On Tuesday we climb the bridge. The views are stunning and we take photographs in both directions. Not with cameras. No one has cameras. Then we walk up a series of unshaded winding streets until we reach the port house. We try port of three different colours; white, reddish-brown and deep, dark purple. The last tastes like blackberries and all are fortified and fortifying.
After, we go out into the garden to find the peacock we have heard screech. His tail is down but his crest is tall and proud. We see the peahen too and the three peachicks. Their crests are proud too, though much much smaller.
On Wednesday we go to a restaurant. Hey, says a waiter after we sit down, Remember me? I served you caipirinhas.
Yes, says F, I thought I recognised you.
He is from the bar in the park where we read our books. He was being trained by another bartender who said This is how it’s done boys in English while shaking a drink and didn’t feel like an encouraging educational presence. Sure enough, when it came to the apprentice’s turn, he had forgotten to muddle the limes and was embarrassed.
I’m the guy that forgot to squash the limes, he says.
F reassures him. They both speak the international language of hospitality.
On Thursday the city is ramping up for a festival and we’re sat on its busiest corner. Motorists, cyclists, van men, moped riders, pedestrians and canines are all united by their total lack of care for their own safety or the safety of others.
We eat bruschetta and bear witness to an unending battle of wills in this tight yet sunny chicane. Drivers are highly skilled in manoeuvring but use their powers for evil. The humans flaunt their perceived immortality. No harm comes to the dogs.
On Friday it is São João – the festival of John the Baptist – and the streets have filled with people and smoke. Shirtless men of all ages grill sardines. Red and green peppers blister on hot coals. Whole pigs rotate on a spit.
Revellers wield colourful plastic hammers that they use to bop passersby on the head. And in this game, no one is safe, which is to say, you are not safe from anyone. The old, the young – they will all bop you. Some are better than others at regulating the gentleness of their bops, but regardless they are Salome and you are John the Baptist and they desire your head. As a reprieve, a man wipes lavender across my face.
Every corner is selling pork rolls and booze that does not need to be drunk within a designated area. This is festival as transformation. The whole city is eating pork and drinking caipirinhas and bopping without borders. The drumming rages till 4am.
A version of this post was sent by email on the 28th June 2017 as part of Internet Care Package.
ICP is a weekly email that includes memoir-ish snippets like the one above, links to great articles and dog memes. This blog is a select archive of those emails. Subscribe to get them right in your inbox.