Saturday, February 9, 2008

Carnaval, Recife/Olinda (Feb 1-5 2008)

When people think Brasil, people tend to think Carnaval (myself included). I'm not quite sure what exactly I expected, but it wasn't what I got...

Ben and I tried to hitch up to Recife from Salvador, but gave up after several hot hours on the side of the road and got a bus. Good decision.

We got to Recife at 2.30am on Thursday night and went to Barbara's house. Friday we went to Boa Viagem, met Liz, then in the evening went to Recife Antigo, saw Marisa Monte. Umm...way way way way wayyyyyy too many people for me. Recife and Olinda, Salvador, and Rio de Janeiro are considered to have the best Carnavals in Brasil, and me, following my silly ways of having to experience everything once, decided to go to Recife and Olinda. Which, of course, several million other people have the same idea of doing, both Brasilians and foreigners.

The next several days were spent with afternoons in Olinda, nights in Recife Antigo, a day escaping at the beach in Boa Viagem, and before I knew it the party was over.

The Couchsurfing house in Recife was jampacked with over 40 people, and of course in a group situation that size you can't get to know everyone but instead you select the few that become your group. So I social-butterflied between that house, a bit with Barbara's group, then the Ana Luiza goup, and Roos, the crazy Dutch girl who lives in Madrid, became a regular face. Then, I got to catch up with Ben at the end which was great.

I have to admit the first two days I basically hated Carnaval. Frevo, the music which characterizes Carnaval in Pernambuco, the northeast of Brasil, is a spastic, repetitive, multi-instrumental concoction. I admit I enjoy it in small hour or two at a time perhaps...ok, more like 10 minutes.

But then stuff started happening. The acquaintances became familiar faces, we found alternative stages, I was able to get up on balconies rather than being at street level being pushed around with beer spilling all over me...and of course that changed my opinion. A day escaping at the beach was also a very welcome relief.

So Carnaval in Olinda must be amazing for Brasilians, a week nonstop of free entertainment, big name musicians, blocos playing all the most familiar and loved music, just one enormous party. What I did love in Olinda was how people dressed up in costumes, some quite simple, and some really creative. There was a group of people, each one was a french fry, and they were enveloped in a big red box. And so much more...

What I didn't like was the total meat-market feel. Beautiful people (and some definitely not-so-beautiful) all showing as much skin as possible, all looking everyone up and down, keeping track (or losing count) of how many people they could give beijos to. LOTS and lots of kissing going on. Like some people would just kiss 20 different people in a row. Not my scene at all, never has been and I doubt it ever will be. It's good to see and experience different cultures, though, right?

The overall conclusion is that I'm glad I decided to go, I was in good company, and I feel that Brasilians really know how to party. But, I doubt I'll ever be going back to Carnaval in Brasil, and if I for some reason happen to be in Brasil during Carnaval, I'll much more likely to be found in the jungle or at some deserted beach. To each his own.

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