The worldwide Augustana College experience

Salvador Homestay

We arrived begrudgingly in Salvador 3 weeks ago. (sorry it’s been so long since I last blogged – I had some difficulties making it to a computer which you’ll learn more about if you keep reading..) Rachel, Ellen and I had fallen pretty deeply in love with Rio and didn’t want to leave. However, we of course had to..
We were greeted in Salvador by our travel guide extraordinaire, Javier, and his nephew Ricky. They helped us get all of our luggage and onto the giant, bright orange mega bus that just screamed TOURIST! Lovely. The bus ride into the city was very interesting though. Similar to Rio, we went through favelas to get to the center of the city. As we passed each neighborhood, Ricky would announce over the loud speaker who would be living there. Rachel, Ellen and I knew that we would be living with an older lady, Berniesse, together and our names were announced in the second neighborhood we passed. We quickly caught on and realized the neighborhoods were nicer and nicer as our bus ride continued on.. this wasn’t anything bad though. We figured, we will just take the bus to get to a nicer beach and our other friends homes. The bus continued to climb up a hill to this lovely neighborhood called Vitoria. The streets were shaded by beautiful old trees that were as tall as some of the buildings. There were high rise apartment buildings lining one side of the street each with their own gate and guard –we soon found out these lovely homes faced the ocean. A nice park was right down the street to complete this neighborhood.
We grabbed our luggage and went into one of the complexes called Casablanca. Javier and his wife had planned a reception for all of us and our future families on the patio. The building was made out of white marble; there was a wrap around deck that had the best view of the Bay of Saints; the sun wasn’t quite setting yet but it wasn’t beating down on us either; a very fancy waiter brought us suco (juice!) and Guarna (a Brazilian soda) to drink and a variety of quiches and cakes. Everything about this reception was heavenly and made the move to Salvador a little easier. As families arrived and met their “kids,” we sat impatiently waiting.. we couldn’t quite figure it out but for some reason we all had a sinking feeling in our stomachs.
Eventually Carla, Liza and Molly’s mom, arrived – we knew that we lived in the same building as them so when Carla told us she would be taking us back because our mom couldn’t make it that seemed normal. At the end of the reception we went with Carla, Liza and Molly back to Amaralina – our neighborhood. As we drove we saw the city’s infrastructure become a little less well kept, but nothing unlivable. We turned off the main road along the beach, down a few more streets, past a landfill and then pulled up in front of our home. We got out and went through the very flimsy fence – the house itself was very nice and clean. Liza and Molly’s room was on the first floor and Carla showed us up to our room, aka the attic. We were caught a little off guard because we were unaware that we would actually be living with the other girls, but that was actually kind of exciting – we really get along with them and like them. What we couldn’t get past was our room… I wish I could upload pictures because I feel like that’s the only way to explain it – but I guess words will have to suffice for now.
I’ll start with the positives… our room was very very large, we had a wonderful cross breeze because we had massive windows, and there were three beds and a bathroom. Part of the reason we had such a wonderful cross breeze was because our windows didn’t have glass, chicken-wire, rope, or any kind of protection for that matter. We looked out one of the windows, after ducking to get past the ropes that were hung across half of the room to dry laundry on, and gazed upon a very near and very real favela. That was when things started to fall apart.. Rachel, being the very positive person that she is, stood on a chair to look out of one of the windows in hopes of finding something to pick up our spirits and instead found a voodoo doll leaning against the wall beneath her hands.. seems funny now – but at the moment it was one of those things you laugh about to hide the possibility of crying. Ellen was in shock on her bead, motionless. I kept on saying, “At least we will get to experience the culture unlike any of our classmates..”
We went back downstairs and everything seemed fine then. It was strange that we still hadn’t met Berniesse – but we found out she was out of town wouldn’t be back for a couple of days. Carla had made us a delicious dinner of chicken, rice and mashed potatoes (very American haha). Luckily, we had previously made plans with the other students to meet up at this bar called Santo Antonio. We struggled to tell Carla this since she didn’t speak a lick of English and we only knew how to say “thank you” in Portuguese, but eventually she understood. After what seemed like 2 hours, we found out we could only call 2 numbers for a taxi, Ricardo or Manuel, not a company.. Somehow we ended up driving across town to meet everyone in a car that felt like it couldn’t make it down the street without falling apart.
When we got there we started asking around to see what everyone else’s places were like. For all we knew, we were not the only ones in this situation. We had come to the realization that perhaps we were being spoiled princesses that grew up in the pristine suburbs of Chicago, and that while these homes scared us that it was actually acceptable and the norm for Brazil. This idea was shut down as soon as a fellow classmate asked if we had a rooftop pool as well..
Javier was at the bar with us and was making his rounds talking to the students. When he stopped by to chat with the three of us, we had asked how we are supposed to close our windows at night to keep the bugs out if there is nothing to close it with. He was clearly shocked that we had sections of our room where the wall and the roof were connected by just a few support beams but he also didn’t think much of it. After the frightening taxi ride back by Ricardo, we up to our room talking about where we could by more bug spray when our supplies ran out. We walked into our room only to find a new friend staring back at us – it was a harmless lizard, but it still freaked us out nonetheless. Luckily, we were so exhausted from a long day of travelling that after coating myself in the bug spray I brought labeled “Deep Woods – 99% Deet!” I passed out.
In the morning, we walked through the outskirts of the favela to get the bus to school, we had a walking tour of Pelourinho (a famous neighborhood) scheduled. The teachers had noticed the three of us weren’t as chatty and smiley as usual and asked what was going on. Their immediate reaction to our story was to move us out that day – and so we did.
After a pretty pointless afternoon of wandering (none of the museums we planned on going to were open.. haha) we went back to Carla’s, got our stuff and got out. It wasn’t that simple though since Carla was a high school friend of Patricia and Javier’s and they were offended that we wanted to leave. However, the school did a great job defending us and quickly getting us out of the situation. Liza and Molly chose to stay another night but ended up moving the next day as well. Looking back on the experience we are able to joke about it and laugh it off but only because we had such an awesome time with our next family. All five of us had noticed once with our new families, how little Carla was interested in us. When we would eat, she wouldn’t sit with us, she wouldn’t talk to us or try to teach us Portuguese – it seemed very much like a business transaction. Luckily, after one night in a hotel, we were shipped off into the loving arms of our new family that lived in the tropical apartment building we had our reception in. We went from a very humble home to an unbelievably homey and beautiful apartment flat.

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