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  • Marilyn Saltzman

Island life

A much anticipated part of our trip was spending a week on the World Heritage island of Fernando de Naronha off the east coast of Brazil. The government limits the number of flights, and you pay a fee for every day spent on the island. Its beaches are known as some of the most beautiful in the world.

Since the island is a Mecca for tourists from around the world as well as mainland Brazilians, it was hard to find reasonable accommodations, and I was  a little worried about the AirBnb we booked because it was in a home, and we would have limited privacy and ability to prepare meals. While that indeed was the reality, and the accommodations were the roughest of the trip, we still had air conditioning (much appreciated) and a TV, which we never turned on. Heidi and Selam shared a very small bedroom, while Dian and I shared a room with private bath in another part of the house.

The highlight of the accommodation was getting to know Mirtes, our dynamic, energetic, hardworking  hostess. She and her husband live simply in the back of the house, and she does her own wash by hand, sending out the guests’ towels to be laundered. It made us very careful and respectful of towel use. Mirtes doesn’t speak English and our few, newly acquired words of Português didn’t take us very far, so we communicated through other guests, charades and drawings. Heidi drew pictures of dolphins and boats and numbered them by priority  to tell her what we wanted to do so she could help arrange tours.

Hampered by language and lack of Internet, it took us a few days to get into the island rhythm and find what we needed and wanted. However we soon learned how to navigate the public buses to the beaches. I found out that most Brazilian women don’t let their hair go gray and older women are respected, so when I got on a crowded bus, men immediately offered their seats. Actually they insisted I take a seat even if I protested. I was amazed at how many people could squeeze into a bus that already seemed beyond capacity. People crammed in through the back door and then honestly paid the 5 Real fee when they exited.

The beaches were indeed breathtaking though there was a lot of rain, and the sea wasn’t as clear as usual we were told. We still managed to see small sharks swimming along the shore, lovely varieties of fish, and dolphins frolicking around our boat. Alas the turtles eluded us.

About the rain: The first time it rained while we were at the beach, we ran to the bus, wrapped in towels, soaked and shivering. The next time, we just stayed in the ocean, our bodies in the surf and our faces sprinkled with raindrops. Soon the storm passed, and the sun shone. It was a much more pleasant experience and another  lesson in patience and living in the moment.

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