Following Teamans advice I checked in at the Hotel Santa Maria in Barra. Its a convenient location: opposite the beach, in a respectable neighbourhood, and near enough to the Centro Historico. I got a back room for 30R a night. Minimalist design but with breakfast included you cant complain. Id checked the seafront the night before, and although its pleasant enough there didnt seem to be any street action.
So I was having a quiet beer on my first evening in the open air restaurant, trying to figure out how things worked. There were women available, but mainly with weight problems. Then an attractive enough mulatta walked in and made eye contact. Eventually I sort of invited her to my table, and she was soon telling me how attractive she found me and how much shed like to spend the night with me. She also found time to order a meal, assuring me shed pay for it herself. I wasnt too impressed with all this, especially since she spoke some Italian. It was also noticeable that some of the other men were avoiding her. The first mistake I made was not to ask them why, the second to accept some of the food, which meant Id have to pay for it. Then fate took a hand and it started pouring with rain, with enough wind to blow it right through the restaurant. The only thing to do was to go to my room. She wouldnt do a bbbj because shed been eating chilli, wanted to get on with things with the minimum of foreplay, and then started writhing and groaning in what some of her previous clients may have believed was ecstasy.
On the positive side, she did look good without any cloths, and once pursuaded to slow down a bit seemed to genuinely get into it. There are worse ways to spend ten minutes. But then as soon as it was over she wanted to go immediately, with 200R. Money had not been discussed up to this point. I reminded her of this, and that wed agreed to spend the night together. But she kept insisting, so I offered her 50. Then things got interesting. She claimed that she was only sixteen, and would go and tell the police if I didnt come up with the money. Shed previously told me she was 21, which seemed more likely. All the same, it did make me wonder. I decided to continue the argument somewhere more public, in the hope that shed calm down. And, since she was obviously known at the hotel, to check out the story about her age. Just in case, I tried to flush the condom. Naturally it floated. She refused to follow me in at first, but I sat down at a table and ordered a beer, and eventually she joined me. I called over a waitress who had been there all day, and explained the situation as best I could. I speak a little Spanish but no Portuguese, and only understand it when it sounds like Spanish, which isnt much in Brazil. Still, she understood about the age thing, and they had a long conversation. Eventually, she showed me her ID, and she was 21. But she still wanted 200, and said shed go to the police about that. With the age thing out of the way, I didnt take her very seriously, so she left and I stayed to finish my beer. Sure enough, she returned with a tourist policeman, and we had to go outside in the rain to discuss the problem again, in Portuguese. At this point the management got involved, and advised me to pay up to avoid any trouble. This seriously annoyed me, because they obviously knew her, and could have just told her to go away and never come back. Maybe they get a percentage, including from what she makes by blackmail with the underage story.
As it happened, I had just over 100R in my wallet, so I explained that I couldnt possibly give her the 200, but offered 70 or 80 just to get her to go away. But not even the entire contents of my wallet would do - it had to be the whole 200. So off we go to the police station. But not before the helpful management of the hotel had insisted that I pay 2.50 for the beer, after Id pointed out that I might need the money, and could always pay them in the morning. Perhaps they thought I might never be seen again. So, having ignored all advice in these columns and got myself involved with the Brazilian police, even if only the local tourist police, and even wetter on the way to the station, I find that no one there speaks either Spanish or English. So we go through the whole thing again, with me explaining in Spanish, which they seemed to understand well enough. She claims we were at it for two hours. At first the head cop seemed to be reasonable, telling her that 200 was too much. But then when they turned to me the mood changed. Someone went into a diatribe about the iniquities of sex tourism, and the chief asked me for my passport. I only had a photocopy on me, which included a copy of my entry permit. He made it clear that he was going to keep it, and refer the matter to the national police. When I asked him if Id committed a crime he said I had, but didnt explain what it was.
I pointed out again that I didnt have the money, so they asked me where my money was. I said I had a credit card in my room, so maybe could get the money the next day, which didnt impress them. Eventually, after much confusion, they told me to give her 100, and gave me back the copy of my passport. I left her with them. The important lesson to learn from this is always to ask for ID, even if she shows you pictures of her grandchildren. As a backup carry lead weights to aid with condom disposal. Also, never carry much cash, and carry a copy of your passport, but not the original. What to do about negotiations is more difficult. After this, I will always agree the price beforehand, in writing, and have it stamped by a public notary. Finally, be wary of the Hotel Santa Maria. Theres nothing wrong with having a few girls around, or making a bit of money out of them. But any business should put the client first, and they obviously felt that the girls future blackmailing power was more important than saving me from a trip to the police station. She said her name was Elaina. Id post a picture as a warning but my camera refused to work. It was one of those nights. I think I saw her on the street again, but she kept well away from the bar, at least while I was there.
I may have been unlucky, but I have a feeling that the experience wasnt untypical for Salvador. This is not to say there werent women around who seemed more simpatica. But they were also more matronly, and had children to support. Whereas the young, skinny ones have pimps waiting round the corner, waiting to grab any money they make. As it happened, the older ones I talked to were already taken, at least for the night. For such a large city theres little choice on the street and in bars. As someone else has said, there must be a scene for locals, but its probably in a part of the city you wouldnt want to be in. With all the tourist police around, youre unlikely to be parted from your money by force in Barra. You just have to watch out for the more subtle methods.
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