Our group recently just returned from a wonderful experience in Lençóis, Bahia! The trip started on Friday morning, bright and early as it takes 7 hours to get to Lençóis from Salvador. I was asleep for most of the bus ride, but when I woke up, I realized for the first time since I entered Brazil, I wasn’t in the city. The country side of Bahia (the state I’m in) is absolutely stunning. Imagine long stretches of dry land with the occasional small town brushing the edge of the main highway or the occasional cattle ranch.
Before we arrived in Lençóis, we stopped at the bottom of the mountain O Morro do Pai Inácio. We had a short, but surprisingly hard, hike to the top of the mountain. It was was absolutely stunning. The mountain had once been at the bottom of an ocean, so the landscape on the top was like nothing I’ve ever seen. The top of the mountain overlooks an entire valley and other mountains. The area used to produce diamonds (the same kind found in Africa), so its history is full of mining with slaves (which is connected to the the name Pai Inacio if you want to look it up).
After this, we loaded up and headed to our hotel. Before we actually checked in, we visited an NGO located in Lençóis. The leaders there mostly had us dancing and connecting with music. After we had our fun, they sat us down to talk about what they really do. The NGO focuses on running workshops for children and people in different communities. The workshops for the kids focus on different things like dance, theater, music, but also things like accounting and programs to encourage students to go to college. The programs for the community focus on going into the community and empowering the community to become able to provide for itself. It was a great experience and almost all of us students were moved by it.
After this we finally got to our hotel and were free to explore. The next day, Saturday, we started the day off by heading to a cave! The entire experience was so incredible, especially for me, because I’ve never been to one. I was honestly just so struck by how huge it was. The entrance was huge, and inside was somehow even bigger. The deeper we went into the cave, the darker it became, until it was pitch black, with nothing buy our flash lights lighting the way. For a moment, I panicked because I felt trapped underground in the dark. The our guide had us turn off all our flashlights and stand completely silent. You would think that this would cause my fear to spike, but it was strangely calming. It was if all the pressure from the world above had been wiped away by the overwhelming darkness. It was beautiful.
After the cave, we visited a river so rich in iron, that it looked like it was black. Some students climbed up the small cliff next to it so that they could jump into the water, but I honestly think they were crazy as it was freezing. We then hiked up behind the river to Poço do Diabo, an amazing waterfall. I honestly can’t describe how great that was, so I’ll just post the photos.
Then, after dinner some capoeiristas came and performed Caporeira for us. Some of them were adult masters, but most of the capoeiristas that came were actually children, around the ages of 5-12. That was a great experience to see all the different skill levels and the joy and the confidence the Brazilian children get from it. One interesting thing that the master said was that he is sad when his students leave the group after becoming a master at Caporiera, but he would much rather lose them to doing great things due to Caporiera, than to lose them drugs or violence. Caporiera is obviously so much more than a type of dance.
Another fun part of the night was that one of the capoeiristas that performed for us was Ailton Carmo, the lead actor in a capoeirista movie called Besouro that we had watched on the bus ride. We all took pictures with him and he was such a great sport about our fangirling.
The next day, Sunday, we took a trip to a waterfall. On the hike there, we passed a series of natural pools that pocketed a thin layer of rock over a river. We also passed the sandstone that is famous for making the different colored sand in souvenirs. We hiked through a small forest, and eventually came to a small natural waterfall. Like the cave, this waterfall was also a first for me. The water was freezing, but I still made the slippery journey to stand underneath it. I can’t explain the feeling that I had while there. Moments like those remind me of how far I’ve come, from a poor little girl being raised in Los Angeles, to a powerful college student with the entire world at my fingertips and endless opportunities. Moments like those humble me and remind me to remember the people who have made everything on this trip possible: my parents and all their sacrifices, my teachers in elementary school who never even hinted at the fact that statistically I was less likely to achieve than pretty much any other child, my high school teachers who pushed me to be better and also supported me through hard times, my scholarship program to helping me get into my college, and finally Colorado College (especially the financial aid office who has worked with me every step of the way). To all these people and more, I am eternally grateful.