Well the Christmas season is in full swing already here in Salvador, and that means the arrival of four things:
1. Tacky Christmas decorations. As you can see from this photo, which was taken in Porto Allegre in 2006, the Christmas decoration scene here leaves much to be desired. The malls are already full of really bad decorations, Christmas carols, Santa Claus and the elves, etc etc. I hate it.
2. Hot weather. Summer is here, which means temperatures of 27-32+ degrees celsius, which is 80-90+ farenheit plus humidity. Now I'm not complaining because it's so nice to be in a warm, sunny place for November-April when it's cold, dark and rainy in Portland. However, it is a bit of a challenge to work in this heat when you have to ride the bus and walk around the city. Nothing like arriving to teach English, trying to look semi-professional and being totally sweaty. But it's great on those days off when you can go to the beach, wear little clothing and swim in the ocean.
3. Panetone. This stuff is the Brazilian version of fruitcake, but it's actually really good. It's kind of like a sweet bread, that's light and dotted with pieces of dried fruit. But it's not the crystally, sickly sweet kind of fruit in US style fruitcakes, it's normal dried raisins, apricots, etc. I really like this stuff. And it's the traditional food of Christmas. A lot of folks give it as gifts. If you have a hankering to try it, I've seen it for sale at Trader Joe's in the US.
4. Crime. Well of course crime is nothing new here and happens all year long. But from the month or so before Christmas through the end of Carnaval, the amount of street crime skyrockets. All the robbers are trying to steal to have money to buy presents and party down at Carnaval. This past Saturday an American friend of mine was waiting for 30 minutes at the bus stop closest to my house. This was at 10:30AM. During this time she saw groups of young guys, all shirtless, come out of the favela entrance that is close to there, walk over, run across the street, rob someone, and then run back into the favela. This happened at least 5 times to 5 different people, which means that every 5 minutes another group came out to rob. I spoke with a police officer about this and he said that this is called "arrastao" (sorry I don't have any accents on my computer, there's supposed to be one over the second "a"). Vilma told me that this phenomenon is new to Salvador, but old hat in Rio and Sao Paulo. It's not a good sign that it's starting to happen here. It makes me really afraid to wait at that bus stop, which unfortunately is the one I wait at every day. I also had an incident happen to me on Friday which I don't really want to go into details about here, but needless to say it was very scary and traumatic. I'm counting the days until after Carnaval when it calms down again.
So enjoy the holiday season wherever you are, and may your days be filled with sun, nice decorations, panetone and peace.