My First Day in Salvador, Brazil


I am exhausted. I haven’t had more than two hours of sleep in the last twenty-four hours. My first day in Brazil was overwhelming. In Salvador, very few people speak English, so as someone who speaks very little Portuguese, I’ve had to whip out my dictionary quite often.

On the cab, our cab driver didn’t speak English, so in broken-Portuguese, I said “Ele vao o hotel _____ e nos vamos _____” We had a half-conversation about a song we liked on the radio, where we were from and our nationality…just basic conversation. The cab driver was very nice.

Then, we got to our home-base. There is no air conditioning, we have bunk-beds and we aren’t allowed to flush toilet paper down the toilet, even when we sh*t. So, needless to say, I’m not feeling the home-base at all, I don’t know if I’m gonna make it two weeks. Call me a spoiled American, fine…but it is what it is.

I went to the store (loja) to try and get some stuff, I got a bag and some soap. I wanted to go to the beach (praia) but it was too late to go back to the home-base and get my bathing suit. I felt overwhelmed, what’s even more overwhelming is that people seem to assume that I am Brazilian, so they speak to me in fluent Portuguese and when I do not understand and I stare at them with a blank look on my face…I feel stupid.

When I went out to look at the beach with my roommate who is a blonde from the mid-west, all the vendors were approaching her trying to get her to buy things, but no one even asked me.

People come up to me and just start speaking in Portuguese and most of the time, I’m like WTF?? sometimes I can muster out some broken phrases, but it’s hardly anything.

The funny thing is, I actually LOVE that FOR ONCE, I blend right in with the population. I LOVE that for once when people see me, they don’t assume that I’m an outsider, but that I belong there. I’ve never felt that way before and if I could, I would keep it so that everyone assumed that I, as a Black person, belonged there.

But, as soon as I open my mouth or don’t open my mouth (stare blankly), it’s a dead giveaway that I am not one of their own, but a foreigner. I wish that I could speak Portuguese fluently, so that for once I could truly feel like I belong.

All my life, I’ve been an outsider in the United States, always the minority, always “the other,” it’s nice to be looked at and assumed to be “one of the clan,” for once. But, the drawback is people expect me to know the language…

But, so far I have mixed feelings about Salvador, I think it’s beautiful and the people seem warm, but at the same time the actual program that I am in, is not going as I thought that it would.

We’ll see how things go, I’m supposed to be teaching English to school kids on Monday…

I went to a Jazz concert at an Art Museum today, we met up with some Americans by chance.

Here is the funny thing, this white American woman came up to me and started speaking to me in Portuguese automatically and when I looked at her blankly like a fool and said “Americana,” then she laughed. It’s funny because even other Americans don’t know that I am American because I am one of the two Black people in the program. Most of the Blacks here are Brazilian.

But, after realizing that I was not Brazilian, but American, she helped us order some caipirinha, a Brazilian cocktail. Also, it’s interesting that everywhere you look you can see mixed-looking Black people. I saw today, a black-looking mother and black-looking father with a little baby boy who had blonde, curly hair, tan skin and green eyes. You can see that people wear their admixture on their faces here.

Anyway, that was my first day in Brazil, very tired. TTYL

9 thoughts on “My First Day in Salvador, Brazil”

  1. You make me miss Brazil, though I’ve only seen a little of the country. I really hope that the era of Western and U.S. exploitation of Latin America is over for good. What I mean by exploitation is the sponsoring of dictators and interference in the national economies for the profit benefit of rich Western interests.

    People assuming you are a native! Yes, it happened to me to, before I even got to Brazil. The flight attendants on my plane out of Miami thought I was Brazilian. I hated to disappoint them. When they brought food around, I said, “Obrigado” and smiled, instead of “thankyou” and that was enough for them to think I was simply returning home and not going on vacation. It really is a nice feeling of acceptance. I want to go back.


  2. Hang in there, Peanut….since you cant flush toilet paper down the toilet, get some baby wipes,buy small plasitc waste bags (25 litros), use the baby wipes and put them in the small plastic bags and put the plastic bags in the trash…baby wipes is better than toilet paper, you may never go back if you use the baby wipes



  3. No air condtioning is a drag in Salvador right now, spend a few extra bucks and buy a small cheap fan

    Give yourself permision to not understand the language, there is something interesting about not understanding the language so instead of trying to listen to people you actualy see what is going on around you.

    Portuguese is a beautiful language,though,I butcher it on a daily basis.


    1. thanks for all of your support B.R. i’m still learning the ropes, what is the protocol on the beach when you are trying to buy chairs/towels? i went with my white american friend and i think they overcharged us.


    1. hey thanks for the link and your comment! i’m so excited that you responded, i’ve got a lot to learn about Salvador, but I’m looking forward to it


  4. Peanut, yeah, the old beach chair hustle….for sure there is a lot of competition with these beach chair people…they will try to get you to use their services instead of the other competitor

    for sure , there will be some people who will jack up their price when they think they have a touritst, but, i dont think they all do

    the question is, how much effort do you want to expend haggling with them? I think between 10 and 20 is what you will pay for a chair and umbrella, anything above that is a rip off. I usualy dont try to haggle with them, but, if i feel like someone is charging too much, they just wont get my business.

    Peanut, be careful of over eating too much of the fried and oily food, by all means , check it out, its impossibly good tasting, but, your body and digestive system is adjusting to a new envirnment, combine that with the heat and the travel fatigue and it could trigger some hard digestive moments…which, given your bathroom situation , might not be too much fun ( therefor the reasonto get control of it and have something like baby wipes and a little bag to put them into, at least you will feel more in control)

    Love hearing about your experiances

    Marques, nice article from Brazzil dot com, I just think the author superimposed his veiws as an American over what he thinks black Brazil should be…


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