Sunday, January 31, 2010

Lençóis II

This is where we stayed, the Hotel de Lençóis. It was "beauriful" as our coordinator likes to say. It was very big and was in a semi-forest area. With little swings, and an amazing breakfast.

Almost all the breakfasts include fresh fruit, fresh fruit juice, coffee, cake, omelettes, but here they also had some ham dishes and pão de queijo and I really liked the bolinho de estudante, which are these little rolls made of tapioca flour and then they're rolled in cinnamon and sugar. And of course, one must not forget the breakfast cake: there was a coconut one and a chocolate one etc, etc. I also remember that there was this ice bowl with these white balls in it, and then I realize that they were little butter balls for toaste and jam. In conclusion, they had a loooot of food.
This is the room that three other girls and I shared. They were nice, cool, brick rooms and the hallway just outside was lined with hammocks.

The first thing we did on the second day was visit the caves
I can say I've never seen a "No pooping" sign

Most of my peers and I were so relieved as soon as we came near these caves because the temperature went from like 95°F to 75°F, it was fantastic!

This is our guide. He also held the only source of light once we were in the cave. He was explaining where the calcium and copper was, and pointing out the interesting shapes of the stalagmite and stalagtite.
The Entrance, a entrada
This is the calcium mountain, and calcium water, it was so white sparkly, it was really cool


We didn't come out the way we entered.
There were some people living in this area.
Yeah, we stood out like a gigantic bus painted blue with a rainbow across it, driving through the country side of Bahia. Because...we were. And I think I should write an entry on how I feel about being a tourist and the contstant cognitive disonance that it brings me. But I'll just continue with Lençóis for now.
This is the devil's hole. That wire you see in the picture is a zip-line from which several of my peers zipped down to the bottom. My toe was sick and I didn't want to risk it, the doctor said I shouldn't get the gauze wet etc. So I was just a little sad but not too much. I lived vicariously through my friends.
And...I also ended up going for a swim. How can you come all the way here to not get in right? I was really hot and I had my bathing suit on (yeah, I guess I wasn't that set on listening to the doctor) but anyway I took off the bandages and went in. This lake did definitely cool us down, it was freezing--except for the waterfall part, it was like a warm shower.

Short story: So Clara (the coordinator) had said that she was going to be my doctor for the weekend, that she would take care of my foot etc, so on the way back she told me to sit next to her so she could wrap my foot up again and put some stuff on it from her first aid kit. And while she was preparing everything and getting stuff ready she was telling me this story about how one time when she was younger her dad had a wound of some sort and she was determined to heal it. She washed it and put stuff on it every day and took care of it, but time passed and it was still not getting better, so her dad decided to get it checked out by some friend who was a doctor and he said "oh my gosh! what have you been doing to it?!! You should have gone to the hospital a long time ago, this is terrible!" and apperantly it was really serious and had the dad not gone to get it checked out right afterward he could have gotten gangreen or something and they would have had to cut off his leg, at worst he would have died. so that made me extremely confident of her handling my foot. but apparently this event had inspired her to become a doctor!

So, this whole time I didn't want to look at my foot because I was afraid it would look really bad. And then clara was made this comment right after she looked at my toe, "oh, um...we're gonna need something to cut with" and she signals over to our tour guide Aurecio, and he comes over, and whips out his machete (facão in Brasil) and brings it near me, and I started screaming not because I thought he was serious but I was afraid that by accident he'd end up cutting me because it was really quite close. But much to my relief, nada aconteceu e tudo bem.

We went on this mini adventure to some nearby natural pools near the hotel..
This is the little town at sunset
The water was like orangish from the minerals--it was not dirty.

Later that night was our last night there, we had our secret friend dinner. I didn't know everyone was going to be so dressed up but oh well. It was a really nice dinner and the secret friend thing, I think I mentioned at the beginning was this little game that we decided to enter, and it was like a secret gift exchange, but not exlusively for presents, and not a one time thing. For our first 4 weeks there we were all given a person at random, for whom we would secretly do things that would make them feel loved. I received a little note saying happy first day of class, and some other little notes here and there. I also received a little pot of flowers. I tended to give food to my secret friend :) surprising? I gave her a plantain because it was her favorite fruit, i gave her my favorite brasilian fruit a Pinha, and a lucky frog, and some whole wheat cookies that she was missing. stuff like that. And here we were to reveal who our secret friend was by giving some clues to the rest of our peers and having them guess.

The food here was sooo good too. It was buffet style as it always requires for such a big group. I had some carrot soup, some fried plantain, some good pieces of steak and salad, and rice, and some chicken too :) with some really good sauce and carmelized onions. SSOOO delicious.

I just kept forgetting to eat because I was listening to all the people's descriptions and trying to guess, apart from that I take ages to eat usually and most people finish before me. And all of a sudden we heard the sound of a berimbau and this whole line of capoeiristas came walking through the dining room (hotel restaurant) and walked over to the patio. So I knew I had to scarf down my food. My friends were making fun of me because I just straight up took the plate to my face and scraped the food into my mouth. See this is what I mean by incongruent manners, but it's okay i guess, only a few saw me.
This is just to show that people start doing capoeira from like preschool, its so cute seeing three-year-olds doing a ginga with grown-ups.

I don't want to show too many pictures, it was cool but something very real that at least I had to struggle with was this feeling of guilt of having people perform for me. Something that has such a cultural and historical significance like Capoeira and the quilombo dance with the skirts and sticks, and people have to resort to selling it to tourists because of their position in the economy. It's just really this feeling of privilege that I actually don't always feel in my own community. I really appreciate that they did this for us and yes it's a great form of entertainment, I love the berimbau and I like to do capoeira and enjoy children and others looking like they're enjoying themselves. So there is that thought that well this is something that has been passed down to them and they enjoy this activity, it's not like i'm sextouring, but at the same time I can never forget about the different power relation. So, what I'm doing is just keeping that in mind the cultural and historical importance of these things and know that well these are the consequences or being a tourist. In one way or another I will be seeing and experiencing things that won't have the same meaning to me as the people there, but I will try my best to find that meaning in them. But it also comes down to the fact that I see these people as people, I don't seperate myself in my mind so much from people that surround me. It's not like "I'm American" and the "Brazilians" I try not to think in labels, and I don't necessarily see it as people working for me, although you can't ignore that that is the power relation in most of these cases. I'm continuously trying to seek ways to reconcile this. I really encourage that before you travel anywhere you really should educate yourself on the contexts, and think about these power relations, and the problem with exoticism and othering.

The next morning there were two options, either go to natural water slides these like flat rocks, i think they were kind of like muddy so it wasn't dreadfully painful to go down them. The other option was to go to this little place that has a lot of ancestors of the Quilombo refugees. This was really hard core because these Quilombos were places of refuge for runaway slaves. People built these spaces to escape slavery, just knowing that speaks to an importance of this space that I will never fully understand but requires a lot of respect.

The people are very welcoming though and like to tell people about the story and their experiences. I know they were recently given some kind of grant and I guess they also are partially funded by tourism, but their main deal is with fishing.
The people were all sleeping because they were partying the day before, it's very interesting they pretty much depend on their fish selling out in the town, in Lençóis but it's like 2 hours away from there. and they don't always have fish. They usually show how farinha de mandioca is made but yeah the whole town was asleep almost.

Then we came back. This picture above is of the lamp that is still there as symbol of Portugal and their colonization. It is an icon for Lençóis I believe because they are one of the few places that has still kept them.
These are some more pictures of the hotel
The dining room from the night before, except illuminated this time.

We had a wonderful lunch at restaurant in Lençóis right before we left.
All these lunches as a group were provided for in our fees already so we didn't have to calculate with these expenses.
Cactus, fried plantain (I know they're all over the place but one really can't get tired of them) some creamy white lasagna type stuff, chicken thigh, barbecued meat, beans, beat salad, these little fried balls with herbs and meat in them, grilled onion. THe food was really good.
It was a very cozy place, with a very tropical ambience, I don't remember the name of this place but it shouldn't be hard to find. It's at the entrance almost of the little town.
Our meal came with one juice, but the juice was sooo good I was obliged to buy another one for 1 real! $0.50. Yeah I went there. I had a limeade and maracuja juice. It was delicious!!!
And after this lunch we were back on our way home. The whole 7 hours back.
We stopped at the same gas station to do some yoga (well that was mainly only me, but people stretched). This was that place that had the pineapple vendor, with the most delicious, juicy, sweet pineapples! And cheap too! I had some freshly made pineapple juice. and it saved me for what was going to come... tun tun tun...
Okay so some of my friends and i always ended up having to sit all the way in the back of the bus, which is right next to the bathroom. And at first everything is okay. We learned from last time--our way up to Lencois that this changes dramatically as time progresses, so we were insisting that peopel reconsider before using the restroom, but that didn't help. I felt like the smell exponentially worsened after they "cleaned" at the gas station, or I'm not really sure what they did to it, but it did not reik as terribly before that point, and then it just got unbearable. This is one of my friend covering his nose, I was inhaling into my pineapple cup until finally, it was seriously so bad--it was just worse than urine or feces. I feel like I could have withstood feced in my face more than this smell, so it is unexplainable as to why it would smell this bad but it got so strong that slowly we who were in the way back had to move up to the front of the bus and slowly the seat in front of us progressively started moving up because it was so unbearable! It was rediculous the back half was all up with the first half in the aisles, some of us sat thought because we still had such a long way to go.

Yes it was a rather foul way to end this trip but even then, the smell of rotten feces could not have ruined this great adventure. The trip to Lençóis was by far one of the best travel experiences of my life!

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