Sometimes work and life mix up in just the right ways. My workmates wanted to take me out to dinner in Recife before I would start working and I said yes. The goal was to go to a place that was close by, just in a town a bit over from Recife, so we met outside the hotel and the plan was for them to drive me.
Monday, April 24, 2017
We drove up and down dark roads and I got a bit of a tour of Recife and the history as we drove. Old history. Buildings older than America, beaches that were once safe and are no longer safe because of the warm weather and pollution. Sharks come up to the beaches and people are asked not to swim anymore in the warm waters. There are new buildings on the beachfront full of Chinese home owners who who are buying up property in Recife.
The drive was winding, past a road where the prostitutes gather and take johns into the shady brush scrub right off the beach. They tell me about everything, from seedy to historical, they do not sugar coat their city, it's beauty, it's horrors.
Up a winding road we go towards the restaurant we are looking for, suddenly unable to move, the streets were fully of people. People in various states of undress, drinking, laughing, making music.
"What's happening I asked?"
My colleague speaks in smooth Portuguese to police officer directing traffic at the end of one of the rows.
"It's Carnival, they are preparing for carnival already! It will be months before carnival time, but already they are outside."
Getting to the restaurant turned out to be impossible so in the end we ended up at a little mall on the beach, eating seafood and watching the moonlight over the ocean as it lapped against the shore. We laughed and enjoyed the food, the humid night. We laughed at the seediness of Brazil. The happiness of it. It's so interesting here, in this city, fully of frenzy and life. I'm starting to fall in love with South America in ways I could not have understood.
Sunday, April 23, 2017
Thursday, April 20, 2017
Brazil was warm. A nice break from the cool I had been dealing with in New York. I needed the steaminess of it, getting lost in the wet damp. Smell of salt. The sea nearby.
The walk from my hotel to the ocean front of Recife was short. I as warned that Recife was dangerous. Be constantly vigilant, be constantly safe.
I wondered if perhaps Recife should be warned about me.
The walk was down dark alley breaking into the crashing waves on the beach, awash in moonlight and streetlight and lamps strung to and fro. It was a dappled light dream, the kind of light that makes you expect to see a mermaid happily content along the shore. Some lonely, naive, Ariel looking for a prince to charm her.
Instead of this there were two fisherman setting up on the beach. Long sea poles stretched into the night sky and I watched as they braced them against their hip belt to cast them out. Light danced around as the line disappeared far out into the water.
I wanted to walk, I wanted to explore a bit, even though exploring was dangerous (muggers, rapists, thieves, don't take your camera out!). I walked for a short way down the beach, taking in the light, listening to the sounds of the lapping waves.
As the tide came in I went lower onto the beach, watching the water rise up, amused that I was wearing such heavy boots on such a warm night. Water playing against the bottom of the stairs and the moon high in the sky; my boots felt light and airy and just right for the journey.
It was a short trip. It was already full dark and I had a full day ahead of me anyway, so I turned back after hardly half a mile to get some sleep, to get ready for the tomorrow, whatever the tomorrow was going to be.
Back past the fisherman. And as I passed the line tensed and I felt the excitement in the action on the beach, that old familiar excitement of catching something on your line. Fishing is fraught with good and bad memories for me, but the excitement I experience was real enough.
The stone wall that ran the length of the beach was close so I sat and watched my fisherman. They acknowledged me with a nod and a wave. We were together now in this moment. Friends, all of us, all of us interested in what was on the end of the line.
One man worked the reel while the other watched the waves slap against the shore in the darkness, waiting for something to break. His patience, my patience, rewarded after about five minutes as a large fish broke the waves and was pulled, dangling and thrashing from the hook.
They pulled it onto shore and up to some rocks, practically in front of me, and bashed it on the head. Over and over again. The wet thing wiggled and thrashed, dead already, just the death throes of the nervous system, the body doing what the body does when the brain is disconnected violently by fisherman on the beach.
They smiled tooth smiles at me. I smiled back and clapped as they tossed their prize into a plastic bag, strung the line and cast again.
For a moment, I wished to feel the chum between my fingers. I could smell it from my perch the salty bloody, gamy scent.
I understood that bait scent.
They cast the line back out again while I stood and shook the sand off my dress, my boots sparkling against the pavement.
The walk home smelled like salt and blood.