Coisa Estranha #2: não jogue papel no vaso

When you move to a new country, you usually notice a lot of things that are very strange right away. Or, sometimes, there are socially accepted rules and procedures that you don’t immediately notice because you don’t understand the nuances of the language or you simply don’t like reading signs.

This is one of the latter.

It’s been almost 6 months now since I moved to Brazil, and I am embarrassed to say that I have just learned about this rule. As it turns out, my parents did a great job potty training me 23 years ago, and I never forgot the normal mechanics of wiping and flushing. Here in Brazil, as it turns out, it doesn’t work the same way.

When you visit Brazil, you may go into a bathroom where you a sign that looks like this:

It even has a descriptive image to go with it.

It even has a descriptive image to go with it.

Now, either I never noticed a single one of these signs, or I simply imagined that the idea of not throwing toilet paper into the toilet was preposterous and obviously a typo.

But guess what? Here in Brazil, you throw your toilet paper in the trash next to the toilet. Otherwise, the toilets don’t flush properly. And here I was assuming that toilets just don’t flush properly because it’s some element of third would country living that I wasn’t used to.

Furthermore, this is something Brazilians are so used to that according to a poll on this website (I put a lot of work into my research here, people), only 27% of Brazilians throw toilet paper in the trash, ever. So… that’s weird.

So, to all my friends whose toilets I’ve clogged in the past 6 months, I am sincerely sorry. I am even more sorry to my loving boyfriend, who had to explain this to me after I almost clogged his toilet.

a alma gorda

While some people view it as a nutritional substance used to create energy needed to sustain life, I see food as something much more important. Quite frankly, I love to eat. I love eating like a fat kid loves… well, eating.

I should say upfront that all of the photos in this post will be borrowed from Google, because I’m not one of those instagrammers that takes photos of every meal. In truth, this is only because, typically, by the time my meal arrives, I’m too excited to stop and take a photo, add a filter, and wrestle with Brazil’s somewhat lacking 3G service. No, usually I dive right in, and by the time instagram comes to mind, my meal isn’t quite as pretty. Luckily for me, there are plenty of people photographing food, so I’ll likely be able to make your mouth water with someone else’s photos.

The food in Brazil differs depending on the region, but there are definitely country-wide staples such as rice, beans, and meat.

Oh my god, the meat.

Oh my god, the meat.

Growing up, my family didn’t eat red meat. I don’t think that would have lasted very long if I had grown up in Brazil. The meat here is so good that they usually don’t need to season it with anything but salt.

Restaurants here mainly use 2 ways to buy food beyond the typical American style of ordering per plate off a menu. The first is rodizio, which means eat-until-you-explode, and depending on the restaurant is usually around R$35-50. They have rodizios for everything from barbecue to sushi, and are usually (but not always) set up like a buffet. The second type of restaurant, where food is sold per kilo, is more common around lunchtime. These are also set up like a buffet, but your plate is weighed at the end, and you pay (obviously) per kilo. If you love trying new foods and have to have a bite of everything like me, both are equally dangerous.

Here’s a few of my favorite Brazilian staples:

1. Churrasco

The best typical Brazilian meal you can get is churrasco. It’s barbecue, but not exactly the same way we imagine barbecue in America. You won’t find hot dog buns or hamburger patties here. And you definitely don’t eat churrasco with potato salad, collard greens and mac & cheese.

Also, nobody dresses like this.

Also, nobody dresses like this.

Barbecue here is typically served with rice, sometimes beans, vinagrete (which is basically a delicious salsa made with vinegar and olive oil) and farofa.

The first time I heard about farofa was long before I visited Brazil, in a bar in the Lower East Side with my at-the-time Brazilian roommate, Rodrigo. We had come to the bar to meet an American friend of his who had spent some time in the north of Brazil, where both farofa and Rodrigo come from. He described it to me as something that “looks like sand, and tastes like sand.” Rodrigo seemed offended, but when I finally had a chance to see it for myself… Well, I can’t lie…

It kiiiiind of does look like sand.

It kiiiiind of does look like sand.

But trust me when I tell you, it’s much better than sand. It’s made from a plant called mandioca, and the process seems to be incredibly arduous. But in the end it’s basically a flour-like substance that is fried with butter, and then bacon and other deliciously fattening things are added. I caught a glimpse of the process when I was in Belem.

This is the step of the process that smells really bad.

This is what happens to the rest of the mandioca plant after the yummy part is used for farofa. The leaves become something called maniçoba, which as I mentioned before, is not delicious.

Unfortunately, being so far from its origin means that the farofa in São Paulo doesn’t quite measure up to the farofa of the north, but that doesn’t stop my paraense friends from dumping bowlfuls onto their plates. And of course, paraenses have a tendency to request food from anyone visiting SP, or bring back coolers full of food every time they go home for a holiday, so there tends to be enough good farofa to go around when hanging out with my friends.

You just have to pay attention if you're ever eating it near the beach.

You just have to pay attention if you’re ever eating it near the beach.

2. Feijoada

You can’t write a blog post about Brazilian food and not include feijoada. It’s not necessarily my favorite, but it’s such a big part of the culture that it simply cannot be overlooked. On Saturdays and Wednesdays here in São Paulo (or Sundays in Rio de Janeiro), everybody eats feijoada.

Rodizio-style feijoada. Not exactly Hometown Buffet.

Rodizio-style feijoada. Not exactly Hometown Buffet.

Feijoada is made up of beans and pork and served with rice, farofa, and sometimes cute little smiling potatoes. When I say pork, though, I mean the entire pig. Anything and everything that can be considered edible is tossed in there.

All of the above.

All of the above.

Some places have multiple feijoada dishes labeled with each type of pork, and one pot of regular beans in case that’s all you’re into. If not, I usually stick with the farofa and batata smiles.

You think it would be difficult to eat something so cute, but it's not.

You think it would be difficult to eat something so cute, but it’s not.

3. Pão de Queijo

The first time I came to Brazil, I landed in Guarulhos at 6am and was immediately lost. My friends hadn’t arrived at the airport yet, and I was frantically trying to discover how to use the pay phones to call them, with 0 knowledge of Portuguese. With a stroke of luck, I ran into the guy I had been sitting next to on my flight and his sister, who immediately rushed to my assistance. Not only did they let me borrow their cell phone, but when they heard it was my first time in Brazil, they brought me something called pão de queijo and made me taste it immediately. Pretty much anything would taste good to a girl lost and alone in a new country, but this was more than that. It was love at first bite.

Directly translated, it means “bread of cheese,” but it’s not exactly bread with cheese on top, or cheese melted inside. It’s bread whose batter is actually mixed with a special cheese from Minas Gerais and baked into a blob of deliciousness that I can hardly explain.

Little balls of cheesy heaven.

Little balls of cheesy heaven.

You can’t go a block in São Paulo without finding a place that sells it, and thank god for that because it’s ridiculously addicting. They even sell them at Starbucks and McDonald’s.

4. Suco

I always thought juice was a somewhat boring concept before coming to Brazil. I mean, I love juice boxes (who doesn’t?) but with all the added sugars and “concentrates,” juice in America probably isn’t even that good for you.

I always assumed the main function of grape juice was to pretend you were drinking wine.

I always assumed the main function of grape juice was to pretend you were drinking wine.

But here, the opportunities for fresh squeezed juice are countless. Nearly every lanchonete or padaria has a menu with a dozen different types of fresh juice. Including fruits that I wasn’t aware could be juiced. You can’t chock it up to the abundance of fruits here either, because most of the fruits consumed in Brazil are not native to South America at all. 

Personally, I’m in love with suco de melão, or honeydew juice, which is even better than it sounds. Most of these places offer crazy mixes of fruit juices, such as abacaxi com hortelã (pineapple with mint) or all kinds of different fruits mixed with ginger or coconut water.

I love the word abacaxi so much I am thinking about buying a cat just to name it this.

Not only a delicious drink, but “abacaxi” is also fun to say!

Since salads are not exactly a strong suit of Brazilian cuisine, I love drinking fresh juice to pretend that I’m still eating healthy. Fruits might be everywhere in Brazil, but people here seem to avoid vegetables as much as possible. I must say, despite all the delicious food here, I do miss a good salad!

Até mais!

blame it on the preguiça

Wow. I don’t know where to begin on this apology. I haven’t been updating like I should, and there’s a million reasons for that. One excuse is that I’m not actually “moved in” to my apartment in the conventional sense. By that I mean, I don’t have furniture or a refrigerator, and until this week I didn’t have power. I’m not exactly complaining (which is weird) because that’s just how things go around here. But the real reason I haven’t updated is that I have become infected by a Brazilian disease known commonly as preguiça. Side effects include (but are not limited to): staying in and watching novelas rather than going out to bars or clubs, being extremely late to social events and meals, not responding to text messages, and not updating your blog.

Another common side effect of preguiça is hammock-dependency. Which works out for me, as this is the only furniture we currently have in our house.

Anyway, the big things you should know, all of which I promise to elaborate on in future posts (near future, I swear!) are:

1. I have an apartment! I’ll skip the story of how I narrowly escaped the clutches of an evil Paulistana and her meticulous apartment with Nazi-esque rules. The point is, I landed in a gorgeous, ginormous (yet humble) abode with a pretty sweet Midwestern chick and two adorable Brazilians who make me ROFL every day. (Sidenote: Meghan, the American, has made it her mission to teach our Brazilian roommates to say really silly things in English, and ROFL happens to be the first one to stick). It’s in a great location (except for that one time we got robbed, a story for later) and I have a queen size bed.

2. I’m heading back to the motherland for almost the entire month of November to obtain a student visa so I can stay in this beloved third world country for another number of months (or years) and learn Portuguese properly. So, American friends, look for me! Oh, and I won’t be traveling alone, because…

3. I’m in love! Yea, you heard me. Don’t act surprised. I moved to BRAZIL. There’s more passion here than people know what to do with. Anyway, the boy. He’s incredible, and I could go on for hours about how fabulous it all is but I think my American readers would shoot me in the face. So I’ll just let you gag over these adorably cute photos of us when we first started dating:

he’s the ketchup to my mustard.

And he’s venturing outside Brazil FOR THE FIRST TIME IN HIS LIFE for a month long tour of America with me (with a few pit stops to the Brazilian consulate to change my visa/remind him where he came from).

4. I went to Belém! This point deserves more than one post because I believe the food there deserves a freaking book. But to sum up, it was a fabulous trip, met the boy’s mama and drank beer in a jungle. Top that.

A typical bar in the Amazon region of Brazil. Kind of.

I promise to expand on all of these points sooner than later, but as I am currently lying in a hammock, my preguiça is kicking in.

Beijos, galera! Thanks for reading.

metro medo

So far everyone’s only heard the good things about my life here. Every day is an adventure, I have amazing friends, my job is going well (post on that to come, I promise), but every city has its flaws. Just like Londoners love to hate the weather and New Yorkers love to hate tourists, Paulistas love to hate the metro. (Traffic also, but as I don’t drive, I can’t comment too much on that).

Alright, any New Yorker who has been in the Bedford L station at rush hour knows what it’s like to wait for 3 trains to pass you by before you can even board. And by board, I mean, push your entire body into a train while a bunch of angry commuters glare at you for trying to get to work on time.

In Tokyo, so many people take public transit, they actually hire a guy to physically pack people in like sardines on each train.

But neither NYC or Tokyo has anything on São Paulo when it comes to metro rage. (If this isn’t already a term, I’m coining it right now.)

Even while being shoved like my clothes when Molly packs my suitcases, Japanese people wait in a single file line to get on the train.

I’m not going to comment on which cities have more crowded subways, because (a) I’m too lazy to look it up and (b) that’s not my point. My point is, São Paulo metros are fucking crowded. But it’s not the crowds that make it so unbearable. It’s the people’s attitudes. Brazilians might be the nicest people on earth when you’re chatting at a bar or making out during Carnaval, but put them on a metro and the claws come out.

When someone first explained this to me, I shrugged it off. My experiences in the São Paulo metro had been at non-peak hours, and the only thing I’d noticed was how much cleaner it was. (It almost looks like a mall down there!) As a former New Yorker, I was sure there was no “crowd” situation I couldn’t handle. I thought of the many experiences I’ve had with rude people on the subways in New York who refused to wait until people exit the train to board, the people who stand on the wrong side of the escalator, and the people who refuse to move in to the center of the train once boarded. It sucks, and it pisses you off, and you arrive at your destination in a bad mood. Tapping back into the “I can handle anything, I’m a New Yorker” mentality I had left behind, I figured this would be a walk in the park.

I was wrong.

To understand what I mean, first take those “many experiences” and apply them to every single person on the train, then multiply it by rush hour. Think about that.

Every single person in this photo hates you.

Nobody cares if this is your stop, or if you say com licença. Nobody is going to wait until you exit before pushing their way in to the train. And definitely, nobody cares if they are breathing on you or even standing on top of you. My first day taking the train at rush hour, I needed a police officer to push a man to the side so I could make my way out of the mosh pit without missing my stop.

Good luck, bitch.

So how does one deal with a commute that feels more like a punk rock concert than a ride on a train? Personally, I cope exactly the same way I cope in Los Angeles when I’m stuck on the parking lot that is the 405 freeway: Heavy bass.

[ Knife Party – ‘Sleaze’ by Knife Party ]

Anyway, I still love you SP. It’s gonna take a bit more than some metro rage to kick me out.

Beijos xxx

the adventure of the notebook

When you live in a country where you speak the language and know how to get around, you take being an adult for granted. Part of me feels like I’ve reverted to childhood here, as I am completely incapable of doing almost anything without a chaperone or translator. Despite the fact that my friends love when I speak Portuguese, I’m not sure the rest of the city does (or can understand me) and this makes ordering a sandwich somewhat terrifying. Seriously. I actually don’t eat at all unless I’m with people.

So today I woke up to the first day of sun we’ve had since my arrival with a new energy and courage, and made my decision. I need a notebook for work (oh yea, I start on Monday!) so I’m going to buy one today. By myself. Yes. I will not only find a store that sells notebooks, but I will figure out how to get there and then ask for one. In portuguese. Yepppp.

I left the house having pretty much no idea where I was going, except the knowledge of a mall around the corner that might have a store that sells notebooks. Funny enough, the malls here have really easy names like “Shopping Center 3,” “Top Center” and “Shopping Paulista.” Even I can’t mess that up.

Unfortunately, Shopping Center 3 didn’t have a store I could find with office supplies, so I decided to take advantage of the gorgeous day and stroll down Avenida Paulista.

Avenida Paulista at Bela Cintra, a block from where I’m staying

I have to segue here and just mention how much I like this city. It’s known in Brazil as a cidade cinzenta (the grey city) but coming from New York I think it’s way more colorful than that. There’s certainly less “colorful” (read: crazy) people here, but there’s just as much to look at and just as much creativity on every wall, if not more.

Even the buildings here are happy.

Up and down Avenida Paulista, all of the phone booths (which are already funny looking) have been decorated and painted and dressed up. Rodrigo told me he saw one last week that was wearing cashmere, because it was quite cold out.

Some of my favorite phone booths on Avenida Paulista.

After visiting several malls, and asking multiple people to no avail “onde posso comprar um caderno?” only to not understand their response unless it was “não sei” (which isn’t exactly helpful), I realized… I miss Target. Then I remembered a store that I went to with Caio to buy hangers earlier this week. Kids, you’re going to laugh when I tell you what it’s called. It’s no Target, but…

Seriously.

 

So, today was a grand success. I walked around alone, took some photos, fell more in love with the city AND I bought a notebook! I’m all ready for my training tomorrow and my first class on Monday. It might seem like a small thing, but it was an adventure of sorts. One adventure down, many many more to go.

And I strongly believe… if everything in your life is an adventure, you’re doing it right.

 

Beijos! xx