February 18, 2007

Ole Ole Ole Ole -- Brazil

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We have arrived in Bahia de Salvador Brazil. YES, THAT'S US ON OUR BALCONY. It's a fantastic city with amazing Baroque Colonial architecture (a UNESCO World Heritage site).

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We were here two years ago as independent travelors and the additional layer of Carnival definitely changes the feel of this place. Baianos, the people from Bahia, are known in Brazil as those who most love to party. So, it is not a surprise that Salvador has one of the best carnivals in Brazil. According to Guinness, with 2,000,000 people (including 800,000 tourists), Salvador has the largest street carnival in the world. We just returned from a night on the streets and Ryder was captivated (and a big hit with the locals). The headphones/ear protection we bought for Ryder was definitely a good call. Think REALLY loud! The photos were taken during the day, because if you take your camera at night it is likely to go home with someone else. Several students had theirs taken at knifepoint. Yes kids, this isn't Kansas anymore.

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While in Rio most of the carnival happens in ball-rooms and in the Sambadrome (which require people to pay to participate), in Salvador most events happen in the streets and beaches, and are free for all. As a consequence, the carnival in Salvador goes on, non-stop, for nearly ten days. Small groups called "blocos" pop up everywhere in the city, and they are soon followed by locals (and tourists).

This place has always been about music, but Carnival brings a fun, techno twist. A tradition of the carnival in Salvador are the "trios eletricos" (electric trio). Back in 1950, two persons, Dodo and Osmar (who today are legends of Brazilian carnival), put high power speakers on top of a 1929 Ford and drove around town inviting people to follow the rythm; it was a massive success. In 1951, the electric duo was joined by Temistocles Aragao, and the first Trio Eletrico was formed.

ON THE WAY HERE ...
Somewhere between Barbados and Venezuela we had a tour of the bridge (see Ryder stealing the captain's hat in a previous photo). While looking out to sea, Shawn spotted a small fishing boat that none of the staff with binoculars saw! The captain dismissed her sighting saying "people imagine seeing lots of things out there." Shawn kept insisting and when they finally REALLY listened to her, sure enough, we were headed directly for a tiny fishing boat with two guys (at least 40 miles from any land). The captain grabbed the wheel, made a little correction and we slipped around the fisherman. We can only wonder what would have happened if Shawn wasn't on the bridge (and who would have known?)

FIELD TRIPPIN
Yesterday we had a great tour of Salvador, one of Rocky's field trips for his Sustainable Communities class. We covered everything from giant shopping centers to Favelas (shantytowns) to Brutalistic architecture from the Cold War era (they built the government buildings to take a hit for a bomb and it shows). Reminded us of Darwin and Stevenson Hall, only MUCH more massive and, yea, brutal.

RENEWABLE DRIVING
Most of the cars here run on alcohol from sugarcane. Brazil has saved over $100,000,000 USD in oil imports and debt service since starting this program in the early seventies. Alcohol (and biodiesel which you can also get at most every gas station) is much less expensive than gasoline (which you can also run the in common flex fuel vehices sold here). When OPEC radically jacked up the price of oil after the Yom Kippur War, Brazil choose to go another route based on a renewable crop that provides lots of jobs to relatively unskilled folks. We choose to import more oil from Saudi Arabia. We'll let you decide who made the right call.

NEXT ...
Tomorrow we head up the coast to the national center for Sea Turtle preservation (funded by the World Wildlife Fund) and some snorkeling. Ryder is now crawling and we'll see tomorrow if he is ready to snorkel. Stay tuned!

Posted by rohwedde at February 18, 2007 10:06 AM