Goodbye familiar Carrefour Express supermarkets, goodbye fancy cookies and raviolis imported from Europe, goodbye boring fruits like bananas and watermelon, goodbye decent sunrise time…
“Tem pão de queijo?”
“Pão de queijo? Não…”
“Tem pão francês?”
“…tem pão d’água.”
Now I’m shopping at the Supermercado Nordestão, pão de queijo isn’t a thing around here and “French bread” is “pão d’água” for mysterious regional reasons. Food is tapioca, macaxeira (cassava), carne de sol (shredded beef salted and cured… under the sun) and I can’t identify any of the fruits at the supermarket. The main source of proteins is camarões (shrimp). I swear, shrimps have cult-like status here. Case in point, the only place where you’ll see a guard with a bulletproof jacket is in front of the very popular Camarões Restaurante—I guess things get heated when they run out of shrimps?
Okay, one ubiquitous snack feels very familiar, albeit out of place—beach vendors all sell French crêpes. However, the way they sell it is pretty unique since carts end up half in water. See, that’s the thing with Ponta Negra beach. It’s packed, especially, close to the iconic Morro do Careca sand dune, and there isn’t much sand left when the tide is up, but beachgoers and beach vendors pretend it’s not happening. It’s business as usual. Water reaches tables, chairs, but nobody moves. There’s nowhere to go, anyway.
The jam-packed section of the beach is very entertaining, but you’ll get some peace and quiet as well if you keep on walking. The beach is long, very long, endless almost and I often end up on empty stretches with just giant crabs and a few fishermen for company.
I’m getting used to travelling alone again. My “schedule” is pretty straightforward. Daytime, I’m at the beach, nighttime I go to the supermarket, cook, work, chat with Feng and Mark on Skype and sleep way too late.
It’s hot, very hot, and sunset is early in the Nordeste—around 5:45 p.m. There isn’t much to do at night unless you want to go out for a shrimp or tapioca meal. Unlike many beachside cities, the waterfront is quiet, nightlife is a concentrated around Avenida Engenheiro Roberto Freire (good luck crossing it, there are almost no traffic lights).
Or at the Praça Henrique Carloni, where my apartment building is located. I kid you not, teams are playing basketball at 2 a.m. Brazilians seem to be both morning people and night people—right, they do drink a lot of coffee…
The Nordeste is a unique place in Brazil—to me, it’s puzzling and exotic.
I love it.