That’s So Brazil

Post #13: Bye for now, Brazil

What we know is this: all things in life come to an end. I leave Florianópolis today with mixed feelings—excitement at seeing my loved ones in Toronto, sadness at stepping off this “island of magic”—and a full heart.

It is said that Floripa either embraces or expels people. It was my good fortune to have the city embrace me in a tight grip, to offer me endless adventures, and to place a cast of delightful characters along my path. I marvelled at, and at times felt undeserving of, all the warmth and welcome I received.

Perhaps not all of it was luck. Learning Portuguese gave me a ticket to the local residents’ lives, to their hopes and fears and frustrations with their own country. While my initial goal of “sounding like a native” proved overambitious, I was able tBabel 1o understand and make myself understood, to share laughter and tears with my friends, and even to tell a few bad jokes.

Taking social risks also helped. I cast wide nets online, invited people for coffee after fleeting exchanges in stores or on hikes, and approached a local musician after his set—a gambit that culminated in a private concert on my back porch. Just about all my overtures were met with interest and several led to friendships.

There were challenges, to be sure. I learned that “venha jantar com a gente, quando quiser!” did not mean an actual dinner invitation was forthcoming. Along similar lines, the cultural tic of leaving plans to the very last minute, and then cancelling said plans due to a father’s birthday or a sick dog, caused me all manner of frustration. In time I came, if not to love this aspect of Brazilian culture, to roll with it and tease my friends about their flakiness.

Like all great trips, this one was above all a journey of self-discovery. I discovered that I could deal with bank machines that sometimes accepted my credit cards and sometimes did not, a public transport system that often left hour-long gaps between buses, and engarrafamentos that made Toronto’s traffic look like an Indy 500 race, without my customary first-world impatience. I discovered that I don’t need much material comfort to be happy. Living in a 12’ x 12’ apartment, washing clothes by hand withoDream 1ut hot water, shooing away the occasional cockroach—none of this put a dent in my mood.

Above all, I learned that age does not place hard limits on what a person can dream and do. (Well, that’s not quite true. I can confidently state that I will never ride a surf board amid Floripa’s crashing waves.)

Through all my adventures, I never lost sight of my husband and children, who understood my need for this trip and cheered me through it. I also drew strength from my two Brazilian friends in Toronto, whose support blasted through the miles between us.

I plan to come back someday, possibly with my family. But I will not attempt to repeat an experience that, by its very nature, can only happen once. And that shines all the more brightly for having a finish line.


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