After moving into our new apartment, Scott and I spent the weekend celebrating the marriage of Michael and Jenna–two of my favorite people in the world.  It was a warm, beautiful rehearsal dinner and wedding.  We danced.  We sang and laughed and mostly we danced.  And Jenna had the most incredibly beautiful, ethereal wedding dress I have ever seen.  More selfishly, it was extremely fun for me to be back with some of my closest friends in the world and Michael’s family, who I grew up with.

Today for Mother’s Day, the Behars and my parents came to Brooklyn.  We hung out at the apartment and then went to a store that Scott and I have been meaning to visit to buy a large dining room table for our new space. I would write the name here, but I want it to be my secret (another selfish indulgence).  There were graceful, heavy wooden planks with so much character, each with its own ancient story.  We didn’t find the perfect thing yet, but we got a good idea of what’s possible in the fluid world of hardwoods and tropical trees.

The last thing that’s been amusing over the last couple of days was that Scott was putting our books on the Ikea bookshelf that we tiredly put together on Wednesday night.  He thought he saw some sawdust and that we didn’t do a very good job.  Turns out our books from Brazil had some sand lingering between the pages.  The detail made me smile. A little bit of Jericoacoara in Brooklyn.

Last night Scott and I went to the most impossibly perfect restaurant for our final dinner in Jericoacoara.  Worn wooden tables were set up in the sand, and everything–the lanterns and napkin holders, were kitchy (in a good way) and homemade.  They had specials, but the real treat was eating protein straight off the brick grill, with it’s whisper of smoke snaking to the starry sky–a whole fish that walked by us on it’s way to the fire, and perfectly crispy ribs.  We had arroz feijao and vinaigrette and pure mashed pumpkin, bright orange and fluffy.  It was blissful eating such clean foods by candle light with our feet in the cool sand.

We (sadly) left Jericoacoara this morning and after a full day of traveling, we’re back in Salvador.  We were here together in August of 2008, it was the first place I ever went to in Brazil, but it seems so different now, informed by our experience.  This time, on a quiet Sunday night after the craziness of carnaval, it seemed like a strange blend of Disney World and dangerous.  I’m excited to walk around the Pelhourinho tomorrow to get a better feel all over again.  Tomorrow afternoon we head to Morro de Sao Paulo…

I went up to the main dune in town to watch the sunset today, and as I was coming back I was lured over to the capoeira circle (roda) that was starting to form on the beach.  There were men playing the instruments—a drum, the long, one-stringed things I’ve only seen here, the berimbau, a tambourine, and they were singing.  When I walked over, there were little boys in the circle—dark brown and blond haired going through the capoeira motions.  I went to go get Scott because they were so cute and looked like they were having so much fun.  A little while later the pros took over for the little boys.  They were incredible.

Here is someone else’s video of the same guys, but believe it or not, what we saw was even better.

I’m now newly intrigued by capoeira.  Aside from being incredibly, unbelievably athletic, there’s such a ritual to it, such codes of respect.  I can’t wait to do more research to learn the narratives of the songs.  It’s just clear you have to be so strong.  And to see those men do flips, with essentially no momentum, and nowhere in the small circle to go… The energy of the crowd was really cool, too—a gathering of all of the people who were dispersed over the beach, over the dunes, over the whole area through the day focusing in on this one point, this epicenter of movement and strength and intention as the sun set.

Also, as far as rituals go, I meant to write about this last week while we were in Pipa, but the surfers there did a really cool thing.  As they were running toward the water, their boards ready to take on the waves, they dipped a hand into the surf and crossed themselves.  I know this is a Catholic country, but it seemed purer than that, a praying to the ocean, a deference to the sea and a beautiful spiritual moment.  A pact between the surfer and the surf.

Lagoa do Paraíso

February 21, 2010

Lagoa do Paraíso had the most crystalline water I have ever seen.  Agua doce, as they call it here in Brazil, sweet water.  We had driven east on the buggy today, over the dunes and along the ocean in the other direction.  We coursed through the national park, pausing at a few other rain-made lakes, and then arrived at the Lagoa Paradiso.

At first it just looked big, trees and foliage rimming the edges.  Then we cut down off the snowy-white ‘road’ and tracked the border of the lake.  The waves lapped clear closest to the edge, and then a little more emerald until it retreated to the deep blue of the center water, reflecting the sky.  Yesterday buggy trip had included some weird development and too many barracas.  Here there were just some faded wood tables and chairs, some chaises, a thatched roof hut that sold cold drinks.  It was truly one of the most perfect places I have ever seen.  The sand had the color and consistency of sugar and the water was warm, yet still refreshing.  The sun shone and the waves lapped, and everything was clear.

Buggies? Boogie?

February 20, 2010

We took a buggy today over the dunes and through vast expanse of sand and eerie nothingness.  We passed through a town called Tatajuba, a little village really, that was swallowed by a dune, only the tops of the buildings visible through the sand, with Nova Tatajuba close by.

At one point, we turned left, off the highway of packed sand close to the ocean to a place where we had to cross a stretch of water.  Rather than building a bridge, there was a sort of ferry system set up.  There were men with hanging out on brightly colored wooden rafts who would pole buggies, cars and people across the shallow inlet.  They wore long sleeves to protect themselves from the sun, and they would place boards spaced the right distance across for the buggies and cars to drive up onto the rafts.  It seemed like a liability for sure.

Our buggy looked like that, too, but it was white.  After we crossed the channel, we came through this bizarre, beautiful area with leafless trees that had roots coming out of the middle of the trunks, almost at the same level as the branches.

In a place where nearly everything is shades of blue, or blueish green, and whitish beige, the quality of the light is so interesting.  During the day, everything is baked, bright, over exposed.  By sunset it takes on warmer hues.  It’s cool to watch the light shift on the dunes.

In our driving around, we saw huge dunes, and a surprising number of buggies and cars crisscrossing what we would assume to be nothingness.  Most of what we saw looked like this.

After coursing through the sand, we reached a lake in the middle of the desert, fresh, sweet, green water, crystal clear, in the middle of the dunes.  The amount of development and number of barracas was kind of weird for seemingly being in the middle of nowhere, but it was nice to take a dip.

More Pictures

February 19, 2010

We just updated the ‘In Pictures’ section of the blog to include Pipa, Fortaleza and what we have of Jericoacoara so far.  I think Scott’s photos are just beautiful.

Yesterday afternoon, after lunch, we decided to go walk around the other side of the beach, around a small point in a direction we hadn’t gone yet.  The sand there was totally different, much redder and more coarse.  We cross the beach on that side and started climbing some trails that were webbed like red veins over a small mountain on the other end.  The ocean was down below on the left and the trails continued to snake through short little plants and giant cactuses for about an hour.  At one point Scott said he felt like a knight walking through these big open areas with no one around.  Eventually we got a lighthouse, painted bright white, and our destination, a famous rock with a hole in the middle where waves crashed through.  It was prehistoric looking and beautiful.  We came back a different way, and saw the mounds of white, moonish dunes the whole way back.

Jericoacoara

February 18, 2010

We’re in Jericoacoara.  It’s one of the most remote places I have been, and I have been endlessly amazed by how far we are from anything, coupled with the beachy perfection of this little town.

We woke up yesterday in Fortaleza (as you all know, now, not my favorite place) and got in a minivan that drove west from the city for five hours.  Along the highway (one lane in each direction) we passed through Cumbuco and went by the usual Brazilian things–small restaurants with plastic tables, gas stations, stands selling fruits, houses made out of the ubiquitous brick, or plastered and painted bright colors.  There was a lot of sand and scrubby plants, and very tall palm trees.  They seem to grow especially tall here in Ceara.  After a full five hours, maybe a bit more, we arrived in Jijoca de Jericoacoara.  We pulled into a gas station off the main road, and got out of the van (there were maybe ten of us, five pairs, all going to the same hotel).  At the gas station there were people hanging out in the sun, eating popsicles, waiting for our minivan to take them back to Fortaleza.  There was another vehicle with rows of wooden seats and big tires.  It felt like the bonde in Rio, painted bright green, with its open sides.

Sitting on a bench we made a couple of turns through the town–cobbled streets, surf shops and pharmacies baking in the blazing northeastern sun.  The driver of the sort of open air 4X4 truck got out and went into one of the pharmacies.  It was pretty funny that he was running an errand with so many passengers waiting, and we were wondering why he was stopping.  He pulled two packages of diapers off a shelf and we all had a good laugh about how wives are the same everywhere.  After picking up a few more passengers we passed over the last stretch of cobbled street and started down a sandy dirt road.  We passed some houses, some fenced in properties.  At one house we slowed and a little naked girl, probably about three our four ran out of the house, across the cement porch.  She had mess, dark, hair and had the biggest smile on her face.  She squealed as the driver handed her the plastic bag with the diapers, and giggled and turned and ran them back to her mother, standing the shadow of the doorway.

At another house we picked up a gigantic plastic burlap sack of mangoes and the driver chatted with the man of the house for a couple of minutes, as his teenaged daughters peered out from inside the house as well–darkish cement rooms with hammocks strung across.

We drove for another fifteen or twenty minutes until the road really was just sand (it’s worth noting that our original plan had been to drive to Jericoacoara ourselves, until we did a little more research and learned that the roads between Jeri and Fortaleza were badly marked, and that the last 30km are not passable without four wheel drive).  The sand road snaked through waist-high brush for a while until we got to the entrance of the national park and dunes.  They looked like giant snow drifts (which made us think of everyone up north).  The road seemed to disappear and it looked like a moonscape–just sand with some aqua pools of rainwater.  There were a few donkeys grazing on the sparse grass that was scattered across the sand.  At this point we were in awe, and also sort of nervous.  Where were we going?  What was going to be at the end of this six hour journey?  What kind of town could be all the way out here?

After another twenty minutes of driving between dunes, we reached Jericoacoara.  I’ve never seen anyplace like it.  It’s literally an oasis in the middle of a desert.  It’s a perfect tourist town, with just the right number of restaurants and pousadas to be comfortable, but it’s quiet, sunny, and extremely beach-based.  The roads are just sand, nothing is paved, putting on flip flops feels like an imposition.  Most people get around by dune buggy, or some by bicycle.

The whole town climbs up to a giant sand dune next to the main beach to watch the sunset.  There’s camaraderie and people sit and stand and laugh and jump in the dunes.  There were a few kids who brought up sandboards (like snowboards, but for sand) and were coasting down the side of the dune.  There was a guy who had wheeled up his ice cream cart and was selling popsicles, and another who had a full bar set up to make caiparinhas.  On the way down, there was enough foot traffic at the base of the dune for beautiful girls to hand out flyers for things that were going on that night.

It’s hard to stress the complete dumbfoundedness at the transition between Fortaleza, our epic drive to get here, and the beauty that is here.  I went for a run this morning along the water, one of the best in my life, as the sand was flat and hard, not pitched at all, and surrounded by more sand and gently lapping ocean.  Last night we dinner at candle lit tables in the sand–fresh fish and wine.  It was perfect.

More pictures to come, hopefully at better resolution. The internet’s too slow here right now.