Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Day 1 in Paradise

I had hardly arrived in Florianópolis when my Couchsurfer started speaking to me in Portuguese. She took me to eat and then to her house. I thought I was going to have a chance to rest. Not at all. I didn’t even have a chance to lay down before she asked, “Que vamos fazer? Vamos andar de bicicleta uma hora para a Lagoa do Peri o vamos a praia? Mas vamos sambar amanha de noite então é melhor ir para a Lagoa hoje.” (“What are we going to do? Are we going to ride bikes for one hour to the lagoon or are we going to the beach? But we’re going to samba tomorrow night so it’s better to go to the lagoon today”). “The lagoon I guess…” I responded, not really having a choice in the matter. We rode for half-an-hour and relaxed at a viewpoint of two beaches, Morro das Pedras and Praia da Armaçao. They looked like the same beach to me, but my friend explained that even though beaches may be connected, in Floripa they receive different names depending on their characteristics. Floripa has 42 beaches! Although it would be impossible attempting to visit all of them, it is worth getting to know several of them. “Why? A beach is a beach,” you might think. Brazilians are with beaches what Alaskans are to snow (Alaskans have more than 50 words for different types of snow). As my friend explained, every beach has a different personality, like a human being. And every day, it’s different. Sometimes it’s calm, sometimes it’s angry, and sometimes it’s on its period.

We rode down a backstreet and entered the woods. It reminded me of my jungle expeditions to the local swimming hole in Paraguay. My friend told me that we were going to a part of the lagoon that only locals knew about. After a swim she took me to Nutri Lanches, a restaurant which in her opinion had the best açai in the world. Açai is a berry found in the Amazon which Brazilians eat in the form of juice or açai na tigela – frozen like icecream with fruits and granola. I was surprised to see empanadas integrais on the menu, empanadas with integral flour filled with vegetables instead of meat and baked instead of fried. They also had vegetarian sandwiches. All of their dishes are natural and organic. Healthy, organic, natural food in South America? Wow! My friend told me that Floripa is a vegetarian haven.

I expected to pass out the minute we arrived home. Instead, we stayed up chatting until late about Brazil, life in Paraguay, English, Portuguese, everything. My friend took one look at my itinerary and said, “Forget Lonely Planet, here’s where you need to go.” She planned out my entire trip for me.

When we had to restart Word and look for my document, I told her to open the one marked “Auto-recuperado.” At that moment, I knew I had officially left the Spanish-speaking world and arrived in Brazil, as I pronounced it auto-hecuperado. 24 hours before, I would have pronounced the r an r and not an h like in Portuguese.

By the time we finished, it was already 2 AM. She told me that if I was looking for one place to live in Brazil, Floripa would be it. I’m beginning to think that wouldn’t be a bad idea…

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