Improptu capoeira in the 13 de Mayo park, Recife

One of the things I have liked most about my time thus far in Brazil is the feeling of being the only tourist.  Naseef and I have found ourselves in many such situations and have both commented how much we have liked it.  We decided to venture into Recife yesterday, and what an experience it was!  Olinda is 8km from Recife (the main city here) and in my mind, I thought it would be the equivalent of taking a crosstown bus in Manhattan.  I envisioned a simple stretch of land that would take little time to cross.  I could never have been so wrong.

Taking public buses in Brazil is similar to going through security checkpoints at an airport in that there is no rhyme or reason about them.  They´re confusing, cost a different amount each time, and you are really are taking your life into your own hands based on the way they drive, pull into the stop etc.  I will go into more detail about bus riding in Brazil in a later blog. But nevertheless, Naseef and I were, once again, excited to make an experience out of it.  We somehow made it to some of the markets we had planned to visit, but found ourselves in completely desolate streets that were borderline sketchy.  Sunday was supposed to be a good day for these markets, but a religious holiday made them a ghost town.  We ended up having to catch several cabs to other parts of the city, because the thought of having to figure out another bus gave us both some anxiety.

We ended up in yet another part of town that was completely desolate – not only could we not find an ATM to withdraw money but there was no where to even eat anything.  Thankfully Naseef asked a guy on the street and he pointed us to a shopping center.  The shopping center was only a few blocks away and was like walking into a whole other world compared to the streets we had been walking.  It was heavily air-conditioned  and filled with wealthy Brazilians who it seemed had no idea of the community that lay just beyond its walls.

After lunch we hopped a cab to the park 13 de Mayo that I had been wanting to visit, as it is known as a great place where locals gather on a Sunday.   For me it was definitely the highlight of the day, and when we arrived an impromptu circle of capoeira had just formed that was absolutely AMAZING.   Naseef and I both noticed how everything felt just a bit more authentic than in Salvador….the capoeira artists didn´t ask for money and were dancing and drumming for two hours straight.  There were tons of interesting characters selling all sorts of things in the park and hundreds of kids and families about.   At the back a man was preaching some sort of religious babble to an ambivalent and unattentive crowd.  We went back to one of the markets we had been too earlier, and as expected it had come alive.

After feasting on some amazing tapioca, grilled meats, and some home-made fresh fruit caipirinhas from this old woman, we met this random skateboarder guy from Recife.   The funny part was that neither Naseef nor I could really understand his Portuguese….but he would just keep talking my ear off.  He started to talk about the music he liked and had some really funny words like “hardcore” except pronounced “hardgycory” and “hippy hoppy” for hip hop – Brazilians can never end words on a consonant….iPod is “Eepoggy!”  It made me laugh.   He offered to take us to some bars near by and we ended up in this street with some interesting outdoor seating, jazz music blasting from one end and Bob Marley from the other and everyone ragingly drunk for a Sunday night.  The bill came and our new “friend” told us he had no money for his drink and then waiter started to almost get angry at us and everything started to feel strange, but definitely made for an adventure.