The Student Has Become the Master (Part Two of Two)

The Student Has Become the Master (Part Two of Two)

Salvador, Brasil

My first time in Brasil, I wandered helplessly and depended on Juliana, my guide/friend/interpreter/enemy to pull my feet out of the fire from time to time. Juliana was upset that I spoke little Portuguese, that I walked through dangerous neighborhoods, and that I didn’t understand Brasilian culture. I was convinced I knew what I was doing but just needed a thing or two translated from time to time.

Now, three years later, I’m back in Brasil and acting as an interpreter for a friend new to traveling.


The Master

After translating my friend’s question I knew it would be an interesting trip; he seemed unaware that asking a flight attendant to hold a pocket knife on the plane so he wouldn’t have to check his bag was not a normal thing. Unawareness was a common theme.

We met each other at our first apartment in Fortaleza. I lived there for a month; the landlord kicked him out after a week. He found a free apartment via friends at his university program and soon had advice for me about apartment hunting.

My warnings about how dangerous Fortaleza was were ignored, but after someone in an adjacent neighborhood was murdered over a cellphone he had advice for me on how to stay safe in the city.

Thankfully all of that was behind us. After a short flight he and I were far away from Fortaleza, far from dealing with naivety. My friend had been in Brasil for three months now and knew the ropes. He just needed an interpreter. We went hiking for several days and he knew more about backpacks, shoes, and hiking than I ever will. I soaked up his knowledge and was thankful for his tips. If I had any reservations about being his guide, they were gone now. We were partners.


After hiking we returned to Salvador, where I worked and explored three years ago.

“It’s dangerous here,” I warned him as we walked by where an old man had threatened me with a bloody knife my last time in the city, “even during the day,” as I remembered the teenager who had thrown a rock at my head when I didn’t give him money.

“You exaggerate too much,” he told me.

I guided him through Salvador’s popular spots. Along the way we spotted a famous monastery which had been turned into a luxury hotel. As he wandered through the hotel’s library I sat in a leather chair and looked through photos I had taken the last time I was in the city. I saw the small bakery with the best breakfast in the city, a staircase which led to a small Samba festival I had stumbled upon, the Pentacostal church I walked into one night and had two exorcisms, and the historic building which hosts unadvertised punk shows in the basement. I remembered the stupidity I wandered into and how interesting it made life. I put my phone away when he told me he was ready to go.

“Now this is how you explore a city!” he told me as we left the hotel and walked towards the city’s main plaza.


Juliana, if you’re reading this, you were right and I was wrong. I’m sorry for the pure silliness I put you through.

Karma is real.

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