Monday, November 17, 2008

Answers to life's mysteries

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?


Brooke said...

I'm so glad you can be here for christmas and enjoy a real tree! (or even a fake one that is above your knees). I love rice and beans, but every day may be a little much. Just curious, can you buy all of the ingredients to make americanized food there? Like cream of chicken soup? I cook a lot with that. Maybe a dumb question, but I really am curious. Enjoy the pool!

Megan, Peter, and Benjamin said...

Hey Thanks for letting us know! That was fun to read! My dad has a friend that is from Brazil, but his family is one of the more wealthy in Brazil. Anyway, I make his recipe for beans and rice is very good, but it is true that it is very salty and garlic....and he loves to load it with meat....sausage (two or three different kinds), bacon, and smoked sausage. But, I love it! Again, thanks for sharing....and enjoy your time in the States....I am SO jealous!

JustRandi said...

That was so fun to read!
But when you said "only 2" giant spiders, it still kinda creeped me out. A lot.

kristi said...

Hey I called you yesterday!!!!!

Becky said...

Well, flip, I'd move there just for the fruit! Produce in Alaska is not the best I've ever had. (And that's putting it nicely.)

Thanks for the info! I feel educated...

Erin said...

I love learning about different cultures. Thanks for enlightening us! (The spiders completely freak me out too.)

lizzy-loo said...

that was a great post. i still don't like the cakes though. they are either dry or too goopy. you make me miss so much. i miss how much they love children. how i always get ushered to the front of the line at the airport. i miss how when my child misbehaves everyone just understands that well he's a kid.

i hope you spend the whole day in target. i can recall getting off the plane my first visit home from brasil and going straight to target - i have never bought so many unnecessary items before.ENJOY

Kristina P. said...

Great post! And I'm pretty sure the Lord told you that you needed to move closer to me.

Whitney R said...

I really enjoyed this. What a great experience for you to get to expereince 4 years of living somewhere completely foreign, learn the language and get to know their customs and people.

Not me, though. I'll be in Rexburg for the rest of my life. When come to Utah I hope I get to meet you! Enjoy your states vacation!

Jan said...

So fascinating. I love reading all about your experiences and all the things that you are learning down there. Rice and beans huh. Sounds yummy to me actually. But everyday, would get tiresome. Spiders are creepy enough, but those sound like a monster mash. Glad you have had this once in a lifetime. Someone needs to show them that we are friendly. I don't get that.

Trying to Stay Calm! said...

You have a great blog here :)

Abra said...

You are so interesting! I love reading your posts! Thanks for answers, I'm still trying to snap a banana in half - I'm not too good at that...

Kimberly said...

I read. I loved. I had too little time to write an insightful or sweet comment and left you this ridiculous cut and paste thingy instead. Mwah!

Katrina said...

Hey, thanks for comment on my blog! To answer your question I have a Nikon D90. It's my first SLR and I LOVE IT!

This post was super interesting! What a great adventure to live in Brazil.

Trying to Stay Calm! said...

P.S. I found several ways it works the ♥ on your lap top :)

Jen said...

Dang it. I really wanted to know why your belly continues to pooch. But that's okay, I like having something to think about. (Although, just for the record, judging from your pics I doubt your belly actually IS pooching...)

And I really like the idea of lunch leftovers for dinner. That is so my style.

Elizabeth said...

Ironically, Japanese thing Americans are ... hot? By which I mean they think we completely make out on every street corner and kiss each other on the lips just to say hello.

Okay, no. Maybe Italians? :P

I find cultural assumptions about other cultures... fascinating. Like how we think Asians are all EXTREMELY polite all the time and Brazilians don't wear any clothes and stuff. (Or is that true? :P)

Justin said...

I was a missionary in Sao Paul Brasil--yes, the people are the best thing--and I LOOOOVE the food. I am a friend of Charrette's and currently live in NYC, but I yearn for the day when I can afford a return trip to Brasil--but until then, vou cantá-lo nos meus versos! um abraço e obrigado por isso!

Joan Novark said...

Not to get all fact-checky on you, but I lived in Brazil (and am married to a Brazilian) and I rarely, if ever, saw anyone having hot chocolate for breakfast. It's coffee coffee coffee all the way.

Joan Novark said...

BTW I didn't mean to be all negz in my last post. I love anyone who promotes Brazil, and I love your blog!

p.s. If you go to my blog, you can hear some Brazilian tunes:

Tchau, queridinha!

Synergy Girl said...

I loved reading this!! will be hard to come back...I wish I could understand the heartache you will go through to come back, so that I could offer you some serious emotional support, but, no one can know the true pain but you! I hope the happiness that follows is so undeniable though!!