Bahia: A Love Affair
It was Bahia and pre-social media so things blur together, but I am pretty sure I met Dave in the Amaralina area of Salvador. He was friends with some other friends I had also met on a previous trip to the city. A place seething with the energy of ancestors, glowing with the exposed skin of beautiful melanated youth, pulsating to the beat of pagode, and scented with the boiling dende used to fry acaraje, Salvador da Bahia is magic. Perhaps that is what keeps drawing David, a freelance architect, back.
A methodical planner, Dave explains, “Because of my love for traveling, I made a conscious choice to freelance on a per project basis rather that work full-time.” This afforded him the opportunity to end most assignments with a trip, and he doesn’t mean seven days and six nights, “I would take off for 3 months out of every year, depending on the state of the economy of the United States.” Originally from the Republic of Panama, he now calls New York city home and Salvador his heart’s home. In fact, he is there now on the island of Itaparica helping a friend renovate parts of his home.
On this, his ninth trip to Bahia, he reflects on how the affair began, “I actually fell in love with the music first, I used to be the music program director (I didn’t even know what that was at eighteen) but the owner hired me to listen to his entire catalog and write down my favorite songs.” He continues, “I had never heard of Caetano, Gil, Gal or Betania, so while listening to those records, I decided I could not die until I made it to where that music came from.”
While his first introduction may have come at age eighteen, he would not make it to Bahia until his 30th birthday. Bookending a work trip to Rio and Brasília with a jaunt to Bahia, he warmly remembers, “Once I met Salvador, I just never wanted to go anywhere else.” His second trip was with a fellow New Yorker. When they return to the City, his friend abruptly announced his intention to move to Bahia. Dave thinks this may a facilitated his numerous returns. Now he has plenty of local friends and quickly eases into the beach vibe when he arrives.
Love people and communicate.
An advocate of getting to know a culture through her people, Dave’s approach is, “Let’s say I traveled to D.F. in Mexico, I would then enjoy meeting and talking to any Mexicans, including those I met in New York or anywhere else.” He goes on to state, “Nothing gets done without people, they have information and are willing to share it if you are humble and respectful while asking or inquiring.” This led me to ask him how he learned to speak Portuguese, a prerequisite for fully emerging yourself in the area. His answer made me chuckle, as it is the same way many of my friend’s learned the language. “The easiest way, I met a woman. She wasn’t a Bahiana, but our closest language was Portuguese. We dated and then I spent five months living there—I guess that did the trick,” he simply states.
When reflecting on how his extensive long-form trips have impacted him, Dave says, “With each place I have visited, I found a new respect and admiration for its people, especially for those whom I encounter on my return to the US.” Not wishing to keep him tethered to the computer much longer I simply had to know if he thought carnival, which had just passed, was best celebrated in Salvador. Much to my surprise, he said no, the best carnival in his opinion is in Trinidad and Tobago.
His takeaways for those seeking new internationality experiences, “Getting around in a new city is effortless, you can find places even without wi-fi access, using Google Maps. Get out there, love the people and communicate.”