An Accidental Journey

Some journeys happen by accident.

I thought I was moving to Salvador. Like moving moving. I packed art to hang in my new place. Bought an inventory of vintage clothes to sell (because that would be my second hustle). Packed ALL the hair supplies. This time around I was going to really establish myself in Salvador, Bahia, Brazil. Teach english and sell clothes and continue to freelance. Pay my rent on my freelancing. Date a lot and travel and live my dreams. Make more videos! I even got a new credit card. It was a glorious 6 months in a place that is really a second home, but I came to find that the common expression about comfort and growth not being friends is true. As much I love Salvador, I found myself stagnate there. Unfocused. Barely getting my artistic endeavors done. Chasing the wrong people. Having too much fun. And so when the opportunity to go the Ecuadorian Amazon and help Bani Amor shoot some B roll travel footage for their documentary arose, I took it.

It came at a really interesting moment in my life too. I had recently gotten a reading done by my good friend Jasmine Cain, and some repressed sexual trauma came up. It put me in a bad place. A place that I’m still processing and will probably spend most of the year trying to writing about. Suddenly, a trip to Ecuador looked like an escape. For a long time traveling has been my primary method of self medicating. If I was feeling anxious or bored or even uncomfortable, I’d start planning a trip somewhere. A change of scenery always did the trick, until it didn’t. I spent most of January alone in my apartment, crying non stop and feeling worthless. Friends took care of me and helped wean of the small suicidal thoughts but I saw a trip to Ecuador as a potential life saver. In it’s own way it turned out to be just that. I drank ayahuasca in the Ecuadorian amazon with Teresa an indigenous healer and environmental activist who also dealt with sexual trauma in her own life. My decision to leave yet again, seemed like a step in the right direction.

From Ecuador I decided to go Colombia, as I heard of it’s high percentage of African descendant people. I was very close geographically to the country so I felt I had to see it. Cali, Colombia turned out to be harder for me. It’s really developed so I couldn’t rely on “magical” architecture to make feel like I was some place “foreign”. A lot of the Spanish I had before living in Brazil became Portuguese, so I was anxious about talking. On top of that I knew no one. In the past, I’d see it as a challenge to reinvent myself and dive fully into a new place. But I was and still am mentally exhausted. The trauma I’m holding is no longer suppressed. It’s actually on the tip of my tongue at all times. The deep realization that I can’t travel my trauma away emerged and cemented itself in Colombia.

Today, I’m getting on a bus that will take me to Quito, Ecuador and from there I’ll get on a plane and land in San Francisco, California by Wednesday afternoon. I’m in the last leg of my accidental journey. After a month on the West Coast dealing with the same problems that have followed me across continents I’ll make my way back to where they all started; home. And then the real adventure will begin.

 

 

 

The Best thing in Sao Paulo; Liberdade

I spent a week in Sao Paulo, the biggest city in South America, the financial capital of Latin America. It was okay. I’m realized being from the NorthEast of the States makes “big” cities kinda boring to me. It was cold and gray. A lot of the people were stand offish and wore all black. A lot of hipsters and hamburgers and food trucks. The best parts were hanging out with my friend Rico Dalasam and going to Liberdade.

Liberdade

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Home to the second largest group of Japanese descended people and the best sushi in Brazil, Liberdade is an especially unique treat for lovers of migration stories and culture.  Liberdade was once the burial sight for unruly slaves, but after slavery ended and Brazil needed workers to farm the land and influx of Japanese people came to make the neighborhood their own. Every Sunday there’s a massive event celebrating the culture. I got to see a young boy sing Micheal Jackson’s “Ben”. It was awesome.

The Food

I had a cold bowl of soup with vegetables and meat. It had ice cubes in it. It was good but I really had no idea what I was eating cause the menu was in Portuguese and Korean. I regret not getting Korean BBQ.  *sigh* There was also a long ass line to eat dumplings. I stepped out of line to see about a city tour and missed my chance to taste the dumpling. But it seemed really good. If/when I return to Sao Paulo, I’m really just gonna spend most of my time in Liberdade. Cause the other parts of Sao Paulo were kinda wack to me. It was like a fake ass New York stuck in 2008.

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How to go to the Olympics without actually going to the Olympics

Step 1. Buy tickets to Rio for the closing weekend. Find a nice spot to stay at, preferably Santa Theresa or something close to the center.

Step 2. Buy tickets to a game. Depending on the event, prices can be as low as 20 USD.

Step 3. Get into town on Thursday night and go partying all night with your amazing host. Samba in the rain and drink way too much beer, but make sure you also eat an entire plate of carne de sol at midnight to curb the urge to vomit.

Step 4. Wake up early the next day, because your internal clock is still off from traveling four days straight prior to getting to Rio. Spend the morning getting ready but still manage to leave the house at 12:45, never mind the fact that your games is about 2 hours away and started at 12.

Steps 5-10. Spend most of the days learning the exquisite transportation system of Rio because you are jet lagged, hungover and lost.

My plan when returning to Rio for the Olympics was grand. I would get commissioned to write about the infrastructure of the city, which many people thought would crumble under the sheer amount of people in town for the games. I would take pictures of bridges close to collapsing on tourists and general report on what so many though would be general fuckery. But like most things, that plan didn’t pan out. Instead I found myself sleeping peacefully on the train as I attempted to get into the Olympic park.

Rio is a huge fucking place. Like- this city has a population of over 6 million people already. So dumping a few million more would inconvenience and disrupt everything right? Not exactly. While traffic was insane, this is a city that hosts the month long celebration of Carnaval. If any place is capable of hosting the Olympics it’s certainly Rio.

The metro was clean and heavily air conditioned in preparation for the crowds of people in transit.  IMG_5185

views from the 4th line train

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the views to my right

I was surrounded by Latino bros, and fighting sleep when we started to approached Barra, one of the many Olympics parks.

 

 

Not sure if you can see it out of the window, but it was pretty. Kinda of like a Disney land of sports. However, you could only get into an Olympic Park if you had tickets to a game. And my game was at Deodoro. Which was about a hour away from Barra. Upon learning this I sat on the curb and garnered the energy to take another journey.

By this time, I had came too far to not get into a park. I was not about to waste my 20 dollars. So I got up and descended back into the train station

I will say, the majority of the people I saw going to the games were white. Nationalities varied, but most people I saw who were dark were working. From the athletes to the train workers, the Olympics is an event reliant on black labor, but than again, what isn’t?  There was also the HEAVY military police presence, which more than the threat of getting robbed, hindered me from taking photos with my professional camera.

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A part of me felt conflicted for supporting an institution that paid the janitors less than two dollars an hour. But it was hard to hold that anger when all the people who worked for the Olympics transit were working class Brazilians and so. fucking. nice.

 

Except this one person who sat on the phone and ignored me until a white guy came up and asked for help, then she got off the phone…bitch. IMG_5181

Aside from that, it was like Disney in the sense that almost everyone who wore Olympic paraphernalia was on duty and eager to assist. They also all wore these shoes. IMG_5194 (1)

On my ride to what I thought was Deodoro I fell asleep next to the most pleasant woman who worked as a nurse for the Games and was on her way to see her first game after her shift ended.

 

 

Our ride was very smooth. More than anything I was really impressed with the trains. They were plentiful, clean and always running with many attendants in bright green vests waiting to assist. Unfortunately, all of that help didn’t save me from getting to my stop too late to enter the park from the station. I finally got to Deodoro, (by accident, I was actually trying to go home) and the entrance from the train closed. I would have had to take the train to the next stop, get off and take a bus through another neighborhood to get to the entrance. All of this was told to me by new friend Arturo. IMG_5195

But sadly Arturo’s clear directions couldn’t save me from the wave of sleep that hit me once I got on the train. I woke up at the last stop and easily found my way back to Santa Theresa. So in short, my coverage of the Rio Olympics are limited to the intricate and impressive transportation services they had. This isn’t to say that the Olympics didn’t displace people, and discriminate against the poor. All of that certainly happened.  It may even be the sign of successful Olympics. However, many people wondered if Brazil, a brown country, (despite it’s own delusions) a developing country, could pull off such a big event. And they did. Brazil proved that they’re are able to be a complicated country and present a shiny veneer for rich tourists just like Atlanta or London or any other “developed” country.

Also, Uber is here now. So, it’s lit.

 

 

 

 

 

Cicatrizes

unnamed-9This is it.

It’s for sale.

This time last year I released “Hunger”. What started out as an attempt to pay rent, turned into a labor of love and a secret affair. Here’s my attempt at travel writing.

“Cicatrizes” by Nia Hampton, edited by Bani Amor, designed and formatted by Maya Rodriguez, featuring a special story by Davi Nunes.
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What to Expect when you’re expecting…Guests

“Come visit me, everyone! Come witness me being an adult!”

In June, my little sister and my best friend came to visit me.11392921_10206694246578517_3325044256925862410_n

It was awesome. It was hard. It was enlightening. It was necessary. But also, it was hard.

A marker of “adulting” is being able to live outside of your childhood home and be “okay”. “Okay” can range from staying relatively clean and fed to starting your own business/becoming famous/etc. For me, the marker is being able show people “a good time” in this place I’m calling home. It was a challenge I was not expecting because all I could think about was how much I missed my family and friends, so when I got the surprise that they’d be coming, operation “PARTY.NEVER.ENDS.” went into full effect. Which was probably the first mistake. But learn from my mistakes. Here are 6 ways to ensure your guests will enjoy themselves when they come visit.

1. Drop all expectations of fun.

As with most things in life, if you expect them to be a certain way you run the risk of being disappointed. It’s better to go into new situations with an open mind and heart. Try not to push the idea of what you experienced on your guests, as everyone is different. I expected my sister and friend to be as crazy about Brasil as I am/was. Which made me totally overlook the huge differences between Brazil and The States. In my attempt to push them into “adventure” I may have made them feel as if they were burdens, which wasn’t the goal. This city is exhausting, and living in a second language requires a lot of energy. We ended up having the most fun in the airbnb, watching music videos and cooking for each other.

2. Find some Chill and some language skills.

Brazil is not an English speaking country. It’s not Cancun, it’s not the Bahamas, it’s still opening up to American markets, especially Salvador. This place is not easy to adjust to in a few weeks. I’ve been here for close to a year now, and I still get lost going to places I’ve been dozens of times. That being said, coming from the efficient fast paced lifestyle of the North East States into slow Salvador can make you feel like you’re losing your mind. And after the taxi tells you he knows where he’s going and he drops you off at the wrong place for the nth time, you probably will. And that’s okay. Just remove yourself from the taxi, maybe get a cheap beer from one of the various vendors on the corner, get into another taxi and thank God for the 3:1 currency exchange rate pray that the Orishas will help you find your way home. Be patient, the language gap is real. There’s Brazilian Portuguese, then there’s the Portuguese that is spoken in the streets of Salvador. None of it is easy. But Duolingo is great app to get you started.

3. You Really will get robbed here…but you’ll survive.

1907478_10152732270241525_2969941211896838783_n11401213_10152732270141525_1773031432820728259_nThis picture of us in the Pinga favela was snapped just before a boy on his bike started riding around us ringing a bell. Never mind the fact that three of us are American and the other three are British. Forget that we are walking around a favela in Rio de Janerio being loud english speaking black girls with big ass iphones. Disregard the selfies in public. We black, we good. They’ll probably think we’re African and leave us alone. Although I’ve been living in Salvador for the past 9 months, a place deemed “dangerous” it wasn’t until I went to Rio (for the second time, the first time I went alone) that I was robbed. The best part is, I wasn’t robbed in a favela. Although we all almost were. After we took this picture and walked around a little we ran into a group of little boys who were no older than 10, who distracted us from noticing the shirtless fine young men who magically appeared. We started to get nervous so we decide to leave and low and behold police with guns armed and cocked start walking towards us. At first I was afraid, but then I realized we spoke english and that they were probably there for us. I was robbed in my hostel while I was sleeping, and the suspect was white. My beloved 5c  that I worked so hard to get fixed and had only had for about 4 months, was gone again. Luckily, that’s all that was taken from me. 

4. Mix New Friends with Old Friends.

11145230_10152732275581525_1608288021538357125_n The first time I went to Rio alone I met my good friend Karmel. She would come to Salvador and stay with me over Christmas Break. She’s a really sweet soul and it’s so nice to have what feels like family so far from home. Especially family in another city. So when I booked Maya and Kia’s flight knowing that they’d have a layover in Rio, we incorporated a few nights there.

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We made new friends easily. Unlike Salvador, Rio is full of white faces. So when Maya and Kia found two other black girls they were excited. Turns out the two other black girls were British! And so we became a group. A good time was had by all, and we even have contacts for when we go to London. Which hopefully will be sooner than later.

5. Stay Spontaneous!

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The last night of Rio we went to a restaurant to celebrate Kia’s birthday. I planned to find a cake for her and do a whole thing, but our phones were stolen that morning, so life altered. However she still enjoyed herself. We still had a wonderful time and we ended up meeting cool people at the end of the night in Lapa. We stayed up all night talking and bonding, laughing braiding each other’s hair and enjoying the friendship we found far away from home.

In short, when your friends and family are coming to visit expect nothing, prepare for what you can but also relax and enjoy them. They came to see you, after all.

Hippy Life, no really.

Capão is a very special place where time doesn’t exist and the internet is so slow it might as well not exist. It is the perfect place to go and decompress, grow your hair out, not shave, not wash, be one with nature. I found myself almost falling over at times because I was star gazing and it’s possible to see other galaxies in Capão. The town is small and hard to get to. You have to take a bus from Salvador to Palmeires then a van or car to Capão. It’s all very dusty and cowboy-ishFullSizeRender (1).

The town of Capão consists of normal black/indigenous Brazilians with clean houses and ipods, hippies and tourists passing through for the vibes, weed, energy, mountain trails and general lax atmosphere. Within the first day of Capão I was naked in two different rivers. I had an insightful conversation with a black Colombian woman. She was the only black hippies I encountered in my time there. Her son was blond and white, she was brown.  She told me how his dad was Argentinean and how they travel a lot. They lead a nomadic life. She told me she thought I was Brasilian or maybe even Colombian. She was surprised that I was from the states, (which will be the topic of a much longer post in the future). She kept trying to get her son to come to me, she would say, “ella e sua Tia, mira mira a ella.” He cried. I guess he didn’t see family in me.

Later in the day I found myself sitting in the town square at the super market reflecting on how a place like Capão could even exist. FullSizeRender (3) The locals seemed like they weren’t interested in the lifestyle that many came from all over to get a piece of. Many of the hippies were musicians,  Cagıl the friend I was staying with is a bad ass singer and flute player. She took me to a sauna and drum circle and I was coaxed into singing praises to Jah all night. It was as strange as it was exhilarating. I was in the woods with a bunch of different types of white people, my black American distrust kicked in, but then I looked up at the stars and remembered that I was safe. These were good white people. Seriously. But I also remembered how the woods or nature can be seen as refuge. When people are looking for freedom they run to the woods. In the game of “Tag” base is usually a tree. I don’t think I’ve ever been safer than I was that night in the woods.  Although I may have came of as stand offish to the people I met because I was extremely high and I’m usually quiet in new environments, eventually I warmed up. I plan on going back to there for a few weeks before I leave Brazil in August. There are things I need to discover.

Cachoeira da Fumaça

I think I’ve found a place I can continue to come back to.  Capão, a small town over run with hippies located in Palmeiras, Bahia is my new favorite place in the world. It’s a part of the huge mountainous region they call Chapada Diamintina.  3After getting fired from my job on a random Wednesday afternoon, I decided to take the money that I was paid and go to Capão. I had heard that it was a special place, and it turned out to be true.  Being blessed with awesome friends, I was able to stay with one of the most interesting people I’ve encountered in a long time. Her name is Cagıl Cokan, she’s a gypsy and a very talented musician. IMG_2434

After about 6 hours of travel by bus (one of my favorite ways to explore) I finally got to her house. We went to a belly dance class, which was my first but won’t be my last. The 4 days and 3 nights spent in Capão were mystical and frightening and I’m still thinking about it. It was a high that I’m not ready to let go off. While there I hiked the cachoeira da fumaça a trail that leads to a waterfall so high that the water doesn’t touch the bottom before it evaporates.

9It was dry when I went, so my hike was relatively fast and easy (as easy as a two hour hike can be). The hike was really awesome. It was cool to experience how moving my feet and breathing could  change my surroundings.13

I spent the whole day there in the mountains. I would have stayed longer but I had to get down before it got dark, as I had no flashlight and ran out of water. The journey back down was when I realized how far I traveled and how dangerous the trail could have been if the waterfall had been wet. 4I would later see this as a metaphor for my time in Salvador. I felt blessed. And surprisingly not tired.

In those mountains I didn’t have any great revelations or visions. But I was very impressed with the fact that I was able to complete the hike and actually enjoy it. It was so simple. Just walking up a hill, climbing some rocks, siting by water. 5

I walk a trail in my city, it’s nothing like the cachoeira da fumaça but it’s a part of my self care ritual. I need to go outside in nature sometimes, because my brain is over active. And after losing my job here in Salvador, (something I’ll write about more in another post) I had been feeling fearful and confused and alone. That hike reminded me that there was nothing for me to fear.