By Hunter Mondavi
So my Portuguese course ended on Friday, and I had a week free in Florianopolis and was kind of undecided on what I wanted to do. One idea that I had came from an encounter I had last week with the owner of a pousada (pousadas are like bed & breakfasts, and are very common in Brazil) on the north of the Island about 30 minutes from downtown in a small, quiet area called Rio Vermelho. My story with this pousada actually goes back about a year when I saw it for sale on the Internet. Actually buying the pousada was never really practical, but I always liked the idea that you could buy a house/business in Brazil on the beach for very little money. And I had talked to the owner, Carlotta, by email a couple of times about the pousada and her history, and maybe even coming down and staying there for a few days at some point if she did not sell it right away.
So last week I called Carlotta and told her I was in Florianopolis, and I ended up meeting her for lunch that day. She is truly an interesting and positive person. She is 61 years old and built the pousada about 25 years ago. Her story, in a nutshell, was that she got married young, but left her husband shortly thereafter one night after he slapped her (if you met her, you could tell that she is not the kind of person that would stick around to get slapped again) and she decided that she is better off on her own. But being divorced at that time in and living under a dictatorship government was not all that fun, so she sold all of her wedding gifts and bought a ticket to London (or what she refers to at that time as, Swinging London”).
She never got into the “swinging” part. but it sounded like she had a good time. Then
she met like 10 other people who invited her to travel around Europe and the Middle East in a VW van, so she did it. She lived in Afghanistan for a while, and a bunch of other places before she settled back in Brazil and built her pousada.
She had always planned to retire at age 60 and let her daughter run the pousada, but her daughter went off and married some big shot in São Paulo and they have no interest in being down here, which is why she is now selling it.
Anyway, after lunch she drove me back to the pousada. It was weird when
we got close as I got really psyched to actually be there. Carlotta turned to me and said, “it is kind of like a dream, after all this time, and talking over email, now you are here with me at the pousada”. If she wasn’t 61 years old, I think that would have been a good time to kiss
her and based on her “Swinging London” reference, who knows?
The pousada itself is pretty awesome. The house looks like it should be in the Austrian mountains. Anyway, once I got there Carlotta got busy talking to her workers about some repairs that she is doing, so I just wandered around the house and the property while she took care of her work.
And when I was wandering in the back, that is when I saw it. Separate from the house, in the back closer to the beach, she has a small chalet. It looked so cool, and although it was locked I looked in the windows and realized it could be perfect to stay in for a while. The chalet is probably about 20×20 and includes a small room with a bed., a small bathroom, a little hallway/living room, and a refrigerator a sink.
I am actually re-reading “Walden” right now and after seeing the chalet, I thought I just might have found the equivalent of Thoreau’s Walden house, but in Brazil; a small hut with the bare essentials of shelter.
If you never read Walden, it is a book about a guy who goes into the woods for this year and builds a simple 10×15 house and lives in solitude, surviving, writing, and transcendentalizing (not a real word); proving that being self-sufficient and living with nature is the true enlightenment. and protesting modern society’s obsession with
materialism and excess at that time.
So I thought it would be cool to live in this chalet on the beach, far from everything, but the sound of the birds and waves at night (sounds kind of corny, but really that is all the sounds that you hear) and just read, and wake up early, and run on the beach, and surf, and sleep
in the afternoon and talk to the workers at the house when I got lonely for interaction… I thought it would be interesting.
Just another one of these ideas that I get… But then I had also had doubts. I wasn’t sure if I would get bored, or to be completely honest, even get scared living in this small chalet out there, all alone, and it was so far from everything and I had no car.
And that was when I met this American guy… I will call him Naya, and it kind of changed my plans. Naya is an American of Persian descent from NYC who came down here to study Portuguese at the same course that I was (but I actually think the studying was a front for his girlfriend to allow the trip). Anyway, he is a 31 year old doctor, or he is doing his
residency, so he will be a radiologist in a year and I guess he is guaranteed to make all this money or something. He seems to have it all figured out anyway.
I could tell he was kind of looking for a friend to hang out with as he was down here on his own for his first time in Brazil. I guess I was a good candidate since I already spoke Portuguese and have been here a few times… So he was thinking that we would go in together and get an apartment downtown close to all the bars and restaurants and we would
rent a car and split it and go out every night, blah, blah, blah, so I kind of just went along with it as my chalet idea seemed like it would have been difficult to pull off.
Next thing I know, I am spending all this time with this guy listening to him try to be Vince Vaughn from the movie “Swingers”… he actually called me “baby” and before we would go out he would look at himself in the mirror and would say to himself, “you are so G-Money” (no kidding, he actually did that every night). Anyway, I used to hold all doctors in high esteem, just by the fact that they had an MD. I don’t anymore.
And Naya would sweat like crazy, even when the weather was not that hot. Sweat would build up on his forehead in every situation and he had this method of constantly wiping it off by putting both his hands up together in the middle of his forehead and then would wipe with each hand towards an ear, and would leave the excess sweat behind each ear that is such a doctor thing to do, after all. a lot of doctors I know have a weird quark or twitch like that. Maybe med-school stress. who knows… but every time he did this, I pictured him sitting next to me in the emergency room, sweating, after looking at some x-rays, and telling me “well, the bad news is that your leg is broken in 3 places, but the good news is that you will be able to walk after some rehab”.
Sorry, I can’t help but expand on the sweat thing… one night I went with Naya to what he called some “high society” lounge in Florianopolis and I noticed one of the women that he was with (yet another one he lied to and told he was a plastic surgeon) was nibbling on his ear and it nearly made me gag thinking about all the sweat he had wiped behind there earlier at dinner. I was also a bit worried that with the amount of salt intake that she would be consuming from his sweat that she was at major risk of dehydration. But I felt relieved to know that at least there was a doctor on board if that happened. ha!
Anyway, long story short, after a weekend with “Dr. G-Money”. I realized that he had a different agenda than I did… I thought of what my good friend Andre told me which was, “there is so much more to Brazil than just getting lost in night clubs,” which was true… But I had already paid half the apartment and the car, so I felt kind of stuck with the guy for
the rest of the week.
So on Monday, I admitted to myself that I made a mistake by wasting my time hanging out with this guy and not going to live at the pousada in the chalet. It was too late now though, I already gave him the money so I resolved to just stick it out for the week, and I promised myself I was going to just stay on my own for the rest of my leave.
And then I said, “screw sticking it out” and decided I am going to the pousada on my own.
So I just left the apartment, and left a note for Naya. “Went up to the North of the Island, maybe I will see you before I go”. I could just imagine the poor guy sweating while looking in his mirror and saying, “You are still G-Money, you are just going to have to be G-Money on your own now, it’s just you and your Gucci shirt, baby”.. oh well, I am sure he
will be fine.
But now I needed transportation as I said, the pousada is far from anything, and down a long dirt road. Once I get there, I will want to go out and get water and food sometimes and will need a way. But renting a car would be too expensive at this point (I already paid for half of one), and biking would be too difficult because of the distance and hills. So I called Carlotta and told her my dilemma, and her response was, “just rent a motorcycle”.
Yes, it was a great idea a motorcycle is cheap. $2 worth of gas will last me a month, and I can drive all the way up there and get around when I want. And don’t have to worry about parking or anything. and if this 61 year old woman is telling me to do it, it has to be a good
So I left the note for Naya, and packed up just a few “Thoreau-inspired” bare essentials, my bathing suit, toothbrush, a shirt, and my sandals and went to the place that rents motorcycles. The guy there was named Rodrigo… he asked me, “Do you have a license to drive Motorcycles”. I said, “Sure” and he was willing to take my word for it. (that was when I knew I was dealing with professionals who cared first and foremost about my safety)… “Can I test drive it?” I asked… (who was I kidding, the test was of myself, not the motorcycle). Ricardo smiled, “Sure, go ahead.”
What a spaz I was. Really, it was comical. First of all, after Ricardo started the thing up for me and put it into gear (b/c I had no idea how to do that) I hit the gas way too hard and it launched me out in the road, and I was not used to finding the brake, so instead of stopping I was going faster as my hand clutched the gas. Rodrigo was still just smiling, but he was encouraging (I think he saw the look on my face that maybe renting this was not a good idea) so he told me “oh, that always happens, that is very common when you first get on”. he was a good salesman.
So I told him I need to take a walk and think about it, I was so nervous. My test drive didn’t go that well. How the hell was I going to drive this thing on these cobblestone roads with these crazy drivers? And I was clueless about the whole first, second, third gear thing. But
I decided to go through with it. I thought about something I heard that actor Will Smith say about his life that made an impression on me, which was, “all my life I always deliberately threw myself into situations that I am the most fearful of”. I think that is a good way to live and challenge yourself.
And when I first got out on the motorcycle on my own, it was tough. I was in the downtown area, cars beeping at me, pot holes, other motorcycles passing right next to me, pedestrians walking into the road, even some bicyclists passing me, I was sweating like a Persian doctor!
But I was making my way to the pousada and from what I remembered from going there with Carlotta, once I got out of downtown, the road was newly paved and flat, going straight through the middle of this national park on the way to the pousada. And right after I cleared the downtown, I hit that road and by this time I was really getting the hang of it.
shifting up, down shifting on the hills, and then I hit the park and it was an awesome road. I looked in my mirror and saw that nobody was behind me, and nobody was in front of me. I had this straight, paved, road all to myself and so I opened her up. I was flying down the road, at over 60 and I started yelling inside my helmet with excitement (or maybe nervous release) going fast on a motorcycle really is a cool feeling.
Ok, at this point I should clarify that my motorcycle is probably closer to the “Dumb and Dumber” scooter that the bad-ass Harley that I am painting it to be and I should also mention that speed here is measured in km per hour.but that’s not the point…
So I got there and Carlotta had left the chalet open for me and told me I could drive my bike straight over to the grass and park it right in front and now I am sitting here in this chalet in the pitch dark, with only the light from my laptop, and the sounds of the ocean, and wondering what I am going to do for the next few days. Who cares… it was a good day.