Carving out a friendship

A Memorable Place

September 25, 2005|By Sally Foster | Sally Foster,special to the sun

One of my favorite places in Brazil is Salvador, capital of Bahia state. I first visited this city on Brazil's northeastern coast in 1964, when I was a Peace Corps volunteer, vacationing with friends.

We were charmed by the city, and by the Bahian women wearing billowing white dresses, turbans and long necklaces. I loved the long expanse of beach, stretching from the outskirts of the city to the airport.

I remember looking through a guidebook and finding a list of local artists. One was a sculptor named Mario Cravo. On the day I arranged to meet him, I was walking along the beach and stopped to watch some fishermen pulling in their nets. On an impulse, I bought a large red snapper and took it to Cravo's house. Speaking in Portuguese, Mario's wife, Lucia, invited me for lunch the next day.

Afterward, I wasn't sure whether she had said doze horas (noon) or duas horas (2 p.m.). I decided to arrive at 1 p.m. That way I would be early like an American or late like a Brazilian. I was late, and they had already eaten. Still, a friendship began.

I return to Brazil periodically, and I always try to visit Salvador. On a visit last year, the Cravos' granddaughter, Angelica, offered to be my guide. We set off on the bus. Passing the beaches, I noticed that there weren't any more fishermen with their nets. Tourists and local sunbathers had taken their place.

In the center of the city, we visited Pelourinho, a historic site where slaves were once traded. We walked to the Praca da Se - the public square - and looked at one of Mario's new sculptures.

Browsing around the Mercado Modelo (indoor market), I resisted the temptation to buy anything. I already had a locally made hammock and a musical instrument called a berimbau.

We passed the Bahian women street vendors stirring their African concoctions in kettles filled with golden orange palm oil. They were making vatapa, a paste made of dried shrimp, nuts, coconut milk and palm oil; acaraje, black bean cakes; and caruru, a kind of okra stew.

I poked my head into one of the old churches and saw the ex-votos - typically, carved wooden or ceramic heads or other parts of the body offered to the deities in hopes of a cure for some malady.

The next day, as I was leaving, Mario presented me with a small wooden ex-voto of a head that he had carved.

Even though Salvador has changed with the times, it is still one of my favorite places.

Sally Foster lives in Baltimore.

The Sun welcomes readers' submissions for this page. "My Best Shot" photos should be accompanied by a description of when and where you took the picture. "A Memorable Place" essays should be 500 words or less and accompanied by a photo. "Readers Recommend" items should be 50 words or less; photos are welcome. Submissions of manuscripts and photos cannot be individually acknowledged or returned, and upon submission become the property of The Sun. Write to: Travel Department, The Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore, MD 21278, or e-mail Travel@baltsun.com. Be sure to include your name, address and phone number.

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