People said:  Salvador has a heavy Afro-Brazilian influence.

I heard:  Salvador is full of hot black dudes.

I went through AirBnB.com for my accommodations in Salvador and stayed with a very cool woman named Liliana who lives in a sweet little apartment in a residential neighborhood near the beach.  Lili retired from her advertising career at 50, and spends her time with her friends, exercising, relaxing, and being an extremely kind host.  

The first thing to do upon arrival in Salvador, I was told, is to go to the beach and eat street food.   The beach was perfect: a warm breeze, calm water, top rate people watching, and delicious street food.   I watched the sun set behind men bouncing soccer balls off their heads and reflecting golden diminishing light off their genetic perfection.

 

On my walk home along the beach a man in his late 50s jogged by me, then turned around and stopped right in front of my face. He was speaking enthusiastically in Portuguese, then in Spanish.  

This is what he said:

"What you're seeing here on this coast is beautiful, sure, but it's even more beautiful further down the coast near my house.  I live in a beautiful home on the coast.  I have a car here and I could show you.  Would you like to go in my car to see the beautiful view from my house?"

 

I was walking down the street amongst hundreds of people.

He was jogging.

We're strangers.

 

With a grin I said no thank you and he jogged on unaffected. 

I laughed the whole way home talking to myself, 'Do I wanna get in your car to see the view from your house? Ya, dude.  That sounds gorgeous.  Where'd ya park?"

 

That night Lili and her friends and I went next door for dinner: a delicious outdoor cafĂ© strewn along the parking lot of a Shell gas station.  I ate meat and cheese on sticks, drank some beers, and sat knee to bumper with people filling their tanks.

 

The next morning I was in no hurry to see Salvador and took my time getting out of the house.  Rio is a tough act to follow. 

Lili and I were walking to lunch when a man hung out of his car window to his waist and aggressively cat called me while he was driving.

I asked Lili what the fuck was going on with the dudes in this town and the mystery was solved.

Apparently men chasing women is the sport in Salvador.   It's a game everyone participates in and enjoys whether you're the hunted or the hunter.  

I was told to get into it.

 

After a delicious lunch with Lili and her wonderfully smart friends, I parted ways and headed to the oldest part of the city called Pelhorino: the beautiful, old, cobblestoned, colorful, colonial, really touristy part of the city.

I walked up on a group of guys doing capoireta, the Brazilian martial art, and the drummer caught my eye immediately.   We exchanged a smile, he stopped drumming and approached me.

Robinson is a 6'2" black, tattooed, lean, strong, drummer, surfer, capoireta guy.  (!!!)  He spoke as much English as I spoke Portuguese and we somehow communicated all day in Spanish.

 

Robinson showed me around the old city, eventually holding my hand, then kissing me, then literally parading me around the town like I was his new white fleshy toy.  We had drinks, then some food, then smoked a little pot.  This combination turned Robinson into an extremely annoying man-gone-octopus.  I made the most of it, listened to a bunch of live music, and eventually told him I was heading home and needed a taxi. 

No problem, he assured me, he'd bring me to a taxi.  

One dark alley after another soon had us not at a taxi stand, but standing under a neon sign advertising in three different languages: Love Motel by the Hour.

He held my hand and walked me into the lobby.

I pulled away.

He insisted. 

We exchanged words.  J

I eventually found my own cab, which he immediately jumped in with me, but soon  got the message and I drove away without him.  It's important to note that he was never aggressive and I never felt in danger.

On my way home, I remembered something I asked him earlier that day and laughed at myself for spending the day with him.  When I met him I pointed to the ring on his left ring finger, 'Married?" I asked him.  No, he assured me, he wore that ring--the undisputed sign of marriage in every corner of the world-- to give him strength while drumming.

Whoops.

 

I spent sunrise during my last full day in Salvador doing yoga on the beach, swimming in the warm ocean water, and sucking water through a straw from a coconut.   I was ready to leave.

I napped, I wrote, I packed my bags early, I went to lunch at the mall with Lili and her friend.  Later, she graciously took me to the local fruit and vegetable market so we could take some photographs.  Lili truly did everything she could to make me feel comfortable and welcome and I deeply appreciated everything she did for me.

That evening we smoked a joint and washed delicious African food down with two large beers.   She's a gem.

On our way home we walked by a hostel on the beach crowded with travelers from all over the world having a great time, making friends, and speaking many languages.  My heart sank.  I obviously enjoyed staying with Lili and I loved living the life of a regular Salvadorian woman for a few days, but I wondered if I made the right decision by not staying in a hotel.  Maybe I would have enjoyed Salvador more if I met some people doing the same things I was doing. 

Who's to know, I guess.  I do know that Lili was incredibly gracious and her attitude and lifestyle has deeply inspired me.

I'm happy to call her a friend.

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