February 21, 2007

Ash Wednesday
Salvador da Bahia, Brazil

…And on the seventh day, he rested.

Hammock Recovery

I awoke and had no idea what time it was, for it surely was late in the afternoon, yet the sound of drums was unusually absent. I hobbled over to the balcony of our apartment—it was well after 4:00—silence. Salvador's Carnival had officially come to an end.

As I resumed the ritual of icing my aching and battered toes, one of the friendly Israelis in the house thanked me for my advice. And what advice was that, I asked. To which he replied, You were telling me about the proper way to sleep in this hammock before you went to sleep last night—how a slightly diagonal positioning of my body would take the stress of my back and support my neck better—you were right! I vaguely remembered the conversation, and would have gone forgotten if he hadn't brought it up.

I looked again at my poor feet—cut, bruised, and blistered, with broken, dead or dying nails. The Bonfim ribbons on my ankle that were once so clean and new looked like they had aged six months in so many days.

I felt like an outsider as people assembled themselves to go out and get food. I wasn't hungry or interested in going out to a restaurant, but I watched as the apartment formed themselves into their little clicks—none of which I belonged to.

Apartment folks in bloco garb

Many of these people had traveled together for two or more weeks before arriving in Salvador, and they were a happy little unit together (essentially consisting of Mario's bloco group). The five Israeli guys banded together, as expected. I was happy to be left alone to lay in the living room hammock, write, and recover.

There was noticeable tension between the South African girls and me—especially from #2, for whom I was an apartment key hoarder (among many other things). I don't think any of the girls were particularly fond of me by this point. The men ran in their own packs, and didn't seem to care one way or another. I was a curious and entertaining oddity to some in the apartment, barely tolerated by others, and just there to the majority.

In the late evening the final tallies to the kissing count contest chart were added—numbers easily counted on one had for all. They looked to me and I shrugged my shoulders, just as I had for every other night—truly no idea. One of the guys shouts out with a smile on his face, Craig doesn't count kisses, he counts the percentage of the crowd kissed! I had to laugh.

And then we got on the topic of flirting, and eye contact, and kissing, and "standards"—that is to say we basically on the topic of me.

I flirt with every girl that makes eye contact with me, I said casually. The different actions vary depending on age and distance, but they're fundamentally they same: A prolonged stare; a smile; a wink; a smooch to the air; a blown kiss; arms crossed over the chest (hands on opposite shoulders); a hand over the heart; a touch to their waist/stomach/back; a thumb-squeeze on the chin; a kiss on the cheek; a kiss on the lips; etc…

I continued… I pick one or two actions and have fun. If I see eyes locked on me, I'm going to give the girl/woman/grandmother a response no matter how pretty she is. It's Carnival! I do it and everyone involved feels great, laughs, smiles, and wins because of it. I don't have to be attracted or even care because the gesture is completely harmless, and they're happier and more confident for it (and of course my ego grows a little each time I'm able to give that to them).

What if they're looking at you and not interested, asked one of the girls. Well, I automatically assume they're interested unless told otherwise—and that's never happened, I responded, there's not enough time to do anything but laugh, smile, and dance on.

But I could see where the girl was going with this—for a woman to wink at a man it was an invitation, whereas a guy could just throw them out there and watch the results for his own entertainment.

The most prude (and most attractive) of the group seemed shocked that I'd wink at girls and grandmothers—So if you kiss that many in a night, how many do you think you winked at, she asked. To which I quickly responded, oh, probably one every 15–20 seconds, for 8 hours a night—extrapolate that out over the course of 6 nights and you'll get a rough idea.

She took an exaggerated gasp—I can't believe you can still blink your eye after so much winking! I've never kissed that many people in my life!

But honestly, to make eye contact and flirt with 200 girls an hour is really not very much for an event like this. Even kissing 2–3% of that figure almost seems normal, doesn't it? …Yet none of my male housemates had done anything remotely similar.

Little did they know that the numbers would be even higher if I hadn't retired from the chasing women business some time ago—that is to say, I am no longer in the business of chasing women.

Brodie says that I will passively chase girls by provoking them with flirty behavior—very true—but actually putting effort into pursuing or chasing—nope—not once. Either they'd stop, come back, or we both kept walking. The same holds true (to some extent) for life outside of Carnival, depending on how interesting the girl is.

And therein lies the fundamental difference between me and all these aggressive Brazilian men—I don't run after cold leads. I don't expend effort or beg for kisses, because there's always more ahead or behind you. I am a confident, easy-going Alpha Male that doesn't feel the need to put it on display. I'm not out trying to impress anyone, it's just me.

You know what the problem all these guys in my apartment had? They focused on the white girls—I know it. And let me tell you, they are on the defensive! Why would you attack the castle for the nobles when you can have more fun raiding the village?! Prude tourists are not part of the festivities, don't bother.

I was done being probed and interviewed, and went back to preparing my backpack for the morning move. I was looking forward so much to getting away from the apartment and the city—ready to get on a beach and let the sun and saltwater heal my wounds.

Some people in the apartment had decided to sacrifice for the 40 days of Lent—no drinking of alcohol. I doubt they'll last, it's too tempting to drink while on holiday. Contrary to what the past week has displayed, the same type of commitment wouldn't be difficult for me at all (as I don't spend money on alcohol in the first place—a waste—except for Argentine wine).

There was an alarm set for an early hour—we all had to get up and clean before leaving. I was ready for bed, but the girl who funked up my sleeping space had nodded off, back in her old bed (my new bed). I nudged her and said I was sleeping there—she was confused as to why I wasn't returning to my bunk. Because I don't want to sleep on your sex sheets, thank you, I clarified. If you want your bed, swap the linens, or jump back over to the other room.

She moved, and as I closed my eyes I thought of how close I had come to not attending Carnival this year. If I could travel back in time, I'd slap myself for having such a thought. A milestone in life accomplished. Wild memories that will stay with me a lifetime—Salvador, Carnival 2007.

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March 5th, 2007

You are SO entertaining (spoken with great voice inflections)! How can I wipe this enchanted smile off my face to work now? You are the most free spirit I know, and are inspiring…. Change that world around you…(smile on side of mouth).


August 17th, 2008

Great blog Craig,

I'm heading to Salvador in 09 and can't wait to be swept up in the hedonism!


Craig | travelvice.com

August 17th, 2008

Cheers, David — you'll have a great time. Just keep your pockets empty and your feet from taking too many hits.

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