Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Long and Disappearing Road...Part III

The reason there are no pictures of me for this story is that 1) I don’t know how to digitize stone-age photos and 2) I am a little out of shape in those stone-age photos.

Bigger is better in Brazil. The women have large behinds and large breasts; the men have their liter-sized beers and their bellies. One picture, which you’ll never see, is of me in blue bikini briefs lying on a beach, holding my jug of beer. I’m taking the picture so that you can see my belly in all its glory, then my package—like a little blue mountain on the horizon of the grand blue ocean beyond it.

On the way to Salvador, we stopped at every beer-selling-hut-with-beach and had a couple liters. This was years ago, before I discovered that I have Celiac Disease—fortunately. I’m not sure there was anything else to drink on the road to Salvador. If I had known I couldn’t drink beer, I might have had to drink rainwater or desalinate seawater or, heaven forbid, recycle my own fluids.

We made it to Salvador safely (and mellow). The old city is called Pelourinho by tourists and Pelô by the residents of Salvador. The word means “whipping post,” a holdover from the days when African slaves were sold and punished on the square. Today, 80% of Salvador’s population is of Black African heritage, which makes Salvador’s culture unique in South America. Horst just liked the pretty-colored buildings.

As we do in all the cities we visit, we looked for a Starbucks. Aborting our search at about noon, we plopped down at a café and ordered “anything, whatever.”

Not three milliseconds after we sat down, a meter-of-a-boy attached himself to us. He was selling armbands.

Dois reais,” he said and held up an armband. It was pretty and blue. It would match my bikini briefs.

“Two reais,” I translated for Horst: he had the reais.

“I don’t care. Get rid of him.”

Then the boy held up two armbands and said, “Dois reais.”

Even Horst could see that this was a real bargain. He gave me the reais.

“Wait,” I said before giving the boy the money. “Did you make these armbands? Because I don’t think we should be supporting child labor. We shouldn’t support child labor, should we, Horst?”

Horst had gone to the bathroom, so I was all on my own with this moral dilemma.

“Oh no. I didn’t make them,” the kid said in perfect English. “I stole them.”

“Oh, in that case,” I said and gave him the cash.

Come back for more memorable road trips. But for now…

I must be off,