Today, Salvador was hot. Really hot. Burst your eyeballs and make the resulting puddle of ocular fluid evaporate kind of hot. Especially out in the sun, waiting to take the Elevador Lacerda down to Mercado Modelo, Salvador's big crafts (i.e. - tourist crap) market, located in Cidade Baixa, the lower part of Pelourinho. It's a little suffocating with the crowds, especially with today's heat, and is especially annoying with old ladies grabbing at you, trying to scam you.
It's a common scam around the world, where they "give" you a cheap little bracelet, and they're quite aggressive about it if you ignore them, grabbing onto your wrist as you try and walk away. On a side note, how come the women in Floripa's nightclubs weren't so aggressive about grabbing at me? I definitely would NOT have walked away ...
Anyway ... after these old ladies bestow their gift upon you, they ask for a small gratuity and if you give them a coin, they tell you no, they need some paper money, that it's for a magic trick. They do end up giving you a nice little magic trick, making your money disappear into thin air, but then you never get it back ... this happened to one of the guys from the hostel and it was sad, because it was a guy that had so little money, he could only afford to eat biscuits and water on a 30-hour bus ride into Salvador!
The market isn't worth too much time, unless you have a ton of souvenirs to buy, so I headed back up to the main part of town for some sightseeing, popping into Igreja Sao Francisco. I'm checking things out when all of a sudden, some lady starts yapping at me. I had no idea what she was saying, and told her I don't speak much Portuguese. Then in the most condescending tone, she says "I wasn't speaking PORTUGUESE, I was speaking JAPANESE." Great, like I understand Japanese ...
Then she asks where I'm from and I say Canada, to which she replies "I know Canada, very beautiful." in the most rehearsed fashion possible. "Would you like a tour? Then after I can show you around some other places. Blah blah blah blah blah blah blah!" No thanks ... that's quite alright ... I'm ok ... she wasn't even listening to what I said, just going off on her whole sales pitch. Perhaps you need to work a little on your people skills, if you're going to be a tour guide ...
Then it gets worse as I go to Teatro Miguel Santana to pick up some tickets to Bale Folclorico da Bahia, a production showcasing song and dance from the region, which came highly recommended by the hostel and by others who have watched the show. Apparently, these recommendations were not made based upon the level of customer service ...
I show up just after a couple that was also looking for tickets - they were directed to a guy who was about to disappear behind a door. They spoke with him briefly and gave him some money as I stood directly behind them, but before I could get his attention, he already disappeared behind the door, returning several minutes later with their tickets and change. I barely got his attention before he disappeared once again, and get the response "Why didn't you ask me before I went upstairs???", with a roll of the eyes. Uh ... because you were ignoring me earlier?
Then he goes off on a whole diatribe to one of his co-workers sitting nearby, as if I'm not even around, whining and bitching for a couple of minutes. Finally he takes my money and disappears, returning a short while later with the tickets and change. It never ceases to amaze me that somebody working in the tourist industry can be so rude and provide such shoddy service to those that created the market for their services. Based on principle, I should've said screw off and walked away without buying tickets ... but the question is, is it worth doing so if you end up missing out on a potentially incredible experience? Tonight, the answer was no, it's not worth saying no, because they only person that would've lost out would've been myself, as some other tourist would've snatched up the tickets. But it is unfortunate ... obviously, the guy knows he can get away with that type of attitude and still have plenty of business, so there is no incentive for him to change. What's up with all the rude people today??!!?!?!?
Now contrast that with the super friendly lady over at Cafe Atelier, where I stopped for a cake and coffee in the afternoon. It's the cutest little cafe, with what I believe is an antiques shop in the front, and a small little cafe with an even smaller balcony overlooking the bay - a perfect little spot for a snack and a break from the heat.
So I order a chocolate cake and a cappuccino, and it takes forever ... but it's ok, because the waitress is so kind and friendly, always smiling and cracking jokes. It's obvious that she's overwhelmed, running around taking orders, clearing plates, and making drinks at the bar, but nobody really minds. It probably took her fifteen minutes to come take my order, but she would always smile and say "just a minute" every time she walked by, without taking the order.
Quite some time later, she brings out the chocolate cake, which she wholeheartedly recommended - at least, I took it as a recommendation when I asked her what type of cakes she had and she just looked at me and said "chocolate, chocolate, and more chocolate!", with eyes bigger than the chocolate cake. How could I say no to that? She then apologized, saying that the cappuccino would be coming very shortly, and not to rush and eat all the cake - "It's Brazil after all, and here we're very calm and relaxed ..."
She returns less than five minutes late with my cappuccino and seeing my now empty plate, bursts into laughter. "What happened to the cake???" as she chuckled heartily, to which I could only shrug my shoulders and say "It was too good ... I ate a little bit. Then a little bit more. Then a tiny bit more. Then it was all gone!" I probably spent 90 minutes at that cafe, with most of the time waiting for my order to be taken and the food to come out. Even getting the bill took a good 20 minutes, but I didn't care ... the view was great and the lady was so nice that I couldn't hold it against her.
So back to the show - by the time we rounded everyone up, we arrived just a few minutes before the start and ended up stuck with crappy seats. But the show was phenomenal, definitely worth the 35 Reais and then some, and also worth having to deal with the jackass who earlier wold me the tickets.
There were five parts to the performance, the first being "Pantheon dos Orixas", which showcases Candomble, an Afro-Brazilian religion that originated in Salvador. The second part was probably the best, "Danca do Fogo", a one-man fire show - I've seen these before, but never anything like this. The guy would walk over a pot of fire, and it wasn't like the fire walking where people walk over the coals - the flames were shooting up and as he stepped off, you could see the bottoms of his feet still on fire for several seconds. He then lit up some sticks and rubbed them all over his arms and body, then picked up some of whatever was burning and held them in his bare hands for several seconds, before popping it in his mouth to extinguish the flames. From what I could tell, there was no oil or gel spread on his body to prevent burns. Insane!!!
The next part was "Puxada de Rede", symbolizing fisherman and their wives asking for the Goddess of the Sea for protection and good fishing. After that was a Capoeira demonstration, which was unbelievable for both the intensity and speed of the performance. I was later told by someone studying at one of Pelourinho's numerous and famous Capoeira academies that the performance was completely rehearsed, and not true Capoeira - the real thing is dynamic with the participants playing off of one another, where there's an ebb and flow to it, unlike tonight's show. But it didn't matter ... rehearsed and choreographed or not, it was still an incredible spectacle.
And to finish it all off, of course - some samba, the most Brazilian of dances. I'm not usually big on these types of traditional dance performances, but this night was unforgettable. I've never before been to a country where song and dance were so integrated with the culture. In fact, it seems like the entire culture revolves around these two things and this is evident in the energy and happiness the performers exuded. Brash, colourful, loud, with incredible percussion ... it was almost as if the roof was about to explode off the place. Unfortunately, cameras were not allowed in the performance, but you can check out some similar stuff here.
There was no way that another typically-quiet night in Pelourinho (by Brazilian standards, at least) could top that, though we tried - there was a samba club known for being the best place in town this particular night of the week, but nobody brought enough cash for the 30 Reais entrance fee. But lucky for us, there was a free reggae concert across the street, so we were able to enjoy that, and also catch a bit of samba on the street outside. The great thing about Brazil is that you can almost always find something free or cheap to do!