SAUDADE | Robin Sparks


Days pick up momentum and a peculiar quality of poignancy.

I go home in less than two weeks.

Eris. A Greek God. So close in soul, so distant in language and age. I have sworn not to write a negative blog. And so I will not speak of our long walk along Barra Beach with the city of Salvador on one side and the Atlantic Ocean on the other, glowing orange, then purple. and how he told me of once having a job, an apartment, a car, and big dreams. How when the value of the real dropped, everyone, except the very very rich, lost everything. Eris wasn’t one of the very rich. It has been three weeks since he has heard anything about work. Before the crash, he designed web sites. Eris dreams of Spain where he will work as a waiter or whatever he can get (he has heard that there are jobs there), save some money and return to Brazil in two years to run his own barracca – a beachfront bar. His biggest dream though is of finding a wife and having a child.

The owner of the house I am renting, an American from Hollywood, dropped by today. We talked out on the terrace about how he began coming to Salvador four years ago. How he loved it and kept returning, and finally moved here. How he bought the spectacular home for $30,000 that I am now renting . For which would-be pousada owners are now offering $250,000. The American married Brazilian Flavione from Sau Paulo, and they had a baby six months ago.

“Come by and see my new apartment in Barra after the sunset,” he said. “I’ve remodeled it and it takes up a whole floor. The view is incredible.”

After Eris’s story, talking to the American about hundreds of thousands of U.S. dollars being exchanged for Brazilian property seemed obscenely irrelevant. Eris and I never make it to the apartment. – instead we walk for miles with the 2 million strong city of Salvador on one side and the Atlantic (shimmering orange and then deep blue) on the other. Eris speaks of his dreams, those that came true and those that did not, and those he still hopes for. He asks about mine. “Robin, we have different historias,” he says. And of course he is right.

After the sun sets, we squeeze into a taxi with several strangers – a way to share the cost. The taxi roars around the corners and up the hills into the old city. We get out at the cross (a large lit sculpture of two crosses laying atop each other), which Eris tells me guides the ships into harbor. We amble up and down the cobbled streets of Pelourinho, the historic center bustling with tourists and locals, the air full of drumming, and capoeira. Tuesday night is the big night in Pelourinho, but as my friend Julian says, every night is The night in some part of Salvador.

I met Julian last month in Recife – he is from London, a teacher trainer for the CELTA (English as Second Language) program. Julian purchased one of the old crumbling buildings near Pelourinho and has plans to turn it into a pousada. Julian travels a lot for his work…all over Brazil, London, Thailand, Bali, California, but he always comes home to Salvador and to his Brazilian girlfriend. Thanks to Julian, everyday we either went to the beach, met friends for dinner, or went to a club. But Julian returned to London yesterday. Katerina today for the USA. Helena leaves this weekend for Recife. And Eris grows ever more distant, heavy with worry about his future.

The end is near. But it will be a good ending.

At this moment, I lay in a hammock on the terrace of my rented house on a cliff overlooking one of the world’s largest harbors. The hum of of 2 million residents is white noise to Joao Gilberto’s buttery vocals and acoustic guitar pouring out of the house into my night. Beautiful.

Why is it that when times are good, almost unreal, there is no time to write? And so I reflect on all that has transpired these past two weeks. My American friend who after learning I was in Brazil booked a flight and used her two weeks of vacation to join me in Brazil. Katarina as we soon dubbed her, was a nice touch, like receiving a a little piece of America for two weeks. I showed her the streets of Pelourinho, but like a magnet she was pulled into one shop after another. Katarina shopped, and shopped, and shopped and when she wasn’t shopping, she was showing us what she had bought, which included a new bag to carry it all home in.

Ah yes,I cannot forget Lourdes, the gregarious Brasilera who introduced us to her friends, took us out, showed us how to really live in her city, who graciously entertained my visitor Katarina. Who became the adopted mother of us all. Who told Helena when and where to do what, and who remarked on how I dressed more than once. And who invited us to her capoeira presentation.

Wonderful jolly Julian, the way he threw back his head, blonde curls dancing, always laughing, his constant invitations and ideas about things to do. His crowd of friends meeting with us for dinner and another day at an unknown but delicious restaurant. The Monday night restaurant which Julian drove us to on the outskirts of town. The street out front filled with plastic chairs and tables, all occupied. Inside the barnlike structure where we climbed rickety steps to sit at a long table and eat fresh Dorado and Picanha. The laughter, the night at the Aeroclube until 5 in the morning. The dancing and dancing until dawn. The tall transvestite with butt implants. The way Eris’s friends stepped in to dance with me whenever Eris stepped out. The argument between Ricardo and Julian. Ricardo with his mischivous grin. Helena with her heart pulled in two directions…her lover or her life. The trips to the distant beaches and the time we swam in the sea, and got out just in time for a squall to soak us all over again.

A lovely time was had by all. And as it draws to a close – what am I doing in this huge house alone? As we pull apart, my energy scatters. I struggle to remember, Who am I again? Why am I here?

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