April 8, 2012

Brazilian Wax, Catholic Church (Brazilian Style), and Good Eats

Not too much has happened over the past week that I’ve been here.  We are not vacationing, so we are pretty much enjoying life at a regular pace.  I am slowly starting to pick up more Portuguese.  I have been transformed to “beauty base zero” including full body wax, haircut, and mani-pedi.  I have experienced both Palm Sunday and Easter in a Brazilian Catholic Church.  And I have probably eaten my weight in meat during about ten barbecues.

I am vigilantly studying Portuguese so that I can sound less like a Neanderthal.  Right now, a typical exchange goes like this:
Fernando’s Dad: blah blah blah, jabber jabber jabber, word that I know (let’s say guarda-chuva, which means umbrella), blah blah?
Me: Uhh... sim?
Fernando’s Dad: guarda-chuva, guarda-chuva, guarda-chuva...
Me: Ok?
Fernando’s Dad: guarda-chuva, guarda-chuva, Uuummmmbreeeellllla...  Blah blah blah, jabber jabber jabber, ummmmbreeeelllaa, blah blah?
Me: Sim.. (More assuredly, but looking at Fernando desperately to translate)

In reality, it probably isn’t that bad, it’s just how I feel when someone puts me on the spot.  When people are having a conversation about something, as long as I have time to think about the words on my own, I understand a lot about 5 minutes after the words have been said.  The hardest thing about everything being in Portuguese is that it makes me extremely tired.  I’m pretty sure his parents think that I have narcolepsy.  The fact that I have been sick since the second day I was here probably doesn’t help.

In an effort to understand more, I am watching TV with closed-captions, studying for about 2 hours a day, writing verb charts and new words that I hear, and attempting to speak in full sentences...  It is frustrating to not be able to speak eloquently when I want to say something witty or describe something that I think is important.  Once I do learn Portuguese I think there are going to be a lot of job opportunities here for me though, especially in my field, so I have lots of reasons to be motivated!

Last week, I got my first REAL Brazilian wax... I waxed everything (armpits, legs, arms, toes, belly-button, etc...)  All I can say is that no one can prepare you for this experience and that the Brazilian wax in America is not a Brazilian wax...
On a lighter note, I also got my haircut and my nails done!  And that didn’t leave me feeling quite as violated...  I also bit the bullet and bought a hair dryer (which was ridiculously expensive over here,) so that I don’t have as much of a fluffy layer of frizzy hair from the humidity here.

For those who have only attended Christian church in their lives, any Catholic mass makes you feel like a lost puppy with people chanting random things at random times, singing songs that they have memorized from years and years of services, raising their hands, sitting, standing, sitting, standing, holding hands, shaking hands, sitting, standing, crossing themselves...   For those of you who have experienced a Catholic service in English, I encourage you to try it in Portuguese!  It is double the fun!

I have been to two Catholic services since I’ve been here, the first was Palm Sunday.  We went to a gigantic cathedral in a small town that is devoted to the first Brazilian Saint.  The cathedral sat 5000 people and I’ll just say, that is a lot of waving palm fronds!  It was actually a really nice experience and the good thing about that church was that they had typed up the entire sermon, song lyrics, and random chants... So even though I couldn’t say anything, I could at least learn some Portuguese!

Last night, we went to Easter mass.  This was even more foreign than the first service, because it was in candlelight, there was no pamphlet telling me what came next, and Fernando was standing up in the back and wasn’t there to tell me what was going on.  I am proud to say that I at least know better than not to eat the cracker and wine!  I really did like how traditional it was (it was like a catholic mass from the movies) and I think there is something to be said for having church be a formal place rather than a place to make friends and gossip about the pastor’s kid.  The priest chanted the sermon and because I don’t know the names of the rituals, they did the thing where they swing a smoking container back and forth up the aisle, the thing where they dip a metal ball on a stick (looks like an Aqua Globe) in holy water and splatter it on everyone, and everyone in the congregation had candles (like on Christmas.)  The realization is that Catholic mass is something that takes years of experience to master...

On to the food: my favorite part of Brazil.  I’ll just start by saying that the food here is better.  Fernando has been telling me this for the past 5 years and I’ve rolled my eyes and ignored him, but everything from produce to meat to coffee really had a lot more flavor here.  Eating has been my favorite pastime for the past week and a half because I don’t need to know Portuguese to do it!  The big meal in Brazil is lunch.  Dinner is usually just a snack or sometimes like a lunch.  I have pretty much loved everything that I have eaten here, giant juicy mangoes, bananas that taste like apples, leaves that taste like snow peas, mandioca, hearts of palm, watercress, lamb, beef, casseroles, polenta, yogurt, café com leite, you name it.  There is a BBQ in everyone’s house, usually on the porch, but in Fernando’s parent’s case, in the kitchen.  You use long skewers to rotisserie all of your meat over hot coals.  We have had quite a few barbecues because we are new here and Fernando’s parents are retired and have time to hang out in the middle of the day, but I think it is probably more of a weekend thing usually.  It is a meat lovers dream!!

My adventures here have just begun and I can’t wait to see more, experience new things, and explore...


  1. Oh, Jordan, this was such fun to read and made me laugh out loud, especially the conversation with Fernando's dad! I know what you mean about it making you sleepy to speak in Portuguese...that's how I feel when I have a conversation with Jazmin...it makes my brain ache, then I become so tired!! Keep up the blogs, they are such fun to read.

  2. Seriously, gotta love learning a new language... especially that look of desperation when the native speaker is trying to get you to understand. Just learn how to say, "hang on, I'll respond in 5 minutes..." :)


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