November 5, 2007 / 2 Comments
(*Bohn JEE-yah, meaning “Good Day” in Portuguese)
My anticipations for Brazil have always been high. Ever since I was a little girl, I can remember catching my first glimpse of the country and her beautiful women in a spread in Allure Magazine. From then on I had always secretly wished that I had been born with the beauty of a Brazilian, and now, as an adult, I realize that the Brazilians and I are related in a much more profound level.
My first night I arrive, and I am overjoyed and shaking with anticipation. I am actually here, visiting the land of my childhood dreams! And on my birthday, of all things! I whisk through the corridor of long arching palm trees in the small car that Jean-Paul, the owner of the bed and breakfast of which I will be staying, is driving. It is deliciously warm, and I welcome the calm heat through my sweatsuit that had only hours before shielded me from the brisk New York autumn air. As we drive along, the soft breeze soothes my mind and cools my body, and I luxuriate in the fragrant air. Brasil.
We arrive at the pousada in Santo Antonio and Jean Paul leads me to my room where I unwind and thank God for getting me there in one piece. The room is wonderfully simplistic with its soft blue linens and nautically-inspired pillow cases. Adjacent to my bed are a set of French doors that lead out to an open area with a hammock. A hammock! I look up, and to my pleasant surprise I could see the rooftop of the adjacent house, and the deep, black, heavenly sky. That night I truly slept under the stars.
I wake up, well rested and a little bit frantic. What time is it?? How long have I slept? So much to do!!! I unroll myself from the hammock and rush to the doorless bathroom/shower and prepare myself for the day. I slip on a colorful bikini, a soft, simple white dress, a straw hat, and a beach bag loaded with my materials for the day. I would soon learn that less is more, and less–is the Brazilian way!
Down the winding stairs from my room I walk, hungrily awaiting breakfast and positive that I had missed the meal. I was shocked to realize that it was only 10 in the morning! I could have sworn it was much later because I remember waking up to the light and dozing back to sleep. What I learned later was that the sun rose a little after 5 o’clock-which would explain my body’s ‘early’ rise.
As I descend, I smell the aroma of deeply roasted coffee and the soft, sweet smell of vanilla and fruit. Zelima, Jean-Paul’s wife, and hostess, welcomes me to breakfast. As I sit at the table my eyes well with tears of joy. Before me lies a buffet of fresh fruits in every color of the rainbow-succulent, fully ripened mango slices, bananas, pineapples, wild melons, and other exotic fruits; a guava tarte; a raisin loaf; hot and crusty bread buns; passionfruit marmalade; sweet plantains; fresh yogurt and hearty granola; cold cuts and cheese, and miniature french toasts sprinkled with brown sugar. I sit there in profound happiness as the sun blesses the table with an incredible blazing light that soars over the rocky hills, past the palm tree leaves, through the open windows, and into my soul. I am in paradise.
They say that Bahia is the land of happiness. I couldn’t have named it better. My day, although simplistic, took me on a journey via foot from the tranquil yet lively working class neighborhood of Santo Antonio, down the hills to the storied Pelhourino, inside the lesser-traveled roads leading to Barroquina, through Comercio, and finally, gloriously, to Barra, where I began my beach sampling. I traveled down Oceania Avenue, past the gently imposing lighthouse, while watching capoeristas flaunt their agile, muscled bodies in the sand. The sea is a blue as ever, and the sun envelopes me with the intensity of a passionate lover. How could I be sad?
I thoroughly soak in the day, tasting sweet and savory treats along the oceanfront from the various vendors and on the beach. I half expected to smell the heavy salty ocean air that I had become so accustomed to as a child growing up along the Babylon beaches of Long Island. But the smell was faint, and I settled on the sand, my heavy beach bag in hand. Funny, but I was the only one with a huge bag–my sunscreen, my bottled water, my extra towel, a book to read, my straw hat, some snacks. As I looked around at the carefree Brazilians carrying nothing more than a small towel and change purse, I thought to myself How silly of me. Was this bag really necessary? Everywhere I looked there were beach vendors walking aroung selling 50 cent bottles of sunscreen, 1 real bottles of water, and basically anything else I needed for a day at the beach. From then on, I resolved to bring only the barest of necessities. Besides, it was annoying having to constanly worry about my bag every time I got up!
After settling myself, and securing my wallet discreetly on my person, I timidly ventured off to the water. This would be my first beach experience this year. Paris was cold this summer, and I barely made it back home to Long Island, so I really missed out on the sun and fun. I took off my airy white sun dress, and felt the delicious warmth of the sun against my body. I momentarily became aware of the flaws on my less-than perfect body. But as I looked around, I saw beautiful women–beautiful Black Brazilian women in all shapes and sizes flaunting their glorious ample-sized frames in tiny bikinis. And I saw their men beside them, loving them and adoring their bodies. It was then and there that I realized that I was truly a beautiful being regardless of what the warped magazines and television shows at home dictated. I was a Negra bonita.