The moment I succumbed to life in the suburbs for the duration of our two-year stay, my husband’s employers offered us an apartment in the middle of Salvador. We promptly packed our twelve suitcases and moved to Barra, a neighborhood on the peninsula between the Bay of All Saints and the Atlantic Ocean. Again, the steep hills and winding sidewalks dotted by sprawling almond trees evoked in me an eerie familiarity. The main bedroom’s built-in wooden closet smelled musty, old-world, and opening its doors never failed to conjure up my grandmother.
The city was an intense place, beautiful and ugly, joyful and harrowing, majestic and crumbling. Not only did we have an array of beaches within a few blocks of our building, we had museums, forts, the historic center, malls, fruit stands, supermarkets, hospitals, theatres, art galleries, bars. Our windows gave onto an amphitheater of vegetation, sky, ancient houses, high rises. Instead of squirrels, tiny monkeys navigated the telephone wires, diving into nearby mango trees. The neighborhood seemed perpetually tuned to a soccer match. Whenever the local team scored, a thunderous and collective “Gol!” surged from every direction. Soft guitars from surrounding botecos, small bars, wafted up to...
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