Things I learned in Brazil

I have returned from a few weeks in Brazil, and the few things that have stayed with me are the food (from bad to good), the Portuguese (tudo bem?!), the culture, and the bug bites.

Floating outside Rio's Botanical Gardens

Floating outside Rio’s Botanical Gardens

The trip, of course, reawakened the desire to live abroad. To travel…but then again…

And so here are the things I learned:

  • Acai bowls served in Brazil are nothing like the healthy ones served in the states
  • Acai berries are perishable, so Brazilians get acai frozen just like in America
  • Sucos or juices are everywhere. I love the naturally made ones or ones made from fresh fruit. Why need they be so expensive here?
  • Abacaxi e hortela (pineapple and mint) is my favorite new combination.
  • Del valle is the Minute Maid (possibly even the same company) processed juice of Brazil
  • Kuat!, guarana-flavored soda, is a flavor that you will never anywhere except Brazil (obviously owned by an American company)
  • When I travel abroad, I always miss American-style bathrooms of toilets that flush toilet paper and high-pressure, hot showers
  • Also, when I travel abroad, I miss central AC
  • Bug bites are the biggest souvenir that I brought back
  • Breakfast in Brazil is often eaten at home and rarely eaten in restaurants
  • Sao Paulo has one of the largest populations of Japanese outside Japan
  • Sao Paulo is multi-ethnic, and I frequently see Brazilian Asians who don’t speak a word of English or an Asian Language. They only know Portuguese.
  • Don’t think about manslamming here in Brazil. It doesn’t end well.
  • Be wary of little kids.
  • If you know Spanish, you may be able to get by pretty well in Brazil
  • Sao is a version of “San”. In Brazil, San Francisco is known as Sao Francisco
  • Iguazu falls has more than 200 individual falls
  • The current exchange rate between the American dollar to the Brazilian reai (1:4) instead of the former 1:2 made everything seem cheaper than it actually is
  • Do not buy fruits from mercado municipal in Sao Paulo. The prices are exorbitant even if the fruit is incredibly tasty. I paid $6 USD for one dragonfruit!
  • Never turn down a mortadella sandwich
  • I have no arm strength of kayaking over 9 km
  • Brasilia is an interesting city, but touring it takes only 2 hours
  • A city of the future built in the sixties (aka Brasilia) means that it believed the future was all about car transportation, not pedestrian movement
  • Walking is nearly impossible in Brasilia. I say that now, but it’s so very true
  • Bike rental in Brazil equals poorly maintained bikes
  • Rio locals will always question why you want to visit the favelas
  • The favelas are not as bad as portrayed in media and by the locals, especially when you have a guide
  • Favelas do not have homeless people, because why would they ever live there if nobody can give them anything?
  • Favelas are always located next to the richest neighborhoods, showcasing class disparity
  • People who live in favelas work hard (according to our guide) and never ask for anything
  • If you live in the favela and need something fixed, a directory does not exist. Rather, you just ask someone who knows someone.
  • All wiring, plumbing, construction are done by people inside the favelas and never by someone outside the favelas
  • The gang that controls Rocinha, the largest favela in Rio, is considered a “peaceful” gang. They provide marijuana for the Rocinha residents and cocaine for non-favela dwellers. Rocinha dwellers that get involved with cocaine are severely punished. A generous trade? Perhaps.
  • Pao de Azucar (Sugarloaf) mountain was named such because it sounded like the Inca word for the mountain. Plus the mountain looked like a loaf of sugar when the Portuguese arrived
  • Skin color matters in Brazil. I still wonder what being Asian meant, although the Asians I spotted tended to be like that in American — highly educated, upper class
  • Foursquare is the best for finding highly rated locations when traveling. Don’t use Yelp! It’s never well-used abroad
  • Getting a prepaid refillable SIM card in Brazil is quite cheap. As long as you can figure out the Portuguese. You don’t even need a CPF (the social security number version of Brazil).
  • Buses in most Brazilian cities run frequently and don’t run according to schedule. On the weekends, they sip by bus stops very quickly. Sometimes if Google says that the bus will take one hour, it may be 30 minutes, because very few people ride the buses
  • As expected, Hostels are super social, but they are impossible to sleep in.
  • Just because the architecture is whimsical and beautiful does not mean that you can sleep well in it
  • 2014 Guidebooks are out of date, especially with the listed prices, because Brazil is experiencing issues in the economy
  • Being Asian meant that everyone treated me like a Brazilian. I didn’t feel like a stranger in a strange land.
  • Staying with a host that doesn’t speak English was super delightful as I forced myself to learn Portuguese and use our translator app to converse
  • Brazilians love to rock out at night. Sleep is not an option
  • Like a pre-programmed robot, music will make Chris dance
  • Drivers will not turn on headlights at night to save battery. How annoying and unsafe!
  • Aggressive driving is the only way to stay safe
  • Driving cautiously means potential of rear endings
  • Lanes are narrower in Brazil
  • Brazilians love to cut people off. In fact, it’s not rude. It’s just normal.
  • French cars are popular in Brazil
  • Any America-originated conference held abroad is always the best and international
  • I love ethnography so much and would do it more if its results could be more effective
  • When thinking about a ship, it doesn’t have be a ship that floats on water. What about a rocketship? A jaegar? What about a submarine? Let’s think outside the box here.
  • Ice cream, just as I have learned the last few years, gets people’s attention. Immediately.
  • It is possible to eat too much (see: my experience at an all-you-can-eat Churrascaria in Rio).
  • Estamos en greve means “we are on strike”
  • Striking often means hanging out in front of the business, drinking and playing chess, unlike the method of protest in the states
  • Always say yes. Even though you’re not sure why you’re saying yes.
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