Saturday, February 12, 2011

Week 2 in Paradise

I didn’t realize how spoiled I was until I left my first CouchSurfer’s house. Everything in Florianopolis is a ten-minute drive by car, that is, if you have a car. If you are unfortunate enough not to have your own transportation, you must hitch a ride or rely on city buses which take forever. It took me 1.5 hours to reach the beach!

I decided that Floripa would be the place to learn samba and surfing. I went in search of an instructor at Barra da Lagoa, the novice surfers’ beach, and found André, a blond-hair, blue-eyed Brazilian who tossed out terms he had learned while surfing in Hawaii. He gave my Argentine classmate instructions in portunhol and me instructions in Portuguese with the occasional “Hang loose” thrown in there. He would position me on a wave and yell, “Rema, rema, rema! Sobe!” (“Paddle, paddle, paddle! Stand up!”). Unlike during my Peruvian surfing experience, this time I stood up several times on the board. It was an amazing feeling being able to ride the waves.

I returned home exhausted but exhilarated. I was proud of my success on the waves. Even though I was ready to hit the sack, I had to first spend some time with new CouchSurfer. Honestly, I was a bit weirded out by her. She had a thick carioca (Rio de Janeiro) accent, which made it difficult for me to understand her Portuguese. Worse, she didn’t understand a single word in either English or Spanish. We mostly just stared at each other during dinner.

A couple of days later, I was on a bus to Barra when I spotted a boy with purple hear with a cloth bag that said, “Seu consumo muda o mundo” (“Your consumption transforms the world”). He was busy chatting with an Argentine hippie with juggling pins in her backpack. I nudged myself into their conversation by asking the guy about his bag. The three of us had an interesting multilingual conversation, with the purple-haired guy trying to speak Spanish, the Argentine hippie trying to speak Portuguese, and me switching back and forth between the two languages. My head was about to explode from the effort!

We separated when we reached the beach. André, my surf instructor, taught me how to ride the waves in both directions. He would yell in his American surfer’s accent, “Front side!” and “Back side!” As I rode the waves to the shore I would whoop with delight. As I was doing so well, André let me have a chance surfing “sozinha” (“going solo”). I caught two waves by myself. Of course, when he left the water and gave me time to free surf, I didn’t pegar a single onda (catch a single wave). Surfing is much more difficult when you have to paddle for yourself.

As I was leaving the beach, I ran into Vinicius, the boy from the bus. Instead of waiting for the bus, he wanted to walk back to town. We started walking back together when we ran into Marisol, the Argentine hippie. This time all three of us spoke in Portuguese. For me, the fact that two Spanish-speakers were communicating with each other in Portuguese because neither of us could remember our Spanish amused me.

Friday, my CouchSurfer had planned on going for a boat-ride to Costa da Lagoa as she only had to work a half-day. Unfortunately, it started pouring that morning. She whined, “At least you got to go to the beach every day. I’ve been waiting all week to go to the beach!” Not having anything better to do, we went to the mall with the CouchSurfer I had met for lunch. That’s the downside of life in paradise; the only thing to do when it rains is go to the mall. I didn’t mind though, as I’ve spent little time during the past two years in malls (apart from the movie theaters and food courts in the Asunción malls). It was a typical girls’ outing at the mall. My new CS friend phrased it the best way, “We’re going SHOPPING!” Why is that you put a group of women together and eventually they will go clothes shopping?

Guess who I ran into in the mall? My new friend from the beach, Vinicius. He’s hard to miss with the purple hair. I said, “Isn’t this funny, running into each other at the mall?” “Not really,” he replied, “when he rains, everyone in Floripa goes to the mall.” True.

Sunday night, my CouchSurfer and I went out for a late-night pizza after a day at the beach. Over dinner, my CouchSurfer and I not only managed to communicate, but we had a decent conversation. After several days of staying in her house, my Portuguese had improved significantly to the point where I could now respond with complete sentences and even paragraphs.

Brazilian pizza is known for its weird toppings, like bananas and cinnamon, chocolate and strawberries, etc. My friend sweetly let me pick the flavors. We order a half-banana pizza, a half-who-knows-what pizza. The savory half reminded me of the Brazilian hot dog I had eaten, while the sweet side completely blew my mind. Sweet pizza, what an incredible idea! And what a great end to my first full week in paradise.

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