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And Then, There Was Samba

Tuesday, July 26th, 2005

23 July 2005 (Saturday) – Fortaleza, Brazil

I would be taking the riverboat up the Amazon River once I get to Belem. To travel hammock class, I would need to purchase a hammock. OK, I could do this in Belem, but my Natal family told me it was better to buy in Fortaleza which was the birthplace of hammocks in Brazil, it seemed.

The hammock in Isabelle's living room was my bed for a couple of nights, I love it!

Lunch with Isabelle, her mother's friend and her mother

Isabelle’s mother was also very keen to help me with this purchase, so by late morning, she came to pick us up and we drove to the Mercado Central (Central Market). Everyone told me I could get a hammock for R30, more or less. With Isa’s mother, she went from shop to shop, sniffing at the hammocks, demanding for the price to be lowered. We finally found one for R15, a small basic one which she told me was less scratchy than the other one we saw. Fine, let’s take it. I could not believe the price!

And yet later, as we left the market and were driving out, we saw more shops selling the same type of hammock for R11!! My goodness, it is so terribly cheap. Anyway, I have bought mine, so I shall not look at hammocks again.

I really found many hammocks very, very, very lovely-looking. But I could not afford these ones, with the beautiful crochet adornments. They are much bigger, heavier and more expensive.

I also bought the hooks to hang hammocks. I think when I finally have my own apartment (please please please let me be able to own an apartment eventually), I would install the hooks in the living room and hang a hammock there permanently. A portion of my life should be spent lying in the hammock.

Later that evening, Isa took me to Ponte de Inglesa, a jetty that has a few restaurants and cafes on it for tourists and locals to enjoy the sea, breeze and sunset. Sunset in Brazil, you asked? Yes, in a way, it had been nearly impossible to see a proper sunset in Brazil as Brazil faces east. The sun is always setting behind some mountains or buildings. However, after Natal, Brazil curved away in a northwesternly direction. So, here in Fortaleza, at some spots, one could see the sunset. And right here at Ponte de Inglesa, we could see it setting right into the sea.

With Isabelle, at Ponte de Inglesa... people who shared sunsets, would forever have a connection with each other

Isa said that people who shared sunsets, would forever have a connection with each other. We looked at each other and wished that may we forever get to share sunsets with someone special.

She wanted to show me a club which played true-blue traditional samba. OK, up here in the northeast, the favourite dance is not the samba, but the forro. I had heard some forros being played since I was in Salvador, Recife and Natal. Katharina had tried to introduce me to various types of forros, but to be honest, I did not quite fancy it. Although I recognised that its lyrics are very meaningful, always telling the stories of the tough lives the people in the interiors led, but as for the rhythms, well, I could just listen to one or two dances. After that, it was enough.

Moons ago in Buenos Aires, Pablo had asked me if I wanted to learn how to dance tango. My eyes shot straight to my boots. “In t-h-o-s-e???” I replied incredulously. He followed my eyes and realised it was impossible. He asked why didn’t I pack my stilettos? So, tango was out!

Then, in Recife, I had matched my dirty trekking sandals to my pretty dress to dance a bit of bolero and salsa in the dancing hall and salsa club where Katharina had brought me to. Fashion faux pas, I know, but for dancing, it was more or less OK.

Now, I finally found a host who was more or less as petite as I was and I was able to wear a pair of her nice sandals and now, samba time!! We danced the tiny samba steps around our table and later, in front of the ‘live’ band, squeezing with the crowd. Some women were just amazing. I did not know how they sustained the fast rhythms. They were fantastically versatile, swaying back-and-fro in very rapid, brisk movements. I pointed a woman out to Isa, for she was simply a fantastic dancer. Isa nodded in agreement. She herself had no idea how to dance the true samba way either. We shrugged and just made do with whatever we felt like.

Then, to my surprise, a tall guy tapped me on the shoulder and beckoned me over. Curious, I went over. He took my hands and tried to TEACH me how to dance samba! Hahaa, how did he know I wanted to learn?? Magic magic magic! Or either that, I was a complete flop at the dance-floor!

I followed his steps, but the magic is in the hips. He tried to move my hips a little. I soon got the hang of it. There was a trio of women sitting at the side nearby and they broke into an applause when I finally got it. But getting it and sustaining it are two different things!! Wow, despite the smallish, repetitive steps, it was not easy to dance samba at all!!

Wow, this trip so far had been terrific! I just feel I need to quote someone now… who… who… er… OK, just to quote someone – Queen! “Don’t Stop Me Now! I’m having such a good time… I’m having a ball!!”

I had just been exposed to the musical wonders of Brazil one after the other in the past month. There was olodum, Candomblé in Salvador; serenata in Olinda; bolero and salsa in Recife; OK… hip-hop in Natal; reggae in Canoa and then, there was samba here in Fortaleza. Incredible! Que sufrimento!

Full Moon Party

Tuesday, July 26th, 2005

21 July 2005 (Thursday) – 22 July 2005 (Friday) – Canoa Quebrada, Brazil

We packed up and drove to Canoa Quebrada in the late morning. Marilia and Marcelo decided not to join us, oh well.

Canoa Quebrada is another beach, but a rather touristy one. As tonight is full-moon, we came here for the full-moon party.

We found a pousada for R30 which Isa and I would share the cost. However, Javier and Cristian could not afford it, and said that they would sleep on the beach. We inspected the room, there was an extra mattress and a hammock hanging outside the room. We were sure the owner would have no problems with the boys crashing in the room as well. But these stubborn boys just kept declining politely. Fine.

View from our pousada of the beach

First, straight to the beach, of course. Wow, this is another fantastic beach. The flat sand area was wide wide wide. At the end of the beach were sand cliffs, brilliantly reddish under the scorching sun. All the restaurants and bars were located at the base on the cliffs. And the beach was so long, stretching into the distance.

We settled down at Freedom Bar, which had a huge banner with Bob Marley‘s face and naturally, it was constantly playing reggae music. This is the place with the full-moon party tonight. We were surrounded by happy hippies, both waiters and patrons or just permanent residents decked out on the beach forever who drink without paying.

Instructions on how to look like a hippie: First, grow your hair long and totally mess it up by never washing, never combing, in order for it to look like Medusa’s, dye some of the ‘worms’ in various colours, if you like. Don’t ever shower, you need to smell bad. Then, add the tattoos, bake under the sun for the tan, wear something with ‘peace’ sign or with the colours of the Jamaican flag, smoke some cannibis for the glassy-eyed looks and the silly grin. If you can, learn how to make ear-rings or bracelets.

The tide was coming in. As we lay there from noon to 4+pm, we watched incredulously as the waves came lapping up closer and closer to us. We moved three times to escape the waves. They came nearly to the edge of the bars and restaurants. No wonder the bars and restaurants were built on stilts. Finally, with no beach left, Isa and I left first to have something to eat.

What we ordered was too much and when the boys joined us later, we fed them the leftovers. They ate up the rest of the rice, spaghetti and beans enthusiastically.

Isa and I returned to the top of the cliffs to watch the rising of the full moon. OK, we were a little too late to catch it peeping out from the horizon, but still, it was only a short distance from the water, reflecting its bright light on the surface of the sea. Wow, what a beauty!! We stared at it in silence. I cannot believe it looks so beautiful. This was really special, as I cannot recall if I have ever seen a full moon being born from the sea before. Wow!! I really thank Isa for taking me here to this fantastic place to see the moon!!

Back in town, we found the boys trying out swimming trunks. Cristian put on one with the Brazilian colours – yellow and green – and with a Brazilian flag as well! He asked if he looked Brazilian. We nearly died laughing. Cristian, all lobster pink and dusty-blond hair… you look absolutely like a gringo!!!! No Brazilian in his right mind would wear swimming trunks with the Brazilian colours!!!!!!!!!

I could not believe these chicos locos (crazy boys). They had no money to eat but they were shopping for swimming trunks. Javier put one on and stared at the mirror laughing, thoroughly self-conscious. He kept tugging at the ends, saying that it was too short. This guy had swam in his underwear and now he blushed beetroot, trying out these swimming trunks.

Isa and I looked at each other, shook our heads and dug our hands into the swimming trunk selection to try and find something less horrendous for them. We clucked around like mother hens, deciding which colours looked nicer on whom, asking them to turn around for us to inspect the front and the back. Heh heh (naughty, naughty), they obeyed. We even thought of getting them matching trunks – the juggling twins in swimming trunks!

Finally, after destroying the store, they made fake promises to the saleslady that they would return with some money to purchase the trunks and we fled.

Later, Isa’s friends, Edilisa and Thiago, arrived and we drank some wine back in our room. They had brought along a bottle of cachaça and before we actually left for the full-moon party, I think they were already half-drunk.

Thiago, Edilisa, Isabelle, Cristian, Javier and I at our pousada

At 1am or so, we returned to Freedom Bar and Edilisa, Isa and I danced to the reggae music around the camp-fire, obeying the lyrics to ‘get up, stand up’ and ‘go to the promised land’. Isa and Thiago even dipped themselves in the water. Wow, the full moon was right above us! This was great!!!

Edilisa complimented that I could dance very well, like a Brazilian, claiming that I have latin blood in me! Hey, a compliment from a Brazilian girl who herself dances very well, I was very happy to hear it.

After some time, I don’t know when… Isa and Thiago returned up the cliff. Edilisa also disappeared. Cristian somehow meandered to my side, asking if I saw Javier. Nope.

So, both of us hang around, danced and chatted. We made friends with Mariana, a pretty Brazilian girl whose friends had gone off somewhere kissing. The three of us lost souls had a really good time.

The waves were returning to the shore as well again, making the beach smaller and smaller. Mariana had lost one of her slippers. But hours later, would you believe it… I saw a slipper very far away from where she had lost it, very near to the edge of the water, just before it was washed away and I picked it up. I asked her if it was hers. Yes, it was!! She hurried back to her previous spot to retrieve the other one! Incredible!!

I finally asked the time – 4:15am. Wow, how the time flew! I guess there was only one thing left to do now – wait for the sunrise at 5am! We stayed and stared at the horizon which was showing a tinge of orange now. The thing about sunrise is that you could never be sure when the sun was popping up, so you just keep on staring at the spread of orange calmly and wait.

Finally, the sun came up! Great!! What a beautiful life this is to witness the full moon and now, this! Although I was definitely the only sober person around, I had definitely enjoyed myself. I looked around me. Many people had left. Some were still dancing away. The bar had closed. A few had passed out from too much drinks and marijuana.

Javier had joined us on and off for a while. Now, we found him sleeping right next to the campfire. We woke him and prepared to return to the pousada. While walking back, Cristian, now just barely coherent, asked, “¿Donde vivimos? (Where do we live?)” In a way, I had felt responsible for the boys – my baby brothers, so I stayed with them. I did not want to see them pass out on the beach, to be washed away by the waves, or to be robbed by some other drunk people. And I think Cristian had stayed awake the whole time as well, to watch out for me. Sweet. I led them back to the pousada. Cristian dragged out the extra mattress and fell right onto it. Javier still had the presence of mind to brush his teeth, before collapsing in the hammock outside!!!

Later that day, after Isa had returned to sleep for a while, we bid farewells to the boys, for they wanted to stay on at Canoa and Isa and I were heading back to Fortaleza.

Saying good-bye to our little brothers - Cristian and Javier

Wow, how the time had flown! Isa had already spent 1 week with them and she felt awful saying good-byes. She is so sensitive. I looked at the boys, with their 8 pieces of luggage, dishevelled hair, smelly clothes and no money, and could not help but compare them to Che Guevara and his buddy in the movie ‘The Motorcycle Diaries‘. Javier, the handsome, intense one would be Che Guevara and Cristian, his goofy buddy. Tchau, chicos!! Nos vemos en Buenos Aires! (Goodbye, boys!! We see each other in Buenos Aires!)

Que Sufrimento!

Tuesday, July 26th, 2005

20 July 2005 (Wednesday) - Icapui, Brazil

Cristian and Javier had been travelling for 4.5 months now around South America. They started in the opposite direction from where I did. So, they were now at the tail-end of their trip, heading ... [Continue reading this entry]

Bus to Beach

Friday, July 22nd, 2005
19 July 2005 (Tuesday) - Natal to Fortaleza to Icapui, Brazil Gisele, my amazingly giving host, woke up at 3:50am together with me in order to drive me to the rodoviaria. Gosh, and the poor dear had to return to the ... [Continue reading this entry]

A Day In The Life…

Friday, July 22nd, 2005
18 July 2005 (Monday) - Natal, Brazil Gisele is trained as an architect, but she now works as an interior designer. After her lunch break today, Gisele took me to one of her clients' houses (sneakily) to check out the works ... [Continue reading this entry]


Monday, July 18th, 2005
16 July 2005 (Saturday) - 17 July 2005 (Sunday) - Genipabu, Brazil Gisele has a beach house in Genipabu, about 20km north of Natal, near the sand-dunes. A beach house, imagine that! After she returned from work on Saturday afternoon, we took ... [Continue reading this entry]


Monday, July 18th, 2005
15 July 2005 (Friday) - Recife to Natal, Brazil Upon reaching Natal, my host, Gisele, was very kind to come to the rodoviaria to pick me up and very soon, I was brought to her house in the centre of ... [Continue reading this entry]

Boa Viagem!

Friday, July 15th, 2005
14 July 2005 (Thursday) - Recife, Brazil I spent the day today accompanying Katharina to run all her usual errands, having her hair cut, visiting her aunts, going to the gym and her bolero dancing classes. Along the way, I met ... [Continue reading this entry]

Excess Baggage

Thursday, July 14th, 2005
13 July 2005 (Wednesday) - Recife, Brazil I originally thought that I would send some stuff, mainly my beach gear and summer wear, back home from Fortaleza as from that place onwards, my clothing needs would be very different. But ... [Continue reading this entry]

Chicken Sun

Wednesday, July 13th, 2005
11 July 2005 (Monday) - 12 July 2005 (Tuesday) - Porto de Galinhas, Brazil Katharina's family has an apartment in the nearby resort town of Porto de Galinhas. We headed out there with her mother late Monday afternoon to stay ... [Continue reading this entry]