Oh wait…sorry…I meant…INDEPENDENCE DAY!!
September 7 is Independence Day in Brazil. Ironically, the MV Explorer pulled into Salvador, Brazil at 6am on September 7. Even more ironically, this fact was never mentioned during either of our two required preport seminars. I guess the administration was hoping we would not notice the masses of people and parades through the streets of the city – hoping that we would instead take advantage of the time to visit all the museums, undisturbed by other tourists. They were probably also hoping that we wouldn’t notice that you can drink in the streets, as this fact was also never mentioned during our preport seminars.
We figured it all out.
Cory, Darcy and I may have even figured it out a bit more intimately than our classmates. When they all took a left at the top of the elevator (cool story: Salvador is built across two tectonic plates so there’s an upper and lower city that sometimes shift, but the change is so steep that it requires an elevator to get from one part to the other.), the three of us turned right. In other words, as our classmates followed the signs that said “Edible Food, Bottled Water, and Clean Bathrooms this way!” in English and “Americans to pick-pocket this way!” in Portuguese, Cory, Darcy and I followed the smells of food and loud noises. …right into a parade of … army men?
This was honestly the scariest parade I have ever seen. I’m pretty sure the entire Brazilian army was marching through the streets of Salvador, faces painted black, carrying machine guns, and chanting scary things. Every once in a while an entire brigade would stop and start doing pushups or playing with their guns with their fingers frighteningly close to the triggers. There was no music, or clowns, or happiness. Instead, it was army followed by navy followed by no candy. My favorite though, was the brigade of snipers, who were dressed in their camouflage. They stood out in the streets, but that’s probably because I only saw half of them.
Unfortunately, Cory would not let me eat anything from street vendors because he thought it might be “unclean.” (Thanks, but I got sick anyways.) So we wandered and wandered and wandered in search of “safe food.” During this wandering we learned that it is definitely legal to drink in the streets (and socially acceptable), that “perdon” translates pretty well to get people to move out of your way, and that the bus station is both really far from the ship and totally not the place for Americans to be.
The most difficult part about this wandering was that I was really hungry. As you can see from my Lencois post, I get cranky when I get hungry. I also have way lower standards on what qualifies as “safe food” (or safe sex for that matter). So while Cory was able to turn his head in disdain at each “food by kilo” restaurant, I began to crave everything Bahimian: fried plantains, beef stews, mango salad, and men, all served over perfectly cooked rice.
At some point we made it to the tourist district, where much to Cory’s disdain, all the restaurants were still “food by kilo” bars. “Food by kilo” basically means that everything is set out buffet style, and you just pay for it when you finish piling up your plate with as much as you dare to eat. The biggest differences between this style of food and the way it is served on the ship is that it’s better and we have to pay for it. But Cory was concerned about the lack of hand sanitizer (which, although present, goes largely ignored on the ship) so insisted that we could not partake in this cultural experience.
But finally, we passed a restaurant where Cory saw that two of his professors had brought their families to eat…so finally…we were allowed to go in and enjoy our “food by kilo.”
I have not yet complained to you about food on the ship. So let me do that quickly. First of all, it’s only served three times a day. I’m used to a solid six meals a day. So this is difficult and I have resorted to a sleeve a day Ritz habit and a tendency to steal from the dining hall.
Additionally…and much, much worse…the pasta and rice are undercooked. This is the strangest thing in the world to me. Because both are impossible to mess up. They are the staple of those who cannot cook. What is also strange is that nobody else on the ship seems to notice how terrible it is. Every single meal they pile up the terribly undercooked pasta staple of different shapes and with different sauces. It’s disgusting. All I have been craving since our first dinner is angel hair pasta, cooked by my brother, with butter and parmesan cheese. That’s it. Very simple request. All I want. (And please please the morning I get back can we have French pancakes, and then eggs over easy the next morning, or even for lunch that day, then angel hair pasta for dinner.)
All I think that I need to say now…is that the rice at the restaurant we ate at was absolutely perfectly cooked.