No, I'm not about to explain WHY we have mosquitos or WHY my belly will continue to pooch out or WHY bumblebees can fly.
This is Brazil's mysteries OUTED!
1) Food. Everyone was pondering the enigma that is Brazilian food. Three words, people. Rice and beans.
Breakfast consists of bread - it's kind of a French-ish kind of French bread, about the size of my hand. Sometimes they eat it with ham and cheese, but usually just butter. Fruit is also common - generally pineapple or papaya. Most people go for hot chocolate in the morning, too. (Amendment: In 99% of Brazil, it's COFFEE. This is, after all, the Land of Coffee. It's only Mormons who go for hot chocolate.)
Lunch is rice and beans. ALWAYS. Black beans are only eaten in the far south and the far north - the rest of the country eats brown. It is heavily salted and garliced. The less-privileged eat JUST rice and beans, while others who can afford it also fry up red meat (also heavily salted and garliced) and maybe a green salad with tomatoes. They only drink juice or pop. Dinner is much and the same - usually leftovers from lunch.
You do get the occasional stroganoff (made with strips of red meat, CREAM, and ketchup) and lasagna (made with layers of noodles, ham, cheese, and tomato sauce.) But usually it's meat meat meat, all the time. It's freakin' cheap here. And GOOD. (And no, I haven't eaten alligator. I think that's only up north.)
Also, the fruit here rocks. Fruit here is a thousand times juicier, more flavorful, more colorful, cheaper, and BIGGER than in the States. I've seen avocados the size of my forearm. And yes, you can snap a banana in half. (They have like ten different kinds of bananas available at any corner market.)
We cannot "go out for" American food. There is no American food. They have McDonald's, which in my opinion does not even count as food. Nor do they have Chinese or Mexican food. I've seen lots of Japanese (the highest concentration of Japanese people living outside of Japan is Brazil. Random fact), and the occasional Italian restaurant.
I do make rice and beans every once in a while (my kids LOVE 'em - and so do I!), but mostly I make Americanized stuff. Shoot, I'm American. No apologies. If you came to visit me, you'd probably forget you were in a foreign country while in my house. Besides the fact that we have palm trees out back.
Also, Lizzy-loo, I can't BELIEVE you don't like Brazilian cakes. I LOVE Brazilian cake. They're like MOIST and GOOPY and FULL OF YUMMY SWEET STUFF that I drool just thinking about it. Mmmmmmmmmmm.
2) Biggest surprise. Hmmmmm. Probably that these people are just like me. I remember first coming here and not speaking a word of Portuguese - I listened to all the mysterious conversations around me with wide eyes. They all seemed to be talking about the most wild, exotic topics. Then I learned the language. In truth, they're all talking about the same things we talk about - work, kids, health, school. The same mother-in-law jokes and disdain of politicians.
3) Yes, they have spiders here big enough to kill with a squeegee. But I've only seen two like that (one in my garage and one outside the kitchen window.) The rest are pretty normal sized. Although I will say they have ants here the size of dust motes. And they eat everything.
Personally, I think the biggest insect infestation we have are termites. In open fields, there are termite mounds as big as I am - every twenty feet or so. NOTHING is built of wood here. It's all brick.
4) I have not been to the jungle - not the Amazons, anyway. Of course, Brazil IS jungle - with lots of cites. I've been camping and hiking here - it really does look like something out of "Romancing the Stone." Beating back the bush and all that.
5) DUH, I've totally been driving and bought peanuts, pop, water, chips, chocolate, or whatever else from street vendors. Also been entertained by gymnasts or jugglers or flame-throwers at stop lights. It's more common in Sao Paulo, but even in Jundiai - the biggest city near our podunk town - it happens. Part of it is cuz the traffic is so ridiculous here that you're ALWAYS stopped. Lots of time to indulge your munchies. Something I will miss in the States, definitely.
6) What do Brazilians think of Americans? Great question. Mostly, that we're "cold." I can't tell you how many times I'm chatting with a waitress or a store clerk and they suddenly exclaim, "Wow! You're really nice! I always thought Americans weren't friendly!" (Yes, it bugs the crap out of me. They're dissing my country.) Of course, while Brazilians think we're all fat, unsentimental workaholics who only eat hot dogs and hamburgers, they also want to be just like us. If it's American, they love it. They love our music, movies, clothes, food, schools and books. (Twilight is currently all the rage.) They are better versed in our tax laws than I am, and quite a few can name all the states. (Can YOU?)
7) Shopping. Shopping here sucks. There are no "super stores." If you want batteries, go to the battery store. If you want food, go to the food store. If you want band-aids, go to the band-aid store. I MISS TARGET.
They do have "feiras," which are like open market days - all fresh produce and maybe a butcher. They're only in big cities though - I don't have one near me.
I will say the clothes here are super cheap. But I mean that literally - they fall apart.
8) Traditions for Christmas. Well, it's hot here in December, so they usually have outdoor parties and maybe go to the beach. They all stay up til midnight (even the little kids), and then have a huge feast and open presents. Christmas day is spent sleeping.
Decorations are minimal - the Christmas trees are always plastic, sparse, and come up to my knees. Makes Charlie Brown's tree look healthy.
9) Things universally practiced by Brazilians. Soccer. Everyone. Loves. Soccer. Also novellas - Brazilian soap operas that I refuse to watch on principal. Soooooo melodramatic. Also parties and dancing. Brazilians can DANCE, man. Again - I refuse to dance in front of them on principal. My body is just not jointed that way.
10) Favorite thing about Brazil? The people. If they think we're cold, it's probably because they are the warmest, friendliest people on the planet. The cliche "give their shirt off their back" came from this country. Perfect strangers will give you the most incredible hug, tell you their life story and walk away your best friend.
11) And lots of inquiring minds wanted to know what the heck we're doing down here. The answer is not that interesting - working. Hubby got transferred down here to head up their financial department in 2004 and we've been here ever since. We're planning on moving back to the States the spring of 2009 - mostly because Little Prince starts kindergarten in the fall and the schools here - ahem - suck. It will be excruciating to leave our friends, but I cannot describe my feelings on going back home to our beloved US of A. A very, very double-edged sword.
Why is it impossible to love two things so completely?