Archive for August, 2004


Posted by Robin Sparks on August 25th, 2004 | Email this to friend

I’m back in Salvador. Arrived with no plans for accommodations…ran into Lourdes walking down the street, Lourdes, my Brazilian friend…who within moments found me a room for $7 a night, just downstairs from my English friend Helena. Yes, in the same neighborhood where I watched a gang try to mug Helena and another gang protect her.

Bohemian Paradise

Posted by Robin Sparks on August 24th, 2004 | Email this to friend

I am now on the most beautiful tropical island off the coast of Salvador, Brazil…In a pousada overlooking the ocean for $30 a night! Including a bountiful breakfast. Just a 2 hour boat ride to Salvador. No motor vehicles, only sandy streets. And filled with interesting foreigners from around the world.


Posted by Robin Sparks on August 23rd, 2004 | Email this to friend

Salvador, Brazil. Download.


Posted by Robin Sparks on August 22nd, 2004 | Email this to friend

Video! Watch the video a martial art/dance which originated with the slaves as a secret ritual. Download and play “Capoeira” video. (10 mb)

Capoeira, the popular acrobatic dance, was developed by the slaves in Brazil as a tool of insurrection against their masters. When it was prohibited from the slave barracks, the slaves moved it to the forest. To disguise their intentions, they turned it into an acrobatic dance with fluid, circular movements, the fighters playful and respectful.

The clapping of hands and plucking of the berimbau, a one-stringed musical instrument made from a gourd and a rod, originally served to alert fighters to the approach of the boss. Later it was incorporated into the dance to maintain the rhythm. Semicircles of spectator-musicians sing an initial chula before the fight and provide the percussion during the fight.


Posted by Robin Sparks on August 21st, 2004 | Email this to friend

Goddess dance in Morro Sau Paulo, island 2 hour boat ride off coast of Salvador, Brazil. Download.


Posted by Robin Sparks on August 19th, 2004 | Email this to friend

Like a pack of dogs they appeared circling, surrounding us under the halogen lights, then with lightening speed, surrounding Helena and just as quickly, another pack coming to our rescue to chase them away. They barked and snarled, but within seconds the attackers had withdrawn into the dark alleys of Salvador. When Helena was safely behind her gate the dark angels of her hood disappeared into the night. My friend Eris and I strode up the now quiet street, me shocked into silence over what I had just seen. My first gang sighting.


Posted by Robin Sparks on August 18th, 2004 | Email this to friend

Days pick up momentum and a peculiar quality of poignancy.

I go home in less than two weeks.

From the Soul of Brazil

Posted by Robin Sparks on August 11th, 2004 | Email this to friend


Dear Kathryn,

I am in Salvador!

Looking forward to seeing you. Be prepared to have your senses jangled in every sense of the word – mostly good and always amazing.

(Link to Photos!)

Our house is amazing. We are giving up the predictable security and quiet of a hotel for character, and HOW. Our house in the historical district of Salvador is owned by an American from Hollywood. He traded in a life of consumerism for the primal life of Salvador, beginning four years ago. He bought the house for $30,000 and is getting offers now for $300,000. It is 400 years old, beautiful…Brazilian red wood gleaming on the floors and on the soaring ceilings. Three floors, large terrace with astounding view of The Bay of Saints.

[My house] Most important for you to bring: comfortable walking shoes – tennis shoes, or sandals, because the streeets are paved in hundreds year old stones and they are hilly and steep and you´ll want to check out everything around you, not watch your feet. The other important thing for you to bring is earplugs. For me too! if you can find them. Our house is right in the thick of the old colonial part of the city. People are up until the crack of dawn and the sound of laughter, talking, music, singing, drumming, ….bounces off the stone streets and facades of the buildings into our house. …I haven’t met our landlord yet because he´s in Rio, but his Brazilian wife and I went out to eat last night to a famous restaurant called DADA. Hillary Clinton´s photo is on the all with the Bahian owner… I will see you when you arrive tomorrow.

Dear Holly,
Date: Fri, 06 Aug 2004
You say there is a cottage for sale in San Francisco. I don’t know… I´m getting an entirely different perspective in Brazil…$700,000 for a small place in San Francisco when I can buy an entire resort in Brazil for $200,000?…

Hi Bradley
Aug. 9

Wow! I am free again and How. In Saladore, Brazil – a magical place. I’ll be back in the Bay Sept. 2…looking forward to seeing you again. I looked at some property today…A resort with treehouses on a lake about 2 miles from the beach, with 8 treehouses, restaurant, bar, dock…. Jack Nicholson and Keith Richards have stayed there to name only a few. Asking price? $200,000. And I’ve been told I can probably buy it for $100,000. Back to you tomorrow.

Hi Linds,

I love Salvador…an incredible city with cobblestoned streets beautiful old buildings, huge African influence, drumming and dancing freely in the streets. I return to San Francisco on Sept 1…. I’ve been looking at property in hopes of finding a town I can call home, and maybe even a house or a resort to buy. I have found a resort with restaurants, bars, main house and treehouses for sale for $200,000 (but I heard they’ll take way less.) Just looking….won’t do anything right away…

I am returning home on Sept. 2.

To All of You,
Aug.11, 2004

I am surrounded by ancient buildings and new friends.

My sunshine has returned – after a month of cold buildings, sensory deprivation, I am in the heart and soul of Brazil. In Salvador where the sun usually shines and where there is always cause for celebration.

I am writing, photographing, arranging workshops, making contacts, looking at property, and just enjoying this beautiful city of crumbling pastel buildings, sidewalk cafes, old churches (one for every day of the year), live music, spontaneous dancing, warm beaches, a live-and-let-live attitude. Salvador is hypnotic, spiritual and mystical.

Brazilians sing. All of the time. They seem to know, as a nation, the lyrics to every Brazilian song. The dentist sang through his mask while filling my tooth. The man at the computer next to me is singing now. The boys in the internet cafe playing computer games last week, stopped their whooping and suddenly began to sing sweetly in unison to a Brazilian song on the radio.I went to a live concert last weekend, and the audience sang every word along with the performer.

Brazilians love to give, to help with no thought of receiving anything in return. I have been the recipient of Brazilian random acts of kindness so many times, I am no longer surprised.

I have been to one beach near Salvador- Praia do Forte, but mostly I have stuck to the high, old part of the city. Will begin exploring the coastline next week north and south of Salvador. I am leaving now to meet a writer from the Washington Post…. And later, to watch Lourdes (one of my new Brazilian friends) do cappoeira.

And so, is Salvador the home which I seek? This I don’t know yet. As for anyone looking for the next best place, Salvador is in my opinion, at the tipping point … within five years I predict it will be one of the biggest tourist destinations in the world.

More later this week.



Posted by Robin Sparks on August 4th, 2004 | Email this to friend

Ok, so the “hole” had its good points.

Out of the Hole

Posted by Robin Sparks on August 3rd, 2004 | Email this to friend

Like Saddam Hussein, I crawled out, unkempt, squinting against the glare of the sun.

I had survived Summer CELTA Camp, all thirty days of it.

Yes, I know it´s hard to believe that life in Brazil could be less than sublime, but the truth is that the worse kind of hell is when Paradise is within sight, but you can’t touch it. You are too exhausted, sleep-deprived, hungry, and have way too much studying to do.

The view of the ocean, one block away from my apartment, may as well be on television. I trudge to school shortly after sunrise where I will remain for 12 hours in air-conditioned, curtains-drawn rooms. Where I am force-fed Teacher-ese and CELTA-ese until I obediently regurgitate it word for word – no creativity tolerated. I trudge home after dark to write papers and prepare lessons, work until two or three in the morning (sometimes four), set my alarm for 7 and do it all over again.

Students are watched at all times by´´trainers´´ who take notes, whisper to each other at the back of the room and behind closed doors about your “progress”. I begin to wonder if there are cameras in the bathroom and I suddenly understand what made Patricia Hearst capitulate. Sometimes it’s easier just to go along than to fight.

[photoname] “It’s only a month.” I kept reminding self as my body and soul rebelled. My face broke out, my complexion turned pasty, my muscles went soft, I lost weight from calorie-draining worry, and by the end of four weeks, I was in tears every time something moved. Did I mention that I ran out of toilet paper for two days, used shampoo to handwash my clothes, and went for two days with no drinking water in my apartment?

Some of the students actually seemed to like it. Several had arrived direct from London and were spell-bound by the ocean and balmy (if mostly rainy) air of Recife, even if they didn’t get to breathe much of it. Those who weren’t from Britain were Brazilian teachers on holiday – a break from their regular routines to learn more about their profession in order to reap a certificate that would qualify them for higher paying jobs.

It was a break for me too – from most everything that made me sing: natural light, warmth (the air-conditioned rooms could’ve kept raw meat fresh for weeks), physical exersise, fresh air, sun on my skin, art, tasteful architecture, scenic geography beyond high-rises, raucous laughter, creative writing, reading for pleasure, conversation with intelligent, artistic, witty friends, live music, crisp vegetables, creativity run amuck, and bouganvillas.

Among the twelve students several romances developed. In hindsight, it was good strategy – nothing like a little love to make torture more tolerable. I became the designated decoy, invited along on infrequent outings to make “couples” look like ´´friends´. And I was the one who took a taxi home – alone.

The course ended day before yesterday. After I woke up, I walked the ten mile stretch between Boa Viagem and Pina beaches. I literally felt the sun move through my body, melting away the misery, making room for my once positive self to move back in.

A CELTA certificate is now tucked under my belt, and although I´m not sure what I’ll do with it, I have an idea.

I’ve been dreaming for years of running retreats in foreign countries, offering workshops in writing, photography, yoga, and English immersion.
It´s official now. You can read about “Travel With a Purpose” workshops on this site.

Last night, over Bohemia beers and caipirinhas, Peter and Helena, two students with whom I’ve spent the past month, said they felt good about completing the course, a feeling, they said, that one gets only after surviving something particularly grueling.

“Huh?” I asked, “Are you saying we need to be punished in order to feel good about ourselves?”

“Yes,” Peter replied. “Regularly, and with whips.”

Thank God for the Brits.