My Honeymoon in Brazil

Part 1:

Dangerous Daisies, Dinosaur bites, &

Brazilian Capoeira V Irish Kung-Fu

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Honeymoon [huhn-ee-moon] is the traditional holiday taken by newlyweds to celebrate their marriage in intimacy and seclusion. Honeymoons are usually celebrated somewhere exotic, special and romantic. It is considered to be a period of blissful harmony.

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Day 6

“What?, tell him to go kiss me arse!,  are ye serious?, R$80 each?, that’s a feckin rip off”.

“Relax Keith a minute, let me talk to the man”, my wife Vanessa tells me.

“Don’t care, not paying that”. Head down. Muttering to myself. Kicking the sand.

We had just arrived in Morro de São Paulo, an island off Salvador, the capital of the province of Bahia, Brazil, it was summer and it was about 600 degrees Celsius. It had taken us 5 hours, 2 shitty un-air-conditioned buses, one catamaran, a wheel barrow, and the icing on the cake was a lovely army jeep ride with cart attached for passengers to sit in for the very bumpy 30 minute finale (my arse is still sore) to finally arrive at our “hotel” in the middle of the jungle… which looked nothing like the photographs in the website, and I don’t mean the jungle!. Sorry, did I mention my arse is still sore?

“He said he can do it for R$60 and no less”. My wife says.

“R$60? Thieving fecker!”

While Vanessa is talking to the driver, I’m trying to relax in the pool, my eyes are closed, the bubbles are massaging my sore arse. Suddenly, I feel something on my forehead, my wife looks at me. I can see her new tan slowly fading from her face, her pupils dilating, a look of terror forming around her eyes. I quickly assume it’s not good news. I had been bitten, which I’m kind of use to by now, the little feckers seem to like the blood of an Irish man. But I check the mirror anyway because it doesn’t feel like a normal bite, within a minute, it had swollen already, it was white in colour and it resembled half a golf ball jutting out of one side of my forehead. If there was another one on the other side, I would have resembled Hell boy…the white version.

“R$60? Feckin knacker. Could we walk it?”

(In hindsight Graçus a Deus we didn’t walk, it would have taken us about 8 hours, we would have been scolded in the heat, bitten by god knows what, and I’m sure it would have been one of the shortest marriages in the history of marriages. Oh yeah and by the way, I forget to mention one small detail, the next destination is an island…yes, we were going from Morro de São Paulo Island to Boipeba Island..now at one point there is a gap of about 50 metres separating the  2 islands, but deciding not to avail of the only transport available would have meant balancing the bags on top of our heads while wading cross the water, imagine asking your wife to do that on her honeymoon..ha ha ..too funny…too funny!).

“…we are not walking, we are on our honeymoon Keith”. Vanessa reminds me.

While still on the phone, Vanessa ushers me out the pool and drags me over to the owner of the hotel, clearly worried about the golf ball on my head,  with her eyebrows meeting in the middle, and using that gift that only women own, where they can say a  million words without uttering a sound, manages to ‘say’;

“Excuse me, what the feck is that on my husband’s forehead?”.

The owner is big man, he is wearing shorts, Havaianas, but he is not wearing a shirt. He has one of those dodgy eyes, as in, your not sure if he is looking at you or the person in the other room. He is the owner, and I’m thinking maybe he’s the one who organized the photos for the website. He speaks very good English.

“Ah yes, you’ve been bitten by erm …ah, what’s it called again in English?, I can’t remember, but it’s a horrible insect, it’s actually more like an animal than an insect, it’s really big and has a really long tail and a kind of club on the end of it, it’s this that bit you, very vicious”

Brazilians can be quite dramatic at times and they also tend to exaggerate.

“But I can’t remember how it’s called in English, it’s on the tip of my tongue  …Erm”.

“It sounds like a pterodactyl”. I say.

We Irish also like to exaggerate.

The animal he was actually referring to is a ‘Marimbondo’, which is a ‘Hornet’ in English, a type of wasp basically. The South American type is more or less the same size as European type folk. As I told you, he was slightly exaggerating, yes, big bite, but small insect.

“R$60?” I repeat. “Holy James Street! I hate being ripped off, just coz we’re feckin gringos!”.

A ‘gringo’ is basically any person not from Brazil.

“Erm hello… and where I am from?” asks my Brazilian wife.

“Sorry hun, but ya know what I mean”.

(* “Holy James street”. I have to “thank” my Dad for that one. I have no idea where it came from, but I guess it was a polite way of Saying “Holy Jesus Christ”, and being super traditional and religious back in my father’s day, it would have been straight to hell if such blasphemy was uttered. It’s like saying “feck” instead of “fuck”. And James Street by the way is where the Guinness factory is located in the heart of Dublin).

“Fine…R$60 then, but I’m not happy, and I’m going to have words with him when we get there, it said R$40 in the mail”. I say.

“Ok R$60 it is, ok. Yeah. Fine.Whatever. So you will pick us up here at 9? ok thanks, bye”. Vanessa confirms with the driver.

“So Keith, he will pick us up here in the morning at 9 ok?”

“Fuckn right he will”, I said, as if I had actually come out of it any better.

“And hun its R$60 yeah?” She says.

“I know, I heard you”, I grumble.

“….erm  …each way!” .

“What! each way?!..Ah for fuck sake Vanessa!” (Like it’s her fault).

Ah yes , things were going along very well.  It was like walking through a field of daisies on a spring day…except on this day, the daisies had little  viscous thorns, and each stride we took, we seem to catch  ourselves on one of  them.

What was that I said earlier?,  ‘Honeymoon=blissful harmony’.

But I’ve skipped loads I know, so let me take you back a bit, and see where it all started to go wrong…

Day 1

It was 26th Christmas, Stephens day in Ireland, Boxing Day in England, and in Brazil, it was ….the 26th December. I normally associate this time with the freezing cold, family, Guinness, presents, children, and turkey sandwiches for a week. Being so stuffed from food and drink it’s nearly too painful to lift your arm and root around for your favourite Cadbury’s Rose. You have positioned yourself in prime position, on one side of your arm-chair, the remote control, your Guinness, your Carlsberg, or your 15th glass of red wine, with the box of Roses just out of arms distance as not to force you to eat the whole box, and forget the wife/husband /kids/ visiting neighbours. Oh yes, the top button of your trousers are open. The party hat you collected from the cracker is slowly slipping off your head.  It’s an attractive sight.

This is normally the scene, but this year, I was on a plane and heading on our Honeymoon, we had been married 22 days. We didn’t immediately go on our holiday obviously because of Vanessa’s work. Now that we were married I can blame her, at the time, I was like,

“Yeah no problem babe, I understand. Listen, your busy, we can go when you’re ready ok?. I love you too, muak!”

I was ready to go 3 weeks earlier.

So anyway, where are we going? well both myself and my wife don’t like to stay too long in one place. We had 15 days off, and even though we both wanted to spend some time lapping up the cancerous rays of the sun, we didn’t want to be sitting on a beach for 2 weeks. So, the plan of action was; fly to Salvador, the capital of the province of Bahia, the first colonial state of Brazil, the capital of happiness, street parties and laid back people. Then after four nights there, we would jump on a bus for an hour and head north to a place called Praia do Forte…which I think can only translate to the “strong beach”, or the beach of the strong”,  a beach full of hunky surfers perhaps or was it named this because of  a dangerous rip tide?. I was intrigued.

Then after spending New Years there, we would return to Salvador to catch a catamaran and then head to our final destination, the island of Boipeba. This, was going to be our week on the beach doing nothing but hand in hand beach walks, tanning it up, taking a million photos, proclaiming the sunset ones to be the best one’s you’ve ever seen in your life, eating fish, drinking beer, playing frescobol, lots of reading, and lots and lots of love time. Oh yeah. Oh yeah. Oh yeah.

The first thing you notice about Salvador is that it’s predominately black, it’s predominately black and good-looking. Now, I have already mentioned to you kind readers before that it is said, that the best looking women in Brazil are the “Minera’s” i.e. from the state of Minas Gerais, and Belo Horizonte is the capital of “MG”. So if the Brazilian women are considered the best looking women in the world, would it not be true to say that Belo Horizonte is the capital of the best looking women in the world?!. Well, this is what they tell me anyways…sure I’m married, what would I know?!. Guys, if you are planning on coming here especially with your female partner, I suggest those big stupid sunglasses the Italians always wear!.

Well in Salvador, it’s not the women that you notice but the men, sorry, I should say that it’s your wife that notices them…not that she said anything to me of course, not that she needed to!.  It’s hard not to hear the thump that is made when a person walks into a lamp-post, because she was distracted by something!. Brazilians also seem to have discovered the cure for baldness, there are no bald people in this country!. So they are black, handsome and with a full set of hair, and sure probably well hung to add to the list. Feckers. They all go around practicing Capoeira, or football or both in the middle of the street, all being friendly and funny with their big smiles, and shiny white teeth, blah blah. Why did I bring my wife here?. So you imagine me can’t you?,  it’s kind of intimadating, surrounded by this all this male beauty?, and there was me, with my big fat, baldy porky-like body sticking out like a full moon on a clear night sky.

The second thing that you notice about Salvador is that in December it is hot, it was like sitting on the sun itself…it was feckin roasting!, it was over 40 Celsius every day. Now since my arrival in July,  I have jumped right in with trying to get to know Brazil’s culture and cuisine. Doing what the Romans would do when in Rome and all. But when I say ‘jump in’, I literally have been rolling around it, more so it’s cuisine; like a pig in a sty really. So much that now, I kind of resemble that pig, in the sense of the fat belly and pink baldness of the creature. Therefore taking my shirt of in public and exposing my pig-like-belly and my little moobs (man boobs) because it’s too hot is a big no for me. I wouldn’t embarrass my wife like that, and especially with all the body beautifuls walking around everywhere. But in the end it’s Vanessa that insists, and demands that I get over my shyness and de-robe a little. My excuse that I was just protecting her, doesn’t work,  she doesn’t care (it seems love is more than skin deep…It’s fat deep too!, thank god. I love her more!) so I take off the jumper and am thankful for it, as I am on the verge of passing out. So there I am parading around this city, a baseball cap, swimming shorts, and Havianas, now I really do resemble the moon in the sky. I’m practically the same shape and colour.

Minas Gerais is inland, so we haven’t seen the beach in 6 months, so this is where we are bound for the day. We have a stupidly cheap and huge brunch and then hit the hot sand. We don’t know Salvador, we don’t have a guide-book or nothing, we are literally just using the force. We head for the nearest beach, its Sunday, 12am and it’s already black….literally, this particular beach it seems is only for the black black of the black people of black Bahia. Vanessa is dying for a dip, and refuses to walk any further without doing so, so  we walk down the steps into the black sea, its like I am emitting a beam of white light, the beach activity comes to a stop,  everybody is looking at me, it seems even the waves have stopped in mid-air.

“I’m just going for a quick dip”, my wife says.

“Please watch our stuff”.

“No worries babes, you go and enjoy yourself”.

After she came out, I then went in and 30 seconds later, I was out again, the water is so warm it nearly burned me. I got out, and we left. That was our “day” on the beach. The problem is, in Bahia in the summer months, especially in December/January, it’s too hot to be doing any sort of sun bathing during the afternoon. Furthermore, what sealed the deal for me,  while I was waiting on Vanessa to finish cooling herself off, there was a black gentlemen sitting on front of me, now this guy was so black that he was actually blue black !, and he was putting on sunscreen!, factor 60.  That was good enough for me, and warning sign that us white folk should probably be locked inside a fancy air-conditioned hotel bar with beers and food everywhere. And this is what we did, we went to a bar which is known as one of the best bars in Brazil! The thoughts of beer, fish and air conditioning were bliss. We practically ran there. Ducking for shade anywhere we could. We stayed there, drank beers and eat fish all day, until it was safe to come out and play again, until the big bad sun had sizzled away in the ocean. We were going to have to re-think our daily schedule, otherwise, we were going to burn baby burn.

After cooling and filling up, we stepped out in the street, walked 20 meters, decided that was enough walking for one day, and waited for a cab.  And there to my left , out of the blue, or maybe the green, was the first Irish bar I had seen in Brazil. The first Irish bar I had seen in 6 months, and suddenly I was sure I could hear an “Alleluia” somewhere in the skies, I fell to my knees,  but not on my own accord mind you, but because Vanessa, my wife, had pushed me out-of-the-way, running towards it;

“Look honey, an Irish pub, and it’s called “The Dubliners””, she screams!

If you have the pleasure of knowing my wife, she can get quite excited, and she is extremely dramatic. There is never a dull moment with her…never!

“Oh my god, I can’t believe it!” she continues. She has a tear in her eye.

It was indeed a coincidence, and it was our first real day of our honeymoon. Now, I’m no big fan of the “Irish bar” on foreign turf per say, as most of them are never Irish owned, and drinking Guinness in a bar outside Ireland is practically against the law, is possibly an eleventh commandment somewhere, and is only allowed on truly special occasions. I’m not being too Irish when I say this, but it just doesn’t taste the same.

Unfortunately all of the rattling of chains and the pulling of the security bars Vanessa was doing was not only going to get us arrested, but it wasn’t going to get us inside either. It clearly wasn’t open. My wife was more excited than I was and already she had a plan gor getting in.  She always has plans.

“Moqueca” is a Brazilian dish, and it kind of has the same rules as Guinness in that it should only be eaten on home turf, and Bahia is the turf for Moqueca. It actually resembles an Irish stew, except it’s made with seafood instead of beef and vegetables. And of course, we were going to the best place in town for it. I feckin love food, and I had been looking forward to this, and in order to enjoy it fully, I had taken it easy at lunch time. Well…when I say easy, I mean I could walk out of the restaurant, I didn’t have to be rolled or put in a wheel chair.

It was my first time to eat proper Moqueca, and it was worth the wait, it really is a delicious dish, good hearty food. The great thing about eating Brazilian food whatever it is and wherever you are, they give you loads of it, there is always too much, and the problem for me is that I hate leaving food, for me, its kind of rude.

“Waste not want not”

Or

“Think of all those million starving little kids in Ethiopia”.

My mum use to say, hence why I was a fat kid, it was all her fault. My excuse this time is Brazil, she has slapped 6 kilos of fat to my body. It’s not my fault, they shouldn’t put so much food on the plate!.

We rolled out the restaurant, and we made our way to the “The Dubliners”, I could already smell it before I got there, the wood, the stale beer, the Guinness, the smoke, I could imagine the laughter and the shenanigans going on. I could already visualize sipping the creamy head of Guinness and its bitter taste  going down my throat, it was going to be the first time in 6 months. Just for one night God let me have it, just one night only, that’s all I need.

It did, it looked like it was straight out of Dublin, the wooden floor, the wooden tables, the wooden bar stools, there was even a pool table, and a darts board, and it even had that dusty antique feeling about it, like it hadn’t been cleaned in about 6 months. There were bottles of spirits piled up on the wall behind the bar. There were numerous Guinness signs and a few signs directing the way to Galway and Dublin. The only vital ingredient that was missing were the people, the only person in the place was the bar girl, and if she was Irish, I was Jamaican. Sorry, the other thing that was missing was of course a Guinness tap, but I didn’t expect them to have it to be honest, it doesn’t sell very well here in Brazil, it’s too thick to drink for Brazilians, and it’s not cold enough. The Brazilians love their stupidly cold beer. But they did have cans so we indulged ourselves and splashed out on  the  stupidly expensive cans of Guinness (about €6.50)  and we played pool and I let my wife win,  the bar girl put on a U2 concert from São Paulo even though I didn’t ask for it. We had our little Irish night, but that was enough now. That was all I wanted. Sure anyway, it was owned by an Hungarian!.

One tradition that you have come to grips with in Salvador, is the piece of cloth that they wrap around your wrist, with the inscription:

“Lembrança do Senhor do Bonfim da Bahia”.

“Lembrança” means “a memory off”, and “Senhor Bonfim da Bahia” is Our lord of good End of Bahia…which is Jesus Christ basically. But why is it?, Lord of Good End. Are they proclaiming in Bahia that Jesus had a good arse or something, maybe he did, by all accounts he was a good-looking dude, bit thin, and a bit of a surfer look about him but ya never know, maybe he was ‘blessed’ with a good rear.  (sorry couldn’t help it).

Anyway, a happy official tourist guide will corner you on the street and put one of these things on you and then you make you think of 3 wishes. You can’t take it off until it falls off; both I and my wife are still wearing them. They actually smell now, and I’m sure the green colour is actually a type of  mold, but for what I wished for, I will keep it on.

I’m your typical tourist, there is not enough money in the world for all the shitty souvenirs and all the “I was in Bahia” T-Shirts I want to buy. But Vanessa Graçus a Deus drags me kicking and screaming away from each store;

“Just one more hun, please??”, I beg.

“I think we have enough fridge magnets”, she says.

So when we went to the Market, I was in heaven, at one stage we went our separate ways, because we were kind of annoying each other.

It had been like this for the first few days, we hadn’t relaxed yet, Vanessa was defo still in work mode, she had a schedule for every minute of every day, and to add to it, I was being very impatient. So in the market, she wanted to buy a beach bag, so I took advantage of this opportunity to hunt for souvenirs. Two seconds after I watched her walk away just to make sure she was walking away, I was gone.  Probably 5 seconds after that I realised she had the money.

She came back happy with her new purchase, swinging it about,. I was like a child, my bottom lip was sticking out so much it nearly fell into the her new purchase. I hadn’t bought anything of course.

“What’s wong babe?”, she asks.

“Nothing”.

The main tourist area to go to is called “Pelourihno”, the old colonial part of the city of Salvador. To be honest, its ok ya know, it has its cobbled stone streets and colonial building and churches. I’m sorry if you have been there and are offended by  my lack of enthusiasm, but I tell you this, if you want to see colonial architecture at its best, you go to “Ouro Preto”, one of my favourite places in the world. And yes children, of course, it’s in Minas Gerais.

For me, there were 2 great things about “Pelourihno”, one was the wonderful waitress that looked after us in a wonderful little restaurant where we eat the best Moqueca I had every had. She was a great character, full of spirit, salt of the earth. Even after we were finished our meal, she walked us  to the taxi rank just in case we had any problems, she was a sweetheart.

The second thing was “Olodum”; it’s a samba reggae group from Salvador who appear in Carnival every year. They have shows before hand to give you a taste of what it would be like if you were there at Carnival. You pay R$60 and you get a free “Olodum” singlet with this, I was delighted!..another Bahia t-shirt to add to my collection. The show was great, but god you need to be fit to keep up with them, they just don’t stop, they play for 3 hours  continually banging drums, singing, trumpets, guitars, and dancing, dancing and dancing, no wonder you are all so fit over here. In Carnaval they do this for a week in Salvador..sure there’d be nothing left of ya.

One thing I was really looking forward to seeing was a ‘Capoeira’ display, If you don’t know what it is, it’s basically an African martial art developed by the slaves to fight their masters, because of this, it was prohibited, but later to disguise their practice sessions, it was developed into a kind of acrobatic dance, with hand stands and flips, the movements are slow. The clapping, the plucking of the ‘berimbau’, and the beating of the drums by the participants served to warn the fighters of the approach of their bosses. Martial arts with dancing, acrobats, music, dancing, and singing. Perfect wouldn’t you think?.

Therefore I was dissapointed that both displays I saw in Salvador were shite,. What was more annoying were the students from the schools hassling tourists for money for watching the ‘displays’. Most of the time, the fighters were just prancing around, doing an odd turn and kick here and there.  There was fuck all singing and very little playing of instruments, there was no organisation in their displays. They just seemed to take advantage of the fact there were tourists around without actually making any effort but just  showing off their well toned bodies. And none that I felt like contributing any coinage to. Once, one of the students became aggressive with me because I didn’t put any money into his hat, Vanessa had already contributed something just to stop him annoying us, even though they hadn’t done anything yet, and we had just arrived. I thought a situation was going to arise. I thought I was going to have to use the my Kung Fu skills and kick his ass. But luckily for his sakes, Vanessa waved her new bag at him, and that seemed to solve the problem, he obviously had no defensive move for a mad Minera waving a beach bag.

Generally, I hate to say this, but I wasn’t overly excited with Salvador Da Bahia. One thing that was annoying were the beggars, and not only that, they would follow you and continue to hassle you. In Pelourihno, we were told by the locals to take care walking around in the evening, I thought they were just exaggerating with us, as there were groups of Police everywhere, and that this being “the” tourist attraction in the city, surely it should be the safest, but seemingly the Police don’t do anything. We saw groups of 4 and 5 police officers standing on one corner, and then we were told not to walk down the next street. On a few of the streets we walked down there was  definitely an air of danger floating around, and this was in the middle of the day. I found this situation to be a piada, a joke. Police everywhere but not doing their job. The city was very dirty, and there were lots of buildings that looked like they were ready to fall over.  I wondered what the local Government were doing. I recently talked to a friend who said she had been there 10 years ago, and she loved it. She said she was so happy that she went at that time, as it’s obvious that it has changed and things have gotten worse.  I think it’s terribly sad to see a city that has had so much to do with Brazil being Brazil allowed to deteriorate so much.  But I was glad I went, and I got to see it finally, and some day I would like to return, because  I didn’t get what people had said about Salvador, I wasn’t as captured as I thought I was going to be, I didn’t fall in love with the city or its spirit. But even if I go back, and even if the local Government do clean up their act, I still don’t think I’ll get it, so, maybe it’s  just  not for me, and I just have to accept that.  Damn it. I hate that.

Anyway, this part of our trip was over, and now we were on for the new years celebrations in the coastal town of Praia do Forte, let’s see what’s so strong about it!.

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Comments
2 Responses to “My Honeymoon in Brazil”
  1. Stephanie says:

    I have definitely enjoyed reading your commentary! I’m in Ipatinga…a ride down 381 or maybe up. Could be east or west, Im not sure. But about a 3 hour car trip nevertheless from BH! I’m also married to a Brazilian and trying to figure out life here best I can! Your use of ‘arse’ and ‘feckn’ remind me of my brother in law. My sister just married a guy from Ireland and is moving there in May. PS the bugs here in Ipatinga love American blood too. Mosquitos bite me and I have welts the size of the um real coin here.

  2. Corinne says:

    Keith,

    Just ran across your blog via Expat American in Brazil. I am American, married to a Brazilian and also living in BH. Too bad my husband can´t read English, I would love for him to read your blog. He is Carioca and is constantly badmouthing BH and Minas (because of course, Rio is ALWAYS better). I would love him to see how much you like Minas!!

    Anyway, drop me a line if you want to gab to another BH expat.

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