I decided on a whim to go further North in Brazil to Recife and Olinda, since I was enjoying this country so much and couldn´t think just yet about venturing into the cold temperatures of Buenos Aires.  Naseef and I had become good friends in Salvador after he joined Carla, Zequinha and I on our many excursions around the city so we decided to make the trip here together.  My adoptive Brazilian family had taken such a liking to him and he spoke lots of Portuguese so it made for a great group dynamic.  On our last day in Salvador, Zequinha was so sweet and insisted on doing something to celebrate Naseef´s birthday, cooking a big lunch of moqueca – a delicious fish stew made with coconut milk and served in a clay pot.  Totally amazing, and I was somehow caught up with emotion leaving this family that had shared so much of their culture with me.

Aspiring Brazilian soccer player, Olinda

Olinda is a beautifully colorful old colonial town, filled with old churches and cobble-stoned streets.  Parts of it make you feel like you might be in Havana Cuba or Old San Juan, Puerto Rico.  It is the first city I have visited in Brazil that is walkable and easily navigable.  The streets surrounding where we are staying are a bit touristy, but once you venture out a bit you can eat very inexpensive authentic food and get some great shots of locals in the streets.  I haven’t quite figured out how anyone here makes a living though, as the shops are empty, open at the strangest hours, and there are many blue-shirted guys in the streets trying to heckle you to buy their services as guides from the second you stop to look at a map.  The city is so small, I don’t quite understand why anyone would need one.

We took a 12 hour bus from Salvador – my initial thought was to fly but Naseef convinced me to take the bus and I figured if nothing else it would be an experience and part of my adventure.   It was totally fine, much more so than that bus I took in Northern Thailand for 6 hours riding on a spare tire while attempting to not get jostled out the back door.  I was very thankful for my noise cancelling headphones, a really comfortable reclining chair, an awesome blow-up neck pillow I borrowed, and the fact that Naseef and I were able to change seats and sit next to each other.

Traveling with a friend, and also one who spoke Portuguese, was definitely a great thing too.  Sure, the temperature on the bus was sub-zero with all the AC they were pumping, of course then I broke into a complete sweat every time I went to the bathroom since it had no AC and presumably was right over the engine.  But it was interesting to see other parts of Brazil out my window  – more countryside and a brief snapshot of life outside the big cities where it is much simpler and more natural.  I was fascinated by what I saw and began to realize that the favellas really have an enormous presence in every part of Brazil.  You see large ones in places like Rio and Salvador, as expected, but what I didn’t realize was that this is really where most of the population in many parts of Brazil lives.  And many of these favellas have a lot worse conditions than the ones I saw in Rio.

I haven’t done enough research yet but after you see a few of them, and the lack of urban planning or organization about them, you start to realize that most people probably don’t pay rent there and you wonder where their garbage and sewage waste goes.  One walk past one, and the smell can give it all away.   Every house is on top of the next one, and they seem to just sort of take shape on their own from the side of a mountain or on the side of a busy highway – needless to say, I was totally fascinated and regret not being able to visit one.