Doug McLean World Tour 1999-2000
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Sent: Sunday, March 05, 2000 9:50 AM
Subject: Mar. 1-2, 2000: Salvador and CARNIVAL DAY 1!!!

Current Date/Location: Sunday, March 5, 2000. Salvador, Brazil! HAPPY

Current Itinerary: CARNIVAL!


March 1, 2000 (Wed):

Spent all day until 7pm on the bus from Belo Horizonte to Salvador. I finished my book by Jorge Amado, The War of The Saints, while onboard. It was cool, especially because it is written by one of Brazil's best known
native authors, and it is a fictional tale set in Salvador, Bahia. It had the following way cool quotes:

"Modesty is the perquisite of true greatness."

"No word spoken against violence and tyranny is entirely vain and useless: Somebody who hears it just might overcomefear and start to rebel."

"Carnival: A month and a half of frolicking and merrymaking, of endless celebration because no one should have to tolerate the harshness of life uninterupted for a whole year."

"He who knows the most will speak the least; a parade of strutting words is the recourse of fools and charlatans."

"His commitment had cost him, along with bitter abstinence, the freedom of his bachelor life. He'd taken a job, become a serious person, assumed responsibilities, said goodbye to carousing, to the good life, to bohemia."
EDITOR's NOTE: I LOVE THIS QUOTE!!!! Enjoying bohemia for now!

The book talks about the local saints that are revered in Bahia...Yasan, Oxossi, Oya, Imaneja, and others. This is a hugely Catholic country, but here, they mix their Catholic worship of God with local and African customs
known as Candomble. I have not visited a Candomble ceremony, but hear they are amazing. Jorge Amado writes:

"The traveler, be he rich or poor, be she black or white, young or old, educated or illiterate, no matter who, as long as they come in peace, they will be able to participate in the festival of the candomble, where gods and mortals are equal, to sing and dance in their universal communion."

NOTE: I almost went beserk when I discovered that pages 151-166 were missing in this book! No, not ripped out...a printing error put pages 183-198 in it's place and again later in the book! Now, I can't go into detail, but you couldn't have picked a more frustrating point in the book to skip...I was absolutely livid. NOTE: The book was printed by Bantam Books...and when I get back to the USA and have lots of time on my hands, I am going to write them a long, long note of disgust. I know these things happen (my grandmother used to own a printing press...and now does hand book binding of rare books)...but, when you are in a foreign country, and English books cost the same as gold bars and are just as rare, you can understand why I was in orbit. And if any of you decide to read the book...just read
to page 150...then imagine having 151-166 will understand...

It was a long bus ride, and after finishing Jorge Amado's book, I started reading Arthur C. Clarke's, 2010: Odyssey Two (which I had gotten from Agustin). It is quite a contrast to go from reading about Bahia to reading about exploration of Jupiter...but hey, what the heck!

Anyway...Upon arrival in Salvador, we had the task of finding a place to stay for a couple of days. We had reservations at the Hotel Chile from Mar. 3-8, but for the 1st and 2nd we needed alternative accomodation (Chile was full). We went to a phone office to call various hostels, and to check our options. We got a reservation at a hostel outside of the center, but still in town. I went out of the booth to tell Agustin about our reservation...and then it happened!

Agustin saw I was done, so he went to pick up his bags...and found that he only had his big backpack...his small daybag was MISSING!!! As you can imagine...the next 10 minutes was a frantic search through the busstation,
lots of cursing, and frustration. He was directed to a small police office with a less than impressive person taking the information...leaving no doubt to the incompetence of the police in Brazil and their lack of ability to coordinate any sort of investigation. The notes of the incident were scribbled on a piece of form was used...and it was absurd. The only reason we did it was so Agustin could get some sort of Police Report to give to insurance or credit card companies...we knew it was hopeless.

Fortunately, it looks like Agustin only lost his CD player, some books, one credit card, and unfortunately his passport. Overall, it wasn't to bad of a loss...but certainly took some of the energy and wind out of our sails. We headed for the hostel in a taxi...ready to move on. I guess, when you are a traveller, you get somewhat philosophic to these sort of things. I have several contingency plans if something of mine gets stolen...and belive that if it does happen, it is a learning experience. I guess you have to have this philosophy here...otherwise, you would never leave your safe, secure home and leave yourself somewhat exposed to these threats. But then again...better to lose your possessions than to be possessed by them, eh???

The hostel is in Pituba...away from the center...but not too far. We were hungry (and Agustin needed a drink) after our arrival...and headed down the street to a seafood restaurant. Fortunately, it was crab night! Each whole boiled crab was 1.50 Reals (less than 1.00 USD)! I ate 3 and was pretty happy (note: as many of you know...crabs involve lots of work to succeed in eating any of the meat...which I like!)...I think it would be hard to get fat while having to shell crabs...too much work... had been a long stressful day.

March 2, 2000 (Thur - DAY 1 of CARNIVAL!):

Woke...somewhat earlier than everyone I finished reading 2010: Odyssey Two. It is a very good book (and an incredibly fast read!)...I really enjoyed the topic of space exploration. Actually, I don't have many quotes out of this book, except for one:

"Prison and banishment...splendid aids to creativity; not a few masterpieces had been born within the walls of cells, beyond the reach of the world's distractions. For that matter, the greatest single achievement of the human
intellect, the Principia itself, was a product of Newton's self-imposed exile from plague-ridden London."

I like this idea...not that I am exiled or banished from the USA or anything, or that I am going to come up with something comparable to Newton's Laws...but I certainly am somewhat beyond the normal distractions that clutter one's I can focus on things that are important to me personally. Maybe I am using these travels through the physical world to take a journey within myself...? I have found great joy in developing my writings through these journals and in the experiences I write about. Not sure if the reader has detected any subtle changes in my style, wit (if I ever had any), or form of writing since I started over 7 months ago...but I hope I am getting better. I am probably getting somewhat more introspective...which I guess is good (probably a little boring for the 3rd
party reader at times...but cést la truly is not a continuous series of peaks)...allows me to figure out who this guy, Doug McLean, really is...I'll let you know...

Then, had a good fruit-filled breakfast. Met several of the folks in the hostel...from Brazil, Australia, and elsewhere. Agustin and I headed downtown to check things out, and to confirm our hotel. The bus travelled on many of the routes that the blocos (trio electricos) would take. Preparations were happening everywhere! Food and drink stands were being erected, folks were working, and the electricy and energy was palpable everywhere. This city is about to erupt with Carnival!

We arrived in the lower part of the city, and were told to take the elevator to the upper part. Hmmmm...this sounds funny, until you realize that the center of Salvador is literally split in two...upper and a huge cliff. They have erected a building that serves to act as an elevator from the lower to the upper part of the city...and at a cost of .05 reals, it's a bargain.

The elevator deposited us in the Praca de Se...and we walked to our future hotel...Hotel Chile. It was in an awesome location...along the route of the party...and had balconies overlooking the action! I talked to the receptionist and our reservation was confirmed and they would be waiting for us tomorrow! Life was, it did look like a dingy and rundown hotel...but it is in the center of everything...and we were happy.

Walked around the center of the city (Pelourino area) is full of beautiful old churches, squares, and decorations for carnival. It is charged with excitement! Agustin and I gathered information at the tourist information office about the blocos (trio electricos)...let me explain. In Rio de Janiero, you are used to seeing a parade of floats with half naked women on them...and samba schools all around dancing and parading in a group...well, this is not the case in Salvador.

Salvador celebrates Carnival with Blocos! These are also called Trio Electricos...they are huge 18-wheelers/semi trucks that are stages for bands. These blocos drive very slowly down the street with the band literally pounding out the music and surrounded by people in like colored shirts who are dancing. They are all wearing the same colored shirts because they have paid for the privledge of being around the truck and inside a moving security barricade. The barricade is in the form of a huge rope that encircles the trucks and is held by literally hundreds of security people. These blocos probably take up the same area as almost a football field that is reserved for the truck and the paying participants. If you don't pay, you can stand along the side of the route and dance to the music as well, but you are referred to as pipoca (means popcorn in Portuguese). The participants are basically paying for safety and security...and to mingle with each other...generally from a slightly higher class than the popcorn folks. There are 2 routes for the blocos...some are on the route in the center of the city (Rua Osmar) and the other in the South along the beach (Rua Barra). Here is the description by Jorge Amado:

"The great majority of people danced in the open air, on the street, to the electronic sound of the music trucks: frevos and sambas, Carnival marchas: "The only ones who don't follow the music trucks are those already dead," the minstrel says. A dance without limits, with no quitting time, perennial and boundless, it can only be seen to be believed."

We looked into joining a bloco...but decided that tonight...the first night of Carnival, we would be with the popcorn crowd. Enjoying the spectacle at the expense of others!

Returned to the hostel...we (Agustin and I) left with Chris/Sydney, Pedro/Sao Paulo, and Junia/Rio. At the bus-stop, we met two other girls (can't remember their names...) who joined us in going to the Barra route to enjoy the passing blocos in the suburb of Ondina. Tonight, Thursday, is the first night of the bloco parades...the first day the trucks run down the Carnival Route...everyone was excited! We were told that tonight was really only a warm-up for the other big nights...tonight wouldn't be really packed.

We joined the crowd around the route (Barra route)...and watched the madness unfold. Everyone was dancing and swaying to the sound of the trucks as they came by...enjoying the Carnival atmosphere! The trucks are amazing...having complete bands, dancers, lights, and enormous sounds systems that move along...stunning! We were towards the end of the when the trucks arrived near us, the singers still had tons of energy, but the walking participants inside the security rope were no longer dancing...most were walking. They had spent the past 2-3 hours walking a few miles and dancing a great deal of that distance. when they got to us, most were whipped...but now us in the crowd...we cheered and yelled and gyrated, receiving energy from each truck that passed...jolting us into action. You don't have the pagentry (samba schools and amazing costumes and head-dresses) that you have
in the Rio Carnival...but here it is much closer to the people...everyone gets involved. There were huge numbers of people and the place was jammed...and this was only the warm-up night!

We finally left the madness around 5am...absolutely worked! I was asleep before my head hit the pill...zzzzzzzz...

Doug McLean
Texas Nomad