I was delighted to find, upon arriving at my pousada in Morro, that my housemate – as there was only one other guest during the early part of Semana Santa before the onslaught of pleasure-seeking Salvadorans – was a multi-lingual Argentine tour guide named Sandra whose annual holidays in Morro had made her more or less a local. We became fast friends and she introduced me to the best non-touristy restaurants, beaches, beauty salons and other critical points of interest, and was also perfect company for the days I spent there.
Because Sandra has dealt extensively with English and US American tourists in Buenos Aires, she has become intimately familiar with the cultural differences that cause misunderstanding among travelers while visiting the dulcet shores of the south. I had already had a cultural primer during my first few days in Bahia – a region which lives by its own rules, yet still more exotic and other than those generally followed in Rio and Sao Paolo. Despite the passion for which Brazilians are known and beloved throughout the world, there is an attendant casualness – at least in Bahia -- that seems to dominate all transactions. Rarely would you see someone in a service position get stressed out or apologetic, no matter how egregious the offense might be considered somewhere closer to home.
Given all this, I shouldn’t have been surprised when I was lying in the hammock outside my room one night, just after Sandra had gone to bed, and I saw a dark figure climbing surreptitiously over the fence onto the property of our house. The owner of the house – also from Argentina – had left us alone while he attended to business in Buenos Aires. Save for the morning visits from Cleusa, who came to prepare breakfast and clean the rooms, we were on our own -- and he had told Sandra to leave the televisions on in the empty rooms to create a sense of occupancy. Naturally, I asked this guy (in Spanish) what the fuck he wanted, and naturally he responded in Portuguese – Sandra came out when she heard our voices and he told her he was ‘security.’ Having lived in New York for quite a long time, I have developed a healthy sense of skepticism about pretty much everything, and I didn’t believe him for a minute.
In any case, we did a little investigating and indeed discovered that our young friend Edison – who, the following night, we found multi-tasking his security duties with offering hits on a joint rolled with something-or-other on the corner near our house – had indeed been hired as a ‘security guard’ for the holiday weekend. Somehow, the owner of our house and Cleusa had both forgotten to mention the small detail that someone might be hovering in the darkness, or that he occasionally climbed the fence to take naps in the hammocks upstairs. Of course, the questions remain: what security could this boy, who couldn’t have been more than 18 or 19, offer while getting high and/or taking a nap upstairs? Sometimes, though, I just don’t ask.
We watched the drama of the sky from various lounge chairs on various beaches, from an off-the-beaten-path reggae bar, and from under the eves of our house while Cleusa dutifully ushered the rains from the patio toward their destination in the ground. We made friends with some of the locals and other travelers, exchanged stories, played relationship counselor to a tormented German guitar player, sang songs, and eventually I made my way back to the mainland -- finding refuge in a quiet place in my head while the swells cast our boat across the waters.