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April’s “Quarantine”, Salvador, BR

April 1st, 2020

Normally, we would have a map indicating where we have been lately; since we haven’t moved in a month, that’s not happening.

Instead, we’ve inserted a map of showing where we are in relation to the COVID19 hot spots of São Paulo and Rio (which have more than 60% of the cases); where we entered and our destination which we had hoped to make it by early June.  In this map you can see also the 26 different states of Brazil.

  • The “X” is where we entered Brazil from Uruguay;
  • the two blue circles are São Paulo and Rio respectively
  • Salvador is where we are in the red circle
  • the green circle is the border with French Guiana.

Brazil* (as of April 30th) has over 85,000 confirmed COVID19 cases according to WHO (we are pretty sure these numbers are WAY off) with the majority of cases still being in the southeastern part of the country as well as in the large city of Manaus  up in the Amazonas State (where the death rate is rising quickly).  The state we are currently in, Bahia, has about 2700 cases.  To date, almost all the states are ignoring the president’s opinions on this pandemic (thankfully) and protocols are in place in 24 of them, but as we’ve mentioned before; for how long, who knows? When we will be able to move on? Again, who knows and if we can move, where can we go, where can we stay and most importantly will the border be open into French Guiana.  As you can see, here in Salvador, we are about halfway along the coast to that border.   The “plan” is to more or less hug the coast as we head north.

* The population of Brazil is in excess of 211,000,00.   

Happy April Fool’s Day – like what is going on in the world is not enough of a “joke”.

We are still here and are still fine.  We did hear on April 2nd though, that the long term care home that Fran’s mother lives in, has one reported case of a staff member who tested positive.  Luckily, that person is on a different floor.  It’s scary times.  Fran’s mom is healthy with no underlying issues (no heart disease or diabetes) but she is nearly 88 years old so we can only hope it doesn’t reach her.  (UPDATE April 10th – no further cases and that person is out of quarantine!) It’s hard being far away, but it’s not like we can go visit anyway with all long term care centres under lockdown.  So we call our mothers more often and we are able to send emails to Fran’s mom through a special site that has been set up.  That home has its own private Facebook page and now they are trying to set up video chats and Fran is on the “wait list”.

Doug’s mom is doing well and we’ve not heard of any cases in her home in New Westminster, BC.  That province seems to have “flattened the curve” already and our friend, who is a pharmacist in North Vancouver, advises that her hospital has yet to be inundated with COVID19 patients, so that is awesome.

The weather continues to be quite warm/hot here but the rain is increasing these days.  Doug walked a marathon yesterday and was pleased with how it went – only one small blister.  It’s way too hot to run that distance here.

We continue to be in touch with family and friends and spend our days doing our daily chores, walks, shopping if needed, and spend our afternoons either here at the campground using the outdoor shower to cool or we spend a couple of hours under the palm trees in the shade at the beach. (If any of you want to do a video chat, please reach out and we can work out a date and time – our schedule is pretty open! )

It’s the beginning of April so that time of the month again and our cell phone bill is due.  This poses different problems than previously as we cannot find a place to print the bill to pay it at a bill paying shop (which we’d rather not go to as the lines tend to be long and not everyone spaces out enough) so we asked Paulo, the campground owner, to help us and he kindly paid the bill online using his credit card and we have paid him with our camping fees.  He did say we could wait until we leave to pay for camping, but at this point, we don’t know when that will be and don’t feel it’s very fair to not pay him regularly.

If you’ve been following us for a while, you might remember that we met a woman back in August on our first time in Brazil, who works at the Canadian Embassy, named Jessica.  We also mentioned that Fran’s sister knows the Canadian Ambassador here (Fran actually met her back in ’06).  Anyway, we got a message from the Ambassador via Cynthia, asking us to check in with our acquaintance, Jessica, on our situation.  (We do get messages almost daily from both the Canadian and US embassies regarding ensuring we are registered with them and what if any flights are headed back to the US  – seems the flights now only go to US and then you have to catch a flight to Canada separately.)  So we have “checked in” giving the particulars of where we are and on our current situation advising we intend to stay.

On Friday night the 3rd, a young French couple arrived here at the campground.  Charlotte and Gregory are in the 20’s and travelling in a van they purchased in Chile in early January.  The arrived in Brazil just as COVID19 began and finally found this place as one of the few places open with all amenities to also hunker down in.  As there are three bathrooms here, we’ve established each our own and we share the hot shower in the only one that has one.  The kitchen now has to be shared so we use it separately, have established which chairs are whose at the table and are following  washing protocols.  Sad to say we’d become used to being on our own so it’s going to be a bit different.

Saturday and Sunday the temperatures rose a great deal and the Humidex made it feel like in the low 40’s C / 104+ F.  The outdoor showers here and the beach got used a great deal.

Photos from our daily walks along the beach malecon (boardwalk):

I think we mentioned that we’ve been using Uber Eats a bit.  However, never yet to date have we received a perfectly correct order; 1) wrong toppings on our acai; 2) not all out sides with our burgers; 3) chocolate ice cream instead of acai and 4) Saturday afternoon, we got two orders of the same thing, couldn’t cancel one and the second order was only half of the order!  At least (so far) what has come has been edible!

The week passed by rather quickly with nothing too exciting happening although one day, a fellow came to trim the coconut palms and “harvest” the coconuts so we all get some fresh coconuts to drink the water and eat the flesh.

a bad video: (sorry)

Doug did notice when he walked more into the centre of this suburb on the Wednesday before Easter (and when he went shopping on Thursday), that there we many more people out and about and more traffic on the streets; seems that with Easter coming people are out shopping and, Juliana, the wife of the owner, told us that a number of people have received their first COVID19 relief money this week so they have money to spend.   Here in Brazil, people are receiving the equivalent of $125 USD!

In this time of wearing masks when shopping etc.  Fran managed to make a non sewing one using half a bandanna and two  hair elastics

and Charlotte very nicely made a simple hand sewn one for Doug so he has two.  It doesn’t cover as much of his face and he finds it rather tight on the ears but for a half hour in the shops, it’s bearable.  We decided that Doug does all the errands and shopping in our family.  He doesn’t mind walking farther and with Fran’s history of chest colds and her pre-hypertension, that she not be exposed as much.

Easter weekend was quiet and hot – nothing too exciting; not even the Easter Bunny was out and about.  Fran did notice on her daily walk that the beach fencing in town had been removed….

beach fence is down – it’s low tide and these people have found their own pool

Charlotte and Gregory announced on Saturday that they would be leaving on Sunday as they are finding it far too hot to sleep in their van (they have no AC or even a fan!) so they have found an apartment that costs not much more than full price camping here and they left in the early afternoon.   The temperature here at night rarely dips below 25C / 77F so it’s understandable; they have been leaving all their doors open but that means they need mosquito netting which equals no breeze.  So we are back on our own here other than the owners and feel better about that as we are more in control of situation.  It is a bit more lonely but we are used to that having been on the road all these years.

Easter Monday we awoke to heavy rain and the power was out for a couple of hours but it stopped by midday, the power returned and then the sun was out by mid-afternoon for a while.

This week we had some visitors to the campground; they may have been here before but we didn’t see them:  small monkeys called common marmosets.  Unfortunately, they did not hang around that long and Fran could not get her camera out before they left us.  They drive the two dogs here crazy as they can hear them, even see them but cannot reach them.  Should they come back and we see them, we’ll try to get some shots.  Here’s one from Google in the meantime:

Wednesday, Fran was able to have a Skype video call with her mom which was reassuring to see her and see she’s well.

We tried Uber Eats again – this time for pizza and the order was exactly what we ordered and it was pretty good.

The week went by pretty uneventfully until Friday, when we decided to talk about when it would be possible to move north; no decision was made – too many unknowns.  However, as we have not been able to do a tour of the city, we thought maybe on Sunday we could drive Tigger around the city when the traffic would be lighter.  Before we did that, we asked Paulo and Juliana what they thought about that; Paulo said he had a friend who was a tour guide and he’d reach out to her.

Sidebar:  The president of Brazil has fired his health minister who was really the one overseeing the pandemic here and doing a pretty good job of it since Bolsonaro considers it just a “little flu” and that the county needs to get back to work (not a lot of people support this view but the number of nightly protests in São Paulo and Rio – people on their balconies banging pots and pans).  We are a bit concerned about what the future holds due to this but so far most of the state governors and city mayors oppose his position.

Paulo WhatsApp’d us that night and said his friend  could take us in her car for about $40 for a tour of the main highlights of the city but she did not know for sure what to expect regarding anything actually being opened.  We went through our guide books to see what we wanted to see and thought even if they are not open, it would be nice to see the historic centre of the city (often said to be the best preserved colonial city in all of South America) and it would be a change of scenery – we’d wear masks of course and bring hand sanitizer.  We asked Paulo to set it up for Saturday as the weather looked better than Sunday and asked if she spoke English; he thought she spoke some.

Saturday morning, Tata picked us up with her wife, Viviana, who is an English teacher!  Upon meeting our driver and guide, we asked if they knew of a welding shop that might be open to have a new table leg base made as ours has a crack in it and the table doesn’t stay up very straight anymore.  Despite trying a few places, we had no luck except at a place where the welder thought we should have a new one made but he wanted to make it out of steel rather than aluminum.  We’d had this done back it Guatemala back in 2016 and it didn’t last; we replaced it in 2018 with a proper one on one of our trips home, but that one has now cracked.  We’ll have to try later.  We did ask Paulo and Juliana if they knew of someone so we may still have some luck on that front.

We spent the morning mostly driving – everyone wearing as mask, and we did step out of the car a few times to take photos but it was a pleasant drive (with a few short showers) but there was NO traffic.

A famous ice cream parlor which is a museum as well (closed of course).  It would have been cool to have a treat there and check it out though.

The streets of the west side of the city showed us that this part of town was more or less open with many small businesses with the doors open and people walking around – some in masks, but most not.  We saw many favelas on this side of the city so these less fortunate people need to work to eat.

As we approached downtown, the streets became much emptier and in the historic centre, NOTHING was open and the streets were pretty empty.

The historic centre is quite lovely – full of colonial buildings, churches and museums.  We were able to drive around quite easily – Tata told us there were some of these streets she’d never driven on in normal times.

Barra Lighthouse at the point
An African goddess at the Fish weighing House
Lacerdo Elevator that connects the upper city to the lower – of course, it too was closed
The Fallen Crosses
Municipal Plaza
lining the square
San Francisco church off the Municipal Plaza – there are actually 4 churches on this square and a medical school

This is the Pelourinha Plaza where African slaves were put on the auction block and where Michael Jackson filmed much of his video for “They don’t care about us” (you can see a painting of him on the periwinkle blue building on the left:

The blue church on the right in the photo above, is the one built by the African slaves in their “spare time” and is still in use today.

Here’s a link to the video if you’re interested:

They Don’t Care about us – Michael Jackson

As we approached the point of the peninsula, things continue to be mostly closed with fewer and fewer people out and about. The historic centre was practically empty with nothing open (which meant we could not go inside any churches or museums which was understandable) and we were able to walk a few blocks without encountering many people.  Tata mentioned we were driving on streets that were normally packed with people and some she’d never been able to drive on.

We finished the drive alongside the malecon (that stretches all the way to Itapuã next to the ocean where there were some people walking, many in masks but mostly keeping their distance, very few people on the beach (here as well the fence posts and “closed” signs are still up but the actual fencing has been torn down).

they do still beach clean up every day regardless

beach access blocked off buy people are just going through the railings

This is the route Doug takes on his “marathon” walks.   Doug has done three long walks this month; every second Wednesday.  He really enjoys this.  He walks from our place to the lighthouse at the point shown above.  It’s a total of 44 km return, so a little over a full marathon.

We asked Tata if we could stop at a grocery store to pick up some heavier items like beer and diet coke that are hard to walk with and Doug went into a large Walmart which his mask.  Viviana tried to go in with him, but the guy at the door recognized that they’d come out of the same car and said only one per car.  In the meantime, Tata and Fran had driven into the underground parking area, Viviana met us there and then Tata went in from that entrance to get a few things before they drove us back.

Enroute they began asking us if we tried the local “Bahian” cuisine – we had not.  We stopped at a kiosk to pick up some acareja :

It’s a dough  made of beans, made into a ball, flatten and fried.  After cooking it’s cut in the middle lengthwise and a shrimp mixture is stuffed inside – you can also had whole shrimp added on top as well as peppers.  We opted for just the first – it was tasty (although Fran had a bit of a stomach issue the next morning…).

Doug also tried an arbara ? which is a doughy thing made inside a banana leaf for cooking, then opened up and you can add various condiments into it.  He said it was okay.

We did also buy a treat of a large coconut cookie type sweet covered in chocolate called a “cocada” – it tasted like fudge!

The one thing we are missed here at this campground is an oven.  Fran would love to be baking and cooking with one like so many of you during this quarantine time.  She did discover online that it is possible to make a cake or brownies in the microwave so Doug bought a cake mix and Tata told Fran how to make a yummy frosting using condensed milk and cocoa.

Fran found us a download of Pimsleur’s Portuguese Course so along with our daily 15 minutes with Duo Lingo, we have been Portuguese audio courses.  Not like we don’t have the time!  They are half hour lessons that we can listen to as we go for walks.  We did the Spanish ones a few years ago and they were pretty helpful.

The next day, Doug found a spot on a map that appeared to be a good spot to find a welder on Monday the 20th so we took another long walk (nearly 13 kms!) and did find someone to repair it.  So we have a level table once again.

The following week did not start well; the home where Fran’s mom lives now has a resident on her floor whose fallen ill, was taken to hospital and tested with a weak positive for COVID19; so that means every resident and staff member on that floor is now being tested.  Three days later when they retested this resident at the hospital, it came back negative! They tested again, and it’s still negative so we’re not really sure what the scoop is there; but we do have to wait for all the results from everyone else to be sure.  Doug spoke with his mom this week and she advises that the lockdown may be done by the end of the month out there in BC at least for her home.  (UPDATE:  as of April 24th, all residents and staff have tested negative so things are good again – they are one of the very few senior homes in Ontario with no resident cases.)

Time this week was spent pretty much the same as the past few weeks, with exercise, chores, walking, Doug shopping and a few trips to the beach but even those are becoming less frequent as the weather is changing.  Afternoons are spent with reading, playing games, going online and watching videos – like many of you all.  As of April 24th, Salvador’s mayor has updated the “Stay at Home” protocol to “Stay at home.  If you need to leave, wear a mask“.  Fran spent some time hand sewing some better masks for us so we’d have spares.  She had some 1/2 inch elastic in her sewing kit, lots of thread and she cut up a shirt she no longer wears to make two for now.  There should be enough left to make two or three more if we feel we need more.

It is fall now though there is no real decrease in the temperature; it is wetter in that most days we get at least a couple of short rain showers, sometimes just sprinkle, and sometimes a downpour.  This is a wetter time of year in this part of the country.

The Brazilian currency, the Real, has really be hit hard lately.  We are currently exchanging USD at approximately 5.5 reals.  When we came into the country for the first time in August of last  year, it was just around 4 per USD.

Paulo’s two younger brothers dropped by on Wednesday for a short bit and we were introduced (at a safe distance); they both working in mining financing and speak very good English – they’ve been to Toronto.  They actually live in São Paulo, but escaped from that COVID19 epicentre to come here to quarantine (one of them has a house here).

Our daughter, Serena, who lives in Montana, has advised that their state is “opening up” again (they have the second lowest numbers among the 50 states right behind Alaska) and she is going back to work on the 27th.  Let’s hope they keep that curve flattened up there.

Fran made a pretty successful chocolate cake that day as well – it was quite moist and yummy.  Who knew cakes only take 4 minutes in the microwave!  It wasn’t really pretty but it was sooooo chocolately.

Thursday we awoke to a lot of rain and there are lots of small “ponds” around the campground – the ground rarely gets a chance to dry out these days.  Fran Skyped with her Mom again today and the Staff Member that was there with her, advised that the city of Kingston only has 59 cases and things are pretty quiet.  They may begin opening things up again in the near but for now, mostly everyone is following protocol.

Friday, Doug brought back half a roasted chicken so we actually had a proper cooked meal – we eat a lot of light meals like salad due to the heat (and we never cook meat in our own kitchen) so this was a treat:

(In the communal kitchen here (which is really just ours!) there is a two burner stove, a large sink and a big microwave.)

April 26th is the 44th anniversary of our first date so since we can’t go out and celebrated with cold Corona and pizza via Uber Eats from the same place that got the order right about a week ago.  Again the order was correct and on time.

Rest of April was pretty uneventful and we continue to follow protocols.  It seems Brazil’s peak is still a few weeks away so only time will tell how it is handled and when we can move forward.

Hope you too all continue to be safe.