That’s So Brazil

Post #7: A Wave from Brazil

Everyone has to be somewhere, and right now I’m in Brazil. On December 17, after 11 months of anticipation, fear, and sanity questioning, I plunked myself in a plane bound for São Paulo, with a return flight booked for five months later.

I spent the first few days in the megalopolis with friends of friends, a middle-aged couple called Zuleid and Rubens. The days went by in a blur of food, conversation, more food, visits to cultural landmarks, and still more food. Zuleid, a self-confessed fruit freak, had juicy BrazBrazilian fruit 3ilian fruits all over the house and I got to try them all: maracujá, guaraná, cupuaçu, goiaba, abacaxi, their tastes as exotic as their names.

After studying Brazilian Portuguese in a disorganized manner for 11 months, with never more than an hour of conversation at a stretch, I was now thrown into an all-Portuguese environment. I had not only to listen, but to answer. By the end of each day my brain cells were crying, but there’s nothing like total immersion to bring you up to speed.

On December 21 I bade my hosts goodbye and moved on to Florianópolis, the city I’ll be calling home for the next five months. That’s when the reality of this venture hit me. Meals were no longer materializing on the table. Steaming coffee was no longer within arm’s reach. The adaptor I had bought in Toronto was the wrong size, and if I didn’t find another one in a hurry my cell phone and computer would run out of power within hours. Three hardware stores later I was approaching panic, when a nice man with a workshop and hacksaw fashioned the requisite item for me.

The Airbnb room I had rented measured less than 50 square feet, and I was well and truly on my own. I ached for my family. Never mind that I had chosen to take this solo trip at age 60—to experience, for probably the last time before I died, the type of cultural immersion that had rocked my world in Japan. I still ached for them.

But the mountains! The ocean! You’re never far from either in this city, known to Brazilians as the “island of magic.” While Florianopolis (handily shortened toFloripa map 2 Floripa) is a state capital and has close to half a million people, it’s more a collection of small towns than a standard city, thanks to said mountains. With forty-two gracefully curved beaches, a salt-water lagoon, sand dunes, one of Brazil’s largest universities, restaurants to suit every palate, flashy bars, and old fishing villages dating from colonial days, the island has enough variety to sustain a lifetime of exploration.

But I wouldn’t get to enjoy any of it unless I pushed myself. Unless I risked falling flat on my face. Well, I had plenty of experience in that department. Face-plants it would be, then.

Within a week of arrival I had an invitation to a beach and to a bar, where a local Samba band stole my heart. “Nas coisas do amor, temos que cuidar, mas não cuidar demais,” the lead singer crooned. In matters of love, we have to be careful, but not too careful.

She might as well have been singing about travel.

#solotravel  #sixtyplus  #portuguese  #florianópolis  #brazil  #brasil

27 thoughts on “That’s So Brazil

  1. Wonderful! I am ALL IN for the vicarious experience…. faceplants and all. You’re a rock star. Keep exploring. Keep thriving. Keep LIVING. And, keep sharing.


  2. Hi Gabrielle;     I love your post about your time in Brazil so far.  It says that it’s your 7th post.  Have you posted 6 others about Brazil?  I’d love to keep receiving new posts.  You are so smart to be away from Toronto right now. Floripa looks like paradise. The cold temperatures here have been breaking 50 year records. We are expecting a cyclone of snow over the next couple of days.  I hate the cold and the snow and just want to hibernate until my Feb. 6th flight to Portugal.  Heather


    1. Hi Heather, Thanks so much for your response. No, the 6 others are about learning Portuguese and preparing for the trip–stuff you’ve probably seen already. I believe you’ll keep receiving posts automatically. I’ve been following the weather in North America and it looks brutal, so I will NOT complain about the heat. Hey, you can be here within a day if you want. 🙂


  3. Dear Gabrielle!
    Thank you for the kind words!
    You are a special person, open to the world and new ideas, that is why the world welcomes you!
    Each person has an inner age and yours is still a teenager, thirsting to know!
    Our country is very large and with an immense cultural diversity, here each state is like a country with very different customs and traditions due to the colonization by so different people!
    I hope you can enjoy a lot and then show the world the good side of Brazil that lately is so frowned upon …
    Our house is still open for you when you want to come back.


  4. Ooh, my dear cousin, this blog post is so vivid!!! I can almost taste the fruit, and feel in my blood the ups and downs you write about. Would love to hear the music of the samba band if you can post as well. Czeslaw Milosz included a quote in the preface to one of his books, and the essence has stayed with me, although not the exact words. I too am 60! Something along the lines of…. there are 4 essentials in human life: love, music, blood and travel. Including travel as essential is unusual, and struck me then as true.

    Cheers and love. Tami


    1. Hey Tami, your response is much appreciated. Can’t post the samba music because, being a bit of a techno-klutz, I didn’t record it. But I’ll keep it in mind for the future. Hope you get a mega-dose of relaxation and memory making in Costa Rica.


  5. Que lindo, Gaby!

    Espero que essa imersão e entrega no nosso Brasil só lhe traga coisas boas.
    Essa terra que eu amo e que em alguns dias vou me despedir para ser acolhida novamente no Canadá. Aproveite cada minuto por aqui🇧🇷🇨🇦

    Sent from my iPhone


  6. Your writing is evocative and enticing (although I choose to enjoy “your” Brazil from the lazy confines of my Toronto home … immersed as it might be at the moment in frost and frigidity). It sounds like you have found a sympatico connection with your new Brazilian friends! Looking forward to reading all about your adventures to come …


  7. Well, congratulations Gaby. You made it.

    Currently in Cresskill, NJ, we have 38 km/hour winds the snowstorm that gave our speck of American East Coast approximately 5 to 13 centimetres of dry powder because the temperature hovered at about 24° F (–4.4° C).

    Happy New Year, and congratulations on beginning the New Year on a truly great adventure. I do suggest that you take Tante Anda’s attitude. Up until her stroke, she traveled. Stay healthy and squeeze in another bucket-list trip. We have better knowledge on how to live longer & fuller. Staying active is one of those ingredients.

    If you have the chance (and the budget), try getting a side trip to Montevideo or Buenos Aires. Grabbing a few more cities in your collection is always a good thing. Florianópolis to Montevideo would equal Toronto to Thunder Bay.

    For myself, my bucket list would include bicycling. One bike trip would be on the island of Hokaido (think Laurentians with a Japanese flavour); the other would be a great bike-ride from Rotterdam (the Netherlands) to Oslo (Norway), and maybe, if I’m lucky, to Stockholm (Sweden). Something I want to do someyear.

    Mazol Tov on this great trip. Keep doing & keep going, and may you be that crazy 90-year-old woman still travelling the world.



    1. Hey Tommy, Thanks for stopping by and commenting. On this trip I’m less interested in “bagging cities” or touring than in immersing myself into the culture. It can be challenging to establish a social network in a totally new place, especially after (cough cough) a certain age, but Brazilians have proven extraordinarily welcoming so far and local Facebook groups have also come to my aid. I hope you get a chance to ride in the cities of your dreams.


  8. Hey, Gaby!

    Adorei seu blog, congrats! ❤ Já virei fã, estou ansiosa para acompanhar as experiências e aventuras que te aguardam nesse nosso Brasil 🙂

    Bjo grande,


  9. Gabrielle,

    So wonderful to read of your trepidations, observations, and finally your epiphanies – just before Epiphany tomorrow! Please keep writing and keep us posted. What wonderful descriptions of your surroundings and adventures. When you have a chance, please post some photos of this exotic place called “Floripas!”


    Take care,


  10. Gabrielle, thanks for your evocative writing and your honesty! It sounds like you’re having a wonderful (if sometimes terrifying) time. Kudos and I look forward to more updates. 🙂


  11. Having had no prior notice of this Adventure (or had I, and then forgotten?!), I was astounded when I read your blog’s announcement that you’re there for FIVE MONTHS!!! But I shouldn’t have been, for it’s so much in keeping with that complex and talented personality we all know as ‘Gabrielle Bauer’! Good going, Gabrielle!
    . . . I’m looking forward to the novel, too! ; – )


    1. Aw shucks, thanks for the kind words. Last time we spoke was on my birthday, methinks. I was sick with the flu. At the time I thought I would be learning Greek and going to Greece, but that didn’t work out too well. No regrets, though. Brazil speaks to me in a way Greece never did. Great to hear from you and hope you’re making lots of good music.


  12. So thrilled you’re getting this chance to find your inner adventurer again! I’ll be following along faithfully from Playa Del Carmen, Mexico where Paul and I will spend the next five weeks. I love just ‘living’ immersed in a new culture instead of visiting!


  13. Hi Gabrielle, so proud of you for all that you have done so far and cannot wait to hear more! The description of Floripa made me want to hop on a plane immediately!


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