"Posso?" I asked as I showed my camera to the boy leading his cow across the highway. He nodded, and so I captured this photo of him:
I turned to climb back into the car with Roberto, but another boy stopped me with his protests. He wanted HIS photo taken too! Happy to oblige, I captured this image of him, his friends, and their pet cows:
"Will you be selling your cows at market soon?" Roberto called out to them.
"Not this year, but next" the boys replied.
When he was a child growing up in the countryside around Salvador, Roberto raised and sold cows to earn money also. As the two of us drove through the tobacco and sugarcane fields, he told me that his father used to bring home all sorts of unique animals--like armadillo, snake, and crocodile--for the family to eat.
"How did you like them?" I asked.
"I prefer the meat I eat now."
Roberto's father was a traveling man, and had a wife ("concubines" Roberto called them) and children in several of the small towns of the Reconcavo, the rural area surrounding Salvador's All Saints Bay. The arrangement worked okay for Roberto's father until several of the women moved into Salvador and learned of each others' existence. Roberto is not sure, but believes he has about 40 siblings. He has close relationships only with the seven siblings that were borne by his own mother.
As we drove along, we listened to the music of Jau Peri, and Roberto explained the clever plays on words contained in the lyrics. One song about the favelas, or slums where Brazil's poor live, declared that although they are built on the tops of the hills, they do not scrape the sky as do the shiny modern office buildings nearby.
We enjoyed chatting about numerous topics. He warned me to be sure to wear sunscreen, explaining that my white skin is due to the fact that I don't have enough melanin. But that's not a problem. "Brazilians find freckles--little clumps of melanin on white people--to be very charming" he explained.
Earlier in the day, when we arrived at the street market in Santo Amaro, Roberto taught me to say "Posso?" to ask permission before taking a photo.
At that point, we were still inside the car, insulated from the sensory overload I often experience in street markets outside my native country. We found a place to park the car, and walked along the cobblestone streets, past the pastel colored buildings to make our way to the market.
Something about the market made me feel a little timid. It could have been all the men blowing kisses at me, or maybe it was the people saying things to me that I didn't understand ("They're saying you're a beautiful girl" Roberto would say occasionally...I'm not sure what else they said...Roberto kindly didn't translate everything!). Or possibly I felt timid because of the sight and smell of muddy, live crabs for sale.
Or seeing meat for sale in the open-air market:
I used my new word to ask permission to take photos of several people. Some didn't want to have their photos taken; others were okay with it, but didn't feel like smiling.
Others kindly held a pleasant expression for the photo:
And others smiled for me:
Whatever the reason for me being a little timid, I was very thankful to be there with Roberto, who guided me through and pointed out many of the interesting things for sale, like these cashew fruits:
I never knew cashews grew on trees! The nuts are inside the little tan stems, and must be roasted or else they will give you a chemical burn. You can eat the pulpy yellow/red fruit, or make a delicious juice of it.
I liked seeing the many other types of beautiful fruits and nuts:
Together we watched a man make freshly squeezed sugar cane juice:
Eventually, we moved on to see the towns of Cachoiera and Sao Felix, which sit across the Paraguaçu river from each other.
Once, they were very important because of their strategic location along the route where goods were shipped by boat from the countryside into Salvador. Once roads were built into Salvador, the two towns became less important, but are still very beautiful...even if they are crumbling in a few places.
Here, Roberto is showing me the high water mark on the buildings, which flooded frequently until a dam was constructed further upstream.
Because of the floods, the jails in those towns were known as some of the worst places to be incarcerated; the cells sometimes had a foot or two of water in them! The jail was on the bottom floor of the white municipal building you see in this photo:
The towns have very cute churches, like this one with bright red steps and blue accents:
Roberto and I even ate our lunch at a church...actually, at this former monastery turned into a pousada and restaurant...the only monastery I've ever known to have a swimming pool!
Along the way, Roberto said hello to some of his friends
And we made new friends, like this street vendor:
And this boy hauling sugar cane in his wheelbarrow:
It was a good day in the countryside with Roberto.