Indecision and Insufferable Conversations

Trip Start Aug 19, 2010
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Brazil  , State of Santa Catarina,
Thursday, November 4, 2010

I arrived early in the morning in Florianopolis on October 31 after taking an overnight bus from Porto Alegre.   I am not entirely sure why I stopped here.  It seemed kind of logical because Santa Caterina state is the next one up along the Atlantic coast from Rio Grande do Sul state (where Porto Alegre is).  However, from the little I'd heard about it, I knew it wasn't going to be a place I would immediately like.  That is, I had the impression that it was going to be very much a resort-y kind of place; it had been described to me by many people as being kind of like Florida (a place that I don't really care for very much).  Plus, all the people I've met along the way who recommended it (mostly those who were headed in a southerly direction, opposite my own) were slightly douche-y.  But it seemed like the kind of place that I would be dumb not to stop at because I am already in this part of the world.

My arrival into Florianopolis (or Floripa as many people like to call it - get it? FloriPa?) was pretty dramatic.  Half of Floripa (the more interesting half) is actually an island off the coast of the main continent.  I woke up from a shallow sleep just as the bus was crossing the bridge into the island and when I opened the curtains and looked outside the window, the sun was just rising over the water.  Not a bad way for the city to greet me, I thought.

The island itself, as I came to find out quickly, is quite large.  The hostel I'd booked (yes, I am still hosteling it) was located in an area called Lagoa da Conceicao, which is in the middle of the island, near a salt-water lake.  It took quite a while to get there on the local bus (the bus system in Floripa is amazingly user-friendly, by the way).  When I got to the hostel, I got a bit sad.  I made a bad choice.  It had to happen eventually - I had such good luck choosing hostels in Uruguay and in Porto Alegre, so I was due for a bad one.  It wasn't so much the hostel itself - it was actually fairly clean and the folks who worked there were pretty nice.  The problem was that it was one of those hostels where Kids stayed at.  By Kids, I mean those 18 to 22 year-olds who are taking gap years, taking time off from college, or taking time after graduating college to travel before working - these are the hostel Kids I cannot stand to be around.  Call me a grumpy old man, but I just have no patience for these loud, obnoxious douchebags.  The hostel was teeming with them.

Am I being too harsh on these Kids? Maybe, but really, I just want to avoid these insufferable conversations and shallow/fake interest in other people. These insufferable conversations usually start with "hey - where are you from?" then it moves to "how long are you traveling for and how far in are you?" then, it moves into more advanced questions like "where were you before you came here and where are you going next?"  It's actually kind of funny because the question "what's your name?" usually doesn't come until you've reached the 5 minute point in your conversation - it is at this time when one person is interested enough in the other that s/he actually want to know the other's name.

It's so annoying - you could seriously have this same conversation twelve times in a day.  I'm not going to say that I've never been an initiator of this particular pre-packaged conversation but in general, I just try not to take part in them at all.  Not that I go out of my way to be unsociable - I engage and entertain these conversations when questions are directed towards me, but like I said before, they are truly insufferable.  Usually I can tell from the first 5 seconds if I will find the other person interesting so I try to alter my responses accordingly.  If I know that the other person will be annoying, I usually reply back to Question #1 with a curt "I'm from L.A." and then I immediately continue reading my book/checking my email/doing whatever other thing I am doing so that the conversation doesn't progress to Question #2 (because that usually involves more than a one-sentence answer).

I have to say that I did have quite a few of these insufferable conversations while I was in Floripa.  On my first evening there, I was forced into one of these conversations by one of the Kids.  I didn't have the energy to think of a way out, so I just gave my stock answers to the stock questions.  It just so happened that the day I arrived (Sunday) was also election day.  I didn't know much about the two main presidential candidates but my laziness caused the conversation to progress far enough where current events were being discussed.  The person asked if I knew who won, and I said that when I checked the news some minutes earlier, the woman candidate appeared to have been ahead in all the exit polls.  The other person just shook his head and said that it was terrible and that the whole country was going down and that the woman candidate is going to be just like another Chavez. He even went as far as saying that he was considering staying in Brazil for a while but now feels like he can't - blah blah blah.  I admitted to my lack of knowledge when it comes to Brazilian politics and asked why it was he thought the woman candidate was so bad.  I got nothing in return, just a blank face - I then realized that he knew just as much about Brazilian politics and I did, except he'd probably heard someone lamenting the woman candidate (where she was compared to Venezuela's Chavez), which then shaped his entire assessment of the presidential race - for all I knew he was right, but if he were, I doubt he knew why he was right.  The funny thing was that the next day, when I was waiting for the bus (to one of the more hard-to-get-to beaches), I had the most interesting conversation with an old retired US Navy guy who spent some time in the Philippines but is now living in Floripa because his son lives in Brazil.  Initially, he asked some of the same stock questions, but then we traded stories about our own respective adventures -  he also traveled quite a bit during his youth.  He had so many stories about where he'd been and what he'd done in life - all great stuff.  Then for some reason or another, the presidential election came up and I also admitted to him about my not knowing anything about it.  But when I asked him what he thought about it, I got a very real answer.  He said that he didn't favor either candidate because both seemed to be typical politicians (lots of promises, no action).  He went on to say that he didn't think either candidate would look out of the best interest of the Brazilian people because both were looking to keep the Real strong against the dollar (when this would clearly hurt its exports, and therefore, the overall economy over the next 5-10 years).  Then he went on to say that his wife has Parkinson's and he has yet to see any meaningful help from the government when it comes to her healthcare, and for himself because he takes care of her by himself.  

 When I finally got on my bus, I decided to take off the judgmental hat and enjoy myself.  I went to one of the beaches in the southern part of the island and after a few minutes, all of my pettiness just seemed to disappear.  The island really is just amazing.  Most of the land in the island is covered in dense vegetation and/or lots of trees.  Then, suddenly, where the trees stop, it turns into sand and then beach.  I sat near the water and stared at the land/seascape for what seemed like forever. It seemed like Floripa was too good to be true.

And I suppose it was.  A little after noon, I noticed that more and more cars were coming through the road behind the patch of sand I was sitting in.  Then, over the next half hour, a locust-like swarm of people descended upon the beach.  There they were, speedo-/bikini-clad people with their loud stereos, beach paddle games, wind-surfboards(?), and every other imaginable beach paraphernalia you can think of.  It felt like I was taking crazy pills.  I'd spent all that time in Uruguay having entire beaches to myself but now here I was having to share with hundreds of other people.  It wasn't so much the sharing bit, it was more the fact that there was just so many of them.  The place didn't seem at all special (if that makes any sense).  

That was pretty much the story of my entire stay in Floripa.  I'm suffering from a bit of indecision on how to feel about it.  On the one hand, it was one of the most beautiful places I have been to (ever), but I really couldn't stand the fact that there were just too many people, and too many shops, and too many bars, and too much everything - everywhere.

I stayed for four days and while I did see and do cool things while I was there, nothing about it ever felt quite right.  It just wasn't my style. 


Reading list: I managed to finish Man and Boy. It wasn't great. It was too nostalgic and it tried a little too hard.

Playlist: One, Two, Three, Four.  


Until next time.




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