Brazil:  Amazon and Salvador da Bahia, July 2009
Worshipers of Bonfim, Samba Lessons, Strange Angels
Page 15 of 17


Returning to the house from seeing Paulinho and his samba band, I hung out with Alex, Liz from Dallas, and the other guests, who were drinking caipirinhas and a surprisingly sweet Chilean wine.

Pictured are Joan and Sunil, two lawyers on holiday from New York, and Sunil's friend Lucas, who lives in Salvador. 

Lucas watches the teen drama TV series "Gossip Girl", a series narrated by a blogger who knows all about the private lives of privileged teenagers attending an elite private school in New York City's Upper East Side. "It is my favorite show," he said, "I learn much English from the show."  He would frequently pepper his conversations with "XOXO!" and "LOL!" for comic effect.

18 July Saturday - I woke up late, realizing that I was dreaming about the bag snatching attempt yesterday, my mind churning.  I hadn't given it much thought yesterday, going back out and enjoying the samba, but now, the idle mind was processing it all.

Between this and the rain, I decided to stay in, relax, and read. 

In the evening, Alex, Jaqueline, Liz, Amalia, and her boyfriend Marshall took taxis to Jamnoman at the Museum of Modern Art to see some live jazz.  To my surprise, I saw Gordon from last night playing keyboards on 4-5 improvisations.  He sounded really great, on the last song creating a fantastic pulsing arpeggio with a Rhodes sound.  The setting, an old hacienda converted into a modern museum, with exquisite stonework and whitewash, was the perfect setting for a jazz show.

19 July Sunday - Today I left the house by 7am for Bonfim.  I had already been there with Lisa, but I wanted to photograph Sunday mass. 

I began getting into the bus.  The automatic doors abruptly closed, scratching my arm and squeezing me.  I fell on my right knee, bruising it.  I glared at the guy in the back and walked through the turnstyle without paying him.  The driver asked if I were okay and apologized.

At Igreja do Bonfim, the mass had already begun, standing room only, with people spilling out into the front entrance, including this little girl.  Prayers, songs.

A man brought in a large stand with Jesus to the front, holding it up high as he made his way through the throng.  Some more words, then big applause.

I again visited the Room of Miracles, or Sala de Milagres, again looking at the offerings, plastic replicas of feet, arms, heads, hearts, representing the parts of the body that devotees claim were healed.

Then, I moved on to observe some of the Catholic ceremonies, prayers, and blessings.

Bonfim, primarily Catholic, is of course open for everyone to worship and give thanks to Jesus. 

However, for Afro-Brazilians who participate in candomblé ceremonies, Bonfim is the church of Oxala, the king of the orishas, whose name refers to spiritual purity and light, and thus their most important church.  I found the mix of candomblé and Catholicism that the Portuguese imported to Brazil fascinating.

Igreja do Bonfim was built in 1745 and is famous for its curative properties.

Many worshipers made a wish with the fita, or "wish ribbons".

Some smaller worshipers take a rest on the front steps of Igreja do Bonfim.

I took a bus back from Bonfim to Open House Barra, managing not to be crushed by the automatic doors and ate. 

I went to the beach to read for a couple of hours.  I purchased more queijo coalho with oregano and pimentos.  While standing with the vendor, a round white rock the size of a racquetball landed in the sand between us with a dull thud.  Two kids from above ran away.  The vendor, an older man, yelled at the kids.  Soon after, the kids threw another white rock at two women maybe 20 meters away.  I yelled at the kids, and soon, everyone yelled at the kids.  They ran off.  We all moved.  It drizzled.  I stepped in dog crap on the way back.  This was the reverse of last summer, when I stepped in dog crap and then had kids throw rocks at me while I was in Chamba in the Himalayas.

We decided not to go to a futebol game.  It was in a very bad neighborhood far away, Alex said.  Instead, we had samba lessons with Jaqueline.  After caipirinhas, of course.

I thought that perhaps the second time I'd get it down.  "Um, dois, trê, dois, três".  2/4 time, three steps to every bar, "um, dois, três" .

Yes.  After just two lessons, I was ready.  I was the Rei de Samba.

Or not.

Alex made Spanish tortillas with potatoes, cheese, garlic, and onion.  We helped chop.  Very good.  Washed it down with Antarctica Malzbier, also good.  Alex showed videos of his 2009 Carnaval party, where he hired professional dancers to dance at Open House Barra.  Half the guests were Australian, with Americans, British, Norwegian, and Argentinian guests rounding it out.  Looked like fun.

20 July Monday - I wanted to photograph the "hideous and ugly" angels of São Francisco church that "look like Mike Tyson", as our guide Carmelito had described them, and pay more attention to how they actually looked.  And indeed, they were different.

A closeup of one of the pregnant angels.  On our previous visit, Guide Carmelito noted that since African artisans were forced to build their masters' church while prohibited from practicing their own religion, they responded by creating ugly, distorted angels and cherubs.

Brazil:  Amazon and Salvador da Bahia, July 2009
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