Music



Second voyage à Salvador de Bahia

En Février 2012, Françoise me conduit à l’aéroport pour mon second voyage à Salvador de Bahia sous entendu « Bahia de todos os santos » la baie de tous les saints (et non pas la baie de tous les seins… c’est plutôt à Rio ça, non?).

J’ai consulté plusieurs médecins pour essayer de résoudre des problèmes de santé aux cervicales. Je l’ai fait dans l’espoir d’être guéri avant mon voyage et avant une période professionnelle intense marquant la moitié de ma thèse. En embarquant dans l’avion ce samedi soir mon état d’esprit est sans conviction ni ambition. Ma « coupe » est plus vide que pleine et je suis surtout prêt à profiter de l’instant présent et à recevoir ses cadeaux simples. En particulier les rencontres avec autrui.

Mon vol n’est pas direct. Mon premier vol de Paris à Sao Paolo se passe agréablement à côté d’un Chilien et de son épouse brésilienne qui vivent à Porto de Alégre dans le sud du Brésil. Mes premiers mots sont échangés en portugais durant ce vol. Mon second vol m’amène à Brasilia, dans les terres. La ville est administrative et ses rues sont quadrillées comme un plateau d’échecs. Durant ce vol, je fais la connaissance d’André et de Manu qui vivent à Brasilia. Ils sont ingénieurs et reviennent d’un voyage professionnel au Japon. Je m’amuse bêtement à l’idée de réunir ces deux cultures (en imaginant un japonais qui danse la samba…). André et Manu seront très amicaux, drôles et m’apprenderont quelques mots de portugais. Je me rends compte que ma capacité à comprendre les autres (en étant aidé du contexte) est meilleure que ma capacité à me faire comprendre, mais je me rappelle aussi de l’importance de la communication non verbale. Ce second vol est national et l’ambiance y est chaleureuse, les passagers discutent entre eux naturellement. Le dernier vol m’emmène de Brasilia à Salvador de Bahia en compagnie d’un jeune Brésilien peu bavard, surement pour préserver ses forces et profiter du carnaval dans lequel nous débarquons, enfin !

Je vais rejoindre mon premier contact, Véronica, qui m’attend devant le McDonald’s du quartier Rio de Vermelho. Elle craint que les rues soient impraticables à cause du carnaval et m’invite à laisser mes affaires chez sa mère qui habite ce quartier. Puis nous allons à pied, sous une averse et en longeant le bord de mer, jusqu’à l’appartement qu’elle me loue durant la première semaine de mon séjour ; j’y rencontre Antoine, un Canadien avec qui je partage l’appartement ; il joue de la mandoline, fait du surf, fume le cigare et fait de la recherche scientifique. Le soir même de mon arrivée nous allons rejoindre ses amis au carnaval à Ondina. Ce genre de carnaval consiste en une série de discothèques ambulantes que chacun peut choisir de suivre pour danser jusqu’au bout de la nuit ou de ses forces. Je regrette de ne pas avoir été dans le quartier du carnaval traditionnel (avec les costumes), peut-être une prochaine fois ! Ce sera néanmoins très sympathique de me laisser aller dans la liesse et le défoulement. Le carnaval, c’est un peu comme dans la chanson du bal masqué : « embrassez qui vous voudrez ». Si quelqu’un te regarde intensément, il est commun d’aller l’embrasser et de continuer sa route en dansant. Une troupe de jeunes hommes déguisés nommés les filles de Gandhi sont des spécialistes de cette « tradition ». Ils portent à leur cou des dizaines de colliers et pour ne pas être juste des voleurs de baisers, ils cèdent un collier à chaque baiser échangé. Pour ma part, je me souviens du premier regard univoque qu’une jolie fille m’a lancé, cela m’a bien fait rentrer dans l’ambiance même si je n’en ai pas profité. À la fin du carnaval les nombreux contacts entre individus ne sont pas sans conséquences sur la transmission de maladies. Chaque année, une petite épidémie de grippe apparaît. La coutume est de nommer la grippe d’après le nom de la meilleure chanson du carnaval! Pour de nombreux Brésiliens, le carnaval est un désagrément et l’occasion de partir en vacances loin du tumulte des villes. Comme mon appartement était situé au bord d’une des voies principales de passage des chars du carnaval, j’ai pu comprendre pourquoi on pouvait préférer s’exiler!

 Une fois mon arrivée célébrée, des questions de première nécessité me viennent à l’esprit : où acheter à manger ? Comment communiquer avec mes contacts ? Ces petites questions du quotidien provoquent chez moi une dynamique extraordinaire dans cette ville brésilienne. C’est la redécouverte tel Robinson isolé sur son île. Je ne suis pas isolé physiquement mais je le suis verbalement, culturellement voir philosophiquement. Mais humainement je ne me sens pas seul car a priori j’ai confiance en l’autre. Je fais une course conviviale dans un petit supermarché et j’échange quelques mots de Brésiliens pour trouver la confiture à la fraise. Je n’ai pas de connexion Internet dans mon logement mais la voisine, qui parle un peu français, me prête son ordinateur un moment. Finalement, pour contacter mes connaissances à Salvador, j’achète une carte téléphonique et je finis par trouver un cybercafé à 10 minutes de marche. La carte téléphonique coûte environ 10 Real (trois euros) pour 80 minutes vers les fixes ou 10 minutes vers les portables. Et c’est le prix touristique! Aller téléphoner à la nuit tombée n’est pas très rassurant mais ajoute un peu de piment au quotidien…

 L’avant-dernier jour du carnaval, je me balade seul dans les rues bondées, et, pour fuir l’effervescence de la fête je vais prendre un bain de nuit sur la plage de Porto de barra qui est en face de l’hôtel où j’avais passé mon premier séjour à Salvador. Par crainte du vol de mes affaires laissées sur la plage, je me baigne avec un Tupperware qui contient mon argent et mes clés et je le place dans mon caleçon ; la bosse formée par cette bouée plutôt mal placée pourrait donner des idées à certains… L’eau est chaude comme dans un bain et je suis presque seul. À plusieurs reprises j’inspecte la plage comme un paranoïaque et je suspecte plusieurs individus de s’intéresser à mes affaires. Je n’aurais pas vraiment profité de l’instant présent durant cette baignade! Je retourne à mon « trésor » alors que deux individus s’approchent de moi. Un d’eux me demande s’ils peuvent s’asseoir et nous commençons à discuter. Je me rends bien compte qu’ils sont amicaux. L’un d’eux est curieux et bavard alors que l’autre est distant. Le premier est surpris de voir un touriste préfèrer nager seul plutôt que de s’ennivrer du carnaval. Il me pose une série de questions telles que : purquoi suis je ici? Comment est-ce que les Français considèrent le Brésil ? Un pays développé ou non ? Le second ne participe pas à la conversation en anglais mais lorsque je parle des favella de Salvador, il s’exclame : « il n’y a pas de favella à Salvador de Bahia, ce terme est réservé aux bidonvilles de Rio de Janeiro. À Salvador, c’est la périférià. »

 Ce même soir, en rentrant à l’appartement, je poursuis l’imprévu : dans une rue bondée du carnaval, j’aperçois un individu au visage différent des autres. Un marchand ambulant assis dans la rue que l’on prendrait pour un sans abris à Paris. Il est édenté. Il vend de l’artisanat, des bijoux qu’il fabrique lui-même. Son apparence me fait penser à un Européen, il est en fait Argentin et remonte la côte brésilienne vers le nord. Je lui propose une brochette de poulet. Il accepte à condition qu’elle soit très cuite et me remercie avec un sourire béant.

Trois jours après mon arrivée, c’est le dernier jour du carnaval et je vais courir dans les rues bondées jusqu’au phare de Barra. Ce phare marque l’endroit où les premiers colons portugais s’installèrent. Je rejoins en courant un des blocos du carnaval et les nombreux Brésiliens qui l’entourent en cette fin de matinée ensoleillée. L’ambiance est familiale et détendue contrairement aux soirées plus arrosées. Je monte en haut d’une estrade pour apprécier le moment. J ‘inspire… J’expire… Je suis dans le présent. Je redescends et rentre dans la danse, tournant au milieu de tous, sans véhémence ni préjugés. Ce qui m’a marqué à ce moment-là c’est l’absence de volonté d’impressionner autrui, une joie simple du présent qui n’attend rien de l’autre mais qui le respecte. Un ensemble d’individus avançant joyeusenment chacun à sa manière avec considération pour son prochain. Un moment fort.

 Parmi les personnes rencontrées à Salvador, il y a David que j’avais déjà rencontré lors de mon premier voyage grâce au site Internet CouchSurfing. David est suisse et vit au Brésil depuis plusieurs années en tant que traducteur Franco Brésilien. Par l’intermédiaire du site CouchSurfing, je rencontrerai d’autres personnes locales et internationales lors d’une soirée dans un bar. C’est agréable de voyager sur un autre continent et d’y retrouver un groupe amical et ouvert d’esprit.

J’ai visité le zoo de la ville qui est gratuit et où j’ai pu apprécié différentes espèces de perroquets ara, des hippopotames et une panthère plutôt discrète, entre autres. L’emplacement du zoo était marqué sur la carte touristique mais dans les rues, le zoo n’était pas indiqué. L’organisation des infrastructures telles que nous la connaissons en France se retrouve à Salvador dans les quelques rues touristiques du centre mais dès que l’on s’en éloigne, les choses sont un peu plus chaotiques, du moins pour moi, européen. J’ai observé que les rues étaient moins propre qu’en France (je ne parle pas de la rue des Poissonniers dans le 18ème un jour de marché). Cependant, les individus à Salvador sont plus rayonnants qu’à Paris! Est-ce que c’est seulement parce que leur peau plus foncée conserve mieux le soleil que la notre? Je ne saurais en répondre!

Pour la seconde partie de mon séjour à Salvador, je serai hébergé gratuitement chez l’ami de Cacao (une amie de mon parrain qui vit en France) et qui m’avait aussi mis en contact avec Veronica. Ce logement se situe dans le quartier résidentiel nommé Rio de Vermelho du nom du fleuve qui, jadis de par les massacres perpétués sur ses rives, se mit à rougir. Le propriétaire du logement, Antonio, y avait entassé un tas d’affaires et à mon arrivée, c’est le grand ménage! Comme le montre les photos, c’est un grand appartement. À quelques arbres près j’ai vu sur la mer. En guise de frigidaire, une machine Coca-Cola et mon fourneau est digne de celui d’un grand restaurant. Antonio est propriétaire de plusieurs bars restaurant à Salvador… Ce logement a tout de même quelques inconvénients: la chasse d’eau ne fonctionne pas et les moustiques y sont exubérants. Je leur déclare la guerre et les chasserai chaque jour à l’aide d’une bombe insecticide. Pour le problème de chasse d’eau… eh bien, « heureusement », il y avait un restaurant McDonald’s à quelques minutes de l’appartement; j’ai utilisé ses toilettes pour les gros besoins! (Je leur ai tout de même acheté un jus de fruits à la fin…).

Grâce à une de mes amies de Paris, je rencontre Rodrigo. Il Habite à Salvador mais est originaire de Sao Paulo où la majorité des habitants sont blancs. Il est ingénieur et parle bien français depuis un séjour à Paris. Il me propose de passer une journée avec lui à la plage. Un samedi matin, nous partons en voiture après un faux départ pour retourner chercher son permis de conduire. Arrivés à la plage, deux amies de Rodrigo, Ionie et Kelly, nous attendent. La première est médecin et la seconde travaille dans l’administration. Nous faisons connaissance autour d’un verre au bord de la plage et nous rigolons bien notamment grâce à mon livre de poche pour apprendre le portugais. Elles s’amusent à prononcer des phrases en français. Pour le déjeuner nous allons dans un restaurant près d’un étang et quand Ionie voit le plat arriver, elle interpelle tout de suite la serveuse parce qu’il n’y a pas assez à manger pour tous! Nous avons finalement changé les plats et en attendant, je m’entraîne à jongler au bord de l’eau. Nous visitons une autre plage ou il y a un petit lagon avec des tables dans l’eau pour prendre un verre. Je leur dis en rigolant que je ne veux pas y aller parce qu’il peut y avoir des parasites dans l’eau stagnante! La médecin rigole. Nous rentrons à Salvador et de la voiture, Rodrigo me parle du village d’Arembepe. Autrefois, un authentique village de hippies et d’ individus qui voulaient vivre en dehors de la « socièté ». Un lieu fréquenté notamment par des artistes célèbres telle que janis Joplin. Aujourd’hui le site est ouvert à la construction touristique et le village hippie est à l’abandon…

Le lendemain, la seconde opportunité de découvrir les plages m’est offerte par Fedérico qui est un de mes collègues de travail (un épidémiologiste de terrain). Nous partons le dimanche matin sur une autre plage de la côte avec le petit ami de Federico et un de ses amis américains en visite à Salvador. Ce dernier a payé cher sa visite car lors sa première journée de carnaval, il est rentré chez lui les poches vides sans son portefeuille et sans son appareil photo… Federico nous emmene dans un joli village nommé Praia do Forte. C’est un ancien village de pêcheur qui a été modernisé pour les touristes en essayant de respecter la communauté locale. Il y a là bas un centre de protection des tortues de mer qui reviennent chaque année pondre leurs oeufs sur la plage. Après la visite de ce centre, nous sommes allés dans des bassins naturels d’eau de mer entourée de rochers qui sont à l’abri des vagues et qui permettent à l’eau stagnante de se réchauffer. Avant de parti, nous marchons dans le village. En voyant Federico et son petit ami garder leur distance, je réalise que l’homosexualité, même au Brésil, n’est pas acceptée socialement… Avant de retourner à Salvador, une surprise! Je tombe sur l’Argentin qui vendait des bijoux dans une rue bondée du carnaval et à qui j’avais donné une brochette de poulet. Il remonte la côte Nord avec quelques amis itinérants et quelques instruments de musique. Il nous propose amicalement de rester ce soir pour les écouter jouer mais je devrai refuser pour rentrer avec Federico à Salvador de Bahia. Sur le chemin du retour Federico nous amène à un magasin fameux au Brésil qui fabrique des sucreries et des jus à partir de maïs! Le traffic routier est très dense et les embouteillages sont habituels dans la banlieue de Salvador. Dans un bus public que nous dépassons je vois les usagers chantés et taper dans les mains, en patientant dans les embouteillages… Leurs voix s’élevaient en choeur telle un écho coloré pour les passagers du bus 82 de Neuilly sur seine…

Durant cette deuxième semaine, j’essaie de me remettre au travail de thèse pour préparer une présentation orale pour la réunion qui aura lieu avant mon retour en France. Je dois présenter mon travail de thèse au groupe d’épidémiologistes qui a fourni les données que j’ai analysées concernant une maladie très présente dans les bidonvilles de Salvador. Avec mes propres problèmes de santé, il ne sera pas facile de travailler dans mon nouveau logement. Mon cou est noué par l’utilisation d’un petit écran d’ordinateur portable. Mais je terminerai ma présentation tant bien que mal. La réunion de travail s’étale sur trois jours et me permet de retrouver d’anciens collègues et amis avec qui je collabore. je retrouve notamment Marcelo avec qui j’ai passé six mois en Angleterre et que j’avais rencontré lors de mon premier voyage au Brésil en 2010. Marcelo est mathématicien, lit Nietzsche, émeut ses amis avec sa voix et sa guitare, prend soin de sa femme et de sa fille et il a les yeux qui brillent. J’étais content de le revoir. Durant la réunion, j’assiste aux présentations, je donne la mienne, mais je me sens en dehors du jeu. Je n’ai plus le dévouement et l’engouement que j’avais durant ma première visite à Salvador. Je me pose des questions et j’en fait part à mon superviseur de thèse. Est-ce le travail en lui-même ou bien est-ce la concentration si difficile à cause des sensations désagréables aux yeux, à la tête au cou? La rigidité physique qui se meut peu à peu en rigidité psychique? Est une période de transition? Est ce que j’aime ce que je fais? Je ne sais pas mais je crois que ces réponses sont en moi, à moi de croire en la lumière au déla des nuages et de faire mon chemin à mon rythme…

Une après-midi, nous quittons la vidéoprojection pour rejoindre les coulisses : dans le bidonville d’où les données épidémiologiques sont extraites. Comme lors de ma première visite en 2010 , mes yeux sont écarquillés, les battements du coeur sont accélérés entre attraction, incompréhension, compassion, fascination, admiration, et culpabilité de la « chance » d’être né ailleurs. L’environnement, le paysage, les constructions sont grossières et riches à la fois. Un peu comme le visage de ses habitants, très creusé par la vie comme si nous pouvions lire sur les visages, leurs âges, leurs souffrances et leurs joies comme l’on compte l’âge d’un arbre sur son tronc coupé. Mais que d’expressions dans ces visages! Ils sont en colère ou rayonnent, mais je ne vois pas de visage blasé ou stérile. Je me trouve bien maladroit lorsque nous parlons statistiques dans ce lieu où il n’y a pas d’incertitude sur la difficulté des conditions de vie et les qualités de ses habitants. Deux types d’échanges m’ont marqué avec les habitants lors de notre visite. Un homme nous a comparé à des politiciens qui sont là pour regarder, mais n’agissent pas en pratique pour aider les populations. D’autres personnes nous ont reçu chez elles naturellement et respectueusement même si elles habitent dans la partie la plus insalubre du bidonville. Dans une partie plus salubre ou un réseau d’égouts a été mis en place ainsi qu’une route goudronnée, plusieurs personnes viennent amicalement nous parler et remercient les épidémiologistes pour leur travail. Par ailleurs, nous nous arrêtons à une des maisons de brique et de tole qui fut un lieu de culte de la religion africaine appelée cadomble. Désormais des gens habitent l’endroit qui est au bord d’un égout ouvert. C’est ici , près de l’eau stagnante, qu’une petite fille et un petit garçon sont accroupis. Le garçon touille, à l’aide d’un bâton, une flaque d’eau boueuse d’une couleur rose et grise ; une « bouillie boréale ». Les deux enfants sont animés comme devant un jeu, discutent et semblent refaire le monde… En fait, ici, maintenant, ils sont le monde…

Je crois que de telles conditions existent aussi en Europe. Cependant elles sont rares et passent facilement inaperçues. Au Brésil elles sont monnaies courantes, plus accessibles et routinières pour les habitants. Et pour moi c’est intéressant, voir important, de me rendre compte de cela, de l’ éprouver. Pas pour s’apitoyer sur leur sort ni pour se sentir coupable d’être né quelque part, mais pour prendre conscience simplement des conditions dans lesquelles un homme peut vivre et garder le sourire. De ce point de vue c’est plus moi-même qui aurait à apprendre! 

Le dernier samedi à Salvador, je retrouverai mes amis Rodrigo, Ione et d’autres pour une soirée très sympathique au musée d’Art moderne de Bahia qui est situé au bord de la mer et où sont organisé des concerts dans un joli cadre balnéaire avec d’un côté vue sur l’horizon infini de l’océan et de l’autre côté, des bidonvilles bien définis.

Pour mon dernier jour, je vais à l’aéroport tôt le matin, mais je ne prends pas le taxi, je prends le bus, bus qui me tombe dessus d’ailleurs! C’était tellement plus conviviale à 6:00 du matin d’être avec les brésiliens qui vont travailler ! Je remarquais alors que le drapeau brésilien était souvent représenté sur les vêtements alors qu’en France cela paraitrait bizarre.

En mars, le soleil se leve tôt et lançe ses rayons sur la ville endormie de Salvador dès 5:00 du matin. Alors vers 6:00 du matin le bord de plage est déjà en activité. Certains vont au travail, certains courent, certains font des étirements sur la plage en cercle autour d’un coach, d’autres, font la queue devant un centre de santé encore fermé. En effet, là-bas le système de santé dépend beaucoup d’organismes privé, qui implique de la compétition, de la compétition pour être en bonne santé… Malheureusement à mon goût, il y a au Brésil un engouement pour le modèle d’amérique du Nord… Plusieurs de mes rencontres notamment une femme dans un cybercafé, m’ont éclairé sur les systèmes d’éducation et de santé qui évoluent peu par rapport à l’économie bondissante au Brésil.

De mon bus vers l’aéroport, j’aperçois aussi de nombreux surfeurs, dès l’aube, dans l’eau. C’est comme s’ils avaient passé leur nuit allongée sur leur planche endormie et qu’au petit matin ils attendaient la bonne vague pour les réveiller et redonner le coup de fouet qui serait nécessaire au démarrage de leur journée terrestre, enfin sablonneuse…

Le soleil est un père. La mer est une mère! C’est l’impression que j’ai de si bon matin dans mon bus à peine bondé. De cette importante activité matinale, il se dégage pour moi le sentiment que beaucoup de Brésiliens ont conscience de la beauté naturelle de leur environnement et qu’ils tirent avantage de cette beauté en se levant de bonheur pour commencer la journée avec vitalité prêt à vivre pleinement aujourd’hui. Je crois qu’il y a un lien fort entre les individus et leur environnement ici.

Embarquement et je décolle vers Sao Paulo!

Mon escale avant l’avion pour Paris dure dix heures! Mais la magie de la Vie va encore opérer. C’est une belle rencontre, après quelques heures passées seul, je remarque quelqu’un de lumineux! Un jeune homme bien vivant s’assoit à côté de ma table avec un bonjour spontané. Nous engageons la conversation et, après une petite sieste dont il a l’inititative et qui m’apprend que malgré mes problèmes de dos je me repose très bien à même le sol en cas de besoin, nous passons notre attente commune à discuter. Il est Israélien et parcourt l’Amérique du Sud après avoir économisé grâce à des petits boulots. C’est quelqu’un de serein, énergique et positif. Et nous somme sur la même longueur d’onde, notre livre favori est le même! Peut être à une prochaine fois! Cette rencontre m’. enlève la nostalgie du retour et me rappelle que voyager, ce n’est pas un avion, un décalage horaire ou un nouvel endroit, voyager, c’est avant tout un état d’esprit… Où que je sois, je peux voyager, quand j’y prête mon coeur… A Paris aussi !

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 D’autres pensées: 

Le séjour me donne l’opportunité de commencer à parler portugais. Mais c’est un apprentissage différent de l’apprentissage scolaire que j’ai pu avoir en anglais durant la scolarité. C’est une approche peut-être moins productive intellectuellement mais plus productive humainement et en qualité, en qualité des mots qu’on apprend. J’apprends moins de mots mais j’apprends les mots dont j’ai besoin. Je ne prends pas les mots impersonnels et sans sens. Je ne digère pas un livre mécaniquement mais je vis mon histoire en brésilien. J’ai appris l’anglais à l’école française de manière dogmatique et un peu fade, comme une maison que l’on construirait sans savoir si quelqu’un finira par y vivre. Par ce voyage au Brésil c’est comme si je désirais d’abord la maison, aspirait d’abord à l’habiter et alors je la construis. Plus chaotiquement peut être, mais plus naturellement, plus vivant!

Je crois que les inégalités sociales au Brésil créent de la méfiance entre individus mais j’ai eu l’impression que cette méfiance était légère. Une fois celle-ci dépassée à l’aide d’un sourire ou d’un signe amical, les coeurs s’ouvrent rapidement et révèlent une nature de joie, respect d’autrui et enthousiasme.

Par rapport à l’insécurité à Salvador de Bahia. Elle est quotidienne. Je crois que le tout est d’éviter les mauvais endroits et les mauvais moments. Et il est important d’avoir connaissance de ces mauvais endroits et mauvais moments. Cela est possible par du bon sens, par des contacts locaux ou l’office du tourisme.

L’art est un peu partout à Salvador de Bahia. Surtout qu’un oeil étranger pourrait trouver artistique des scènes qui pour les habitants sont banales ou même négatives. C’est peut être ça un fossé culturel… L’art par les artistes brésiliens est un peu partout : graffiti, poèmes, statut, fontaine, peinture. Salvador des Bahia n’est pas une ville touristique même si certains de ces quartiers le sont. Ainsi certains endroits de la ville avec une valeur artistique ne sont pas rendus accessibles aux touristes. Au centre de la ville, un parc rempli de sculptures colorées et loin du quartier touristique m’interpelle à chaque passage. Sur une grande route une gigantesque croix du Christ est construite à partir des fourgonnettes empilées…

Les mendiants que j’ai rencontrés là-bas étaient particuliers. Ou plutôt leur manière de mendier était différente. J’ai rencontré des gens qui venaient demander de l’argent dans le supermarché pour faire leurs courses ou même le gardien de ma résidence qui a pourtant un travail et m’a demandé un peu d’argent pour son déjeuner. A l’aeroport de Sao Paulo, les mendiants ressemblent plus à des acteurs ou à des négociants. Un jeune garçon vient poser sur ma table des autocollants du Brésil et me laisse le choix de les acheter. Puis un homme m’aborde et m’explique que sa femme est en train d’accoucher dans une voiture en panne à côté de l’aéroport et me demande de l’argent pour payer le taxi ou réparer la voiture (je n’ai pas bien compris) et emmener sa femme à l’hôpital. Il me montre son portefeuille vide. Je refuse et l’aperçois quelques minutes plus tard en train de jouer la même scène à d’autres touristes. De mon expérience, je dirais que ce sont plus de gens malins et pauvres que des mendiants: c’est une manche active et non une manche passive. Se retrousser les manches quoi…

J’ai trouvé les visage Brésiliens plus expressifs que ceux des parisiens dans la rue. Expressifs sentimentalement parlant que ce soit de la colère ou de la joie. Je ne crois pas que que la différence soit entre les Français et les Brésiliens. Je crois que le brésilien et le français sont foncièrement identiques. Mais l’environnement d’un Brésilien et l’environnement d’un Parisien sont foncièrement différents!

Je ressens quelque chose de spécial chez mes amis Brésiliens: un empressement à vivre, à rire, à sourire, à manger la vie, parfois au risque d’en oublier la « goutte d’huile dans la cuillère » alors que d’autres personnes se concentrent à ce que la goutte reste dans la cuillère et loupe les merveilles du palais (Voir citation de l’alchimiste de Paulo Coelho). Cela a peut être un lien avec la mélancolie que j’ai vu dans les yeux de certains… Naturellement, une mélancolie dans les yeux et de la joie dans le sourire. Un mélange de pluie et de soleil…

Je sens encore en moi l’esprit du colon européen qui voudrait prendre sa place n’importe où… Mais je crois que vivre là-bas ne consiste pas à faire changer les choses mais d’abord à se changer soi-même. Car les conditions, l’environnement, l’harmonie sont différents au Brésil et pour les apprécier et s’y épanouir une certaine adaptation est nécessaire. Pas une aliénation mais une ouverture d’esprit, une prudence, et surtout je crois, une volonté de partage et de compassion…

Pour vraiment vivre l’ expérience du Brésil, je crois qu’il est important de laisser un peu de côté le cadre et le fonctionnement d’Europe mais pas ses valeurs! (le Brésil peut être est un peu égarant!). Lors de mes voyages dans les pays développés, j’ai plutôt cherché à retrouver mes repères Européens mais ici je crois que j’ai intérêt à être plus ouvert d’esprit, à lâcher un peu prise, à moins courir et à me laisser entrer dans la danse. Certains disent que c’est le climat… En tous cas c’est une opportunité pour ouvrir de nouveaux horizons de vie, à condition d’être prêt à en fermer d’autres.

Finalement, durant ces deux semaines et demi, j’ai reçu plus que je n’ai apporté. Mais n’est ce pas pour cela que l’on voyage? Non pas pour planter notre drapeau un peu partout, mais pour que « un peu de partout » se plante en nous, nous confrontant aux différences et nous rappelant qui nous sommes…

Bidonville misère… Besoin de moi… Besoin d’aider… n’est ce pas un peu ambitieux de prétendre aller aider des gens à l’autre bout du monde, dans une langue et culture inconnue? En tout cas, ce sentiment m’a tout de même motivé. Mais d’ailleurs y a t’il besoin d’aide à l’étranger? Je ne savais pas quels étaient les besoins la bas, alors j’étais loin d’aider effectivement! Je suis arrivé en croyant savoir ce que je ne savais pas et je repars en sachant que je ne sais pas. Cette une expérience réelle qui me permet de me remettre à ma place par rapport à mes sentiments ou à mes utopies. Ces sentiments ou utopies, tels une pierre brute renfermant une pierre précieuse, sont taillés par mes expériences… Alors taillons finement! Mais s’agissant d’aider, si je regardais plus près de chez moi en fait? Là ou vraiment, je pèse mon pesant d’aide… Si le Brésil est là pour moi, le vent ne l’emportera pas! Mektoub.

Amor e Respeito

Nicolas



A chlamydia is not a flower

There is faith, there is love, there is sex, there is trust, there  is responsibility, there is conscience and there is a glass of pina colada ashore a transparent sea…

In spring, I shared some pleasant friendly and sexual moments with one person. Once, an accident happened and we had an unprotected relationship. Thus, we went to a laboratory to make tests to reassure each other. For me sexual diseases were more a myth than a reality and I was feeling quite light. I was not informed about them and their transmission. After the tests, the laboratory told us to wait for their call in case of infection. As they never called us, I was glad to think that I was healthy and I decided that I could have relationships without condom. This was a first mistake: I bet my life given the absence of a call, I did not ask for a written proof or neither did I go back to the laboratory to have my results clearly stated. At that time, I did not know that for most infectious diseases (such like HPV, HIV, Chlamydia, etc), there is delay of around 2-3 months between the time when the pathogen enters your body and the time when your body have produced enough antibodies so that the current medical tests are able of detecting them. In other words, even if the laboratory stated that my partner and I were negative, we could have been carriers and infectious due to previous  relationships which had occurred over the past  three months. Time passed,  I said goodbye to my first lover and a month later, I met another person (It was summer time, the birds were singing, don’t you know?…). At that time, I was still unaware and believed that I was healthy and in the hurry of desire, we did not pay much attention and had several relationships without condom… Given my previous mistakes, this was another one, the risk of transmitting a disease to another person.


 After these two relationships, I went back to France, quite confident that everything was fine. Later, I received an email which told me that one of my two previous lovers had been positively tested with some sexual diseases. I am not going to explain why and how I receive this email and whether its veracity was founded because it is not the point as far as I am concerned. The point is that I started to question myself, to consider my own past actions, to understand the transmission of sexual diseases and eventually to become aware that I actually took a risk which was worth more than my life. It was not easy for me to control the negative thoughts and feelings which came up in this context. I believed that the best that I could do was to make new tests and to wait for the results. And I also decided, to tell my two previous partners to make new tests themselves…  So, all three, we were to make new tests and to spend a very stressful time while waiting for the results. This period of two weeks during which I waited was one of the longest of my life. I lived in the anxiety that I could be sick with a disease which could change and shorten my life and that by my mistake, someone else might be in the same situation. Sometimes I can be brave but surely not this time and hopefully my relatives were there to reassure me. Hopefully for my partners and I, the results were all negative (for those diseases: HIV, Hepatitis B and C, herpes, syphilis, CHlamydia).


Sometimes we may think « oh, life is too short, let us enjoy now and 
do not worry ». But, we do not realise that this « do not worry » means  actually « do not take care ». Sometimes to worry makes sense.  I remember when I was virgin, people used to tell me: « Be a man, do it! ».  Now to « Be a man » is more about being aware and to act in a responsible way, with respect to others and to myself. I acknowledge that lack of conscience is also a natural thing when you are eager for love and for pleasure. Perhaps one should take more time to learn to love and value herself/himself  (self love) so as to avoid to be in such an eagerness. I trusted both previous partners and still believe they were honest with me but trusting them was not enough. Trust is important and the base of any relationship, however I believe that there are matters for which trust is not enough, sexual disease transmission is one of them. Prudence seems to me therefore essential too so as to be able to build a  blooming relationship. One definition of freedom is the fact of following  your own rules. So get information, become aware, define and follow your rules and  discuss them with your partner. I believe that such a behaviour also makes the difference between « fucking » and « making love ».


My new rule personnally : absolutely use a condom with a new partner  for the three first months of relationship. Then only, have both complete sexual disease tests carried out (always ask for checking as many diseases  as possible, it makes no sense of being economical in this matter). In addition, find and consult (at least annually) a gynecologist/urologist,  to scan for other sexual disease which are not detectable by urine or  blood tests (like HPV for men). And if you have any doubt about the diagnosis, the fact of consulting several doctors is sometimes better for making sure that they are in agreement. When you want to have your car repaired, don’t you you ask for several estimates from different garages?…


When you are satisfied that all medical tests are negative for your partner and for you, well… from then on, I do not need to tell you what to do!

Take care and enjoy 

Sincerely



The chronicles of the Lord of the Sheep. Back to Scotland.

Background of the Lord of The sheep… : The values of the world have been lost in the darkness of the actions of humanity. People are behaving like sheeps. However, along time ago, sheeps had a free life full of joy and of enjoyment of their territory. Places where no man had ever set a foot. It was the time of the Lord of the Sheeps. The human beings made the sheep their slave but in their doing, they lost their soul and became sheep themselves though keeping their human appearance. :O)

In quest of identity and attracted by those high lands, the wanderer who came from the south started his adventure heading towards the city of Edinburgh. During a ride of three hours on his mount, called the Nissan Mikrak, he went through the region of Cumbria and the Scottish Borders, before he reached the east coast of Scotland. The wanderer was hosted on the evening of Friday by a member of the CounchSurfing named Dave. The wanderer and Dave had already met before and get along quite well. On Saturday morning, the Couchsurfing’s festival  started with a speed-friending session : it consists in chatting for three minutes with an unknown person. Within half an hour you can have a rough idea about 10 people and this makes the communication easier during the rest of the festival. After the speed-friending, highlands games were organised which basically consisted in throwing away pieces of tree trunks. The wanderer did not participate to this activity since he felt like a tree trunk himself. After the games, the people gathered in the periphery of the city to enjoy a BBQ. Since it was raining, the BBQ took place at one entrance of a long pedestrian tunnel. People brought food, alcohol, enjoyed and played frisbee in the tunnel.  In the evening we had a party in one of Edinburgh’s nightclub. The wanderer especially enjoyed dancing (or rather shaking his body).  On Sunday morning, a Scottish breakfast was organised in a nice pub in the modern part of the city. Those kinds of pub which look like places where blue bloods used to gather themselves centuries ago. Nowadays, all public are welcome and the food has changed too, may be not in a good way. For sure, this Scottish breakfast contained a lot of energy which the wanderer needed for the rest of trip. He packed up, say good bye, see you some days and carried on to the road of Inverness to the North, places where tales and legends were notorious.

The three hours road was calm and only a few cloudbursts went to bear company to the traveller. On the way, the wanderer noticed advertisements for something called « rockness ».  This was the famous Lochness’s annual rock music festival which gather hundreds of camping tents and thousands of people. However, the wanderer who was now in quest of calm and authenticity decided not to attend to this massive musical grazing and carried his way to a camping site located near the ruins of the castle of Urquhart along the Loch Ness. The camping was rather cold and wet in the morning but it was surrounded by a farm with beautiful horses. During the dinner, not only the wanderer was eating his meal but he was also himself the meal of some of the most terrific creatures : the midges which are tiny flying skin-biter blood-suckers. This was one of the toughest obstacle, the wanderer would have to overcome during his trip. Unlike the sheep, the wanderer was not well prepared to live in those conditions and did not have a thick and warmth woollen covering to protect him from the numerous bites of his invisible attackers. He managed to eat a parsimonious meal and went to « bed » carefully avoiding to be trapped in the tents with the nasty flies. On Monday’s morning, he visited the ruins of the castle nearby. The atmosphere was mystical, the water was calm and the fog was lingering above the Loch.  The visit of the castle and its museum was very interesting and one thing which kept the attention of the wanderer was the link between this castle and the Scottish clan of the McDonalds. The McDonalds clan is on the most famous Scottish clan. Their chief the Lord of the Isles (Isles on the west coast) was one of the most powerful in Scotland. Using viking-like boats he threatens villages, stole everything and killed many. The McDonalds occupied the  Urquhart castle but one day the Scottish government decided to cancel their right of clan and to destitute them from their possesssion. Though the McDonalds did not live in the castle any more, they kept on raiding it to steal its richness each year for 50 years… Just stop one minute and picture yourself, the life of the fellow who was born in the village near the castle at the beginning of the raids. For all his life (given the life expectancy at this time), each year, he faced the invasion, the robbery, the murderers and the fatality on his shoulders because of the actions of the Mcdonalds clan. For the case of this fellow, we can imagine that the concept of happiness, hope and joy was quite relative and vague… Those reflections pushed the wanderer to get more information about the Mcdonalds clan, he heard rumours that they based some of their forces on the Isle of Skye.

The wanderer aimed at this destination and reached the casle of Elidonean just located before the bridge leading to the Isle.

I have changed my mind, I stop writing this sheeps story. It takes too much time and I have better to do! I depict below in few words the rest of my trip.

The castle of Elidonean is very nice since it was rebuilt. THen I took the bridge to the Isle of Skye. I drove up to Portree in the North of the Isle. This Isle is amazing and I wish I could spend more time there. I had a greater feeling of being in wild lands compared to the beginning of my trip. After visitng Portree (lovely small bay where the boats stay), I did a hike (actually two small hikes, on in the hills and another on the beach with a great cliff). Then I found a great camping site in Staffin. On the next day, I keep on drving along on the coast and I visited : a castle in ruins, the top of new cliffs where there is small house where you can sleep for free (it is like a shelter in the mountains), I saw a nice coral beach and then I went to sleep in a camping in the middle of the peaks of the isle (many hikers were there). On the next day I head towards Armadale to take the Ferry with my car to Mallaig. Before taking the Ferry I visited a great mystical, ecological, protected wood and I visited another castle where i learned a lot of things about the Mcdonalds Clan. After the Ferry I reached Fort William and spend my last night there (take the coastal road from Mallaig to Fort William, it is beautiful). For the last day: i walked 1350 m up to Ben NEvis (highest peak in the UK) and I finally drove 5 hours to Lancaster where my bed was still waiting for me and I should say that after sleeping on a rough ground for a few days, I embraced my bed as the sunshine embraces the skin of beautiful girls.

Scotland is close to France and you can rent a car easily. Do not worry about driving on the left since as soon as you got wild places like the Isle of Skye the road is only wide enough for one car! This was a short summary of my trip and I did not depicted all the details such as the night where two drunk Scottish guys went back to their tent close to mine and sang anti-England songs for one hour… That is the real trip! See you in Scotland !

PS1 : this trip made me so relax, peaceful though I was alone. At the end and given what I learned about the history of the Scottish clans, I made a big choice for the rest of my life: not to go in a Mcdonalds restaurant any more… :p

PS2: The photos are on my Facebook album called « Road trip to Scotland »



French Guiana

During my flight from Belem, I could see the huge  broccoli forest which covers 95% of French Guiana (the forest looks like thousands of broccolis from the plane).  I reached Cayennes in almost 1.5 hour and I told myself: « That is it I am back in France now! Well, actually, French Guiana is the strangest French department I have ever had the opportunity to visit!

For instance,

-people do not tie their belt while driving here
- people do not consider you as an immigrant from the colour of your skin since most of the native population is black or brown ^^

-  when you go to the postal office called « La poste », you do not wait for as long as in France… you wait for far much longer!

- I found the people quite relax here in comparison to some people in Paris (not too hard!)
- Oh and last but not least! When you celebrate Christmas in French Guiana, you can go to the beach and enjoy the sun with your christmas hat !

This week in French Guyana was intense and amazing thanks to my cousin Lucie who was a marvellous host, guide and heu … cousin :p

Saturday : Fourgassier waterfall and Kaw’s swamp.

By car, I went with Lucie and of her housemates to the Fourgassier water Falls. We were lucky that the road was rebuilt a short time ago so that our car did not stay stuck in the mud. It was a sunny day :) . In French Guyana, unfortunately for them, they can not go to Paris swimming pool known such as Aquaboulevard…  So they have to go to natural waterfalls in the tropical forest… so sad! :p We saw beautiful blue butterflies there called Morpho.

On the afternoon, we joined the pier of Kaw where we started a very nice trip in pirogue in Kaw’s swamp. We visited a small village (Kaw’s village) and viewed many beautiful birds, we listened to the howler monkeys in the forest and we saw the largest rodent in the world (Capybara also called Cablaï which can weight up to 90 kg). As the sun set, the sky got darker and the temperature cooler, we decided to do what every good French people would do…  well… we took the apero!! We parked near a Carbet (a wooden-made shelter typical of the amerindian culture)  and  took some Ti’punch drink. After dinner, we moved on to a caiman hunt! The strategy is to use a lamp torch to detect caiman’eyes (orange color) in the darkness of the night while moving in Pirogue. The hunt was not very fruitful as we were told by the guide but we succeeded in approaching a 1.5m caiman (the guide touched it) and at the end of the hunt, we found some babies caiman (30 cm) and we took them in our hands!

Sunday: Cacao Hmong village and petrol shortage

For my second day, Lucie proposed to go to a village called Cacao (obvisouly no link with the chocolate). This is a Hmong village : « Asia’s Hmong ethnic minority has been scattered by hardship and warfare for centuries, but one of its most unusual destinations was French Guiana in the Caribbean ». Have a look at this link: « http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/asia-pacific/3498056.stm »

Lucie’s car is a Renault twingo which is as old as Lucie (ok may be less lol) and its petrol indicator does not work well. Thus,  before arriving in Cacao, we were in the red and we knew there was no petrol station in Cacao… We thought we were in trouble. Hopefully, Hmong shops sell everything (computer, butter, cooking oil, massage oil, bike oil and car oil!). This petrol was twice more expensive than in town but we were happy of finding it! THen, we visited Cacao which is rather small but where you really feel as if you were in another continent. We had a good Hmong lunch in the market place and we went to a small museum where there is a passionnate man who introduced us to many kinds of insects (spiders, butterflies, cockroaches, etc). I higly recommend this visit since the man is very interesting. I learned for instance that there is no lethal spider in French Guiana. The only real threat is a tiny scorpion which can go inside your shoes and stings you. So check inside your shoes before getting in!

During the evening, we went back to Cayennes and bought some Madras sandwiches in the famous place « Place des palmistes ». Then, we had fun with some friends of Lucie, quite funny :) .

Monday: An active and rather muddy day!

We started by visiting the town of Cayennes. I was touched by a statue claiming the freedom of ancient slaves. We found the old Fort of Cayennes which is not really a Fort but rather a small tower made of wood. The city of Cayennes is not very big compared to metropolitan cities. However, most of French Guiana inhabitants live there (or in the suburbs). We carried on walking and as it was 1 pm and I was stripped to the waist, I got a sunburn…

Then, we went to the beach. It was beautiful and almost nobody was there since we were on Monday. I swam a little in the brown water and we took nice Christmas pictures with Lucie and our hats :) .

After Lunch we left Cayennes to get the road of Kourou but we did a little stop in a one of the coves on the road. Coves are natural  inlet of sea water which are filled as the tide comes in. This one is called the Patate cove and to access it, one needs to take a muddy path with the car… and of course our car got stuck in the mud ! All alone I was not able to unblock the car by pushing it backward. Hopefully, two other girls were leaving the cove and they decided to help us after a little discussion. Eventually with three people pushing the car, we succeeded in moving it though I got a free mud bath when the stuck wheel moved! Hum, good for the skin, one uses to saying! We reached the cove then being more careful in the paths we took with the car. We rested and cleaned the mud away. We did not swim since the water does not look very nice…Then, we left for Kourou where we found one of Lucie’s friend. We enjoyed together an evening in the Saramacca village (people which originate from Suriname). We ate nice brochettes and drunk a Ti punch at will for only 1.5 euro per person! The cool waiter even ended by joining us for a few drinks lol.

We finished our day by making our bed or rather installing our hammocks under a amerindian shelter on the beach. It sounded great and It was beautiful. The downsides of this experience might be the mosquitoes, the leaks in the shelter which let the rainfall reach us in our sleep and eventually the sunrise which wakes you up quite early! Otherwise, it was nice!

 

Tuesday: « Les îles du Salut ».

In the early morning we reached a pier in Kourou to take one of the catamarans which bring tourists to the  Salvation islands located in front of Kourou coast. Waiting on the pier, Lucie and I observed the fishermen who were starting their day. Two of them were quite keen on brushing their teeth, they brushed their teeth for at least 15 minutes, loll, shiny! After around 1 hour by boat we got to the Salvation Islands. They are a group of three small islands. Historically, they are well known as a French penal colony built in 1852 with a reputation for harshness and brutality.

We started by the Royal island. I noticed that the water was blue there whereas it is usually brown along the coast. We saw animals like small monkeys which throw you coconuts to make you leave their territory, we saw also small funny mammals, parrots and turtles. I liked those islands very much, it gives me a small feeling of what Robinson Crusoe life is :p. After a Ti punch offered by the skipper of the boat,  we moved to the second island (Saint-Joseph) where there are the ruins of old penal buildings, scary!! Only the ants can thrive there! Normally, you can not really visit the old jails in the center of the isle and you are just allowed to walk along the periphery. However, the skipper of the boat gave us a tip: he told us he knew the island keeper and he had planned to have lunch with him today… so during their lunch, we were free to explore the center of the island where the old prison is! It was quite fascinating. Furhtermore, there is a beach made of small pieces of sea shells at the back of the island (heavenly!), we rested there and swam :) . At the end of the afternoon, it started raining heavily but for short. We came back to Kourou by catamaran and then by car to Cayennes.

 

Wednesday: Kayak in Gabrielle creek near Roura. Sludgy great !

Here we came, Lucie two of her friends and I in some kayaks on the water. We planned to visit Gabrielle creek and a lake, however the circumstances prevented us from reaching the lake… Indeed, when we called the Kayak center in the morning, they told us to come in the  afternoon because it was the good time relatively to the tide… I guess they wanted to rent the last available kayaks because actually, the tide was not here for helping us! On our way inland, the tide was going down (counter-current) and of course on our way back in direction of the sea, the tide was going up (counter-current). So we did not reach the main creek though we had quite a good time, taking our time and observing the bubbles on the water surface which were a good indicator of the direction of the tide. At some point, we got a bit tired and I saw a place where we could get off the boats and walk a little…We approached this king of small pier and two people among our group tried to get off the boat: a friend of Lucie and I. As a consequence we both got our legs swallowed in a sludgy matter up to the knees. I almost lost my shoes. Well, this was a weird sensation but anyway I had already been introduced to the mud on the last Monday. After this stop, we carried on rowing a little and went back to the Kayak center, ending at counter current … Before leaving the center we saw a little Matoutou (a kind mygale) which was sleeping (or digesting) in its thick spider’web.

In the evening, Lucie was trying to get more information about what we will be doing tomorrow. In French Guiana, there is no big GR (hiking path) as in France and when you want to go for a hike, you had better know people who have already done it, at the risk of ending lost and eaten byt the caiman…

Thursday: Virginie Rock Savana and a little party

We left Lucie’s house in the early morning and we headed towards the village of Regina. To find the hiking path we had precise indications: drive 13.4 km after Regina’s bridge and park near a small cairn of stones along the main road. Then, hide your car in the vegetation (not to get something stolen). So, we did it, we parked our car near another car which was obvisouly completely burnt lol… Then, we started hiking in the tropical forest :) and after around 1 hour and half we got to the Virginie Rock Savana! The Rock Savanas are called inselbergs in geological terms. An inselberg  is a small mountain which comes from past volcanic activity. The inselbergs represent extreme environments in comparison with the tropical forest:  temperature, dryness and sushine are  particularly high partly due to the dark color of the rock. For a glimpse of the Virginie Rock Savana, look at « http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M-j9e4B5U2g ». We enjoyed the sun on the top of the rock and took time to discover the surroundings. It was beautiful and hot. Then we went back to the car and went to the village of Regina which is along the river called l’Approuague. There is a small museum in the city, there is also a small Brazilian community, especially one guy who has coloured his house with the Brazilian colours and who listens loudly to Brazilian music all the day… You ‘d rather enjoy samba when living nearby!

In the evening, there was a birthday party at some Lucie’s friends, this was nice though I was a bit tired , I had the opporunity to try to dance the tilili dance! (see « http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UGRKtjPBMtw&feature=related »). And after that, a good dodo!

Friday: resting, packing and coming… back!

I woke up quite late of course, packed my luggage and swam in the municipal swimming pool (hot water evidently :p). Then, in the afternoon Lucie drove me to the airport where we joined a friend of her who was going back to France in the same plane as me. We got almost no delay, and at my disappointment during the flight I was the only one wearing a christmas hat! A bit sad for a 24th of December evening. Anyway, I arrived in Paris on time with my Christmas hat and my short (yea a short, I was already missing French Guiana). I got back to Neuilly sur seine, quite on time for Christmas lunch, not difficult since everybody was late lol!

This has been an intense, unforgettable week, full of activities, surprises and smiles… full of life! Thanks again Lucie!

A bientoute!



Salvador de Bahia

Several mornings during this trip to Salvador, I woke up asking myself what I was doing there, alone. Surely I felt a bit lost in that huge and rather unsafe city where almost nobody speaks english. The dawn of those feelings was promptly brightened by the people I met and the discoveries I made thereafter.

First, a step by step arrival! On THursday, the 9th of December, the snow in Paris delayed my flight to Sao Paulo and made me miss my connection to Salvador. Air France paid for the taxi and the hotel and I quickly found myself sleeping in a hotel Mercure in Sao Paulo’s suburbs. A first impression about Sao paulo: urban lights out of sight, huge mawl centres, plenty of people. An unsafety feeling was also present: on my way from the airport to the hotel, a taxi driver used large main roads whereas, on my way from the hotel to the airport another taxi driver took smaller and darker roads and drove slowly. Nothing happenned but this was a bit frightening. I realised that I had an unjustified feeling of unsafety with regard to those people, feeling surely galvanised by what I used to hear about Brazilian criminality.
On Friday the 10th, I got my flight from Sao Paulo to Salvador de Bahia. From the plane, I had a breathtaking view of the Bahian Bay and of its islands. Before landing, I got along well with my flight’s neighbor who is professor of medieval history in Salvador. He offered me a free ride by car from the airport to the house of the CouchSurfer where I was going to be spend my first three days in Salvador.

The road from Salvador Airport to the house gave me a glimpse of Salvador’s life frame. Over the past few decades, the city of Salvador has greatly expanded and the villages have become part of the city but mainly as slums. On the main roads are located the stores and public transports and in general the further you go from the main road, the poorer and the slumier the place is.

Salvador de Bahia was one of the first place colonised by the portuguese in 1500 and quickly became its main Brazilian sea port, an important center of the sugar industry and of the slave trade. Nowadays, more than 80% of Salvador’s population is black. The black people are more located in the slums and the white people are more located downtown.

I spent my first three days at Alberto’s house. Alberto is a 50 year-old, open minded, careful and cool man from Colombia who was attracted by Salvador city sometime ago. He has a nice house with a small garden and coconuts trees. He does not live in a slum, but he does not live in a touristical area neither (a touristical area is basically a place where you have policemen).
For Alberto’s neighbourhood, I looked quite original with my European appearance though I tried not to look too fancy and did not wear t shirts like « I love New York »… :p. Alberto confirmed what I thought: generally, when going out, do not take your camera with you, avoid showing you cell phone to everybody, only take with you an identity card, your keys and some cash. « Take enough cash so as to bargain your life or to quickly take a taxi back home in case you were assaulted by robbers ».

On my first day, Alberto and I joined three other people (from couchsurfing) and altogether we went to Salvador’s coasts by car. We stopped in a restaurant by the sea and ate a nice « moqueca de peixo ». We also visited nice churchs (Bonfini).
In the evening we went to a very nice historical neighborhood called Pelourhino where the houses are nicely coloured and where you can see free shows (samba, capoeira, music). It is also a nice place for the thieves from late evening.
To go to Pelourhino neighborhood, one can take « El Elevador Lacerda » ; initially, Salvador center was divided into an upper and a lower city, the upper one being the administrative and religious area and where the majority of the population lived. The lower city was the financial center, with a port and market. In the late 19th Century, funiculars and an elevator, El Elevador Lacerda, were built to link the two areas.

During my second day, I started to live in a more independent way: I jogged along a beautiful beach, I went to a cybercafe and I bought some food. Then, I joined Alberto for lunch in one of the famous meat restaurants where the coffee is always offered at the end. We joined other people (Brazilian, Spanish and American) and swam briefly in the sea (the flag was red). I ended my second day in Salvador with a nice dinner and a quiet party at Alberto’s house. One Brazilian man played the guitar and made the evening go sweetly. Checking my emails, I was told to join people from my work to visit a favella (Brazilian slum) on Sunday morning.

On Sunday morning, I took the bus from Alberto’s neighborhood to the hotel where my colleagues were gathering before leaving to the favella. The only thing is that I was not sure which bus would bring me to this hotel. Hopefully, I had a map and more interestingly, I met helpful people from Salvador to find my way to the hotel. In the first bus I took, my seat neighbor helped me and told me that I had to take another bus. I got off and reached a new bus stop and, to make sure I  took the right bus this time, I « asked » (with gestures and smiles) two old women for help. Eventually they understood me and helped me successfully.

I was a bit lost in Salvador because I could not use the language to go ahead (I do not speak Brazilian). I had to make it without words, to place more confidence in people I did not know. « What you do not know is not a trap or a frigthening thing but an opportunity to open yourself and to move forward ». Eventually, I arrived on time in front of the hotel, and met my colleagues of FIOCRUZ (brazilian public health institute). Half an hour later I was in Pau de Lima, a favella of more than 2 000 households located in Salvador ‘s suburbs.

It was quite incredible to be there. I tried to pay attention to everything I saw. I understood easily how diseases could spread widely in such environments especially at the bottom level of the favella where sewerage systems and rivers are confounded, where people get rid of their disposal along the river, and where rats thrive. I also saw a group of drug dealers during this visit (I was told they were dealers). Surprisingly, almost every family in the favella had a television (it seems to be quite  important in their way of living). There was also a lot of music in the favella and most people were rather smily. On our way, It started raining, and a family accepted us inside their house. People from FIOCRUZ started talking to the mother. In the favellas, many families consist of women alone to grow their children. The mother works as a recycler and won 300 euros a month to feed her 3 children and her cousin. In the rainy season her house at the bottom of the valley is often flooded.  Though this was not the rainy season, I was impressed by the quantity of water which flowed down the valley within 20 minutes of rainfall. On the afternoon after a lunch stop, we left the favella and worked on computers. Afterwards I went back to ALberto’s house to say bybye! I packed my stuff and took a taxi to the 4 stars hotel booked by FIOCRUZ (hotel with a swimming pool and located in front of one of the most beautiful beaches of Salvador).
On Sunday’s night, we had a dinner with my colleagues and I swam in the pool  before going to bed.

The two next days were very amazing since I was introduced to the whole FIOCRUZ team who is working on Leptospirosis project (the disease I am interested in). They have been working in Pau de Lima since 2004 and it took them many years to get the confidence of the people of the favella so as to be able to collect data there. I met interesting people and to observe my supervisor discussing with them was quite nice to show the utility of a statistician to deal with concrete issues. On Monday evening we had another nice diner after the meeting. On Tuesday, we finalised the meeting by planning the work to be achieved by everyone in the future.
During those two days I got a lot of  new information and new acquaintances in link to my PhD. From tuesday evening to thursday evening, I went to a cheap youth hostel where I met new people (French, Brazilian, Argentinan, Canadian, etc). 
On Wednesday morning,I went to el Mercado Modelo (a market for tourists). On the afternoon, I rested, kept quiet, I saw the sunset on the sea.

On Thursday, I met a new couchsurfer named Luana. We visited a free exposition about Salvador’s most famous religious celebrations (african or catholic, carnaval). Full of life! We ate a chinese lunch and after I left her in order to join FIOCRUZ colleagues and acquaintances from the youth hostel for a last swim and drink on the beach. On Thursday evening, I had to go back to the airport but the taxi booked by FIOCRUZ never came. I called for a new taxi and got my plane on time at 5 am. This plane led me to Belem which is located on the estuary of the Amazon river in North Brazil.  It seemed to be a nice place.

To sum up about this Brazilian week, a mixture of feelings: apprehension, paranoia, surprise, wonder, anxiety, excitation, enthusiasm, open-minded state, compassion… 
Not a working week but not a holiday week neither. All the same, what a week! Beautiful images and tastes, awareness of new things, and meetings with great people! Salvador de Bahia, I do not think I could live inside your coasts right now (first of all, because I do not speak Brazilian) but for a short stay it is definitively worthwhile! Ate logo ;)



A summer in the UK and Paris

Hello, that is the French man back in France

I Hope you are doing well.

I have added some photographies that I have been taking since last mid June.

After my trip to Edinburgh, I began to work on my dissertation but I also had several interviews in the UK to find a PhD (thèse) next year and that was the opportunity of discovering more of England.

In late June, I went to London just for one day, for an interview. So I have a few pictures from London.

More interestingly, I went to Bath which is a lovely beautiful town in the South of England. I slept at a couch surfer’s place. The couch surfer was named Claire who is a nice girl around thirty year old. She was currently working in a French restaurant in Bath named « Au Beaujolais ».  After my PhD interview in Bath University, I enjoyed some Bath Ales (Beers) in the city with some funny friends of Claire. I also found time to visit one of the most famous neolithic site  in Britain (like Carnac in France). It is called Avebury site. It is near StoneHenge (the first most famous neolithic site). But in Avebury you are free to touch the rocks and of getting inside the monuments not like in Carnac. In particular, there is the biggest prehistorical monument in Europe : a gigantic tumulus as you can see it on the pictures.

After that, I needed to focus on my dissertation and also to prepare my interviews in France to get money for doing a PhD.

  After those interviews, I enjoyed a nice week in Paris with one of my friend of Lancaster. He came from Malawi in Africa and was quite interested in visiting Paris. At the end of the week I realised that my friend was more interested in meeting French beauties and nice pubs for hiding out.

Then I went back to Lancaster, and during the last weekend of July, I went to visit Dublin. It was A very nice fastly planned 3 day weekend. I met a good French friend of mine, Camille which was visiting her Irish friend. I also met  Couchsurfers though they could not host. THus I slept in some youth hostel where I met nice people from Germany, Montreal and Spain. We went to a Night Club and also joined some Irish guys thanks to whom, we got into the vip part of a nightclub for free. I also enjoyed a free touristic tour in dublin and ride cheap dublin ‘s bikes to visit the city. However, I found Dublin quite expensive in terms of travelling fees and restaurant or drinks.

After Dublin,  I focused on my dissertation until the beginning of September. Then, I went to Glasgow and to the isle of Arran as a break after having handed in my dissertation. I was with two other French friends and we slept at a couchsurfer place for our first night in Glasgow. It was quite funny because though I was dressed like a camper, we succeeded in getting in a nightclub where people were dressed up (thanks to a the couchsurfer who knew the bouncers). The day after, my French team went to the isle of Arran where we set our camp site before going to hike. The weather was cloudy but not that rainy and we enjoyed a few rainbows. During our second day of hiking we went up to the summit of the isle at the Goatfell pike at 864m above the sea. Is was amazingly beautiful and wild. My feet were destroyed but my mind was quite refreshed and I was ready to prepare my return in France next week.

This closes my Msc year in Lancaster but I did not say my farewell to Lancaster since I have had a positive answer to begin a Phd between Lancaster University and Paris Descartes University in October 2010. I will work on the « sampling and modelling of the prevalence of Leptospirosis in the slums of Salvador (Brazil). » Thus, during three years, I will alternate stays in Paris and stays in Lancaster. I might also spend a few months in Brazil :) .

Overall I think that this 2009/2010 MSc year  will be quite a springboard for me professionnally as weel as personnally. I think that the most important thing that I discovered for this year abroad was the fact of meeting and sharing things with other people that I did not know before. This gave me the feeling that « every people on earth are connected » with the same kinds of worries, the same kind of jokes which make them laugh, the same kinds of values in life and the same kinds of dreams. But perhaps in order to realise this, one needs to open their hands to the other.

Brief… it is getting late and I think that I should end this mail here and carry on working the next step of my life : a good night of sleep !

Enjoy the pictures!

 See you in France by the end of December {:o)

 Nico.



Edinburgh rocks!

The exams period was a bit boring at the end and I needed to rebalance my life with a good entertainment. The answer was Edinburgh!  The 5th of June, I decided to go there. The 6th of June, I had sended  a ten of requests to Edinburgh’s Couch Surfers(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CouchSurfing). The morning of the 7th of June I was lucky to get enough positive Couch surfers’ requests to spend a 4-night-5-day stay in Edinburgh. In the evening, after a 2 hour trip by train, I was in Waverley station and surprisingly …  it was rainning!

So the first thing I did was to buy a cheap umbrella with Scotish colors. Usually I do not care about rain and can easily turn into a sponge being happy of that. But I had my printed map of the location of the first Couch surfer flat and wanted to protect it. James’ flat was occupied by six flatmates from all around the world. I met in particular an Australian girl and a Japanese girl. One of the flatmates was abroad and I get a double bed for my first night :) .  I spent a nice evening with the two girls and my host James : I cooked a rough dinner ( 1 Omelette + 1 Bacon-Apple spicy meal +  Pita bread) and we played cards together. It was very nice!

On Tuesday the 8th, I decided to go running as I usually do when I arrive in a new place. I think that running in a place you do not know is a very good thing to do because it makes you feel as belonging to this place.  I jog in the city, I test the city, I am part of the city… This was a foggy morning and I could not even see the famous 250 metres Arthur’s Seat hill which rises in the middle of Edinburgh. However, I succeeded in reaching the hill talking to an old Scottish man whose accent was quite singular. Then, I did a part of the jogging along the hill. An original feeling : jogging on a rocky pathway at 100 metres height and hearing the city sounds without being able to see anything because of the fog! I went back home and James offered me a tour of the city during the afternoon :) . It was great and James gave me a few crunchy details about Edinburgh’s streets, monuments and pubs… In the evening of the 8th, I lodged at Dave’s flat. The first thing I noticed was his huge collection of Dr Who dvds, books, and so on (Dr Who is the most famous TV series in the UK, it has been broadcast since 1963).  

The 9th I visited St Andrews in particular for PhD opportunities at the University. St Andrews is a small town norther than Edinburgh and is quite pretty with its old ruins as you can see it on the second page of the photographies album. On the evening of 9th, after having had for diner the famous Scottish haggish meal, Dave and I joined a couch surfers meeting in a pub in town where we met James, the first Couch Surfer who hosted me. That was great! My first couch surfing event :) . People from all around the world drinking and sharing. Afterwards, with the boldest ones we went to a kind of nightclub with Rock Metal music. I took a nice video of Scottish youth moving their head and long hair drawing circles as they were in trance. And I tried it, well, if you do not have a stiff neck, that is easy ! After having sung a part of « La vie en rose » with James in Edinburgh’s streets, I went to bed.

The 10th, I spent most of my day, shopping, trying to get my hair cut and visiting the city, in particular the new town where most of the tourists are. I say « try to get my hair cut » because I went to a barber (only barbers in Edinburghs) and I told me to cut this « ——– » and he cut this = »— ». For 10 pounds, I was not very glad and it seemed to me I ended up with an English hair style lol. The new town is quite nice with beautiful monuments, a large free museum, good places for having a sun bath and a few French pubs and restaurants.

 The day after (the 11th, yes you are following well!), I decided to do what the fog prevented from doing last time : I climbed to the top of Arthur’s Seat hill at 250 m above the sea level and got a beautiful view of the city and its surroundings. I also found a bike and a sofa at the top of the hill, so well organised :p. Before getting my train back to Lancaster, I found time to buy some fresh bread and « saucission » in a special store that I spotted before. I gave them to the two Couch surfers who hosted me, James and Dave, and I found them delighted !

That is what couch surfing is about  ; instead of paying 100 euros in a hostel where the lodger will barely say you « good night », open yourself, share a good time with people you do not know and who are happy to host you, bring what you have and bought simple things for them. Everybody wins so much!

All was alright on the way back to Lancaster… except me sleeping in the train, waking up just while the doors opened at Lancaster, leaving my pieces of luggage outside the train and realising that my back pack with money and papers was still in the train. I went back in the train as the doors closed, bybye the luggage! … Hopefully next stop was 20 minutes away, I came back to Lancaster and found all my stuff kept by a train controller.

Yo soy un tipo de suerte…!

If you had an interest for visiting the UK, I would strongly recommend to go to Edinburgh instead of London for instance. This town has « du chien ». 

See you soon !

Kisses.

Nicolas.



Mario Ignacio Garcia Urbina

Unfortunately, it is a bad piece of news that I write you in this post. It is about a 24 years old man who used to live the village of Chiapas, Mexico. Mario Ignacio Garcia Urbina was studying its fifth semester of Medicine at the school UPAEP, Mexico and has been president of the students association of his school from 2009 to 2010. The last 7 th of May, he was kidnapped and hold in a house while his parents were gathering the ransom. The 15 th of May his corpse was found in the street. He had obviously been stabbed by his abductors…

I meet Mario, my friend, during a one month stay in Kingston, Canada, that I did in July 2006 at Queen’s University School of English. This trip abroad remains the best one that I have ever done. A few weeks ago, Tracy Lott, the manager of the School of English, sent emails to all the ancient students which were with Mario so as to collect memories of the moments we spent with him to constitute a memory book for his family and his fiancee. Most of what is writte n here is part of what I have sent to Tracy.

summer2006mario.jpg

On the picture above (that I took myself), there are : on the front left side and advertising the pizza box is Howie from China, on the front right side is Patrice from Côte d’Ivoire, on the back right side is Juan from Mexico and on the back left side are two French girls, the blond one is Jenny and I miss the name of the second one. On the center of the photography is Mario Garcia, the man with who I spent most of my time during my stay in Kingston.

The previous photography is quite nice and we had a very good time during this evening. We organized a pizza party and I remember we had great fun. I think it was after a day of high activity as we were all tired. And Howie was very funny. He made a joke about the toilets of the pizzeria (pee-pee stuff lol) and everybody was doubled up. Though I had not really understood his joke, I could not prevent myself from being doubled up too just seeing others’ faces. This was great lol.

I remember that Mario and I wandered around Queen’s university campus together. We noticed that many Canadian houses bore a Canadian flag and we thought that Canadians were all chauvinistic but actually, it was just after Canadian D-Day! Also I told Mario : « you see, it seems to me that in Kingston, the bigger the car in front of the house is, the smaller the house is », and he laughed.

I think we were a good match because we both wanted to have as most fun as possible during that summer. We also enjoyed practicing sports though not the same. I remember we went to play basketball together and he made me run like nobody lol, but I really appreciated to get exhausted and to play with him. We also had the opportunity to swim and play water polo with other classmates and I have to say that I was quite faster than him!

We enjoyed also parties with classmates from all around the world and that is how I discovered that Mario was a great Salsa dancer. I had never danced Salsa before and I discovered it in Kingston. I think that it is by looking at Mario during parties that I realized : «Yeah, this is a very good way of meeting girls!!». I am still working on my Salsa and hope to become at least as good as you Mario! I remember that he called me the crazy French in part due to the fact that I was a bit too spontaneous and direct with girls that I did not know lol. I remember once, I invited a nice Columbian girl to have a drink and at the end she told me she was not interested in having more than a drink with me…When I told it to Mario he had great laughs and told me that was the way Columbian girls were!

Once I went in Mario’s host family house and I remember that it was not a luxurious place at all but this was not a problem for Mario who seemed to be quite happy with this place. I also noticed he had a drawer full of presents from his family in Mexico what makes me think how nice his family should be. In particular, I remember he gave me a sweet from Mexico : a lollipop that you dunk in a powder and which actually makes your mouth as an active volcano… This was quite funny (especially for him lol). I thought it was normal for Mexican people to have spicy sweets as they usually have spicy food !

During our stay, we went also to Montreal for a weekend. There were two cars : one with the French speaking people (Patrick, Jenny, the unnamed girl and I) and another with the Spanish speaking people (Juan, Juan’s daughter, Jorge, another Mexican guy, and Mario). We gathered in Montreal on a Saturday night and we enjoyed a great time in Saint Catherine street’s pubs and clubs.

Mario was always ready to have fun, help others and enjoy the present moments. He was also quite studious and worked well to improve his English. During our English classes, I remember that we had to present one of our favorite movies and Mario chose to present “Happy Gilmore”, the story of a young man who does his best to buys back his grandmother’s home. I believe this movie was a good hint about some of Mario’s values in life.

After I left Kingston, I only had a few online contacts with Mario. However, the comments he usually wrote on his MSN profile were so joyful, grateful and spontaneous that I knew he was just having a great life in full bloom and love… I believe that it is one thing to experience great and joyful moments in your life but that it is another thing not to be afraid to express them and tell everyone around you how well you feel. And Mario was brave enough to do it. I think Mario was quite mature for his age and had understood the simple and main points of life.

This message is to let you know how great a man Mario was. I hope you will have a thought for him some time and that : if you pray, thanks for praying for him, if you drink thanks for drinking in his memory, if you sing or dance, sing or dance in his name and if you smoke, well… just stop smoking lol!

I believe that life is not fair by nature and that it is up to us to make the difference. Therefore, as Mario used to say during this unforgettable 2006 summer, «let’s kick some balls, man!».

I know I can not do anything to bring Mario back but I will do my best to always bear him in my heart, tell his story to everyone I know, and enjoy my life being careful…

Though the later the better, see you later my friend! I have faith that right now you are dancing Salsa up in the sky, keeping a steady and tender eye on those that you used to love and care for.

I miss you.

Forever in my will to live and in my heart.

God bless your fiancee, your family and your friends.

The crazy French.

PS: Winner of 2010 football world cup : Mexico…!



The visitors 1 in Lancaster!

Ok, so as you can guess it right now, this new blog is going to be more international than the first one given I am using English! I should say that it is a good thing for my French readers to improve their English!

I had a few topics waiting for the launching of this new blog ; the first one is the first visit of some members of my family in Lancaster!

It is true that the period of revision I have been through was tough and I should thank Françoise, Viktor (Victor in Viking) and Bertrand (Dad) for coming to visit me three days in last April. This was a good break in my revision! They were a bit in a rush because they had planned to visit all the UK in less than 7 seven days so as to enter in the Guinness book but it worked out well ! Just kidding :p.

In the album « The Visitors 1″, you have a few photographies of their stay. First, inside my Statistics building (where I work), then during a hiking in the Lakes District. It was a nice hiking though the rainny weather was not the cup of tea of Françoise nor of Victor. We planned to walk for 3 hours and left the car at 11 am. As I am a trustworthy hiking guide, 5 hours later we went back to our car…  (I should say I had forgotten there was a mountain in the middle of our walk lol).

The  Visitors 1

 

Nevertheless, they really enjoy the walk and especially Victor. I remember he was keen on walking ashore the Lake giving me details of his new medieval fantastic video game!

The day after our hiking, the weather was sunny and they went back to the Lakes District without me as I had to work. They had a car and could cover a big distance which let them have a pretty good idea of how beautiful the Lakes are.  At the end of their trip in the UK, my father told me that the beauty of the Lakes worthed well the picturesque landscape of the LochNess in Scotland.

They were quite happy with their cheap accommodations in Lancaster University campus, except Viktor who was infortunately in a bedroom near the highway with a window which was badly soundproofed… This explains why he looks sleepy on some photographies :p. Lol!! Sorry Viktor about taking you as my jokes target in this post.

This was great to host some of my relatives in Lancaster since it made me feel that though I am far away, we can still see each other easily.

 

Thanks for that and see you next time!

Hoping to get new visitors to  film « The Visitors 2″,

 

Nico.

 

 

 

 



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