ramblings of a sobering mind

26 Feb

This was an intense week.  We started the first night with a bang, unleashing the huge amount of anticipation that had been leading up to the moment.

And tt never stopped.

I’ve drank a lot through the years.  Less than some of my friends and def more than some others.  But I’ve never drank this much and for so long.

6 days. 12 hours a day.

Good news is I never got robbed.  Can’t say I even felt a hand attempt my prockets.  Everything we read said we were sure to lose some cash.  They called it the gringo tax.  And most people bought disposable cameras because their real ones were sure to be taken.

Some would say it’s a numbers game.  We met others who did get their things taken.  But I would like to think there’s something about me that never let a hand go near me, despite the fact I popcorned hard on the street everyday, and that I joined the most local bloco twice.

Maybe it’s that New York instinct.  Or maybe I was just lucky.

There was military police everywhere.  They lined the parade in watch towers and they also patrolled the streets in strict lines of four.  I wasn’t sure what side they were on though and learned to respect them quickly.

More than once, I saw them take their battons, which they seemed to use with leisure, and swipe them at passer byers.  One unlucky guy had it real bad when the street swelled with people and he was knocked into a group of policemen.  They replied with a series of body blows and really let him have it.


On the other hand, the police were really useful for walking through the crowds.  Similar to what every car in Brooklyn does when they’re stuck in traffic and see an ambulance pass by, I would jump on the tail of a line of cops and follow them until they would get mad.

There were also a lot of fights and I witnessed a few myself.  Some of the others in the hostal witnessed even more brutal ones where blood and stretchers were involved.

The good knews is that there were no glass bottles during Carnaval so the damage was rather limited in the grand scheme of things.

Garbage was definitely a plenty and without getting too graphic, so was bodily waste.  People really lost their sense of decency and the guys especially went to the bathroom everywhere they could.

The stench was actually pretty foul and when it rained each night, the streets would flood with a combination of garbage and pee.  I actually had to hike around the grossness by stepping on the best thing I could find, floating water bottles and beer cans, to avoid being completely submerged in the disgusting water.

Every morning the streets were completely cleaned but the whiff was usually still there.

We joked that you didn’t have to throw any of your garbage out into a can, you just had to hit one and let it pile up around.


The garbage and bathroom situation was a reflection of drunken debauchery, but also of poor planning.

The lack of education seemed prevalent and I’m almost certain that a few of my waiters could not read the menu.  I also felt like it wasn’t an improvisational culture.  I’m usually fantastic at using sign language and explaining myself but I hit a dead end in Salvador where it was frustrating to never be understood.

I also felt like it wasn’t a particularly friendly culture towards strangers.  But that actually happens to be alright, as it usually means they are really warm once they welcome you in.

I do give the locals credit for working hard.  Entire families camped out all night along the parade route to preserve their piece of the street, where they sold beer and food and souvenirs.

We actually though Salvador was full of homeless people when we first got into town but as it turned out, they were just staking their claim.


Finally, I did feel like Carnaval was a bit adolescent, a byproduct of a deeply religious, Catholic culture.  There was no nudity and compared to American style spring breaks it was a lot more PG.

Brazilian men and women used Carnaval to make out and kiss with as many people as possible.  We jokingly called it  “face rape,” because the guys were really aggressive about it, tugging and pulling and occasionally putting girls in a brief headlock, kissing them before letting them go.

But for the most part, even the most aggressive headlock ended with just a kiss and nothing more.  And there was something adolscent about that, like kissing was still some big thing.

We kept above the fray for the most part in regards to the kissing department as I can’t even imagine the diseases floating around.

At the end of the day, what made the festivel fun was the music and the energy it created.  I’ve never been that absorbed by music before and I had a great time losing myself in the moment.

One Response to “ramblings of a sobering mind”

  1. Marina March 24, 2009 at 7:13 pm #

    So i have some thoughts on these statements of yours in regards to carnaval being adolescent. Even though I’m not there..nor have I been on Spring Break, but I think I may provide some insight here. It really seems to me that carnaval (though very much about the drinking) is very much about the culture..the music and dancing especially. American girls are generally known as more provocative and spring break isn’t a cultural experience..it’s basically meant for getting wasted and hooking up. I don’t know how sexual the people of Salvador are but the kisses seem to just be festive expressions and a way to share’s one’s excitement with another.

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