February 19, 2007

Carnival 2007 Chaos: Day 4
Salvador da Bahia, Brazil

Burred vision…

Carnival, Day 4

I awoke in a sweat, a handful of hours after the crappy tailspin the previous evening had taken. I walked into the bathroom—the mirror would help me inspect the damage my body had received from last night's festival and fist-fight.

Other than the headache, I appeared to be in an acceptable condition (considering I had just endured three days and nights of Brazilian carnival). There weren't any bruises on my face, but a small, tender lump above my left ear. My left cheekbone was also a bit swollen and sensitive, but nothing anyone would notice. I tongued a small cut on the inside on my cheek next to my wisdom teeth, where a fist compressed my face against them. My eyes red, my feet black—but nothing permanent.

By the time I'm out of the shower the other two are up. I found Brodie in a chair, ice against his swollen lip. A finger-wide stream of dried blood trailed from his mouth, having formed as he slept on his back.

It was time to go. I needed to give these guys their apartment to themselves, and go home for the first time in days.

I looked at my shirt and stared at it in disgusted amazement. I should have been taking a daily photo of this thing—a sequence of images showing the not-so-gradual transition from clean and white to a filthy grey. It looks like the kind of rag you'd find an auto mechanic wearing at the end of a long day working on the ground and under the hood.

I still had only one working sandal, and it was my hope that I'd be able to find someone nearby to repair it. I walked the streets looking for a shoe repair shop, broken sandal in hand, filthy shirt on my body, looking like I had been run over by a Carnival truck. Most every person pointed me in useless directions, given to me in gibberish, happy to remove me from the entrance to their small stores as quickly as possible.

In my wanderings I stumbled upon a small pair of flip-flops on the street—quickly walking off after sliding my dirty, bare foot into the left sandal. It was better than nothing.

I needed to catch a bus back to my part of town, but again, everyone was useless. I was in low spirits and exhausted. After about an hour I bit the bullet and used the last of my money to pay for an expensive taxi ride back to the Historic Center.

Only a few meters from the apartment I ran into Mario and three others sporting bright orange shirts, on their way to join up with the bloco they've paid to participate in. Everyone was amazed to see me back, as I had stepped out with Brodie almost three days ago and never returned.

Mario had a white bandage on his ear, and when I inquired he said he had half his earlobe sliced off in a fight last night! He quickly mentioned that some from our apartment group (including him) were attacked three or four times in the Barra circuit after I saw them.

…And that was all I got before they had to head off. Wild.

The apartment…

I walked back into the apartment and took in the scene—it looked like a bomb had gone off inside the place. Clothes, sleeping Israeli's, backpacks, and bottles were everywhere. The fragrance of the air reminded me of a gym locker with a bunch of wet clothes shoved inside.

Someone had been sleeping—just sleeping, hopefully—in my bunk bed. My belongings appeared to still be in place and secure—there's a wardrobe in the room that I was able to put my backpack inside and lock with a certain type of padlock I carry for such reasons.

I showered, shaved, and brushed my teeth for the first time in days (no more toothpaste on a finger!). I said hello to a few people who I've only briefly met once before, and set off to look for some place to get my sandal repaired. Sadly, this search only succeeded in exhausting me, as it's a Sunday and finding a closed business is more common than an open one.

As I walked around this part of town I would run into people I knew (or knew me), and would exclaim What happened to you?! Where have you been?!. I guess it's a little noticeable when you step out for one night with nothing on you but a swimsuit, sandals, and sleeveless shirt and return a few days later… (grin)

Unfortunately I'd been having some problems with my right eye—slipping in and out of focus slightly since I awoke. At first I thought it was the contact lens I was wearing, but removing it hasn't helped much. I think there's something funky going on with the tear duct. I wiped away some unusual eye gunk after my shower, and small amounts seem to keep forming in the corner of that eye.

That corner area looks different—like it's ripped, showing more than normal fleshy bits—but I see no visible cuts or trauma (although it was undoubtedly caused from the blows to my head last night). I don't think there's anything that can be done, so time will be given to see if it clears up (heals?) on its own.

The streets outside the apartment are packed with activity, drums, music, and dancing—but as much as I wanted to go see what's going on, I need a time-out until nightfall.

After Dark…

Brodie and Christoph rolled by my place about two hours before midnight, just as I'm getting out of the shower. Christoph must have felt better about the apartment he was living in after seeing our home—a mess—as if every backpack contained an exploded clothing bomb inside of it. Brodie's lip was looking better already, but he's just as self conscious about it as I would be if our roles were reversed—so no Carnival kisses for him.

Speaking of Carnival kisses, I'd just put my contacts in for the night—there's no way a pair of glasses would survive in this maddness—when Brodie comes into the bedroom and tells me there's a kissing count contest between the occupants of my apartment. Brodie whispers, I don't think you should tell them yours, or you're going to make them feel pretty bad.

I walked out to the living room and look at a piece of paper in question, tacked between the pillar dividing the balcony. I was absolutely shocked—are you sure this isn't the count of how many people you've slept with, I jested.

The scoreboard

The rows of names were divided by columns of days. Most every entry had a big fat zero in it, save for a few scratches here and there. The sum of the entire group over three days was much lower than a typical night for Brodie and I.

I was genuinely surprised with this grid. It had never even occurred to me to try and keep a tally of such a common thing. It'd be like putting up a list of how many individual pieces of popcorn you and your friends ate at a movie together (instead of bags consumed). Can you even keep a proper count of such a thing?

This got me to wondering exactly what these guys (and girls) were doing to keep themselves from enjoying one of the most entertaining aspects of this event. It's a group of pretty decent looking fellas in here—maybe they don't know how to flirt, or maybe they just don't like chocolate girls (thumbs-up in my book). Prude, white tourists are not who you should be going after if you want a quick smooch.

I think we've all got natural talents, excelling in some things were others are average. For me, the ability to notice someone looking/staring at me is high on my list of things I'm very damn good at.

It matters not the number or concentration of people around me—a calm street or a Carnival circuit—my vision naturally scans for friend and foe alike, picking up on even cursory glances. This isn't a new thing for me—I've been like this for years.

So using the same strength that helps keep me stay safe as I roam about in foreign countries, in combination with my naturally flirtatious behavior (amplified because of the environment), results in… well… a much different league than what my house-mates seem to be playing in.

I hadn't had a drop of alcohol since the night prior, and that first adult beverage of the evening sent a week's worth of memories rushing back into my head. We were on the streets in the Historic Center—evaluating the scene and quickly deciding it was just too calm for our taste.

Campo Grande was filled to capacity this night—the street lighting more bright, the tourists more common. Setting eyes upon the streets for the first time since round one, I remembered many of the once bewildering streets and turns—now less confusing under a clearer mind (and evening sky).

The three of us drank our way through the same alleys and bars as we had our first night, winding a trail towards the sounds of the nearest bloco, breathing in that powerful, ever-present stench of urine. Drink to dull that particular sense, I told myself.

Christoph was having a good time, sticking with the group and reaping the spoils of my excessive flirting (smooching the friend of another nameless girl that I had wrangled in). Brodie was having a hard time getting into the spirit of things, his lip a reminder of the problems encountered the evening before. It was after a little scuffle that he almost gotten into (relatively early in the night) when he decided to call it an evening.

I had run into a group (of girls and a friendly gay fellow), and after doing some kissy introductions with the ladies was ready to move on, when Christoph took a liking to one of them. I did the good wingman thing and watched the situation from a different perspective, making sure they weren't collectively fleecing, robbing, or drugging him.

One of the girls had latched onto me, but I got the distinct feeling that she'd rather rob me than do anything else. I talked to Christoph as best as I could in broken German, as the girl he with could speak English. Mental note: I need more languages.

When you travel (alone) you have to listen to your instincts—your intuition—your gut, above all else. Mine said to get away from this group of time bandits, away from this particular girl, and enjoy the night.

I told Christoph to elevate his alert level, be careful, and that I'd catch up with him next evening. I wished him luck and vanished into the crowd, never saying goodbye to the group (as none was particularly owed).

I spent hours dancing in the streets, popping up in alley bars (getting fun reactions), and eating an occasional skewer of grilled meat. Only once was there a noticeable pick pocketing attempt in so many hours.

I looked at my feet—disgusting. There wasn't a drop of rain this night, yet the sludge of Carnival was caked to me—like I had walked through a muddy jungle of beer, piss, and trash. I was tried, my feet starting to blister from the borrowed sandals I was wearing, and desperately wanted to shower the evening off my skin.

I was a tad turned around at this point, so it took me a bit to find a familiar intersection that would lead me home. In the process I came across the group I had vanished from earlier in the evening—missing two girls and Christoph. I get smiles from all but one—the girl that had latched onto me comes storming out from the left (about a dozen meters in front of me), yelling and waving a towel or shirt in her hand—basically goin' Loca Latin. I smiled, waved to her, and did a 90 degree turn. Ciao, ya crazy chick, I'm going home.

Related Writings

Note: Comments are open to everyone. To reduce spam and reward regular contributors, only submissions from first-time commenters and/or those containing hyperlinks are moderated, and will appear after approval. Hateful or off-topic remarks are subject to pruning. Your e-mail address will never be publicly disclosed or abused.