Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Olympic Torch

Of course the Olympics are over now - no Zika epidemic, no massive clash between Brazilians/spectators/police. Just one little false robbery story. Pretty good for South America's first Olympics! We attended a few Olympics-sponsered events, but the best was watching the Olympic torch be carried down from Pica de Ibituruna among a massive crowd of paragliders. Our town is unofficially the world's foremost destination for paragliding and hang-gliding. (You can read all about our trip to the peak here!)

Around 20 para-gliders came down from the mountain in the same time frame. Normally, at any given point in the day, you can look to the mountain and see one or two people coming down - so 20 was quite a sight! One paraglider had a strobe light pointed at his canopy and we correctly assumed that he was the one with the torch. They landed in a field next to the bridge where we were watching the torch come down. Once the para-gliders had their gear stowed, the torch was carried throughout the city.

Afterwards, we went to Farley's parking lot/car wash to wait out the traffic. A cousin rode over on his moped and we took turns riding it around the lot. It was really fun! Farley takes his motorcycle everywhere, as many people do here, but I've been too afraid to learn how to drive it. However, I'm convinced that I could handle a moped! Once Alessandra is in school, I'd like to get one to ride around town. I looked into them a little bit and found out that they cost as much as a motorcycle here, because no driver's license is needed to operate it. But I think it will be worth the gas savings.

(I wish I had better pictures, but I was trying to make sure the kids didn't run off in the crowd.)

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Don't Sweat the Small Stuff

You know when you travel someplace and they have a product you're familiar with but it's just...off? A lot of things here are like that. Although a lot of things are surprisingly familiar! Coca Cola tastes the same. Hellman's mayo is available as well as Heinz BBQ sauce. They are notably the more expensive brands, but they're available. Here's a run down of some of the familiar, but strange items and ways of doing things that you'll find in Brazil.

Ketchup - It's much sweeter than ketchup in the States. It also appears pinker than the deep red I'm accustomed to. I wasn't a big fan at first, but it's grown on me. (Although Tony is probably shaking his head at adults consuming ketchup. I even put it on my mac and cheese, Tony. Blasphemy!) Also, hamburgers are served without ketchup. It's offered in to-go packets, but you won't find it on your patty.

Mayo - As someone with fat girl tastes, I love mayonnaise. Brazil takes mayo to another level with mayo sauces. Every restaurant has their own "molho." Our local burger joint issues a packet of white, green, and pink molho in each container. The restaurant across the street issues a green molho with their meals. Some of them have onions, carrots, lime juice, or a mix of spices. And they go on everything - rice and beans, meat, bread. Soooo delicious. Praise be to the mayo gods.

Returnable Coke Bottles - This is actually a great idea to promote recycling in a country with a serious garbage problem. For a few reais, you can pay a deposit for a returnable Coke bottle. They're much thicker than normal Coke bottles and feature a yellow top, so there's no confusion about which bottles are one time use and which are returnable. They're available for two liter bottles, so when I'm out of soda, I simply grab a full returnable bottle and present it to a cashier with my empty reusable bottle. It's cheaper than a non-returnable two liter bottle and eliminates waste. Win-win.

Bacon - At the deli, you can purchase small amounts of thinly sliced bacon, but most bacon is sold in solid blocks. Instead of frying the thin slices, the blocks are cut into small chunks and cooked in a pan or grill. It's often added to beans or to a quiche. I miss crispy bacon, but the bacon chunks are delicious nonetheless. (You can get thin slices of bacon here, but it's expensive and full of fat. Not the best for frying.)

Ground Meat - In the States I rarely bought ground meat because I'm really turned off at the idea of the way it's produced (I'm not righteous, I just get grossed out easily). Here in Brazil, meat is ground right in front of you! (I'm sure you can get it this way in the States as well, but the norm is to buy it in pre-packaged containers). I was pretty surprised the first time I asked for hamburger and the guy behind the counter asked me which chunk of beef I wanted ground. The taste is much fresher than packaged ground beef. Another win in my book.

Bottled Water/Gas Delivery - Tap water is sketchy so most people have large containers of water delivered to their houses. Think of those water cooler bottles - basically that. And since most stoves run on gas, but there are no gas lines to houses, bottled gas is also delivered. I imagine it's probably safer than the gas lines in the US. At least a couple times a year I'd see news reports of a gas line explosion.

Utility Sinks - Every house has a clothes washing area and those areas also have a utility sink. The washers here are much less adapt at getting clothes clean than the heavy duty washers I'm used to. A lot of hand scrubbing goes on to get the kids' clothes clean.

Sundays - Ain't no part like a Sunday night party 'cause a Sunday night party don't stop. Seriously. Brazilians carry the weekend far into Sunday night - technically into the early Monday hours. I'm convinced Brazilians don't sleep.

"Half" - In the States we think of half as the number 5, but in Brazil it's 6! This is especially noticeable when someone quotes a phone number and says "meio" (middle/center/half) instead of "seis" (six).

Junk Mail - One thing I loathe is a mailbox full of junk mail every day. Here the post office does not deliver junk mail, although you might find a flyer or two under your door.

Born in a Barn - I don't know if it's just my city, but everyone we encounter leaves doors wide open. Even if the door was closed when they got to it. I get that very few houses have screens on the windows, so leaving the door open isn't really a big deal. I, however, have both a run-away prone toddler and screens on my windows.

Burning Trash - A few of our neighbors are really on top of keeping our street clean. They are the real Brazilian heroes. Um, the thing is, they sweep all of the trash into piles and then let it burn. It's not uncommon to see someone light a fire and then just walk away from it. It stinks, it's bad for the environment, but it keeps the street clean.

There you have it guys! By no means a comprehensive list and nothing earth shattering, but those a few of the things you might notice here in Brazil.