Semester at sea

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Editor's note: Chloe Gilchrist, a junior at the University of Colorado at Boulder, recently embarked on the Semester at Sea program through the University of Pittsburgh. She set sail Aug. 30 and will return Dec. 7. During her trip, she will visit ports in the Bahamas, Venezuela, Brazil, South Africa, Kenya, India, Myanmar, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Japan, Hawaii and California. Gilchrist is the daughter of Tom and Beth Gilchrist of Craig. This is the second of three parts that will be published through Saturday. The Craig Daily Press will publish future dispatches from Chloe when she sends them.

By CHLOE GILCHRIST

Special to the Daily Press

Outside the elevator is a section of Salvador called the Pelourinho, or the Pelo. Pelourinho literally means, "whipping post," and Pelourinho Square is where slaves were tortured and sold. It is an older section of the town, filled with shops and cafes. This part of the city was very beautiful, sort of a mix of old colorful buildings and modern architecture. You had to be careful what you were taking pictures o,f though. Ladies would come up to you dressed up in big dresses and ask you whether you wanted your picture with them. But right before the picture was taken, they would ask you for some money. This was pretty common if you wanted to take pictures of any street performers or anyone in costume.

That night, we went to a welcome reception that was put on by the tour company Semester at Sea contracts with in Brazil. We watched a demonstration of Capoeira, a martial arts dance-fight. Capoeira was invented and developed by the black slaves brought to Brazil from Africa, as a means of defending themselves and of fighting for freedom. They weren't allowed to practice fighting, so they made it into a dance. The main rhythm instrument is the berimbau -- a long, one-stringed instrument with a gourd at one end. They play it by holding the gourd against their stomachs and taping the string with a stick. After the demonstration, they had a contest where the students could show off their Capoeira skills. The winner was awarded one of the berimbaus that the musicians had been playing. It was pretty exciting. After the contest, they did a drumming and dance demonstration. Then a live band played, and everyone danced. This was by far my favorite event in Brazil.

The second day, I went with a group to a small fishing village about 50 kilometers outside of Salvador, called Praia do Forte. There is a marine turtle conservation project here, and we were able to visit it. They had "touch-tanks," where you could touch sea life. I touched a manta ray. It was cool; it felt like jelly on top of leather. I think the touch-tanks were there to promote the idea of not being afraid of sea life, but also to realize how fragile the entire system is. The project was really neat; we got to see a bunch of turtles and other fish.

After lunch, we walked around the town a little bit, but after the tide went down, my roommate and I walked along the beach to look in the tidal pools. She is an environmental studies major, so she was pointing out things that I wouldn't have noticed if I had gone alone. There were lots of tiny hermit crabs that you didn't even notice were there until you saw the mass of tiny shells moving. We even got to see and hold some starfish. It was amazing to see the amount of life in such a tiny section of the ocean.

We stayed overnight at Casa de Praia, a pousada e restaurante (hotel and restaurant). The next day, we rowed canoes down a small river until our guides had us stop. After we all got out (there were about 20 of us), the guides took us on a short walk over a hill to a completely deserted beach with beautiful rolling waves. Absolutely incredible. One minute, we are in the midst of downtown Salvador, and the next, we are on a deserted beach, playing in the ocean. We swam for a while, walked back to the canoes, and rowed the rest of the way down the river to where our jeeps were parked. The local people were very friendly, and during the daytime, I felt very safe. Praia do Forte is a very small town, so it is much safer than Salvador. It was a little scary at night though, but only if you were not in a group. It is hard to imagine that the people were so poor when they lived in such a beautiful area. It is difficult seeing poverty like that and then going back to a beautiful ship where people wait on me, and there is a clean place to sleep, and always more than enough food for everyone.

After we got back from Praia do Forte, we went to a local restaurant for dinner and drinks. We went in a big group, and were fortunate enough to have a girl with us who is from Portugal. The main language spoken in Brazil is Portuguese, and it was awesome having someone with us who could negotiate with the taxi driver, order at the restaurant, and tell us what we were ordering.

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