Tucano Saturday Markets, Bahia, Brazil

From 30 November to 9 December last year I enjoyed a truly wonderful stay at the Mariza Epicentro, in Brazil’s north-eastern Bahia state (blog post to come). On the Saturday Marcio, Kamyla and I visited the nearest city, Tucano for market day.

Tucano is a regional centre and each Saturday, central Tucano is filled with market stalls selling fresh produce, clothes and almost everything else.

Tucano Saturday Markets, Bahia, Brazil

Early morning in the school van covering the 20km of dirt road to Tucano

Tucano Saturday Markets, Bahia, Brazil

Knives, knife sheaths and slingshots, Tucano markets

Tucano Saturday Markets, Bahia, Brazil

Enjoying cake and coffee, Tucano markets

Tucano Saturday Markets, Bahia, Brazil

Hats, baskets, bags and floor coverings, Tucano markets

Tucano Saturday Markets, Bahia, Brazil

Tucano is a long way from the sea and these fish are probably from polluted local (not so) freshwater

Tucano Saturday Markets, Bahia, Brazil

Marcio ‘drinking’ from a giant wooden spoon next to the spoon and trap stall (the local rats must be huge judging from the size of the traps in the foreground)

Tucano Saturday Markets, Bahia, Brazil

A car boot health products stall, Tucano markets

Tucano Saturday Markets, Bahia, Brazil

Herbs and spices, Tucano markets

Tucano Saturday Markets, Bahia, Brazil

Three bulbs of garlic for R$2 (about USD$0.50)

Tucano Saturday Markets, Bahia, Brazil

The sweet potato man, Tucano markets

Tucano Saturday Markets, Bahia, Brazil

Eating a fresh cashew fruit. Cashew fruit are juicy with a flavour similar to peach

Tucano Saturday Markets, Bahia, Brazil

Boy at stall selling okra, sweet potato, greens and capsicum

Tucano Saturday Markets, Bahia, Brazil

Every woman likes a clothing bargain, Tucano markets

Tucano Saturday Markets, Bahia, Brazil

Clothes stall with an awesome cheetah print temporary change room, Tucano markets

By 9:30am the temperature was already 32 degrees centigrade and we adjourned our market activities for a cold beer. Near the markets a duet sang Brazilian evangelical songs. Lunch was at an amazingly good value local cafe: 2 hamburgers, 1 toasted sandwich, 3 juices and 1 coffee for only R$14 (AUD$5).

Tucano Saturday Markets, Bahia, Brazil

Cars with adverts blaring from their loud speakers continuously drove around Tucano’s markets

Tucano Saturday Markets, Bahia, Brazil

Houses in a village we stopped at on the way from Tucano back to Mariza Epicentro

Squashed like sardines in the school van, we eventually made it back from Tucano to Mariza Epicentro.

A Letter from Buenos Aires

Following is a slightly modified version of an email sent to my former supervisor in Perth. Her next assignment will be in Buenos Aires beginning February.

After sending the email I received news that my former supervisor is now in Buenos Aires on an advance visit and we will meet this weekend!

—————————————————————
Greetings from Buenos Aires!

I have been here studying Spanish for almost four weeks. Learning the language is challenging but each day I am having small victories. Argentinians generally speak quickly and their dialect has some unique pronunciations and vocabulary, not that I have any previous exposure to Spanish. Not knowing the language is frustrating, but it is a frustration I am working on! Many people know some English but fluency is not common generally.

I came to Argentina at an exciting and historic time – only a few days into the new Argentine presidential term. After 12 years of rule by “Peronist” presidents, opposition candidate Macri unexpectedly won the 2015 election, much to outgoing president Kirchner’s dismay. Kirchner had already served the maximum eight years as president and was desperately hoping her party’s candidate Scioli would win.

President Macri has already made at least one significant change for foreigners (and locals): floating the Argentine peso. Previously, the peso was artificially pegged to the United States dollar. This combined with limits on how much hard currency locals could access led to a “blue rate” for the USD (and euro and Brazilian real) offered by illegal but tolerated currency exchange businesses. When I arrived here in December, the blue rate was ~15 pesos to the USD or 50% higher than the official rate of just under 10 pesos. Now the peso has been floated, the rate has stabilised between 13 and 14 pesos to the dollar. Although the rate is now similar to the official rate, as hard currency is not easy to obtain for many locals, there is still a blue market. Argentina has a history of high inflation (it is currently ~40%) and I understand major transactions such as house sales are undertaken in USD. This will ensure the blue market remains for the foreseeable future.

On a practical basis, the peso floating has made life much easier and/or cheaper for foreigners. Instead of needing to bring hard currency and changing it on the blue market for better value, we can now receive a fair rate via withdrawals from ATMs. Prior to the floatation coming into effect, I received ~7 pesos per AUD when withdrawing from an ATM. Now it is ~9.5. On the matter of ATM withdrawals, it appears the absolute withdrawal limit is 2,500 pesos in each transaction, sometimes much less. One can make multiple withdrawals although you are likely to receive a large fee (79 pesos!) for each transaction. I’m very happy my Citibank card does not incur fees for withdrawals at Citibank ATMs (Citibank have many branches banks here).

The Argentine peso also uses the “$” denotation which may be confusing at the start.

The currency and import restrictions and duties have had several effects. Many imported items like electronics are unavailable or very expensive. In supermarkets most items are made in Argentina and many of the prices are not too dissimilar to Australian prices even though salaries are far lower here. There is no hard and fast rule regarding prices. A coffee at a restaurant can cost 40 pesos (~AUD4) but to catch the bus from my place to the language school costs only 3.25 pesos (~AUD$0.35). Receiving goods ordered from foreign stores like Amazon for delivery to Argentina is almost impossible so don’t bother.

Beef, empanadas, sweet pastries and cheesy pizza feature heavily at Argentinian restaurants and bakeries. What doesn’t feature heavily is hot chilli! Some may call the cuisine bland. don’t expect to easily find restaurants serving good foreign cuisine. The garlic grown locally is to die for though, the basil is great, and, at a private home I ate the best steak in the world. Argentines, particularly in Buenos Aires, eat dinner very late. On my first night I went to a ‘Mexican’ restaurant with my host. We arrived after 8pm and the place was empty – why? Because it was too early! 9-10pm is the norm and I have finished dinner after midnight during the week. Even then there is still life on the street. The dense population sustains a busyness and convenience far removed from Perth.

I live in the inner-city suburb of Recoleta. It is a great location, equidistant between downtown and Palermo, Buenos Aires’ centre of entertainment. Recoleta is a relatively wealthy, safe and clean part of town. I am near major monuments and parks and the suburb has a European feel. Indeed, Buenos Aires has been called the Paris of the south. I mention relatively wealthy, safe and clean because they are not in the same ballpark as Perth. Years of economic turmoil have led to a visibly large homeless population (although a fellow student from the San Francisco Bay Area said there are more homeless there). When on the street, be aware of the dog droppings, air conditioner drips and uneven footpaths. Buenos Aires also has a reputation for pick pockets and other street crime so be alert and don’t show off your valuables.

The traffic is bad and safety is not the highest concern. I understand jay walking is legal here and many people don’t wait for the signal before crossing. Following health and safety best practice in Buenos Aires is extremely difficult.

The weather in summer is warm to hot and humid. Some days feel oppressive but the evenings are fantastic. January is the hottest month of the year.

To read different opinions on life in Buenos Aires as a foreigner and to understand local topics of interest, I recommend visiting the http://BAExpats.org forum.

I will leave Buenos Aires later in January to travel around the country including south to Patagonia. However, in following months I will return to Bs As (as the locals abbreviate the city’s name to) so look forward to seeing you and the family then. I update my blog at http://joe.in regularly although I am still catching up on Brazil.

Warm regards,
Joe

Salvador, Bahia, Brazil, part 2

Following on from Salvador, Bahia, Brazil, part 1.

Salvador, Bahia, Brazil

Modelling the locally bought Brazilian hat next to Elevator Lacerda

Salvador, Bahia, Brazil

Itinerant drink seller in the foreground, behind the “SALVADOR” public sculpture near Elevador Lacerda

Salvador, Bahia, Brazil

Having another delicious ice cream from the cafe next to Elevador Lacerda, Pelourinho, Salvador

Salvador, Bahia, Brazil

A statue of a woman in traditional dress, Salvador. The ribbons are given out unsolicited for “free” by locals wandering the Pelourinho squares. I declined

Salvador, Bahia, Brazil

An interesting multinational fast food franchise restaurant, Pelourinho, Bahia

Salvador, Bahia, Brazil

Phone boxes modelled on coconuts. Coconut water (either direct from a coconut or poured into a cup) is popular in Salvador

Salvador, Bahia, Brazil

Hostel Oh Meu Rei’s street level bar Oh Minha Rainha hosts live music sessions Sunday nights. Salvador has a groovy culture and on this evening people walking passed often sung or danced to the music

On the Monday I travelled inland to a permaculture farm. My amazing time at the farm will be covered in another blog post.

Salvador, Bahia, Brazil

R$13 for a half-bottle of local spirit at a bar in Pelourinho

After the farm I returned to Salvador for one more night. That evening I went out with Brit George and a Chilean from the hostel, both of whom lived in Sao Paulo. First stop was a bar where we drank an interesting local liquor (R$13 for a plastic bottle; poured in small plastic cups). On the way back, we sat around a makeshift table on the hostel street and chatted for hours with a local rasta guy and folks on a balcony.

Salvador, Bahia, Brazil

Joseph disliked the nativity scene so much he fell over, clutching his heart

Salvador, Bahia, Brazil

A local favela on the way back to Salvador Airport

Salvador, Bahia, Brazil

The smoke from many fires visible on the coast, shortly after taking off from Salvador for Sao Paulo. I suspect the fires are burning rubbish

Salvador, Bahia, Brazil, part 1

Salvador is the capital and largest city of Bahia state, Brazil. Salvador was Brazil’s first capital and a major historic destination for slaves, particularly from the region now encompassing present day Nigeria. These influences are reflected in the city’s historic Pelourinho district, named after colonial pillories used for slaves. I have previously blogged about a Salvadorian festival and the city’s golden Sao Francisco Church and Convent.

Seated next to me on the two hour flight from Rio de Janeiro to Salvador was an interesting French-Colombian woman. She had lived in three South American countries and recommended a diving school in Colombia, Peruvian cuisine and to take the bus from the Salvador airport.

Salvador, Bahia, Brazil

Salvador’s towers and favelas from the aeroplane

Salvador’s airport is almost 30km from the city. As I was not familiar with the city but had heard of its reputation, I decided to take the expensive (R$114.53) pre-booked taxi instead of the recommended bus.

Perth based friend Arnina was already at Hostel F Design, an ‘upmarket’ hostel located on a hilly street in Salvador’s Rio Vermelho district.

Salvador, Bahia, Brazil

With Arnina at a restaurant a short walk from the hostel. The dish on the table was delicious but rich and largely consisted of rice and prawns topped with cheese

After dinner at a local restaurant, it was time to hit F Design’s rooftop pool. From the pool we watched a coastal fire briefly appear to burn out of control. Thankfully it died down.

Most of the next day I spent in the hostel room attempting to fix my Samsung S3 mobile phone. Previously my phone had heated up and crashed after only moderate use. While fixing the S3 I deleted my contacts after resetting factory settings even though I thought the contacts were backed up. The phone did end up fixed and I have a sneaky suspicion that decoupling the micro SD card solved the issue. In the afternoon Arnina finally extracted me from my phone and we caught a bus to Pelourinho for a delicious ice cream next to the Lacerda Elevator.

During dinner and caipirinhas at a local square (for which we paid the tourist price) we were bothered by various beggars, some of whom were highly experienced. As it was Tuesday night, different drumming groups started performing in the Pelourinho side streets. Behind the drummers people danced and enjoyed the West African-inspired rhythms. The narrow streets funnelled the sound and I found the drumming too loud to fully appreciate. For security reasons I didn’t take my camera so do not have photos of the evening although Arnina took some with her phone.

On Wednesday Arnina departed for Morro de Sao Paulo, an island off Salvador. I loved seeing her again and hearing her travel stories of Cuba and other destinations I’m yet to visit. Later, I took a local bus to a shopping centre in Barra district to buy a Brazilian Portuguese phrasebook. “Black Friday” specials were being promoted everywhere. At one point I was accosted by a Jehovah’s Witness who spoke perfect English and even had an English language brochure at her ready. I did not fall into her spell. At the full-sized supermarket next to the shopping centre the lack of hot chillies in any form surprised me.

The bus back to the hostel took forever in the peak hour traffic. After eating my first self-cooked meal in Brazil I walked up the stairs to the hostel’s rooftop pool. There I met two Brazilians and ended up chatting and and drinking beers with them for three hours. One was a fellow Pearl Jam fan studying public relations in Rio de Janeiro and the other a mining engineer in Goias state.

Salvador, Bahia, Brazil

Hostel F Design’s rooftop pool. The fire Monday night occurred on the coast near the tall building in the distance

I enjoyed my stay at F Design but wanted to be closer to the historic centre so checked out and caught a taxi to Hostel Oh Meu Rei, located on a hilly cobblestone street in Pelourinho. Hostel manager Lidia gave me a good tour of the hostel and from the balcony pointed out which side streets were safe and which weren’t.

Salvador, Bahia, Brazil

The Lacerda Elevator at sunset, Pelourinho, Salvador. This was the first lift installed in Brazil and takes people from the down Salvador’s escarpment

Salvador, Bahia, Brazil

Pysco restaurant is a short walk from Hostel Oh Meu Rei and I ate there three times

Salvador, Bahia, Brazil

View from Hostel Oh Meu Rei’s balcony

Salvador, Bahia, Brazil

Drumming group performing on Pelourinho street, Salvador

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Video I recorded of a drumming group

Salvador has a culture of music and performance. On seemingly random occasions drumming groups would start performing in the street. In return for the entertainment, a group member sought donations or sold CDs. Salvador is also where Michael Jackson recorded his video for They Don’t Care About Us.

Salvador, Bahia, Brazil

There is a heavy police presence in Pelourinho

Salvador, Bahia, Brazil

Mates, your hats aren’t fully on your heads

Salvador, Bahia, Brazil

I loved the afro hair in Salvador and think this style should come back into fashion

Salvador, Bahia, Brazil

Some of Pelourinho’s old and colourful buildings

In Pelourinho I replaced my hat lost in Minas Gerais. In a square I also bumped into a fellow Australian Pearl Jam fan (and his girlfriend) I met at the Brazilian concerts.

Stay tuned for more Salvador photos and words in part two.

Sao Francisco Church and Convent, Salvador, Bahia, Brazil

The Sao Francisco (Saint Francis) Church and Convent is one of Salvador’s most popular tourist attractions. This 18th century complex, located in the town’s historic centre, is a magnificent example of Portuguese colonial wealth and religious power. Apparently the church took 800kg of gold to decorate.

Sao Francisco Church, Salvador, Bahia, Brazil

Woman wearing traditional Salvadoran costume in front of Sao Francisco Church

Sao Francisco Church, Salvador, Bahia, Brazil

Sao Francisco Church is surrounded by old buildings in Salvador’s historic centre

Sao Francisco Church, Salvador, Bahia, Brazil

This inscription outlines the church history in Portuguese and English

Sao Francisco Church, Salvador, Bahia, Brazil

Blue and white tile facades illustrating sayings

Sao Francisco Church, Salvador, Bahia, Brazil

Tiles depicting the saying “the fruit of labour is glory”, Sao Francisco Convent

Cloisters surrounding the convent courtyard are covered in blue and white tile scenes illustrating sayings written in Latin at the top. Translated into English, the sayings included:

  • Nothing is more useful than silence
  • The virtue is impertubable
  • Money permits everything
  • At first care for the soul
  • In every situation of life it is possible to philosophise
  • The times change and we change with them

Sao Francisco Church, Salvador, Bahia, Brazil

For a R$0.50 donation one can light an electric candle in Sao Francisco Church

Sao Francisco Church, Salvador, Bahia, Brazil

The church’s wooden panel ceiling is decorated with paintings

Sao Francisco Church, Salvador, Bahia, Brazil

Supporting pillars covered in gold leaf must be hard work, Sao Francisco Church

Sao Francisco Church, Salvador, Bahia, Brazil

The church’s interior is outrageously decorated

Sao Francisco Church, Salvador, Bahia, Brazil

The closest I’ve been to gold for a while, Sao Francisco Church

Sao Francisco Church, Salvador, Bahia, Brazil

Entrance hall wall and ceiling painting, Sao Francisco Church and Convent

For philatelists, the Sao Francisco complex also has a stamp exhibition in an adjoining hall. The exhibition includes stamps from Portuguese colonial times.

Entry to the church and convent is only R$5, including a leaflet, and I highly recommend a visit for anyone visiting Salvador.

Festival in Salvador, Bahia, Brazil

After a short stop in Rio, I flew north to Salvador, to catch up with Arnina and experience the city’s amazing culture. I will write more about this later.

In Salvador on the last Friday each month there’s a festival in a town square 15 to 20 minutes walk north of Pelourinho district. Hostel Oh Meu Rei manager Lidia kindly advised she and fellow manager Andrea were going and invited guests to come.

Salvador Festival

First stop was at this drink stall for a R$5 (~AUD$1.80) caipirinha. The round container on left contains a local fruit Spondias purpurea (seriguela) that makes a delicious caipirinha variant

Salvador Festival

A seven-piece band played under a marquee in the centre of the square. Locals grooved to the African-inspired music, particularly the guy in the white t-shirt in the left background

Salvador Festival

For food and watching the locals go by, we stopped at an outdoor restaurant on the town square edge

Salvador Festival

Drink and other vendors brought their goods in wheelbarrows, eskys and carts. The sign is advertising Skol Beats alcopops (R$5) and Skol beer, water and Schin soft drinks (R$2; ~AUD$0.70)

Salvador Festival

The town square is faced by a church (is there a Brazilian town square without a church?)

Salvador Festival

I doubt this vendor sold any Pepsis

Salvador Festival

Towards the end of the night

I loved the evening and thank Lidia and Andrea for the opportunity.

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Time in Rio de Janeiro was brief and as my main focus was the Pearl Jam concert, the city’s famous sites will wait until next visit.

I was lucky enough to stay in Zoe and Ramon’s great apartment while they were away – thank you! For 1.5 days I was a short walk from Ipanema beach and even closer to the metro. Yes, that Ipanema.

View from Ipanema apartment

The sea is visible from Zoe and Ramon’s place in Ipanema

Buildings towering over church, Ipanema

Historically, places of worship have towered over other buildings – not for this Ipanema church

Birds circling over Ipanema

Dozens of frigate birds hovered over Ipanema, Rio de Janeiro

Ipanema Beach

Ipanema Beach, Rio de Janeiro

Surfing at Ipanema

Surfer catching a way, Ipanema, Rio de Janeiro

Ipanema Beach

Ipanema Beach, Rio de Janeiro

Ipanema Hippie Market

Every Sunday the Ipanema Hippie Market sets up, with many stalls selling all sorts of hand crafts and trinkets

Favela across the valley

Across the valley from expensive Ipanema is a favela or poor neighbourhood

Walkway across the valley, Ipanema, Rio de Janeiro

Walkway across the valley from. Rio, like Sao Paulo and Belo Horizonte also has many hills

Airplanes at Rio de Janeiro's Galeao Airport

Air planes at Rio de Janeiro’s Galeao Airport

Pearl Jam Live in Concert, Rio de Janeiro, 22 November 2015

Rio de Janeiro was Pearl Jam’s fifth and final Brazilian concert destination of their 2015 Latin America tour. Fittingly, the band partied tonight like it was their last night. After Sao Paulo and Belo Horizonte, this was also my final tour concert.

Pearl Jam Live in Concert, Rio de Janeiro, 22 November 2015

Pearl Jam performed at Rio de Janeiro’s famous Maracana Stadium

Pearl Jam Live in Concert, Rio de Janeiro, 22 November 2015

Maracana metro and train station

I caught the metro from Ipanema to Maracana, changing trains at Estacio. The number of people wearing rock t shirts increased with each stop until hundreds of us exited at Maracana Station. A short walk from the station was tonight’s host and one of the most famous venues in the world: Maracana Stadium.

Pearl Jam Live in Concert, Rio de Janeiro, 22 November 2015

Big Rock burger voucher

Before the concert I wanted to eat something. At the food booth I chose Big Rock, not having a clue what it was. Big Rock turned out to be a burger with two meat patties. The burger was edible but not much more. The Big Rock’s name and format is similar to the Big Mac’s so I guess this was its inspiration (if a dull burger could be inspired).

Pearl Jam Live in Concert, Rio de Janeiro, 22 November 2015

The crowd filling up the Piste Premium section in front of the stage, Maracana Stadium

Pearl Jam Live in Concert, Rio de Janeiro, 22 November 2015

Maracana crowd

After what seemed like forever, eventually the band came on stage. Following a brief stop-start, the band launched into Oceans, the only song I had not heard off Ten, their first album.Pearl Jam Live in Concert, Rio de Janeiro, 22 November 2015

The moon shines brightly above stage

Pearl Jam Live in Concert, Rio de Janeiro, 22 November 2015

The crowd shining their mobile phones lights

Pearl Jam Live in Concert, Rio de Janeiro, 22 November 2015

Singer Eddie Vedder entering the crowd

After putting on a fantastic concert, towards the end Pearl Jam began partying. Eddie invited Edu, a Brazilian fan onto the stage to sing the start of Porch. Eddie then Jeff wrapped themselves in a Brazilian flag. Mike ended up topless and Eddie smashed a guitar.

Pearl Jam Live in Concert, Rio de Janeiro, 22 November 2015

Maracana Stadium filled with Pearl Jam fans

Maracana Stadium in its usual configuration holds over 78,000 people. I expect about that many attended this night.

Pearl Jam Live in Concert, Rio de Janeiro, 22 November 2015

The band towards the end. Topless guitarist Mike is on the left and next to him is bassist Jeff wearing the Brazilian flag

Pearl Jam Live in Concert, Rio de Janeiro, 22 November 2015

The band farewelling both the audience and Brazil

The concert finished at midnight due to a curfew but in three hours Pearl Jam still managed 34 songs. This was an awesome concert and a fitting way to end the Brazilian stint. One of the only ways it could have been better was if people refrained from smoking. It felt there was always someone in my immediate vicinity smoking, exacerbating my headache and putting a small downer on the night.

Even though this was my eleventh Pearl Jam concert, they still played five songs new to me. The band also played four songs from No Code, my favourite album. And, for my fourth consecutive concert, Pearl Jam played Rearviewmirror, the best song in the world.

In my three Brazil concerts Pearl Jam played 103 songs, including 63 unique songs (54 originals, 9 covers). This tour I saw the band play 22 songs for the first time.

In eleven concerts I have seen them play 116 unique songs (98 originals, 18 covers). Only two songs, Even Flow and Do The Evolution were played at all eleven gigs.

Rio’s Sunday night metro and rail services usually end at 11pm. Tonight, trains from Maracana were extended to get the concert audience home. I did not linger in the stadium afterwards as I wanted to ensure I got back to Ipanema. Maracana metro station heaved with people and I eventually boarded a train. At Ipanema’s General Osorio station, only exit A was open. Instead of walking a few metres from exit C to my accommodation, I enjoyed a more scenic route, arriving home after 1:30am.

Farewell Pearl Jam, you were awesome!

 

All the Pearl Jam concerts and songs I’ve seen: http://pjdb.net/user.php?f_user=571

The full Rio de Janeiro set-list and other fan-views: http://community.pearljam.com/discussion/248021/rio-de-janeiro-brazil-fanviews-here-11-22-15