Getting Lost – Again

Patil Khakhamian - Brazil


February 27, 2018

Coming from a country where buses are not considered a normal mean of transportation, it is not surprising that I found myself lost trying to figure out the bus system in Florianópolis far too many times.

I remember the first time my host sister explained how it works to me in Portuguese, I was nodding my head in agreement slightly panicking from the inside because I had only understood 1 out of 5 words. But how hard can it be, right?

So there I was on the bus. I had taken it before but never by myself, so I had never taken into consideration the little important details. But anyway, I managed to get myself on that bus, surprised at why people were cursing at me and shouting “Tem uma fila!” (There’s a line). Later did I find out, I was skipping the line to enter it! It looks as though it should be very obvious to know that a line exists but trust me, a person who has never used the bus will not pay attention to such details. Same goes to that one time I was sitting on one of the yellow seats in the front of the bus, happily leaving the bus from the front door after reaching my destination. The bus driver figured I am a foreigner since the last time I checked, I was neither a person of 60+ age nor a pregnant lady.

I was looking outside my window admiring the beauty of Floripa, reminding myself that I am actually in Brazil! It is very common to zone out when you are in the bus since it takes 50 years to reach your destination. I do not even remember what I was thinking about when suddenly my brain jumped back to reality, “Wait! Where in the world am I right now?”

The internal conversation in my brain went something like this:

“Did I take the right bus? Of course I did, I checked the number 5 times to make sure, I am on the right bus. But wait, where do I live? Come on, I know where I live, I took the exact same bus yesterday with my host sister. Concentrate, do not panic, everything will be okay. Did it take this long to reach home yesterday? Definitely not! Okay let me just wait a bit more.”

I should admit that I had a very calm face while it was a whole different story from the inside. Let´s go back into my brain again.

“Do not panic, stay calm. Wait, is that the terminal? That´s where I just came from… I missed my bus stop? I don´t remember which town I live in! Panic, panic, panic. I made a circle around my town. I am so stupid!”

At that point, the sun was setting, and it was my first time being outside in the dark alone. Me having heard all the horror stories of Brazil, you can understand why I started panicking. Although through time, I discovered how safe it is where I am living, but at that moment all I could think about was how someone is probably going to kidnap this lost soul who could barely scream help in Portuguese at that time.

I got off the bus laughing nervously at my stupidity, trying my best not to panic even more. I decided to text my host sister that I am lost after which I received a call from her. “Olá, tudo bem?” (Hello, is everything alright?) was all I understood from that conversation. I also managed to understand that she wanted me to hand the phone to a Brazilian to explain the situation to her and for me to get help. I should mention that almost nobody here speaks English. I desperately went to find someone for help. I saw a girl sitting alone texting. Approaching her, I asked for help in English, but she seemed more scared of me than I was. That was completely useless. I decided to hang up and call my team leader who can later explain to my sister in Portuguese how to help me.

After a long day of frustration, I finally reached home, where I was greeted by my host mom and host sister who were continuously asking me to explain what happened. I could barely text my sister “I am lost” in Portuguese, let alone explain the situation.

After this not-so-fun experience, I discovered a very useful application called “GOOGLE MAPS”. I rarely needed to use it before so the thought never crossed my mind.

It took me at least a good whole month to get used to the bus system. Even when I figured it out, I managed to get on a wrong bus. Once, I am still certain I got on the right bus, but I guess it changed its name after I got on it, so it started going a completely wrong direction. I had to walk home for an hour. At least I got to know the neighborhood a bit better.

This blog’s purpose is to show the progress I went through giving the example of the buses since it was the first challenge I faced here in Brazil. In the beginning of my experience, I could not even properly ask for help, I had no idea what I was supposed to be doing, which door I was supposed to enter from, where I was supposed to sit, which bus stop I should wait at, which direction the bus should go to, how to signal the bus to stop, how to signal to get off the bus… After a while, I was even able to give directions to people and even be able to explain to Brazilians from other cities how to use the buses.

I can proudly announce that I finally mastered the bus system in Florianópolis.

Patil Khakhamian