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entrytitleBoa Noite Tudos!entrytitle

This was written at the end of May 2004
 
Hello all,
 
I hear England has been having a bit of a heat wave! It seems very tropical here – either blistering heat and humidity, or huge deluges. I am beginning to look like a seasoned traveller – the mosquitoes love my sweet blood, I have bruises all over, am randomly waking up with a sore throat and have stubbed my toes so many times on various things that seem to just throw themselves along my path!
 
I am still loving it with a passion though. I’m having the best time here – far better than I could have ever imagined…I am just very sad that I have to leave Recife on Saturday. Everything has been going so quickly. Why does 4 weeks at work never go like this? Every moment brings a new sight, feeling, smell, taste, sound or emotion. The weekend just gone was one of those weekends that I will never forget.
 
Friday night someone at the hotel said that there would be music being played outside in the square in Olinda. We wandered down there about 9, not sure what to expect. There were lots of Brazilians sitting around chilling and a band of musicians, some bandonians, a sax, lots of gentle percussion and guitars, standing in the corner playing. It was all very subdued, a few people casually dancing and singing, and several street sellers with coolers selling beer and Caipirinhas. We got a beer and relaxed – thinking that it was going to be a subdued evening. We were to be surprised though – I should have guess based on what I’ve learnt so far about Brazilians! Before we knew it the band all got up and started walking…all the Brazilians got up with their drinks in tow and followed them…and then the drink sellers put all their cool boxes in wheel barrows and followed behind!! I have never seen anything like it! Then, for the next three hours, everyone danced through the beautifully moonlit cobbled streets, the musicians stopping every ten minutes or so to serenade someone looking out of a window, or invite seemingly random singers (who were all just astoundingly good) to perform with them. We had national Brazilian music, opera, samba, salsa, frevo, forro and loads of other music that I loved but didn’t know anything about, other than that it sounded great. Everyone was drinking, singing, laughing and dancing in the streets – there were children, amorous couples, dancing granddads and at one point a very elderly lady with a beautiful lace fan being lead in heart-warming dance by her son…it was just the most amazing atmosphere and after a few beers I had no qualms about samba-ing instead of walking!
 
Saturday I went to Porto De Galinhas. This is a beautiful beach resort about an hour and a half drive along the coast. The beach is sandy and stretches for miles. We got a Jangada (little fishing boat) out to the reef and then swam in rock pools with thousands of yellow zebra striped and large vibrant blue fish. My flip-flops seem to have become a second skin over the last three weeks, they cost me one pound thirty from the supermarket here and I am really not sure how I’ll manage to put proper shoes on for the Inca Trail!
 
Sunday was the highlight of the weekend. Nicola and I went with the drumming group to one of their performances at a festival. We spent the afternoon at their house, eating, laughing and listening to them rehearse. In the evening, all of us and all the drums piled into a bus (obviously about 2 hours later than scheduled) to drive to the venue. It was inland, and two white girls were quite a spectacle, but we had the leader of the group’s cousin looking after us all night – like a personal bodyguard, and a sexy Brazilian one to boot! The whole evening went like a flash – there were lots of bands and dancers performing, the rhythms were so hypnotic and the partying crowd unbelievably infectious! It started to rain – and I mean a tropical downpour – we were completely soaked but we just carried on dancing all night. We went up on stage, I felt part of the whole band (about 15 musicians), part of the performance. It was hypnotising – the sound, the dancing, their enjoyment, the crowd below, the rain, the rum – the coolest Brazilian cocktail ever!
 
I am completely in love with the music – the way it is endemic in this culture, the rhythms and the expression through dance. The happiness, love and peace I can see it spreading between the totally diverse groups of people is something so inspiring.
 
My three weeks volunteering have been so rewarding, I have too many memories to recount. The highlight has been the work with the percussion band, learning to play with them and being a member of their band, making music on the streets.
 
A lot of the music we are playing is associated with the religion out here which is called Condomble. It is a weird mix of African and Catholic; it has a feel of a sort of Voodoo of Brazil. Nicola and I went to watch a ceremony in Salvador. It consists of everyone dressing up in these huge dresses and headgear and then dancing around to drums and a cow-bell to invoke the spirits. Then the spirits inhabit the bodies of various members of the ´congregation´ who go into a trance and start dancing around the place wildly, their pupils disappear up into their eyebrows so all you can see is the whites of their eyes. It is a little freaky. Food is brought out at various points in the service and some of it is thrown out of the door and some at the dancers! To the attendees, it obviously has some sort of order to it…but to me at that moment, it all seemed very strange!
 
Talking of food, I have eaten far, far too much here. I gave in after about a week and resigned myself to the gym and a strict regime when I get back. Thank goodness the fruit is so tasty to stop me from having three helpings of cake each day! I have had so much fruit that I had never even heard of before coming out here. The main one that made me feel completely dim is the Caju fruit. It looks a bit like a pear but is red and grows on trees. It has a very strange taste, but that is not the weirdest thing – get this, at the bottom of the fruit a cashew nut grows, just sticking out of the bottom like some random after thought!

The drinks here are great – every so imaginative. The agua de coco is by far the best. It is a green coconut (about twice the size of a brown coconut), of which the top is lopped off. You then get a straw to drink it with. It is a pig to try and find a bin to dump the coconut in when you are finished, but it’s worth it as the water inside is amazing. It doesn’t taste like you would imagine, it is clear, and ever so slightly sweet…and so refreshing. I also like agua dente; which is simply crushed sugar cane – the stalls have what looks like a mangle that they feed the sugar cane through – that is sweeter but gives and great energy boost. Cahcaca is everywhere – sugar cane rum. It packs a hell of a punch and is what makes the Caipirinha – Brazil most famous cocktail export, I have had far more of those that I can remember!
 
I just cannot believe my 4 weeks in Brazil is almost up. It has been such an eye-opener. There is far more life and vibrancy here than ever you could imagine based on what you see in the media. It is such a huge country (did I mention it is bigger than Australia?). I will definitely return!
 
I leave for Rio on Saturday morning – I stay there for 2 days on Ipanema beach. This weekend will be very hectic trying to take in as much of Rio as I can. Monday, at stupid o’clock in the morning I fly to Lima where I will be meeting my sister, and we will fly to Cusco together. We start the Inca trail on Wednesday. Think of me traipsing up the side of a mountain for 4 days and camping outside at night…actually perhaps that should be pray for me, I think I might need it!
 
Hope you are all enjoying the sunshine in England, if it is still with you. It will be a little cooler in Rio for the weekend, which will be a relief…then Peru will be positively cold (I just checked the BBC weather and had the shock of my life when I saw the temperatures there), so looks like I my Brazilian tan will fade a lot quicker than my memories of this place.

Lots of love to you all,
 
Alison

xxxx

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