You know how sometimes you can talk about something happening for months, but it doesn’t become real until it actually happens? That’s how the trip to Brazil felt for a lot of the students and faculty who are making this year’s spring documentary. We’d planned, researched and discussed what we were going to shoot, got our itineraries, bought supplies and packed our bags and gear.
But it was only when these words crackled over the loudspeakers at Gate 6 at JFK Airport’s Terminal 8 on Saturday evening, March 15th, that our adventure hit home:
“Ladies and gentlemen, we are now boarding rows 27 to 40 for TAM Airlines flight 8079 to Rio de Janeiro.”
And so on we went — the 10 of us in the Media and Communication Arts program and 35 others from international tourism and management courses at Pace’s New York City campus. The overnight flight was very smooth but tiring. But our fatigue gave way to excitement as we boarded a large bus for the winding two-hour ride to the boat that carried us to Ilha Grande – the first focal point of our film.
As exhilarating as the journey was for us all, there were fewer happy moments for the group than when we had a chance to check into our pousada overlooking the busy beach and scatter to take naps or cool off in the pool.
Later in the afternoon, we had a chance to interview several experts and film a lecture on the history of Ilha Grande by a remarkable local environmentalist, Nelson Palma, and hear about both the benefits and downsides to the tourist boom that has hit this island in the last 20 years. Several of use shifted to the beach and winding lanes leading up into the hills. We made a new canine friend — a spry dachshund that we dubbed “Reggie.” He loved the attention we heaped on him and he even followed us back to our pousada before we parted ways.
Away from the bustle of the main shopping street, a resident who declined to speak on the record for fear of incurring anger from neighbors, pointed out the darker side of Ilha Grande’s growth – several streams, leading straight from the hills across the beach to the harbor, that were clearly contaminated with untreated sewage. As people have seen the opportunity to make more money, development has spread faster than environmental controls or infrastructure.
After a jam-packed day, the full Pace team boarded a 70-foot motorized schooner-style boat and was taken to an intimate welcome dinner 20 minutes down the coast. The restaurant, Reis E Magos, was nestled in a quiet lagoon illuminated by the full moon. Upon arrival, students and staff were led through a pathway of winding brick staircases and private patios to a large dining room to celebrate our first night in paradise. On the menu were several classic Brazilian dishes such as Pirão Arroz, a traditional island stew made with fish and manioc flour, Bolinho de Bacalhou, cod wrapped in breadcrumbs, and paella, a rice dish served with shrimp and squid. Dessert followed with flan and fresh fruit. Not only did the cuisine reflect the island culture, but the evening was beautifully lit with a full moon and a cool breeze, We all retired to our pousada will heavy eyes and full stomachs, eager for dawn and next steps.