Week 2 in Trancoso, Bahia

Week 2 in Trancoso, Bahia

Festival de Cinema de Trancoso

Lots of events happen here, but if your not in the know, then you can easily miss them. This was evidenced by the fact that when I told some of the locals (including a school teacher), about the nativity play at L’Occitane Teatro that we went to see they didn’t know anything about it. The same happened with the Capoeira and Samba event on the Quadrado – we couldn’t find where it was for love nor money, there was no signage or promotional posters advertising it and nobody seemed to know that it was even going on. Thankfully we found it in the end and we were glad that we did as it was a fantastic event.

Frustrating though it is, the charm of the place is partly it’s mysterious and almost mystical nature. The bright, colourful stone pousada’s on the Quadrado are a mix of private homes, restaurants, boutique shops and bnb’s and it’s hard to tell which are which as they all pretty much look identical. Also, like many of the businesses in European countries the cafes and restaurants around here close for lunch – around 12:00 – 14:00 everyday and no matter how hard we try to remember this we keep on getting caught out by wandering out for lunch at around 13:00 only to find that almost every place is well and truly FECHADO’D.

I saw a poster (at last!) advertising an upcoming event. A cinema night showing classic Brazilian films free for everyone to attend. It was going to be held on the village green, the famous Quadrado, with the classic films projected on the heart of the Quadrado: the UNESCO protected white church: São João Batista.

Character up the wazoo! 

It was going to be happening just after the sun went down, so we took our blankets, some bottles of water and off we went. We had gotten used to things not happening on time here in Brazil so we made sure to arrive “fashionably late” as as expected the film was just getting set up on the projector. We had been here just over a week and already we were starting to recognise some of the locals. Sitting on the grass wearing their distinctive white outfits were the class of the Capoeira school who had come to watch the films too. When the first film to commence the film festival began, I was happy to see that it was a black and white film based in Salvador about Afro Brazilian fishermen. It was a silent film but it was very visually striking.

Watching a classic Brazilian film underneath the stars

Afterwards they showed another film based in Bahia in the 50’s of Afro Brazilians practising Capoeira, which would explain the whole of the Capoeira class being there. Created by African slaves brought to Brazil in the 16th century, Capoeira, a ritual dance mixed with elements of martial arts used by the escaped slaves for survival in this hostile territory, was eventually criminalised after being seen as a threat to the “order of things”. Eventually though it was decriminalised and is now widely seen as an art form and part of Brazil’s cultural heritage. The history of slavery in Brazil is an interesting, albeit disturbing one. The Portuguese were the first of the European countries to use slaves to boost their economy and Portugal being a smaller country, also had another sinister reason: they liked to use African slaves, as opposed to Arab, Chinese, Japanese or Indian slaves which they also had but on a much lesser scale, as they were easier to convert to Christianity, and thus control.

Knowing that Capoeira is a product of colonial brutality gives it another interesting edge, and certainly it is a beautiful and very bodily expressive art form. The film which was also in black and white was filmed close up of Capoeira fighters all wearing white as was tradition, engaged in a stunning and elegant contact free dance with men playing string instruments that sounded like a banjo but looked a little like a harp and and maracas and the singing that accompanied the film sounded very West African. The locals watched the film with respect without talking while it was playing. I felt honoured to have been there watching this piece of local history on such a beautiful starlit night.

12.12.12

Today was My late Aunt’s memorial. Since arriving in Brazil I had already lost one Aunty, my Dad’s sister, but nothing was as devastating and hard to process as losing my Mum’s youngest sister who died 7 years ago on this day. Usually I would be at home with the family doing something to commemorate it as she was very special to us all, but tonight in Trancoso was the full moon so Josh and I went to the Quadrado, where we watched it rise from the sea to cast a reflective glow on the surface. And it occurred to me for the first time since we lost her so suddenly affecting me in a most deep and profound way that is hard to put into words, that now that I have just become an Aunty myself for the very first time, with my nephew being born just a few weeks ago and my niece due anyday now, that I have had the pleasure to have the most incredible example of what an Aunty can be in her but also my late Aunt and the ones I still are lucky to still have. And even though she passed away far too soon and the manner of her death is still so heartbreaking to us all, I was so fortunate to have had her in  my life and her legacy of love.

Full Moon 12.12.12

The people are very friendly here in Trancoso. We have now made friends with the owner of the coffee shop, the French woman in the creperie and the owners of the vegan cafe Tao Cho. We had been meaning to go to Tao Cho since we’d arrived but the place was so small, (tiny infact) that it got crowded easily so we planned to go when it was less busy. Originally we had only meant to go there for coffee but we got chatting to the very friendly owner and his wife and so decided to stay for dinner. They had a completely vegan menu that was a little hard to read at first since obviously it was written in Portuguese on a chalkboard and they didn’t have any other menu’s, but with a little help from them we decided to try their pineapple rice. The rice came in a hollowed out pineapple and had chilli, fried onions, coconut milk, lentils and pineapple chunks. It looked good and tasted good too, it reminded me a little of the curry’s we had in Thailand because of the coconut milk which featured in lots of Asian dishes, and also because it had a bit of a kick to it, something that was severely lacking in Brazilian food generally.

Pineapple Delight 

The internet here is bloody awful. It takes me approximately 3 days just to upload a 40 second long video and thus it

has become enough of an inconvenience to put me off. Trying to work when it’s 30 degrees outside and the WiFi is suspect is as you can imagine quite a challenge and going in search of food in the height of the day when walking anywhere requires such energy, is even harder. The only activity you can do here really is to relax, whether that means sitting underneath a shaded tree reading a book, lazing about in a hammock, sunbathing on the beach or having a leisurely lunch outside a cafe. All good things and ones we like to do also but we do need to have WiFi in order to do some work. Our balcony is big enough to do that and we get a nice sea breeze here but the WiFi being what it is means that we are having to rethink that strategy.

Looks like the Conservatives and therefore Boris Johnson has won the general election. Despite not following the developments of the election in the UK (and being very relieved to not be there to be subjected to what surely must be a miserable environment for everyone involved), despite my earnest efforts to be uninformed despite this we were eventually told of the fact that the Tories had won AGAIN. Of course Brexit was the main motivation behind many people’s decision to vote that way but it is somewhat disappointing that people are so willing to vote for a party who for the most part have been in power for the longest and done the most damage to people like them, who are not going to benefit from any further cuts to services and in a more broad sense the social erosion of decency and fairness. Not to mention the questionable motives people have for wanting Brexit and Boris’ pallying up to Tramp Trump, I’m not convinced it’s going to get better after it’s gotten worse (if it even can get any worse that is).

I was a person who wanted Brexit initially (though I didn’t vote for it and have no intention of staying in the UK to benefit or not of it happening), but after all of the right wingers who this process has emboldened and who have now been ligitamised by Boris Johnson’s appointment as PM I’m not so sure it’s such a good idea afterall. But I guess we’ll have to see. I just think it’s VILE how Jeremy Corbyn has treated by everyone, the opposition and the media especially. I’ve never seen a politician so vilified and he had never even been handed the keys to Number 10. I have always marvelled at the strength of character he must have to be so despised but then still go on to fight for the poor and working class of the UK.

The issue I have is that some people who are against him don’t even know why they are. They are wholefully uninformed and woefully ill informed. Fake News? – in the case of Jeremy who has only ever had good intentions for the UK and society as a whole it’s been fake news all the way, and it’s bloody worrying. I think with this kind of small minded thinking it only serves to prop up questionable beliefs and dangerous ideologies that are largely used against minorities and the disadvantaged, and when these ideas are given a platform it gives legitimacy to them and spreads around the world and becomes the norm. People who are they themselves poor or part of the lower or middle classes and vote for a party whose sole purpose is to keep wealth within the 1% are kidding themselves. It’s high time that people part with the tradition of voting how their families and communities vote and educate themselves so that they actually know who and what they are voting for.

Jungleist Massive!

Gecko’s excreting their white tipped poo on the bathroom floor, mosquitoes sucking the life out of me causing me to have an allergic reaction, crusty cockroaches who pop up every now and then to scare the bejeezers out of me, crabs at the entrance to our apartment, monkeys scrambling over our roof and goodness knows what else lurking in the mangrove trees and jungles bordering our chalet now I’ve just heard that snakes are also about. Poisenous ones. This is a most wild and unpredictable environment. I’m getting somewhat used to the idea that at any moment I could be subjected to seeing something hideous looking that skulks, flies or crawls, but the thing that is somewhat harder to get used to is walking down the pitch black dirt track at night hearing the sounds of the jungle reverberating loudly in your ear but that you cannot see.

Nativos Beach

We are lucky to be living on one of Trancoso’s most famous beaches Nativos. Like many of Brazil’s beaches, it is not one that has been made perfect, but is perfect because of it’s abundantly natural beauty, it’s uniqueness and it’s subtle but stunning changeability. Everyday it is different. When the tide is high it creates a pool that increasingly gets wider between the lake and the sea forcing people to wade through it in order to get to the other side. The colour of the lake changes from blue to green to brown to purple! It’s hypnotically beautiful.

Mangroves and palm trees border the stunning, wide, sandy beach. The sand is wonderfully thick and soft with a vivid golden hue, but unlike the beaches in Floripa they aren’t so soft as to slide off the bottom of ones feet, they actually do the exfoliation that a good pumice stone does! When the tide is low you can walk the 3 hours to Arraial d’Ajuda, another beach town that is apparently well worth the look. We have stopped going to the beach on the weekend as it gets really busy but during the week it’s almost empty, we can get a bed at any of the beach clubs that we want and enjoy the beach almost completely to our selves.

There are lots of horses on the beach too. The owners of the horses strut them up and down the beach occasionally offering to allow people to ride them (for a fee I’m sure). The horses though are gorgeous. You can see they have been very well looked after as they are lithe and muscular with a shiny coat and bushy tail. They also don’t have that horrible “wild and unhinged” in the eye look that some horses do.

Both the beach and the Quadrado have that rustic beauty that is hard to describe but looks otherworldly beautiful and feels magical. I completely understand why people have fallen in love with this place. We have already seen people starting to arrive by the literal coach load which is changing (aka spoiling), the laid back vibe of the place. The locals who live here all year round apparently dislike this time of year, NYE especially as the whole area is crawling with people and it gets overcrowded almost to the point of overwhelm. I can imagine that for the locals, many of whom moved from busy cities to enjoy a more laid back lifestyle here, the onslaught of sweaty bodies mustn’t be particularly enjoyable.

Brazilians love to play bat and ball on the beach so we bought ourselves a pair and have had a little practice. It looks really easy (similar to ping pong but without the table), but it’s actually quite hard!

Wild Horses on Nativos Beach

So beautiful it hurts

Our acai obsession hasn’t wavered not one bit. We have it morning, noon and night and I like to have mine with fruits, nuts, granola and coconut! It is sooo addictive! We’re definitely going to try and get our hands on some when we get back to the UK.

Acai Goodness

The binmen seem to come everyday to collect our rubbish which is great as there is a bin directly outside our chalet but it is exposed and naturally I worry about “horrible things” coming round to see what’s in there.

It’s Josh’s birthday next week. I want to do something nice but it’s very expensive here and I haven’t really seen anything that jumps out at me to see or do however I have (after some initial inconvenience due to the fact that there website was down) managed to book a table at the fanciest restaurant in Trancoso, El Gordo, and hopefully I have succeeded (albeit with great difficulty) to get a keep it a secret from him. What I wanted to do afterwards if i couldn’t find anything to do during the day, was to somehow get in contact with our Airbnb host and do some surprise birthday drinks after dinner at El Gordo with our new local friends. I tried to get hold of our hosts number and I sent her a text but she hasn’t gotten back to me so I’m not sure whether it was the right number. Hopefully I see her before then so that I can get some suggestions or arrange something with her.

Josh’s back still hasn’t fully recovered either, which means that my original idea of perhaps getting him some Wind Surfing Lessons on his birthday might not be such a good idea. He did go and see the village masseuse, a Hawaaian guy who was recommended to us by our Airbnb host, and it has improved somewhat but it’s still not 100% and I don’t wish to be the person responsible for making it worse, especially since it was carrying my case up the stairs that did it in the firstplace!

Friends in High Places

We were invited to the birthday dinner of Luis, the flamboyant and adorable gay guy that we met a week ago through the owner of our Airbnb. The dinner was to be at one of the restaurants on the Quadrado: Capim Santo. There was an abundance of restaurant options around the square but what was nice about this one was the fact that it was hidden away down one of the alleyways amongst the tropical forest giving it a secret hideaway kind of vibe and apparently the food was pretty good too. Little bamboo huts were set in this secret garden setting with dimmed lanterns casting an intimate ambiant setting. A musician gently strumming his acoustic guitar playing beautiful bossa nova songs that I have come to love so much, and which complimented the relaxed environment perfectly. When Josh and I arrived our Airbnb host was already there with the birthday boy Luis, who was turning 59 today but who didn’t look a day over 50 and his Dutch Viking looking husband Gaod.

Later on another lady called Fernanda arrived. Despite the fact that our host was English and Gaod was Dutch they could both speak perfect Portuguese and Fernanda who was herself an author from Bahia, couldn’t speak any English and apparently she desperately wanted to talk to me because she wanted to tell me about the history of Bahia which has the highest population of Afro Brazilians in Brazil. She had alot of historical knowledge about the region which I’m sure I would have found interesting but having such an in depth conversation with her was unfortunately outside my scope of abilities! Nonetheless the dinner was wonderful, both the food (I had flambayed shrimps with sauteed potatoes) and the company, the company especially. Both Josh and I felt very flattered that we had been invited to spend such a special occasion with people that we had only just met.

All of our new found friends were such lovely people with interesting stories to tell and there was such an easy and relaxed atmosphere it certainly didn’t feel like we had only just met. After dinner Luis, who seemed to know everyone in the neighbourhood! took us (well we gatecrashed actually!), to one of the pousada’s on the Quadrado which was having their opening night and celebrating with a party for “invited” guests, but Luis somehow managed to get all 5 of us armbands to go in and free drinks too. I was pleasantly surprised since the people who were there were all dressed up to the nines and it all looked a little posey, alas Josh and I were introduced to lots of people including the owner of a handmade furniture shop nearby who invited us to come and say Hi to him when we were passing.

Rather then giving us evils after seeing that we had basically blagged our way into this private event, people were still very nice and friendly to us. Gaod, who I got into an depth conversation with in the restaurant and who I found to be a really sweet, sensitive guy which belied his looks resembling a 6’5 Viking, extended an invite to Josh and me for New Years Eve at the house that he and his husband Luis built. Apparently from the rooftop it had the most spectacular view of the whole city including as far as Porto Seguro, and thus would be the perfect place for us to watch the fireworks, avoiding the crowds and the noise.

My niece has arrived into the world and what a beauty she is! She arrived late last night through what sounds like was an extremely traumatic experience from my sister in law who had to have a c-section in the end. Both baby and Mum are doing okay but it sounds like my sister in law needs a lot of rest and looking after as the whole thing was pretty intense and traumatic for her. I’m sure she will be better in another week or so once her surgery wound has healed and she is able to hold and nurse her new daughter, my very first niece, whose name is Nia. I still can’t believe that I now have a niece and nephew both of whom I will see for the very first time when I return in April! 🙂

#caipirinhaaday Cheers!

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