Three months ago I was sitting at my desk during my Fonética e Fonologia class feeling flattened by the heat, snubbed by a lover, and defeated about starting over. The idea of staying here in this nothing town for a year was too much for me to think about at the time, so I counted up the longest I had ever been abroad (116 days), then counted 117 days after I had arrived here (June 6th) as a more feasible short-term goal. Today is June 6th, and a lot has changed.
Last weekend I flew to Salvador, and was immediately surrounded by beautiful Baianos. I was also immediately surrounded by hagglers. Salvador is a more touristy place than I had realized, and apparently the city employs otherwise homeless people to sell little shit and bother tourists incessantly to buy it. Good idea, só que não. The first couple days were tolerable, but after a street kid hit my friend, a kid on crack spit food at me, and an amputee swung his stump onto a nearby restaurant table, I’d had enough.
Everything about Salvador only gets better, though. I went to Barra and Praia do Forte, both relaxing beaches with clear water. It was the first time I was able to swim around in the ocean without being preoccupied about sharks, and it was wonderful.
Salvador being the tourist destination that it is, I heard more Americans in the streets, at the beach, and in restaurants than I have in all the rest of Brazil combined. Whenever I’m feeling homesick, all I need to do is put myself in a place where I can hear the quintessential American abroad and the feeling quickly fades. There’s only so much dumbed-down foreigner speak and ignorant questions one can handle for a year.
Something that’s apparent to me everywhere I go, and in Salvador more than other places, is that Brazil has this culture of dance. No matter what area of the country you’re in, what type of dance it is, what kind of music it’s to, or what color the people are, they dance. And I love it. In Salvador people practiced capoeira in the square and danced outside of barzinhos on cobblestoned streets. They make it look easy, until a Brazilian tries to dance with me at a bar and I feel like a 6-foot girl at a 7th grade dance.
Brazil is teaching me how not to care. Brazilians care so little; shit happens and they just shrug and move on. Cut a Brazilian in one of their famous filas? Whatever. Want a Brazilian to move out of your way? Whatever. They’ll move when they feel like it. And same goes for you: want to stand in the same place all day, taking your sweet-ass time and inconveniencing people? A Brazilian won’t stop you. They won’t even notice it. Reservation, what’s that? Class started 20 minutes ago? We’re just on time. This bus is supposed to fit 40? We can fit 100. The World Cup stadiums aren’t ready, none of the taxi drivers here speak English, and foreigners can’t buy domestic flights online? No big deal, tudo vai dar certo. While too much of this attitude impedes progress and success, a nice blending of it and my American, stressed-out-all-the-time-book-nine-months-in-advance attitude can only be a good thing.