Friday, July 1, 2011

Alone in the Dark

I was by myself in Brazil. My friend had flown to Peru to meet up with his family, my other friend had flown home and I wasn’t supposed to meet up with someone else for a few weeks. I was a little nervous to be honest; I had heard many horror stories.

“Did you know that Salvador da Bahia is the most dangerous city in the world?” some people asked me. “You should NEVER take your camera out with you. If you take your camera with you, you will surely get mugged, or killed!”

“Make sure you try not to act like a tourist. They will rob you for sure.”

“You should never walk around at night, even WITH someone else”.

“You shouldn’t stay in the Pelourinho (the old town). It’s very dangerous.”

I had heard it all before. Before leaving for South America, I lived in New Orleans, which, supposedly, was the murder capital of the US. Now I know that most of the people killing each other in New Orleans aren’t really bothering me, and I hoped that Salvador would be the same, because one of my first stops after my friends left was…you guessed it: Salvador.

On my way to Salvador, I got an email from a fellow (girl) traveler saying that she already had a place in town and it was cheap (PS Brazil is expensive!!). She gave me the address. It was right in the middle of The Pelourinho.

I took an overnight bus. It was my only option. I arrived at the bus station around 4 am. It wasn’t anywhere near the old town. I don’t speak Portuguese (although I fake it with Spanish pretty often). I had a Lonely Planet (guidebook) which I was afraid to take out of my pack because then I would “look like a tourist”. Speaking of that, I had a pack the size of Texas on my back AND one on my front as well. The website that I booked the hostel on had given directions: go across the street from the bus station and catch the number X bus going to Such and Such.

I swung my pack onto my back and crossed 6 lanes of highway, all the while shiftily looking over my shoulder for a murderer or a thief. I stood at the bus stop on the side that I hoped with all my heart was going in the right direction and waited in the area that I hoped was for the correct numbered bus. The site had said the bus came every 15 minutes. I waited for about 40. People were driving by and staring at me. EVERYONE was staring at me. They were going to double back and take my stuff, I just knew it.

Finally, I got a cab and paid 46 times more than I would have on the bus, but, ah the relief. I whipped out my Lonely Planet, gave the guy quick directions in broken Spanish and away we went. He knew where he was going!

However, we got to the area where he said (gestured and spoke rapid Portuguese) was the right area, but he just stopped the cab and let me out and said good bye. I was trying to ask him, “Which way? Which way?” But he just kept gesturing at me. And then, much to my horror, a homeless looking guy started to approach. “He is going to ask me for money,” I thought, “and then when I don’t give it to him, he is going to attack.”

He didn’t ask me for money. He offered to show me the way to the hostel. And when we arrived, he left. Just like that. No hand out, nothing.

And Salvador was beautiful. There were beaches and markets and colorful buildings and fat Bahia women dressed in outrageous outfits! It was great. Nobody robbed me. Nobody jumped me. Nobody took my precious stuff. I walked around at night. I took photos with my camera! And when it came time to go to my next destination, I even took the bus.

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