Experiences of a Dutchman living in Belo Horizonte, since December 2004, from month to month.
April 2007, part two: The search for magic on Santa Catarina Island, nicknamed the ‘Island of Magic’.
Late April 2007, I was invited to join a group of students for their regional student meeting in Florianópolis. Florianópolis, also known with the popular name Floripa, is the capital of the South-Brazilian state of Santa Catarina and is mainly located on an island, Santa Catarina, with is also known as Ilha da Mágica, the Island of Magic. The student DA (Direitório Acadèmico; student commission) had succeeded in the enrollment of almost one hundred passengers, two full buses. We were ready for a bus travel which would last about 24 hours. It was announced beforehand that the departure time was early in the evening, but completely according to the Brazilian way of live, the bus left the university campus after nine pm. The students were in a joyous mood, thanks to the respectable amount of beer and distilled that was brought on board and consumed by a small group of them. At about 2 am, it was completely silent on the bus, tanks to the excess of alcohol consumption by them.
The bus went through the state of Minas Gerais, on its way to São Paulo and Curitiba. From Curitiba, only a few hours remained before we would reach Florianópolis. We could enjoy the green, hilly landscapes in the states of Paraná and Santa Catarina. We noticed various names that didn’t sound Brazilian at all; Eisenbreit, Müller, names of German migrants. We noticed houses in the typical German Fachwerk style, and even a copy of a windmill. It was clear that we were in the Brazilian region were many migrants from Germany, the Netherlands and other European countries live Migrants and their descendants. Since most students already know that I am Dutch, I regularly was called when the students saw something that didn’t sound Brazilian at all. “Ei Adriano, olhe! Um moinho!”, when a windmill had caught their eyes.
The bus travel suffered significant delay. We had to wait a long time before the bus was allowed the Island of Santa Catarina, the Island of Magic. Police officers of the Federal Highway Patrol stopped every vehicle and interrogated the drivers for their destination and purpose of their intended visit. For instance, our bus was permitted to stay on the island for some days only. The bus driver then continued the way to the UFSC, the federal university of the state of Santa Catarina. Like most federal universities in Brazil, the campus wasn’t located in the city center, but at a respectable distance. We arrived there at six pm. It was planned that I would join the group who would stay in a pousada at a beach. However, it was already dark and we had no idea how to take a regular bus service to that pousada. We decided to stay in the campus. Vítor, one of the students, and I had to deal with another problem: we hadn’t succeeded to obtain a mattress to sleep on. We had to search for a store that sold travel mattresses, and that was still open that night.
Hyper shopping mall
We received useful information of local students. We walked to a small, local shopping area. We were unfortunate to find them closed. The guards were helpful to direct us to a hyper shopping mall, which should still be open until late at night. Where would we find that mall? “Longe demais pra caminhar”, was the answer of a helpful man, ‘too far to walk!’ When we asked him about the distance, his estimate was about one kilometer. We decided to start this very long walk. I had the idea that the guardsman would faint immediately if I told him that I already have completed to international marching events in the Dutch city of Nijmegen: four days of fifty kilometers each. The guardsman had clearly explained the route to the mall. The mall was hard to miss: the enormous dimensions of the hyper mall, various names of the major brands lighting up at the walls. The name was Shopping Iguatemi. I had visited a mall with the same name in the city of São Paulo in 2005. We walked straight to the 24-hour supermarket and went to the department of camping equipment. We had to walk more than half the length of the mall. We found suitable ‘colchonetes’, travel mattresses that were about one centimeter thick. The label indicated the price of twelve reais (4 euros). However, the scanner at the pay desk read 25 reais. We immediately mentioned the cashier about the big price difference. A girl on roller skates received the order to investigate the problem. Less than one minute later, she returned, gaining breath. We were right, we only had to pay twelve reais. We took the mattresses under the arms and walked back to the university campus.
Vítor and I arrived in the campus with our mattresses, and we had to look for the proper lecture room. As usual, the students had been distributed over the lecture rooms, according to their state of origin. We searched for the name ‘Minas Gerais’ on one of the doors. There was little room for our mattresses, but we managed to move other neighboring mattresses a bit in order to spread out our new mattresses. Both male and female students were in our lecture room. In my case, I had my mattress between two female students. The first night was a simply organized party near our dormitory. Everyone was welcomed by the organizing committee, quickly followed by loud popular music and beer. Most students went to their dormitories at about 2 am. Most of them were too tired after having suffered long bus travels, and weren’t able to continue the party till dawn. About three hours later, we all shook awake by a mixture of sound effects by pans, pan covers, drums, tambourines, and whistles. Lights were switched on and off. It was the traditional ‘arrastão’, noise in the night. The ‘rei’, leader of this disorganized gang, visited every Brazilian state (lecture room) and tried to speech. According to the tradition, he repeatedly was interrupted. It took some minutes, before we got permission to sleep again. During the first day, we hadn’t found yet the magic on the Island of Magic. Our intention was to discover the city and the island in greater detail in the following days. Were we able to find the magic?
By Adriano Antoine Robbesom