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