Salvador, Brazil 2018
Many people think Brazil is all about party, poverty and crime. Yes, Brazilians love to party, there is extreme poverty, and there is a lot of crime. But Brazil is also about dignity, respect and honesty. Let me share a story about my experience in Salvador.
Three years ago I stayed in this small family hotel in Barra for two weeks. One day my watch went missing from my room. I asked the cleaning lady; she said she had no idea where it was: “It was always on the nightstand next to your bed. Really, I did not touch it. Look, all your money and other valuables are still in your room.” I knew the cleaning lady was very poor and did not make a lot of money. The watch – a present from my father for taking care of my brother for 3 years- not only had sentimental value to me but must have been worth quite a lot. However, the cleaning lady seemed honest and was right about other stuff she could have taken and didn’t. I trusted her. But the watch was still gone.
Everybody working at the hotel was worried; they all helped me to turn my room upside down, but no watch. The nice hotel manager proposed to wait a few days; maybe it got stuck in the sheets; she had called the laundry service and they would surely report it if they found anything. Nothing.
The last day of my stay I had to go to the police station to get a report for my insurance. The police officer immediately blamed the cleaning lady, even though I explicitly told him I trusted her. “These poor people always have problems” he explained. “Maybe she doesn’t have a problem herself, but then her son or boyfriend will be in trouble. Never trust them!” the officer kept repeating. I felt uneasy and made sure he was just writing the report for the insurance and would not ‘follow up’ with the cleaning lady, as he kept suggesting.
When I left the hotel to fly to my father in Miami, the manager, the receptionists and the cleaning lady promised they would do their best to find my watch. I had no idea what else could be done, but they seemed determined. The cleaning lady was crying because she was afraid she would be blamed. I told her I again that I trusted her, so everybody else would hear it as well.
I stayed with my dad for two months and dreaded telling him I lost the watch he gave me. I waited till the last week before I would fly back to Brazil to get on another cruise back to Europe. Just when I was about to tell him, I got an email from the hotel in Salvador: they found my watch! Apparently, it had got stuck inside a pillowcase! They said they would save it for me and asked when I would come back.
So I decided to stay in the hotel again. I kept them updated on my flights and my arrival time. “We will reserve the same room for you” they promised. As my taxi neared the hotel, the manager, the receptionist and the cleaning lady were waiting for me in the street. They ran to the taxi, holding my watch; “we found it!” The cleaning lady was crying again when she said; “you see, I did not take it!” I reassured her that I had never even suspected her.
My stay in the hotel was like among family. I will always remember this encounter with the REAL Brazil.
Cruise your Business 2018 visited Salvador for just half a day. Guess who had volunteered to guide my group? Lucas, the receptionist! He doesn’t work at the hotel anymore, he is now a film director, he is working at the local TV station and is studying literature. We had stayed in touch through Instagram. He welcomed me like an old friend.
Of course, we visited the Porto Salvador hotel on our tour. The manager Renate recognized me immediately. Everybody working there, even people I had not met yet, started talking energetically and super fast while making the international sign for ‘watch’. They told me in which room the cleaning lady was working and we visited her. It was so nice to see her again! She is a warm person, simple, with a neat dress, a gold colored plastic necklace with Jesus on it and a bright smile. She seems to have grown a bit from the experience. She looked so strong and happy, even though I know her life is not easy. Like many other Brazilians, she probably earns no more than the minimum wage: 950 Reais (about €200) per month. It would be so easy to supplement that with some ‘extra’ from the tourist visiting. But she doesn’t. She is dedicated to her job, to her faith and to her humanity.
To Dilza and all other Brazilians like her. Respect.