Justin Cook’s World Cup Diary - Days 8, 9 and 10
As I sit here in the hammock looking out onto the Atlantic Ocean remembering the last three days I realised I have to write about my thoughts and experiences as Bahia is like another world compared to São Paulo or Rio and has more in common with Manaus really.
The North of Brazil is so different to the south, mostly to do with the Indian cultural influence I think. The uniformity of the buildings however across Brazil are very similar and this is because of its colonial past mainly Portuguese, but French and Dutch also.
So after spending three days on the island of Itaparica (one hour from Salvador by ferry)at Marcio's house on Barra Grande, I have got a tan and feel really relaxed. I spent the first day on the island walking round the place and soaking up the vibe. It is a very relaxed island and very local.
Marcio's house is directly on the beach and it is a traditional and simple beach house. My room is facing the sea and every night I go to sleep to the rhythm of the waves and am awoken the same way. It is incredibly relaxing here and the pace of life is muito tranquillo(very calm).
They have traditional fishing techniques here and some that are not so traditional. The not-so-traditional methods include throwing dynamite into the water to blow the fish up and wait for them to float on the top, this is obviously a disaster for the other fisherman who use traditional techniques and damages the eco system of the sea and ruins it for everyone. This will continue as there seems to be no enforcement on stopping it.
There are lots of good beach bars with full internet on the other side of the island located at Ponta De Areia and I would recommend Mike's bar as the fish and lobster are great at a very reasonable price. I fear that the island will change once the bridge is completed to join it to the mainland of Salvador. They have just started construction on a bridge that will take a good five years to build and so I would definetely recommend a visit here before that work is complete.
Spending time with Marcio and Paulino's daughter Andrea Marina has been wonderful. I stated earlier that I was going to teach Andrea English, but it has actually worked in the reverse and she has been teaching the gringo to speak Portuguese. She is is only three but bright as a button and took delight in telling me that if I had one flower in my hand it was not "flores" as I spoke but "Flor" as there was only one flower. Brilliant and, as I said, bright as a button.
I watched the Germany versus Portugal game at Mike’s bar on Monday, and Pepe was a complete fool for head butting his opponent. Watching Germany take Portugal apart was a sight to see and the reality of the massive hill that Ronaldo and his team now have to climb was evident all over Ronaldo’s face.
In the evening I watched the USA versus Ghana game and USA played great with total heart and desire. Dempsey scored within 30 seconds of the games start and Brooks slotted in his first international goal to put the game to bed. The USA deserved the win without a doubt.
Marcio and I watched the USA game in town in a little roadside bar over a couple of bottles of Skol. We met two sweet kids there who were staying with their grandmother on the island who came from the Salvador suburbs and the little girl told me that she liked staying with her grandmother as she could not sleep at night at home due to all the gun fire at night outside her house. This made me feel quite sad for her but she had a great enthusiasm for life and God willing, she will work hard at school and get a good job and one day have a quiet neighbourhood to call home.
On Tuesday Marcio and I decided to goto Salvador to his friend’s restaurant, Recanto Da Lua Cheia, and watch the Brazil versus Mexico game. So after slightly toasting myself on the beach we made our way to town to catch the ferry. We watched the Belgium versus Algeria game. After a shock penalty for Algeria Fellaini was brought on and the whole game changed instantly. Fellaini equalised with a trademark Afro header and then on a counter attack Mertens put the game to bed. I think Belgium look really good and I think will get better and better as the tournament proceeds.
We arrived at the mainland and headed for the restaurant located at Praia da Pedra Furada. It was a beautiful restaurant with an amazing view onto the Todo os Santos (all saints) and the sunset was beautiful.
We settled down to watch the Brazil versus Mexico game with some fish and beer. The Mexicans were totally fearless and their goalkeeper Ochoa gave the best goalie performance of the tournament so far. He was simply breathtaking and it was not long until Marcelo and Neymar were arguing like kids. Mexico must of had eight or nine attempts on goal in the second half against Brazil's 3. Brazil do not look like winning this tournament right now after an unconvincing 0-0 draw against Mexico.
After the game I went over to Marcio and his friend's table. I met a great guy called Juracy Junior who goes to the same university at Marcio. Juracy came from a military and police family and had joined the police force from a very young age. He was now at the rank of Captain aged 35. He is now in an administration role at the headquarters of the force. He had done his service on the streets and his last assignment before moving upstairs had been the pacification of Salvador flavelas.
I asked him how he felt doing this final assignment. He said he felt conflicted as he had grown up with the same people he had to pacify and in some ways this had changed his mindset about things. We spoke about the GIGS regiment in Manaus and he confirmed that only two policeman from the Bahia region had actually ever passed the CIGS jungle survival test and it was considered incredibly hard. The police in Brazil allow their officers to attend University while in service and after the Word Cup the police were paying for Juracy to take his helicopter pilot license. Juracy is a very interesting character and I look forward to seeing how his life develops.
Juracy suggested that he wanted to show me the old historical town of Salvador, known as Pelourinho. I gladly accepted and Marcio, myself, Juracy and his lady all jumped into the car and drove to the old town.
On Tuesday nights the old town jumps into life with a massive party called Escadaria do Passo with Geronimo where it just goes off. In the main square there are stages they play traditional music and lots of street food stands. The culture of Bahia is not to really go clubbing but instead turn the street into the club and it just turns into a massive block party. Everyone is out and looking for fun. The energy is astounding and the primal heart beat is loud.
Geronimo puts a free live music gig on for the people of the town every Tuesday night for the last the years. The musical flavour is Afro-Caribbean and is just awesome. It would be great to get them to next years Marlborough Jazz Festival. Geronimo plays with his band at the bottom of this massive stairway with all the people lines up in their hundreds all the way up the stairs. It really was an full sensual overload and I think I will return here before I come home as it needs more investigation.
We all decided to make our way back to the car so Marcio and I could catch the last ferry back to Itaparica. As we walked up another side street the sound of drums came booming towards us. Ha! Another street party this time with the music being supplied by Olodum drum school. These guys were incredible and the whole street was just rocking. Women dancing down the line and going crazy in front of the drum line dancing furiously.
It was like a scene out of Angel Heart, honestly I have never experienced anything like this evening before and the fact is happens every Tuesday night is amazing and I would really encourage anyone coming to Brazil you must head up to Salvador and check this out. Salvador reminds me most of Kingston, Jamaica with it's beating Afro Caribbean heart.
I am now going to take a last swim in the ocean and try not to burn myself to a crisp before I prepare for departing vibrant and amazing Salvador. My good friend Marcio has been really kind letting me into his house and allowing me the privilege to hang out with Andrea Marina for a few days. I am very lucky to know this wonderful family.
Last thought... Rooney back in middle, Sterling back on wing. Got to be, right ?