Wednesday, February 6, 2013

One month in Brazil!

Pun of the Post: What did Ipanema say to Copacabana when they got into a fight? Don't be such a beach. 


Fun Factoid: Be very careful with your Portuguese pronunciation, since small differences in tone make a huge difference in meaning. 


Example: Pão (nasalized vowel) = Bread, while Pau (not nasalized) = Wood (and a slang term for a certain body part). Serious advice: be careful how you pronounce the word for bread when trying to order it! 

Also, coco (accent on first syllable) = coconut, but cocô (accent on second syllable) = crap. 


I can't believe that it's been almost a month since I landed here in Brazil!  Since then, I've had some pretty interesting adventures exploring the city. One really cool place was the Botanical Gardens, which I mentioned in my last blog post. I uploaded an album of pictures on Facebook, so feel free to check it out! The place is absolutely beautiful, and it has plants from all over the world. It's effectively a "zoo" for plants; any person who thinks plants are pointless and boring should visit this amazing area.


Another interesting place is the Saara, a bazaar/marketplace located in the central part of the city. This place began as a marketplace for Arab and Asian immigrants almost 100 years ago, but now it is the main (cheap) shopping center of the city. You can buy almost anything here, from socks to backpacks to shirts to Chinese fans. You can still find great Asian and Arab food here, but it's not authentic since the restaurants need to cater to Brazilian taste.


Speaking of food, since my last post, many of you were wondering about the food here. 

Surprisingly, a lot of the food was actually very similar to the United States. Burgers, hot dogs, and fries are available everywhere, and they're often even more unhealthy than the USA because of all the ridiculous toppings. A common burger is called the X-Tudo (meaning "cheeseburger with everything") which includes bacon, presunto, eggs, mayonnaise, onions, more cheese, etc. All the foods seem to be in excess; stuff is extremely sweet, extremely salty, or more commonly, extremely cheesy (not like my jokes, but ACTUAL cheese). An American would have no problem getting used to other foods, since there is a strong Italian immigrant influence: you can find spaghetti, lasagna, and pizza nearly everywhere as well. Just make sure to drink LOTS of liquids because I don't think Americans are used to the amount of salt. 


However, there are a lot of differences, too. The main staple here is beans and rice. It's good, filling, and relatively cheap. Also, salads don't really exist in Brazil; if you order a "salad", it is basically 3 or 4 gigantic leaves of lettuce, and a few cucumbers or onions if you're lucky. I've been really wondering how Brazilians can stay in such good shape when the food is so unhealthy! It's probably the ridiculous amount of exercise they get by dancing in Carnaval and swimming at the beach.


I almost forgot to mention the beach, which is definitely one of the highlights of Rio.  One of the most interesting things about Rio is that almost every postcard or stereotypical picture of Rio beaches is actually what they look like. They are absolutely breathtaking; the water is free of pollution, there is a clear view of the mountains and the Cristo Redentor statue, and  But the most beautiful place would have to be Arpoador (my current cover photo on Facebook). This is a series of rocks that provide an amazing view of Rio and its beaches. We went there to see the sun set, and it's impossible to describe its majesty. In fact, I was so overwhelmed that I, out of nowhere, felt the desire to kneel and recite Sura As-Shams (The Sun) from the Quran. 


Unfortunately, it's been nearly impossible to find other Muslims here. (I went to the local masjid and found out it has been under renovation for about 3 years and is closed indefinitely). For this reason, I've made extra efforts to maintain religious practice at my homestay. It's been a unique experience practicing Islam alone (something I've never had to do before in my entire life), but it has definitely made me grateful for the supportive Muslim community I have back in the USA. 


Going forward, I'm looking forward to Carnaval, which starts on Friday. It's basically a combination of Halloween and Mardi Gras along with incredible amounts of singing, dancing, and overall insanity. Also, over the next few weeks I will be traveling to Minas Gerais and Maranhao, two other states in Brazil. I will try to post photos and blog posts as much as I can.

Thanks for reading!