirations and keeping the countries economy stable/growing, particularly when their competitive advantage is based on low labour costs, is a common theme of developing third world economies - and of course first world dinner parties, but the scale of the thing doesn't seem quite so overwhelming until you're living in the country.

Enough of that, back to the trip.  We're writing this a little (lot) retrospectively so this is less a step-by-step tour and more a snapshot of the country as it struck us.  A sort of - "All you need to know about Brasil if you can't be bothered to read anything authoritative."

First though, if you're a sailor and thinking of visiting Salvador and Bahia de Todos os Santos then we've posted some info on the OCC web site or you can see it on this site by following this link.  That saves us boring the non sailors with stories of what a bloody awful marina Centro Nautico is, what the bottom is like in anchorage x, or health warnings about Marcello.

Marcello? Well if you really want to know you'll just have to read the sailing stuff.

 

Sailors and non sailors may be interested in a bit about Brasilian cuisine.  So let's start with wine:

The question is - Is Brasilian wine the worst in the world?  Clearly we can't answer that definitively, but it is the worst we've tasted and we're pretty sure it's in contention for the prize.  Actually, I have personally drunk something called wine that was worse, in a restaurant near Beijing, but on investigation I found that it didn't actually contain anything grape-related so I suppose it's disqualified.  I have also drunk wine made by my flatmate and I in Libya made out of 100 kilos of grapes we bought by the roadside outside Tripoli and then trod in our bath.  That could best be described as unpleasant, but in a badness competition it wasn't in the same league as Brasilian wine.   Oh, and to rub salt into the wound  Brasilian wine is also expensive.  They do import some Argentinian and Chilean wines, these are even more expensive (Brasil has close to 100% duty on all imported goods) and (as we were to confirm when we visited them) are generally at the bottom end of those countries production in terms of quality.

Then the food.  We'll talk here mainly about Bahian food, much of which is different from the food found in the rest of the country.  First - do you like feijoa?  That's probably beans where you come from.  If the answer is no, then you might want to consider another destination.  Large quantities of feijoa plus potato plus chips plus rice make up just about every meal.  There will also be a good dose of manioc/cassava (another starchy root vegetable) in one of its various forms.  It's a good idea to pre-book a fork lift to remove you from the table after the meal!  There will also be something like Vatapa or Cararu or one of the other dishes of a watery porridge consistency, that we just called "slop".  Some of these contain okra (slimy slop) or bits of prawn (fishy slop) or other things, not always identifiable (that would be "other slop").

                   

A real high point, if you're a Brasiliero, will be if the meal also contains a very large dollop (and that's the only way it comes) of Feijoada.  Feijoada consists of feijoa (naturally) and a good selection of all of those parts of animals that you'd probably never considered eating.

The next thing to know is that something in the meal will inevitably be cooked in Dende oil made from palm nuts.  Now the good news is that Dende oil is truly delicious ....... but - actually there are two buts:  Firstly it's very very high in cholesterol so whilst you're ordering the forklift you may want to ask them to bring a defibrilator as well.  Also, and of perhaps more immediate concern, it's a laxative. So ask the forklift driver not to make any sudden stops, and if the guy does use the defibrilator he might want to stand well back!  Really though, in spite of these side effects, it is delicious.

Now that we're getting positive, another delicious thing is dried prawns.  These are caught in huge quantities in the estuaries around the bay by fishermen in dugout canoes and they are smoked and then dried.  These are normally ground and added to dishes but are great just eaten on their own.

Then there are dishes like Moqueca and Xin Xin and a few other similar dishes, which are also really nice, but will always be accompanied by all of the stuff above.  And finally there's carne de sol, a salted air-dried meat which is also delicious. 

Don't want to end on a positive note so now let's find something else to be rude about. Lets go back to "whine". 

Well this may seem a bit petty, but there's the accent, the constant nasal whine - think Ringo Star with a heavy cold having a really bad winge.   Got it? Then you have the accent off pat.   Then add the pronunciation.

Presumably the language was modified at some point so as not to embarrass a monarch with a speech impediment.  Otherwise, why have the letter R if you're going to pronounce it H (that's Hio de Janeiho).  Why write Ts & Ds if you really mean J.  Here we are of course Bahy & Linjy  (when practicing these, don't forget stretch the words out and add the nasal whine - you don't get the full effect otherwise!).  Why have both M & N if you pronounce them both N anyway.  And what kind of perverted mind decided that o sounded like N as well (as in Jo F Kennedy for example - again, don't forget the whine).  There's more, but......

Almost forgot.  The title of this page.  Just to avoid any doubt.  The rainy season is the season when it rains.  A lot.  You may think it rains a lot on August bank holidays in the UK, but that's not really premier league rain.

It was raining the day we arrived.  It was still raining when we left.  Of course it didn't rain every day, but we'd have to check back in our diaries to see which ones.

We'll end this page with a few images of the old town of Salvador - without rain!

      

 

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Last updated 5th June 2017