I feel like I'm home! (In Heemskerk, not Galway.) Vila Velha (which is intertwined with its sister city Vitória just like Heemskerk is with Beverwijk) is not a city you will find in many guide books. But often the best travelling experiences are had in places no other travellers or tourists go (this is why I left the guidebook at home.)
The beach has waves, and the sea is full of big tankers and freight ships waiting to dock at the steel works at Vitória, which makes the beach here look eerily like the beach in Heemskerk or Wijk aan Zee (except for the palm trees, of course, and the guys doing summersaults and other acrobatics, jumping from the rubbish bins.)
I am staying with Pedro, who I met on www.couchsurfing.com (I can't praise this site enough!) Yesterday, he and two friends picked me up at the hotel where I was staying and three minutes later we were on our way to a samba school rehearsal somewhere on the outskirts of Vila Velha.
Samba school rehearsals happen all over Brazil on Sunday nights from around this time of year until Carnaval; it is a way of getting the money together they need for the Carnaval parade.
Samba school rehearsals are great fun. You can go to rehearsals of famous samba schools like Mangueira in Rio de Janeiro, but somehow these things are more fun when you go to one somewhere off the beaten track. I went to one already a couple of years ago in Bagé, in Rio Grande do Sul, where my friend Raul's neighbourhood's band was practising. The rehearsal last night in Vila Velha was much the same, everybody, young, old, fat, thin, straight, gay, transvestite, everybody dances until they drop (and until they now the lyrics of this year's samba song by heart!)
The community spirit at samba school rehearsals is something else that has to be seen to be believed - and the same goes for the samba dancers themselves (and the musicians of course.) Unfortunately, the battery in my camera was empty - so no picture!