“So, what are you doing in Recife?”
“I… mostly sweat. Like, all the time. Kind of new to me. It’s a full-time activity—step out, sweat. Buy drink, sweat some more. Move, sweat. Don’t move, sweat all the same. I didn’t even know I had the ability to sweat that much.”
I’m one of these people who don’t sweat much, even when I exercise, even when it’s hot and humid. But this corner of Brazil is a giant hot yoga studio. It’s just impossible not to sweat. I’m considering going out naked because really, what’s the point of wearing clothes that will stick to your skin in a matter of seconds? Every time I go pee, I literally peel my shorts off my butt. That bad.
If you don’t like heat, skip Brazil’s nordeste.
It’s hot, but it’s not always sunny. It gets cloudy and breezy close to the ocean, but the water remains a perfect 25⁰C and the wind is hot. It does rain once in a while—the temperature drops dramatically to 29⁰C for half an hour, then it goes up again.
Recife is worth the sweat though, it’s a fascinating place. In Brazil, every state is very different, so I knew there would be a learning curve in Pernambuco. What the hell is bolo de rolo? The local delicacy, kind of like a Swiss roll with melted guava. Do people eat shark? Nope, it’s the other way around—turned out that “charque,” a popular filling, is just beef jerky. Can you OD on bacalhau? Apparently not, and I guarantee you I eat a lot of cod fish here. Where is my delicious pão de queijo? Locals like pãozinho delicia best (it’s meh, just bread with cream cheese).
I’m also getting used to the fact that both sunset and sunrise are very early, respectively around 6 p.m. and 4 a.m. “Who the hell turned the lights on?” I grumpily complained the first morning in the bright Airbnb studio.
Getting around is another learning curve. The city of Recife is formed by three islands (Recife, Santo Antônio, and Boa Vista) and the “Brazilian Venice” counts over 50 bridges. From Boa Viagem to Recife Antigo, i.e. the historic part of the city, you have to take the bus because the main bridges are not pedestrian friendly. I usually catch the ônibus in Pina, at the end of my beach walk. Most go to or through São José and Santo Antônio, two crowded old bairros where I invariably get lost in the maze of alleys—don’t use churches as landmarks, there are dozens of them and they all look the same. From there, I eventually find the bridge to Recife Antigo, across rio Capibaribe.
Once upon a time, Recife Antigo was probably the kind of neighbourhood you’d want to avoid but it has been revitalized and it’s now a popular hangout place for both tourists and locals. This is one of these “ looks sketchy but actually okay” place.
So this is what I do in Recife—I go out, explore, figure out how things work, discover new foods and neighbourhoods, explain locals I’m not from Colombia (apparently my default identity this trip), drink Brazilian coffee, and get stuck in traffic in the ônibus back to Boa Viagem at the end of the day but eventually make it home early enough to write and work.
Not bad, eh?