April 10th, my alarm was 30 minutes late in waking me up. A mad dash to get ready and then At Your Service shuttle was waiting outside my Palm Springs, California, door to drive me to LAX.
Airport check-in was no problem – the bag checkers thought for sure my duffel bag was a carry on, but once the plane was boarding, the gate checker thought otherwise and made me leave my only piece of luggage – the duffel bag – at the plane ramp. The tall, blond, in-charge woman assured me it would arrive when I did in Brazil, so I resigned myself to Fate and boarded. Then we sat for 1.5 hours on the tarmac and waited…..and waited…while the plane’s GPS system was reset.
Finally, we had lift-off and arrival in Miami, where I had a mad scramble for my connecting flight which should have left a half hour before my late arriving first flight. Fortunately, that flight to Sao Paulo was ALSO late in leaving and I just barely caught the last boarding call. And we proceeded to sit AGAIN on the tarmac for an additional 45 minutes. This may be normal procedure in Miami, but I’ve never had delayed flights back-to-back like this with long tarmac sits for no given reason, so I was rather surprised at what appeared to be quite a bit of service inadequacy. These flights were with American Airlines, for your flying consideration.
The flight to Sao Paulo was a night flight, and we arrived on schedule in the morning, only to discover that MY DUFFEL DID NOT! I was quite a bit peeved at the tall blond back at LAX, but tried to go with the flow – anger gets no one anywhere, and besides, at least I had safely arrived in Brazil in one piece.
After walking back and forth throughout the extensive two-floor airport, I finally learned where the Tam Airlines information was and after standing in many long slow lines, I received my ticket confirmation to Florianopolis and some Brazilian Reals against my credit card.
My duffel did not arrive on the following AA flight from Miami that landed an hour after I arrived, so I had no alternative but to continue on to Florianopolis without anything but my small carry-on. AA assured me they would send my duffel on to Florianopolis as soon as it arrived, and deliver it to the Submarino Hostel, which is where I had reserved to stay on the Lagoon.
Boarding the Tam flight to Florianopolis was a hoot – the plane had been thoroughly decorated with signatures of people from probably everywhere in the world. I started to wonder what I was getting myself into…everybody going to Florianopolis was at least 20-40 years younger than myself – was I coming to a real party town? I was the only White Hair on board the entire flight!
We had another 45 minute wait on the tarmac before departing Sao Paulo, but once again we arrived on time, this time in Florianopolis just as the sun was going down. And wonder upon wonders – Pedro from the Submarino Hostel was waiting for me at the airport with their name on a big sign and I was never so happy to see anyone in ages! It felt like coming home after a long, tiring journey.
Pedro drove the 15 minute drive like lightning speed through the large city of Florianopolis to the outskirt community along the Lagoon – a large interior lake inside the large island just off the mainland of southern Brazil. I decided not to watch the road, and just to look at the scenery – the trip was a little unnervingly fast for my comfort, but normal for their culture.
The Submarino Hostel was located just a half block off the beach of the Lagoon, in the small town of Lagoa da Conceicao. The night was dark but I was tired and hungry, and curious to know my surroundings. I took a walk into town – about 5 minutes at most – and discovered a great sushi buffet restaurant, where I treated myself.
Slept pretty well that night after an intermission of time adjustment – Florianopolis is 4 hours later than PST, and with all the long flights, long lines to wait in, long tarmac waits, and NOW being in the southern hemisphere where the season was Fall instead of Spring, my body noticed the difference and took a couple days to acclimate.
My first morning at Submarino Hostel was great – all accommodations serve breakfast in Brazil, as they do now also in most of the U.S. and probably the world, for that matter. I remember when that wasn’t the norm, but it’s the norm now. The difference with Breakfast in Brazil is, just that, the difference. I had to get used to their culture, which serves fresh squeezed orange juice and also fresh squeezed other delicious, less sweet, fruit juice (the fruit is unknown in the U.S.), sweet cakes and sweet breads, sliced watermelon, pineapple, papaya, coffee (some of the best I’ve ever tasted), and sliced cheese with white breads (processed fluff). Way more processed carbs and sugars than I would normally eat in a whole day! I chose the watermelon, pineapple, papaya, a small cup of coffee, and the least sweet bread I could find. Sometimes there would be apples in a bowl, and I would snag a couple of them plus the sliced cheese and white bread and stash them away for lunch.
Greens are not huge except in lightweight salads at lunch or dinner – possibly because they spoil so fast. Have you ever noticed how greens will last indefinitely in your American refrigerator? Ever wondered why your “fresh” foods don’t rot or whither? You don’t want to know why – it isn’t pretty what happens with store-bought food in the “land of the free,” but TRULY fresh food doesn’t live forever in foreign countries – it rots pretty quickly, like Nature intended. Which may be why it’s not very available in some places – it just can’t get from farm to fork without perishing first.
My first day in the Lagoon area was shared with two wonderful young women, Sol and Meriem. We took a bus to the beach Joaquina and walked down away from the crowds along the long, white sand shore. Since my swimsuit had not yet arrived with my duffel bag, I sunbathed in my only pair of undies – fortunately the beach was largely unpopulated so it didn’t disturb anyone. How could it, when the Brazilian Bikinis bare more than any underwear ever did!
During the day there was a lovely Soul man who walked by us with the longest dreadlocks I have ever seen. They were down to his calves – amazing! He didn’t mind that I photo’d him – seeing is believing!
The Atlantic waters were warm and clean, waves were relatively small compared to the Pacific Ocean, and though the skies were troubled with gray clouds moving in from the west, the day was warm and you could feel the sun through the clouds. Dolphins were rolling on the horizon, and the soothing sound of the waves breaking off the shoreline and lapping on the beach was incredibly therapeutic. Fresh ocean air smelling of salt and negative ions, no human noise except our gentle voices talking, and the intermittent call of the seagulls punctuating the ambiance – the whole scenario was one of peace and timelessness.
Late in the afternoon we caught the bus back to Submarino Hostel and enjoyed an incredible “Farewell to Zander” barbecue with the other guests, all cooked right there on the premises. Several of us chipped in to help make it happen, as serving dinner to guests is not really included in the overnight stay. Paolla, one of the two young sibling owners, was in charge of the meat, and the departing guest – Zander – made salad. I contributed chicken. There was too much food for consumption, and a very enjoyable evening. Zander was flying back to the States in the morning, then on to Hawaii.
I went to bed early that evening, still recovering from the North to South hemisphere switch and the difference in time zones. It was a wonderful first real day in Brazil, but I was very concerned for my duffel bag – everything I needed for the rest of my 6 weeks journey was in it, and if it didn’t arrive, I had already realized there was no way I could replace the items – everything is much more expensive in Brazil than it is here in the U.S. I would have no choice but to cancel my trip and return to the States, and hope to get a complimentary ticket from American Airlines to fly to Brazil again sometime in the future. It was quite an uncomfortable thought to go to sleep with, but I tried to put it out of my mind and wait another day or two to see if a miracle might happen and my duffel bag would magically appear. I could envision the chaotic upheaval in the Miami International Airport where thousands of bags are stacked in various holding containers, and I remembered the flimsy baggage claim ticket the tall, blond woman had attached to the duffel bag handle…it was easy to imagine it tearing off…finally I chose to think of the beautiful peaceful day I had shared at the beach with my new friends, and fell asleep.