Why I Will Miss Salvador, Bahia

I’ve been contemplating the simple reasons why I’ve fallen head over heels in love with Salvador, Bahia, and I felt that I should compile my thoughts in the best way I know how, a list.

1. Huge/ Different trees

There is no shortage of interesting and giant trees here in Brazil. I mean, this is the home country of a greater part of the Amazon rainforest. It’s prime real estate for trees.
I’ll miss them because there’s nothing like a cainga tree back home. Cipo sorta looks like a Weeping Willow, but with vines all over it. Nothing like the real thing. There’s a tree I pass every day to get to school, one so big with a trunk so deep you could get lost in it’s folds.
Or even the palm trees, that make me feel warm no matter the temperature.
I remember when the state of Maryland tried putting palm trees in Ocean City. Can you guess how palm trees in a temperate climate worked out? Not so well, I can tell you.
So this is for all the trees that I won’t be seeing for some time. Abraços!

2. Good music, all the time. ALL. THE. TIME.

Whenever I try to sleep at night, or watch novelas with my host family, I always find my ear distracted by music. Whether it’s distrant drumming down the street, or someone blasting music from their car, or someone singing “Eu Quero Tchu” while walking down the street, music is everywhere and everything in Brazil. On Tuesday nights, Tuesday Nights, Pelourinho comes alive with bands. Olodum is playing in the street, musicians are at every restaurant serenading customers. It’s everywhere, it’s inescapable, and it’s always good music! Like, legitimate samba bands, forro bands, percussion bands, jazz bands, it’s everywhere. If you’re one of those people like me, who can’t live without music, Bahia, Brazil is a good place to be.
3. Interesting and familiar food
I’m sure a Bahian would not appreciate my saying this, but Bahians cook soul food. The history is similar. Slaves created familiar tastes from the food items that were provided to them. Often times, these were the so-called worst cuts of meat, but they made do.
Or at least, that’s how I feel about the food here. It’s very different, for example, I’ve never eaten as much beans and rice than how much I’ve eaten here. Every day.

 Or how about cozido, a traditional Portuguese stew of, as my host mother put it, “All the vegetables and all of the meats.” 
That’s beef, pork, a sausage, plaintains, a carrot, cabbage, kale, and some… stuff on the fork. The stuff I didn’t care for, it was like a spread of sorts, but the texture was off putting and inconsistent.
Or little coxinhas that taste like giant, doughy chicken nuggets?
Everything here has been so delicious, but very familiar to me. In that way, I find Brazil to be very comforting, you know? I have comfort food, albeit, in a different form. It’s refreshing. I’m probably going to take these tastes home with me. Especially coxinha, that one’s too good to pass up. The salgados, salty snacks, here taste like miniature chicken pot pies, at better serving sizes!

4. Guaraná (Antarctica)

It’s no secret, I loves me some Guarana.
I had my first sip of Guarana in the states, when my Portuguese professor wanted to give us a Brazilian party. I fell in love, hard. Since then, when I eat out at Fogo de Chao, I get Guarana (Antartica, I don’t like the other brand, Guarana Kuat!, tastes like water with a battery in it). Here in Brazil, not a single day goes by where I don’t drink, or crave Guarana. It’s supposedly an energy drink, but I’ve never felt a pang of energy when I drank it. Only a thirst… for more.
Maybe it’s addictive? Have they ever looked into that?
Many Brazilians love Guarana, it’s almost as if it were the national drink of Brazil. My host family has this sticker on their window,
Get it? I love Salvador?
It’s hard to find Guarana outside of Brazil, so I know it’s gonna cut me deep when it’s gone. I’m gonna go home and have withdrawals, trying to drink Ginger Ale to mask the pain of being without it, but to no avail. I’m gonna miss you, Guarana.
Saúde! (Cheers!)
Speaking of drinks that make my heart melt,
5. Água de coco

A simple drink, found very easily on every corner on every street.
(Found so easily in fact, I wonder if there will ever be a coconut water shortage, because… where are all these vendors getting these coconuts? It must take months to grow a coconut, right?)
It’s slightly sweet, slightly healthy tasting, and irresistible overall. It’s easy to find yourself buying some, taking a sip, and then slurping when you realize it’s gone so fast. It’s that awesome. I’m going to miss Agua de coco because of it’s accessibility, and because of it’s tropicalness. I can’t get a coconut on the street to drink from in Maryland, and whenever I’m craving that slightly sweet taste, it won’t even be on the menu in a Maryland restaurant like it is here in Brazil. Let’s do something to change this, Maryland.

6. Portuguese

Portuguese is hard! I would often tell other Brazilians, and they would reply, “Yeah. It is.” Portuguese is a beautiful language, one that I’ve just begun to scratch the surface of. Every now and then, I connect the dots and understand something completely, but Bahians speak pretty fast, so it’s hard to catch everything. When I do catch something, I feel like a genius! I still understand it best when written, than spoken, but I’m getting better. I’m going to have to work very hard once I return home to keep up my Portuguese, as well as polish my Spanish- a girl spoke Spanish to me the other day and it sounded so foreign, I was so embarrassed when I could only reply in Portuguese. I don’t know what happened to it or where it went?! I’m gonna miss hearing this beautiful language spoken everywhere, and I’ll do my best to ensure that one day, I can be a part of the conversation too.

7. Funny Shaped Phone Booths
Whether it’s the Oi! phone booths that are scattered all over Brazil 

photo credit 

(a sort of phone booth that you can have a pre-paid plan for… or something.), or the ones shaped like berimbaus or coconuts, 

photo credit

or sombreros,

there’s no shortage of interesting phone booths to brighten your walk to wherever here in Bahia. Phone booths have a tendency to become a part of the identity of a nation (think the red booths of England), and from now on, whenever I think of Bahia, not only will I think of everything else on this list, but my mind will wander off to the berimbau shaped telephone booth in front of Mercado Modelo.

7.5. Mosaic Sidewalks

Most neighborhoods in Bahia have a very distinct pattern of sidewalk. For example, my neighborhood has this pattern,

whereas, one of my colleagues has this pattern,

It’s a good idea to orient yourself with the ground, and therein lies the appeal. These sidewalks automatically make your neighborhood unique.
Only trouble is that it’s cobblestone, and you can easily find yourself tripping over loose stones and making a fool out of yourself. But you gotta pay a price for beauty.

8. The people. 
 Bahians are interesting people. They can be very helpful with your Portuguese (and of course, they can sometimes be jerks about it). They’re supposedly, the chillest of the chill Brazilians, but they are demon drivers who get angry at busses for letting people off and holding up traffic. They’re very courteous, but they can also be very blunt. They’re a hard people to navigate, because as an American, you don’t realize how much you talk around things, how much you avoid saying. It becomes apparent when Brazilians are very direct to you, and you consider them invasive and kind of creepy. It’s something to get used to, but it’s something that sets them apart. They consider Americans a little cold and strange, and we are. We’re not nearly as openly affectionate as Brazilians, and that kind of enthusiasm I will miss. My host mother, who has been the most of welcoming to me, and for that, I’m very appreciative. I’m happy to have been here with these great people, and I for sure will be coming back.

Photo courtesy of my colleague.

My professor Jefferson Bacelar and I.
Our housekeeper, “Dona” and I

8.5. The Scenery

Like I said before, Bahians are known to be lazy. The stereotype of this state is, ‘They just go to the beach everyday and don’t really work, that’s why they’re always on strike, they drink coconut water and get fat, the weather never changes so they don’t know what cold is, life isn’t always a beach!” But the last one is true, Bahia is one of the few areas of Brazil that’s warm year round, and it’s a luxury to go to the beach every day almost. In Salvador, the people here are extremely lucky to have what they have around them. Beautiful beaches, beautiful hills, beautiful islands, beautiful weather. The other day I was looking at the sunset from the base floor of my apartment. Honest to God, I almost started crying, it was that beautiful. Here in Bahia, that happens every night, and you can just share in the spectacle with the cheese vendors on the beach.

(Did I tell you about cheese vendors? Ask me about cheese vendors.)
All I’m saying is, Bahia is beautiful, and it’s an intense beauty that’s fascinating and lucky to see. Just ask my friends who went hiking in Chapada Diamantina. You all should come check it out… and just backpack through Brazil as a result. I’m game to come with you.

9. Amendoim (Peanut)
In Brazil, there’s an oddly selective preference on peanut butter products. As a reformed peanut butter addict, I found myself a heaven. There’s Pacoquita,

A sorta peanut butter… patty? It’s small and delicious, and you can’t eat just one. You have to buy another, and another, and another ’til you’re out of coins.
There’s picole amendoim, 

just a creamy popsicle of peanut butter. What amazes me is it’s texture, you can feel the grains of peanut on your tongue, it’s amazing. Only problem is it melts quickly, and you find yourself eating it faster and faster, not being able to completely savor the flavor.
The one thing you can’t find peanut based here in Brazil, is peanut butter.
Well, you can find it a Bompreco, a grocery store founded by the Walmart company. They don’t sell a Brazilian based peanut butter brand -possibly because there is none, or there is rarely any demand for it. They do sell ‘Great Value’ peanut butter, so I bought some for myself to eat with my carrots. My host mother looked at me perplexed. “You can study in your room with your… peanut butter and…. carrots??”, she said to me one evening. Brazilians don’t really get the need for a creamy, spreadable peanut butter product, and that’s okay. Picole Amendoim does the trick pretty well. I doubt I’ll encounter it back home unless I find myself at a specialty ice cream shop, and I don’t even know where to start with that. Here’s to you amendoim!
10. Cheering for sunsets
A tradition here in Bahia, possibly all over Brazil, is cheering for sunsets. I first noticed this my first time lounging on the beach. As the sun set, one person began clapping, and suddenly, the whole beach was abuzz with claps and hollering. I joined along too, but I had no idea what we were cheering for. The next time I was at the beach it happened again, and then I realized where everyone’s gaze was- at the sunset. From what I’ve gathered by asking around, is that Bahians clap for the sunset because it symbolizes the end of a day in which you’ve lived and ended it well. It’s a sign of things gone and things to come, and you welcome the change. 
Now if that isn’t a beautiful sentiment, I don’t know what is!
I’m going to take this approach in my departure of Salvador da Bahia, Brasil, and welcome the change. I’m going to miss Salvador, and this crazy experience has made me into a different person. I’ve been undeniably changed by it, as every new experience molds a person, and I’m eager to embrace the life ahead of me. Instead of clapping for it, I think I wanna dance? Care to join me?

Adeus, Bahia. Até logo!


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