August 30, 2004

I knew it was time to go when I woke up at 4 AM with rows of angry welts on my stomach and dozens of red bumps on my ankles all crying out at once, “Scratch me!”

I hadn’t minded all that much the cold showers and the drip drying afterwards (no towels). But laying there itching, I could hear someone next door coughing as they slept AND the man sleeping on the street above the grate over my bathroom, rolling over. My sense of adventure, insofar as seeing how little I could spend, hit a brick wall. I was returning to San Francisco in four days and after three months, I wanted to ease out of Brazil, not feel as if I’d been spat out of a cannon. I began to plot my escape.

The seven dollar a night apartment had it’s good points, no doubt. The landlord for instance, was an old black man who restored furniture in his open-air shop upstairs. Each time I left the apartment, he stood up and spoke to me rapidly in Portuguese. I’m pretty sure he was saying, “Don’t stay out too late” and “I’ll be waiting for you with the light on.” And I was also going to miss the sound of berimbaus being tuned in the apartment next door.

But I drew the line at fleas.

So I stuffed my life back into two suitcases, and sweating profusely in the late morning heat, I hefted one brick-laden bag up one concrete step at a time to the street, where I then hailed a taxi.

We spiraled downhill from the highest point in Salvador – the historic Center on the cliff, to its lowest at Barra Beach. The doors of the Manga Rosa Pousada opened and then swung shut behind me, muffling the sense-jangling sights, sounds and smells of Salvador, replaced by televised Olympic Games, the aroma of black beans simmering on a stove, and the jaw-dropping sight of computers connected to the Internet. It was as if the Pearly Gates themselves had opened and shut behind me.

And I felt only a little bit ashamed for being such a wimp.

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