I may have broken my “post-something-every-two-weeks” rule, but I’ve been away for almost three weeks (with a brief stopover in Fortaleza). What’s a girl to do?
Before I go into the real details, let me just say how grateful I am to be here. From the second I arrived in Fortaleza in February, I have been given so many amazing opportunities including overcoming challenges at work (a great feeling!), finding my amazing dance troupe and making friends, and attending the world cup. That doesn’t mean these first five and a half months have been without challenges. But every day that I wake up and see the sun-shining into my room, which is basically every day now that the rainy season is over, I remember how lucky I am to have this experience. So, thank you Fulbright and thank you to everyone who helped me get here (that’s you Mom!).
Now onto my nordestino adventure! I met up with fellow ETA, Michell, in Salvador later in the day on July 7th. We spent most of the next day just wandering the Pelourinho (the historic center of Salvador) before meeting Luize for the Brazil x Germany game at the Fan Fest in Salvador.
We ended up leaving 30 minutes in to the game, after Germany’s fifth goal, and decided to just hang out. The next morning, Michell and I got up early and hopped on a speed boat to Morro de São Paulo, an island off the coast of Salvador! It was absolutely breathtaking! We spent three days exploring deserted beaches (and getting kind of stuck on one once the high tide came in!) taking a boat tour of the island, and soaking up the sun!
Once funny thing about Morro is that it’s a huge tourist destination. Even in low season (when we went), there were Israelis everywhere! Not only that, but there were signs, menus, and even hostels advertising in Hebrew! It was too funny.
Since this trip was two weeks long, I’ll just breeze through some highlights and try to keep it brief (although we all know how hard that is for me). One such highlight would be the beautiful sunset we watched on our first full day. After spending all day on an empty beach, we decided to walk up to the lighthouse to watch the sunset. It was absolutely beautiful!
Looking through these photos now, they really don’t do it justice. But sometimes, those moments where you put down your camera and just watch are the best. Sitting back and watching the sunset was a beautiful way to end our day and to reflect on our first five months here.
On our last full day in Morro, we decided to do a boat tour around the island. It was so fun! We had a few stops throughout the day, including watching dolphins and covering ourselves with this natural clay that’s good for your skin, and enjoyed yet another beautiful sunset.
The tour ended with a stop in Gamboa, a quaint town on the island, where we stayed for the sunset.
It was so hard to leave Morro, but we really wanted to be back in Salvador for the World Cup Final, so we had to pack up, catch a speed boat to a bus to a ferry, and head on back to Salvador.
Our second to last day in Salvador was spent trying to get to Praia dos Flamengos, a supposedly beautiful beach just outside of the city. After waiting for the bus for over an hour, we decided to catch a bus to Itapuã, another nice beach that’s slightly closer. We got there and wandered to the beach and it was empty. Maybe it’s because it was a Monday, maybe because it was slightly overcast, maybe because the world cup was finally over. Who knows. We decided to actually go to our original destination, ended up picnic-ing on a deserted beach, and then catching the bus back to Salvador. We didn’t get to aproveitar do sol, but the beach was beautiful and it was a fun adventure!
Our last full day was spent wandering the Pelourinho and stopping by some nice touristy-sites. We visited the Escola de Olodum (home of a famous percussion grupo!) and enjoyed actually spicy hot-sauce, a rarity in Brazil, on our last day. We celebrated the end of a successful first-week with a delicious moqueca—a traditional bahian fish stew made with coconut milk, azeite de dendê (red palm oil) and other delicious ingridients! We hopped on a plane and then we were off to Recife!
While I had an amazing time in Salvador and Morro, I was most looking forward to our time in Recife, no matter how short. Home to the first synagogue in the Western Hemisphere and full of rich history and culture, Recife has been high on my list of places to visit since my first time in Brazil! Because our schedule was kind of tight, we decided to do one full day of touring in Recife and one full day in Olinda, a colonial town about two hours away, before heading off to our final destination.
While the visit was kind of rushed, Recife was just as amazing as I hoped! We started by visiting a sculpture garden that Michell wanted to visit just off the coast. What a great find. This garden wasn’t listed in my lonely planet, and I would have never known about it if she hadn’t thought to look up interesting things to do on trip advisor! What a great find! We hopped on a small motor-boat and spent about an hour wandering through the sculptures!
Next, we wandered to Recife Antigo, the historic center of the city, and went to Rua do Bom Jesus (formerly known as Rua dos Judeus , or “Street of the Jews.”) where we found Sinagoga Kahal Zur Israel. Dutch Jews, who came over when the Dutch colonized parts of NE Brazil, founded the synagogue! Parts of the building have been updated over time, but some of the walls and the mikvah all date back as far as the 1600s!
After that, we wandered to the Paço do Frevo, or the “Frevo Palace.” Frevo is a type of music and dance traditionally played in Recife during Carnaval. It’s upbeat, tons of fun, and the dance is super energetic! Frevo was also the first dance I learned with Oré, so I was extra excited!
The museum talks a lot about the history of Frevo and how it’s developed over time. It also talks about other parts of popular culture that are part of Recife Carnaval, including Maracatu (another dance I’ve performed with Oré) and Caboloquinhos (a dance they’re just starting to learn now!), and it was awesome.
Our last stop on our tour of all-things-touristy was the Cais do Sertão Museum. The Sertão is a semi-arid region in the Northeast of Brazil that extends in the interior of the states of Alagoas, Bahia, Pernambuco, Paraíba, Rio Grande do Norte, Ceará, Piauí, and Maranhão (that is to say, every state of the NE). This region of the northeast not only has a very unique environment, but it was a very distinct culture vaguely reminiscent of cowboys in the old West. The Cais do Sertão Museum talks about the culture of the Sertão, as well as the development of Forró music! It was so cool to learn more about this huge chunk of the northeast!
The next day, we hopped on the bus to Olinda, a colonial city about two hours away from Recife. Compared to Ouro Preto in Minas Gerais, Olinda is filled with beautifully painted colonial buildings and ornate churches.
After some serious traffic delays, we finally made it! We hiked right up to Alto da Sé, the upper part of the city where several important churches are located, and soaked the beautiful views.
We mostly just wandered without direction, but it was a great way to spend our day.
After another two hour bus ride back, we had just enough time to shower and change before meeting up with Whitney and Shawn, the two Recife ETAs. It was great catching up with Whitney (I met here in São Luis in April) and finally meeting Shawn! We went to the most amazing sushi place, owned by an actual Japonese man, where there was no cream cheese anywhere on the menu. If you’ve ever eaten sushi here in Brazil, you know how big of a deal that is. It was amazing.
It was kind of sad to spend so little time with them, but they weren’t on a break or they would have come with us to our final destination: Porto de Galinhas!
Despite being a little touristy, Porto de Galinhas was so beautiful and relaxing! We stayed in one of the nicest pousadas (where they even gave us breakfast the day we checked in because we were early, tired, and hungry)! We changed into bikinis, stored our stuff, and headed off to the beach!
One of the biggest attractions in Porto de Galinhas are the groups of natural pool just of the shore. During low tide, you can take a boat (or swim) on out and go into the natural pools with tons of fish! We decided to go on a jangada, or a traditional fishing boat, and check it out! It was so fun!
We also went at the perfect time. We went right when low tide hit around 2:30 and it was still sunny and beautiful. As we were heading back to shore, about an hour later, it started pouring! We got so lucky because, despite getting rained on a little bit, we were at least close to the shore when it started! We huddled under the balcony of a restaurant until the rain passed and watched people stuck at the pools. Oh well!
Our next day was pretty much the same. We spent all day on the beach enjoying the sunshine (with copious amounts of sunscreen) and floating in the ocean. We were out from about 10am to sundown at 5pm and it was beautiful! Once again, photos can’t capture just how breathtaking it was…
And with another beautiful sunset, our two week adventure came to an end. Michell left early-ish the next morning while I went to the beach for a couple hours before hopping on a bus back to the Recife airport.
I tried to keep this post as brief as possible, as opposed to my day-by-day rundown of Carnval, but I can’t say enough how amazing this trip was. Michell was a great travel partner and I can’t wait for us to reunite in São Paulo in just a few weeks!
And now I leave you with a closing question to sum up my trip: hot dogs or legs?
Keep an eye out for next post (in the next few days, I swear!) about my most recent dance performance and my trip to Belém this past week!