University of Wisconsin–Madison

Life of a Mochileira: On Hostel-Arrest in Salvador

Remember my Life of a Mochilera life lessons series? Well, this time around we’re doing life of a Mochileira, Brazilian life lesson series, because this is no Argentina nem Chile, folks. I gotta say, it was good to have the green backpack on, as much as i regretted the selection of backpack, it was good to be reunited. And my next destination? Salvador, Bahia NOT El Salvador…

So, when i decided to go to Salvador, i was freaking out when the time came because i was still going “sozinha.” I didn’t find an intercambista nem brasileiro to accompany me, so my voice in my head was like, “no one likes you that’s why you’re going alone” and then to top that off, another voice was like “you’re gonna die in Salvador, it so ‘dangerous’” and i was freaking out to say the least.

What do Catholics do when they freak out? Well, let’s just say i taped a Bible passage to my journal “perfect love drives out fear” and kept staring at it with big eyes to avoid any negative thoughts about going to Salvador the night before…

And i just want to thank those who tried helping me find hospedagem in Salvador, and to those who almost hosted me. Unfortunately, because of the police strike (i’m getting to that), i wasn’t able to conseguir, but i still had a great time at Galeria 13, the hostel i stayed at, which i highly recommend if you ever go to Salvador.

The hostel i stayed at was the bomb, let me tell you. It had free breakfast, happy hour (free caiparinhas from 5:15pm to 6:15pm) and the staff was great. Além disso, they offered a cab service, which i took advantage of because i was arriving at midnight.

When i got off the plane, i immediately tried spotting my cab driver who should have been holding a sign with my name on it. Infelizmente, he was hiding, so i was walking around back and forth (felt like everyone was staring at me) and suddenly i barely saw my name on a paper a guy was turning over in a stack of papers. I poked him on the shoulder and said “sou eu!” (that’s me!) and he gave a little smile to a friend as if i had been hiding from him, which, you know, is ironic when he was the one hiding my name.

Anyway we get in the taxi, and the second we start driving he says, i don’t wanna scare you, but there’s a police strike right now, ou seja, THERE IS NO POLICE. And i’m like, say whaaaaaaaat? Remember my Murphy’s Law post? Need i say more.

But i told myself, Monica, cool it, it can’t be that bad. Here’s an inside scoop of the police strike in Salvador:

Day one, i get up and start my first mission. My first mission? Look for a lock (because as luck would have it, i lost my other one, and what better time to lose a lock?). The dono of the hostel recommended a location, but warned me to go in and go out, so i thought, ok forget the lock. Instead, i settled for a trip to the drogaria for some soap. At the drogstore, I talked to some brasileiras about the police strike, and they just look at me with these eyes and say, you need to go home! You need to go back to your hostel, it’s too dangerous for you out here. And i thought….oh boy!

But, luckily, on my way back, i ran into some people from the hostel who were about to explore Pelourinho, which is a UNESCO site and location of my hostel!!! We all half-heartedly laughed at the numerous warnings we got from locals to remain on hostel arrest. Well, despite that, we decided to continue venturing out into the wild. And by venturing out, i mean visit some churches like the golden Church!!!!

In the eighteenth century, the Portuguese ordered slaves to build this Church in honor of Saint Francis, and put TONS of gold in the decorations. I’m talking, everywhere except for two wooden paneled arcs that had paintings. For being in honor of Saint Francis of Assisi, it’s quite ironic, because he is known for poverty, however it’s still breathtaking. It was like a reminder of heaven. My take is that the gold represents Saint Francis’s reward of riqueza eterna for his extreme witness to poverty on earth. Side note: i went to Easter Mass in the gold church!!!!! Unfortunately no foto because we couldn’t use our cameras/my lendt camera was not working/no police around, so someone could have easily snagged it.

Anywho, we decided to kick it back at the hostel after seeing Mercado Modelo because locals kept saying GO HOME, you know Badgers, like when were told not to have Mifflin? Finally, we caved and were somewhat on hostel arrest. The owner kindly kept his bar open till 8pm, so we could eat after happy hour. He even escorted us to the bar around the corner with his dogs and kept watch while we ate-it was quite the experience. I mean, how often do you get to go out to eat while your hostel owner is on watch shooing sketchy people away when no police are around to help in case something does happen? Deus gave me the graces to eat calmly, i mean, really, i wasn’t freaking out.

Myself and fellow Hostel captives after our risky dinner
Myself and fellow Hostel captives after our risky dinner

Then the next day, myself  and some other peeps decided to flee Salvador for the day and retreat to Ilha Itaparica. It was wonderful, and when we came back, the police strike over!

But…then the next day at night, apparently the police strike started again…It was like, really???? And even the brasileiros i was trying to meet up with either fled the city or were locking themselves in their homes. The second time it happened though, it wasn’t as bad because at least 30% of the police was out and the rest was on watch by the military. That’s right, not the polícia militar, but the militar mesmo. What was really funny, was on Sunday, my friend and i noticed them taking pictures as if they were tourists as well, because, how often are you going to be in Salvador, rrrright?

Positive result of police strikes in a foreign place: forms camaraderie among travelers
Positive result of police strikes in a foreign place: forms camaraderie among travelers

Photo Creds go to fellow American, Darlene!