Sunday, November 16, 2014
Tomorrow we arrive in Salvador, Brazil and commence the frenetic rush to do and see as much as we can in port! I have learned to prioritize and pace myself, somewhat. Today is a nice, rare rainy day in transit with about one third of the passengers on board. The rest are traveling overland between Rio and Salvador, many via an Amazon adventure.
So quiet! On the ship we usually have preport lectures to prepare ourselves, and postport reflections. Today is the right atmosphere for a preport reflection.
Suddenly, it seems, we have less than a month left, and people are starting to envision for the first time during the voyage what life back home will be like after SAS. I am dreading how boring work will be in comparison, but also looking forward to the comforts of home, and dancing and singing with my friends again. And now I have two more singing friends to get together with while in Charlottesville--Michelle Kisliuk and Allison Pugh.
I hate to approach a new place with trepidation, but the diplomats and the local student ambassadors tell us that Salvador, Brazil is more dangerous than Rio. They have all been robbed. In Rio I spent only a little time in the city, and never felt scared, but the surroundings were sketchy enough for me to be wary. Two of our crew members were robbed at gunpoint one evening. I took the safe daytime experience in Ipanema and the biggest risk I took was getting a hamburger whose meat was "freshly diced at knifepoint." This is not to make light of our crew's experience. It is a sad situation when the expectation of violence is routine.
Brazil is in the middle of preparing to host the 2016 Summer Olympics, on the heels of their incomplete preparations for the World Cup earlier this year. Even the ambassadors and tour guides who put a positive spin on it have an underlying uncertainty. Some say the bay water in Rio will not be clean enough for the water sports no matter what they do, and some countries who have inspected it will not participate in those sports. Brazil promised that the Olympic athletes' village would become low-income housing but reneged, saying now that they will sell the apartments as luxury condos. You can understand why many citizens are angry at the government for spending all this money on infrastructure that will not benefit them or make a dent in the poverty of favelas dominated by drug lords and/or police.
Four days after starting this post (four days with absolutely no internet, a curiously nice respite) I am back on the ship having visited Salvador. I actually liked it better than Rio, and found the Bahia culture very interesting. I hear there were some incidences of theft from our passengers, but I am either lucky or don't present as a target. Stay tuned for stories of candomble, bale folklorico, fish stew, and more, with a more positive attitude than I began with :-)