On the 45-minute Caieira da Barra do Sul bus route southward from my host house to the bottom of the island, there’s a view of the calm water between the island and the continent. Over the water you can see the hills of the mainland layered over each other with shades of blue or green, depending on the sun, the clouds, and precipitation. I stay on the bus the whole way down, far past the stop by my house, watching the seats slowly empty until we arrive at the end. On the way back up is a view of the what the island itself has to offer. I’m convinced that the brilliant shades of green which cover those hills are only to be found in Brazil. My sister described it as looking like someone had spilled green paint over a hilly village. The road is bordered by charmingly colorful houses often with melancholy dogs leaning against gates or windows. Some are tiny shacks with kids toys in the driveway, some are three-story stone mansions with boats in the water and a miniature private beach.
Every time, at the dead end where the driver turns around, I’d have to awkwardly explain to the conductor that yes, I did come all the way down here just to immediately return. Every time except for the one night I wanted to stay on long enough see the sun set over the hills, so I decided to hide behind the tall seats in the middle so I wouldn’t have to explain myself. But the lights in the bus turned off as soon as we reached the turnaround point, signaling that this had been its last trip for the night. That was an even more awkward conversation after having to creep in the dark up to the conductor to explain that I had “fallen asleep on the way down” and had missed my stop… Not truthful but a little less embarrassing than admitting that I had straight up hid from him like a child. Though normally, the awkwardness was worth the views.
I liked taking this little journey when I needed to relax. I’d go after work, after language class, after seeing some friends… Some days I just mentally couldn’t go straight home. I needed to be able to think in my native tongue while still appreciating how far I was from where it was spoken. I always liked the fact that I could easily be assumed to be Brazilian just sitting silently in my seat, headphones in, listening to Brazilian music like everyone else. That was when I felt most integrated, like just another little part of the island rather than a Midwesterner who was secretly way too excited about seeing bunches of bananas actually growing on trees.
The bus, though painfully slow in the traffic and positively hellish in the heat of the summer, was always the most relaxing place to be. Even when it was going about one mile an hour and I was very much late for a dentist appointment, I could completely relax sitting in those blue vinyl seats. My mind could be quiet, I could stare out the window at this new world and just be.