|Atop Sugar Loaf Mountain!|
I really enjoy experiencing new countries and cultures. And since it's my first time here, I thought I'd share with you a few things that I love (so far!) about Brazil.
A quick disclaimer: I've only been in the city of Rio and so these impressions are limited to what I've seen here. I obviously can't speak for the rest of the country!
- There's cheese EVERYWHERE! In the pastries, in the bread, served as a side dish. And since I'm such a big lover of cheese, this won me over on day ONE!
- The soda here is made with actual sugar (not high fructose corn syrup!) In fact, when I tried to explain this strange American phenomenon of the High Fructose Corn syrup to a Brazilian friend of mine here, she looked at me with a funny expression and said, "Corn? In soda?" Exactly!
- The coffee is heavenly! And it's served (at least at my hotel) with a choice of cold AND hot milk! And the milk is thick and creamy and delicious! I haven't seen a dinky little artificial creamer cup anywhere.
- They serve coconuts with a straw in it! As evidenced in the photo. It's better than any "juice box" of coconut water I've ever tasted! The coconut is literally pulled from the tree, a whole is drilled in it, a straw is added, and voila! Refreshing drink! (And" it's got electrolytes!" Note: if you haven't seen the movie, Idiocracy, either go rent it or disregard this joke.)
- Other random foods I've found irresistible: Pão bisnaguinha (little sweet bread rolls that look like mini hot dog buns), pipoca caramel (caramel popcorn), Aipim Frita (some kind of fried root vegetable similar to a potato that reminded me a lot of potato pancakes), Guarana Soda (which tastes kind of like ginger ale but sweeter, hence, better!) and Pão de Queijo (cheese bread. Let's face it, is it EVER possible to go wrong when you put cheese and bread together?)
General Cultural Observations:
- When you order something "pequeno" (small), like coffee, drinks, etc, it's actually SMALL! As someone who has often been accused of "eating like a bird," I'm very appreciative of this. I'm tired of ordering "small" portions in the U.S. and not even being able to finish them. And then feeling guilty for wasting food. Since when did the "small" soda at fast food restaurants become a Big Gulp? Observe the photograph. This was a "chocolate pequeno" (A small hot chocolate) or as my husband likes to say, "Jessica Size" and I actually finished it! And the tiny little spoon was just too "fofa" (cute) for words.
- The public buses (at least the ones in Rio) have both a driver AND a cashier, who sits in a little booth behind the driver and sells tickets. I find this to be completely brilliant! I've been to so many countries where the driver is both the driver and the cashier and not only does it slow down the entire boarding process, it puts a lot of stress on the foreigner (that would be me) who is trying desperately to figure out how much I owe, how to ask how much I owe in a language I barely speak, and which one of these unfamiliar colorful bills is the right denomination (all while the driver is speeding to the next stop). So thank you, Rio, for this simple yet effective solution!
- And speaking of unfamiliar colorful bills, the money here has animals on it! As an animal lover, I find this to be totally awesome! I mean, seriously, how cool is it to pay for your dinner with money that has a monkey, a parrot and a jaguar on it? I'll tell you.... it's REALLY cool!
- Rio has some of the most well groomed dogs I've ever seen! I'm not kidding! Around 6-8 pm, everyone is out walking their dogs and it looks like a dog show. The coats are shiny and immaculate, as though the dogs spent the entire day at the beauty parlor while their owners were at work. They make my dogs (who spend their days, rubbing themselves in the dirt and chasing squirrels through fields) look like bums!
- Everyone here is really active and in shape. There are always people jogging, biking, and playing volleyball all day long. It's great! Check out the picture of the Ipanema beach strand on Sunday. They close the street to cars and everyone is out walking! And instead of fast food restaurants and Starbucks on every corner, they have juice shops. Seriously, the Brazilians LOVE their juice. And I don't blame them, it's delicious! So hmmm....juice instead of fast food on every corner, real sugar instead of High Fructose Corn syrup, and I haven't seen a single overweight local? Seems pretty self-explanatory to me!
- And the final thing that I love about Rio (so far)...is that everyone is really nice! They smile at you, and are helpful and are very appreciative when you try to speak Portuguese! (The operative word here being "try").