We experienced a very odd evening in Olinda, the smaller, liberal and artsy sibling to Recife.
Our hotel receptionist told us that ‘There will be a procession along our street at 9pm tonight, they are putting on a mini Carnival just for tonight.’
We looked across the street at the crowd of people spilling out of a Bodego (essentially a mini off licence), all with cans of beer in their hands, and it clicked: the whole town is on a bender.
At this point a sensible parent would find the address of a restaurant, get it marked on a map by the Hotel and walk straight there. He would figure that a dark, wet Saturday night in a strange town full of wired people is no time to wonder aimlessly with a family whilst pretending that you are a naïve 19 year old backpacker desperate to be absorbed in the ‘real’ Brazil.
But we (I) wanted to explore. Dressed like Mr Bean Goes to Brazil. We tried the first bar and 20 people stopped drinking (which I doubt happens often) and stared at us before informing us that, despite their full drinks, the bar was closed. Closed to us they meant. The second bar serves us. We squat in the corner playing Hearts, an English anachronism.
As we leave there is a man standing in the main doorway. He wears only shorts, no shoes, he has black skin splattered with white paint.
This is not the body paint of well-crafted Carnival performer; this is spray of a jobbing decorator who has struggled to put some white gloss on his mate’s sitting room walls. The man stands with his hands on his hips, the power position, his face full of pain.
We go to leave. I dodge past him and turn to see if Lola is alright. She has already decided to snake out through a different exit.
‘That man was really scary’ she says and I wonder if this was a good move.
Our next moment of glory is to miss the one night of Carnival even though it is outside our door.
We eat and then wait at 9pm for the Carnival to come past. It is a group called Boi da Macuca who perform at the Carnival each February. The most wonderful thing is that Carnival is 9 months away yet tonight’s performance is a rehearsal for next year. Commitment to the cause.
By 9.30pm nothing has happened. By 10pm we have passed out.
By 11.30pm we are semi-conscious as the Carnival passes our hotel. The noise shakes ghosts from the rafters and the rhythms seep into our dreams. Yet because we are useless we are not conscious enough to get out of bed and watch.
Awaking, I think about last night. It was fine to wonder round with the kids, wasn’t it?
Then Lola wakes up.
Hey darling how was your sleep?
Dad, I had a really bad dream. You know that man in the bar? [We both know which man she means]
Well, I dreamt he was chasing me and I couldn’t get away. It was really scary.
Time to review the traveller vs. parenting choices.