After ten days in Florianopolis, my impression of Brazil
(through beach town tinted sunglasses) is that it is a beautiful place
filled with beautiful, beautiful people. No photograph can capture the
way the wind blows by your face and the sun strikes the water on the
Atlantic Ocean and no words can describe how kind and warm the people
are. The men here are much gentler than those in Buenos Aires.
While the macho sentiment still exists, it doesn’t manifest itself in
whistle blowing and sweet talking (or maybe the Brazilian standard is a
bar too high for me to meet…) and here elderly men behave as one would
expect them to�"with warm smiles and gentle words. People are patient
with you when you struggle to find the right words in Portuguese; they
even struggle with you and try to help you along. Even though a single
subset could never speak for the whole, Florianopolis speaks well of Brazil.
The journey to Florianopolis was, however, a shock. Here, the European business and efficiency is washed to sea, perhaps because this is Brazil, but perhaps because this is a beach town. And while Florianopolis is ideologically miles away from Buenos Aires and Europe, it is several stones throws closer to the United States. A trip down the streets of Florianopolis
anywhere leaves you passed by automobiles of various sizes because it
seems as if most people drive cars. The public transportation, while
crowded, is not particularly efficient or diverse, reminding me in many
ways of the transportation system in the United States.
The University here closely resembles the architecture of the mid to
late twentieth century buildings on the Georgia Tech campus, and Lagoa
feels like Midtown Atlanta meets the Buckhead of the 1990s if you toss
in the mixture a lagoon. In fact, while I’ve been on Florianopolis, there have been moments where I have severely doubted the reality of me being in a foreign country at all.
So what is foreign about Florianopolis? The Brazilian soccer fetish for one. Everything closes down on this island when Brazil
is playing a World Cup game. Every eye is tuned in on a television and
everyone, whether “working” or not knows exactly what is happening.
When a goal is scored, the whole island erupts in joyous cheers similar
to American’s ringing in the New Year, fireworks are let explode, and
no one is left unsmiling. On game days, the streets are filled with
green, blue, and yellow t-shirts, balloons, flags, and paraphernalia
before the game, silent and empty during the game, and doubly crowded
following games with cars pushing through crowds honking and waving the
green, yellow, and blue stared flag.
it’s because of its familiarity, or because I sit here straining to
think of oddities and foreign concepts that I have encountered, that I
have mixed feelings about Florianopolis.
While its physical beauty is astounding and the landscapes here may be
imitated but never accurately duplicated elsewhere, there is little
challenging about Florianopolis. There is little here that is new to be tried that cannot be tried elsewhere. While ten days in Florianopolis
was a gorgeous experience, I feel I have not grown from it. And maybe
international travel isn’t always about growing, but why would you
leave your own backyard if but not for spreading your wings and
expanding your horizons?