Carnaval no Brasil


Mike, Anna, and I spent Carnaval the way most people from Teresina choose to: we left town to relax on the beach.  It wasn’t wild, but it did help me straighten out my priorities here.

Our destination was Parnaíba, Piauí’s second largest city.  The center of Parnaíba has colorful colonial buildings, and is, of course, a jumping-off point to beaches 10 to 20 kilometers away.

Colonial buildings in the center of Parnaíba.
Colonial buildings downtown

I spent two days at Coquero Beach.  As Americans we got weird looks, but even more so when we played Frisbee (Brazilians prefer a game called frescoball as a beach pastime) and when we laid out towels to sit on the sand (Brazilians there choose to sit at beachside restaurants and bars when they aren’t swimming).  We ended up taking advantage of these joints as well to eat whole crabs and listen to forró sing-alongs that included accordion, guitar, and triangle.  The highlight of our time on the beach was seeing a parade with puppeteers and musicians playing frevo, a fast-paced style of music played on brass instruments.

Beach Parade
Beach Parade

Another day, I went on a boat tour of the Parnaíba River delta.  The delta includes dozens of islands and straddles a divide between forest and sand dunes.  Accompanied by Mike and Bruno, a new friend from Parnaíba, I walked on tidal flats, jumped down sand dunes, and got to know couples from Bahía and Tocantins.  So far, I’ve been impressed by Brazilians’ eagerness to start conversations with people they don’t know – our six-hour boat tour was so much more pleasant because our fellow passengers were willing to put up with lots of questions about life in Brazil in so-so Portuguese.

Enjoying the Dunes!
Enjoying the Dunes!

The one thing we didn’t do much of during Carnaval in Parnaíba was participate in Carnaval festivities.  We ventured out one night to see samba schools perform in a parade – the percussion section of forty or fifty drummers was the highlight – but we didn’t do more than that.  At first, I felt disappointed that my Carnaval wasn’t bigger, louder, more colorful.

I realized, though, that the issue wasn’t that I had missed out, but that others could think that I had missed out.  A Carnaval in Brazil where you spent most of your time reading on the beach?

I’m glad that I understand this now.  I’m going to try to make choices while traveling based on what I think will be most enjoyable or exciting at the moment, not what others might hope to hear stories about.  Sometimes the best choice will be snorkeling, or dancing, or going out on the town with friends I just met at a hostel.  And, sometimes, it’ll be setting out my beach towel to read for an entire morning and afternoon.