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Published: March 1st 2017
Carnival week has ended and it was pretty much what you’d expect: drinking, dancing, and bad Spanglish. In light of all the festivities, I’d like to think I’m seasoned enough to make a sort-of ‘survival guide’ for all the scared Americans out there about to partake in the biggest party South America has to offer…and maybe the world? Yes. Definitely the world.
1. Take people’s advice, but don’t let them scare you. Friends and strangers alike warned us about the crime here an ungodly amount of times. At first it was a kind reminder, then it really scared me…almost to the point of not going different places…then it became an annoyance. They mean well, obviously, but if I let their warnings prevent me from going to the places I wanted…I would’ve regretted it.
2. Don’t be bugee. (For all you +50s out there, replace the word bugee with “fancy.”) Leave your valuables at home. Having said that though, I brought my iPhone and a small (crappy) digital camera that I successfully returned home with too. A side note though, I can drink…but I also hold my liquor pretty darn well considering. So if you’re the
kinda drunk that’s known for playing the, “OMG Becky, where’s my phone?!” game -- do yourself (and everyone around you) a favor and leave that shit locked away in your hostel.
3. If you are an American, and you are white -- you might be the first white person Bahia-locals have ever seen. I know this because it happened it me, and it blew me away. It was about the third or fourth day of the festivities and we decided to do Baja again that night. I was dancing in the center of one of the many dance circles when a rather large, black, smiling female almost toppled me over by throwing her arm around me. “American!” She yelled, “American…wowww!” She spoke Spanish to me, as if I understood. When I didn’t, we both looked to my Spanish speaking hostel-mate for translation. “She says you’re the first white person she’s ever seen and wants to take a picture.” …Really? I couldn’t believe it. Nevertheless, we struck a cheesy pose for a crappy blurry picture on her cell phone and she was off. In that moment, I was a Kardashian – famous for absolutely nothing.
4. Make friends with everyone…especially the locals. Make it known how much fun you’re having, and you will naturally attract the people around you. I always made sure to dance while I walked too. The crowd really responds will to a tiny Gringa getting down to their music. Friendly eyes were watching over me, and I felt protected.
5. Be a honey badger. Honey badgers don’t give a f*ckkkk. (YouTube Reference FTW). Lauren, one of the American friends I made in the hostel, told me one Carnival night that I walk around like I own the place. It may be the napoleon complex of my four-foot-eleven self, but hey, I’ll take it. I really feel like it helped. When you walk with confidence, you begin to feel confident. There was even an incident where Lauren was being aggressively “danced with” by three bigger Brazilians. I approached them, grabbed Lauren, and pushed them away with a force that had them look at me with surprise. They shrugged and walked away immediately. I swear this happened. Bullies will likely crumble when the victim fails to act accordingly.
6. Trust your gut, even
if it makes you uncomfortable. If someone is giving you the heebie-jeebies, don’t be afraid to cut ties and dip out…even at the risk of looking like a rude American. You don’t owe anyone any niceties if you’re feeling creeped out. Just remove yourself out of the situation quick and don’t look back.
7. Drink, but don’t black out. If someone tells you to stop drinking so much, be respectful and listen to them. We were warned (yet again) that locals look for out-of-towners that appear blacked out. A blacked out tourist is easier to mug…or worse. Make sure your squad keeps you in check, and vice versa.
8. I’ll keep this one short and sweet: if you find yourself getting mugged, give them everything and walk away. Don’t try and be a hero. “They will kill you without blinking an eye,” we were told on multiple accounts. I was also reminded that, unlike in America, odds are that if you do get mugged, they will likely sell your valuables to feed their family more so than to buy narcotics. …If that makes you feel any better.
9. Rock the inner-fanny pack. The
kind that goes underneath your clothes. And when doing so, keep your hands and arms near your hips. Most people who will try to mug you know that you are wearing it, but it is harder to steal if they see your hand right near it.
10. Don’t pay to go on the floats or in the clubs. Not worth the money. I heard it takes a good 45 minutes to get a drink and even longer for the lines for the bathroom. Plus, once you go in there is no reentry…so you’re stuck there.
11. Ride the motorcycle-taxi home! Despite advice from the group I was with, I trusted my gut and felt safe enough to make the last minute decision to ride on the back of a motorcycle, with the teenage-looking taxi boy. At the risk of being cliché, the wind whipping through my hair, dodging on-coming traffic, has never made me feel so appreciative of my surroundings.
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