Saturday, 22 September 2007
Morro das Sereias as seen from Praia da Paciencia (The tallest building on the hill in silhoette, slightly to the right of center, is my new home in Salvador.
A glimpse of Itacaré (where I ended up after a 7 hour bus drive south of Salvador).
Well after a short, sweet trip to Itacaré (more on that later), I´ve finally settled into my new home which is a funky, loveable beachfront Pousada (motelish type lodging). My friend Lauren from London had introduced me to the place and I loved it immediately. The pousada is situated at the top of a concrete hill in a small, unique kind of favela, not notably large or dangerous, which overlooks the Atlantic Ocean. The hill is called Morro das Sereias which means Hill of Mermaids, or Sirens. Living in the pousada is a mixture of Brazilian and International travelers and Bahian locals that have seemingly sought a sort of transitional resting place. Some of the tenants have been there for years though the transitory feeling seems to be in them too. Even the house structure itself seems to be in a semi-frozen transitional phase, with additions and improvement projects left partially completed.
When approaching the giant concrete gate to the Pousada, which is decorated with some mosaic tiling, you can just begin to see the ocean which becomes visible when looking down the opposite slope of the hill. The vibe inside the
pousada is very warm and communal (albeit a bit strange), sharing kitchen, bathrooms and lounge areas- andPortuguese convo is flowing non-stop which of course is wonderful for my linguistic development.
The walkway up the hill is lined with homemade buildings and living spaces of stacked, cement-slathered hollowbrick and there is a lots of social activity along the concrete staircase which is essentially the mainstreet of the community- children laughing and running up and down, friendly neighbors chatting and listening to music and dogs and cats perpetually lounging in the sun.
I´d heard from a tenant that the hill use to be much more crime-ridden some years back when a notorious drug dealer had set up his operation on the oceanside of the hill but lots had changed since then. Their are community organizations that have a high profile there now, including a community capoeira group for kids which I´m planning to check out.
The view from the third floor of the Pousada is incredible- the same view you get from Pestana Bahia, Rio Vermelho´s giant luxury hotel where tourists pay amounts unknown to me…… The rent is $R250 ($135?)per month which is right in the sweetspot of the price range I was looking for. It is certainly a bit dodgier then living in a well secured apartment complex in a nice section of Rio Vemelho but I feel relatively safe there and definitely more at home than I´ve felt since I arrived in Brazil. Besides, muggings, robberies and worse can and do happen anywhere and at anytime in Salvador. 4 people that I know of have been mugged/robbed, two of them my classmates, on or near to University campus. Being robbed at gunpoint has been most common but my friend Morgan from Seattle was robbed of his backpack at rock and scissor point. He joked later that his backpack only contained paper, defeating the rock but not the scissors.
My friend Sola, who works for a Salvador tv station, TVE, told me that 10 murders occur each day on average in Salvador, a city of roughly 3 million people. There is constant battle between street gangs, drug traffickers and military police (Military police corruption which is apparently not infrequent, is reported relatively well by some media outlets though not much more is done to curb it).
Knowing your surroundings and keeping your wits about you, understanding where you are and making true friends who are knowledgable of the area is very important. There are many places in Salvador that appear sketchy (and perhaps are a bit) but are really wonderful good places to live, visit, be. There are also places that seem very safe, secure and touristy but can get real sketchy real quick. Anyway I´m very happy to have arrived on the hill of sirens. O Morro das Sereias is a beautiful and curious homebase for me here in this amazing city, Salvador da Bahia….