Eating Little Thighs and Nine Other Things to Know About Rio [Tall Glass of Shame]
I promise I’ll stop talking about my trip to Rio after this week! If you are ever inclined to visit Brazil let me guide you through a few things you might want to know before hopping on that jet plane.
1. The Coxinha
There is a little piece of heaven named the coxinha and you simply have to eat one! Coxinha in Portuguese translates to English as “Little Thigh” which is what the food is in the shape of, a small chicken drunstick. This Brazilian snack is a small finger food stuffed with shredded chicken, spices and catupiri cheese, surrounded in wheat flour dough, breaded and then deep fried. I choose to believe it is in the shape of a delicious tear from God that he is weeping due to how tasty the little snack is! You can find coxinhas on nearly every street corner, and in every small bakery or restaurant. This staple is one of my favorite foods and if you live here in the Los Angeles area you must try the best ones I’ve found, go to any of the Bossa Nova restaurants and get a couple for you and a friend.
2. The Drivers
Dear God the drivers! The jury is still out in my mind, Brazilian drivers are either the worst in the world or simply the best. With all the crazy ass driving they do I’m amazed there are not more accidents. Beware before you go that renting a car here is very expensive and almost all vehicles are stick shifts so plan accordingly. Once on the road you will find that there is a swirl of horror going on around you, don’t panic… yet! People here drive fast and by fast I mean like 80 Miles per hour down a residential street with children and dogs present, only slowing for the occasional speed bump. Taxis are a cheap and easy way to get around here, but make sure you have your claws freshly sharpened to dig into the seat in front of you as you nearly miss all the traffic the driver is weaving in and out of. People here don’t wear seat belts, so don’t be surprised when you get into a vehicle and they are either buried deep in the seat, if they are there at all. I found some solace in the subtle “double honk” technique everyone employs in this country. Basically a quick double blast of the horn tell the drivers around you that “Hey bitches, watch out! I am about to pull some crazy shit so you better adjust to what I am doing or we all die!”
Levi and I also braved the “vans” that roam about town following the bus routes and give cheaper rides to overflow passengers since the system can’t handle the demand. For those of you that like roller coasters I highly recommend this experience! We sat in one van for under 5 minutes, travelled maybe 10 miles and spend a good half of that trip driving very fast in the wrong lane and narrowly hitting oncoming traffic, all while being serenaded by our drunk van driver in Portuguese. They should have these at Magic Mountain sometime in the near future if they know what’s good for business.
3. The Beaches
I can’t tell you enough how amazingly beautiful the beaches of Brazil are. There is a sense of relaxation that can only happen there and I will always reserve a place in my soul for those sandy shores. Get to the beach early and rent yourself a few chairs and an umbrella from one of the vendors parked along the strip. They can bring you cocktails, sodas or beer so there is no need to get up off that chair if you don’t want to. For what you might spend on a basic meal here in the US you can have an incredible full day at the beach with friends. I highly recommend Ipanema if you are looking for the beauty of both the sand and the people present, but if you are more laid back and looking for a family friendly environment try Copacabana. No matter where you park your butt, the beaches everywhere here will take your breath away. Bring lots of sunscreen!
A motel here in the US is a crummy place to crash for the night that is affordable and utilitarian. A motel in brazil is a place to rent a room in chunks of either 4, 6, 8 or 12 hours with the primary purpose to have sex there. People in Brazil typically live at home for much longer than we do here in the states, so these places offer a nice place for youngsters and cheating spouses alike to have their fun. When booking a room, you will know very quickly which is a Motel and which is a real Hotel.
The term Gringo in Brazil is not a derogatory term and is often used to describe anyone not from Brazil. I am definitely a Gringo. I step out of the cab and my pale skin just screams Gringo! It was kind of strange to walk around and realize people are talking about you and instantly thinking you are from America or at the very least must speak English. I had one guy scream across the street to me “The book is on the table!” which is one of the first things you learn to say in English when studying in Brazil. It was sweet how so many people wanted to try what limited English they knew on me, and I responded back with my very limited vocabulary in Portuguese just to make matters more confusing for all involved. One child was so shocked in a store to see a big tall white boy walk by that he shouted out to his mom “Look Mom, an American!” I felt like a traveling freak show to a small degree but always felt welcomed in this country by everyone involved, even if it did possibly make me a target according to Levi. I am glad I was oblivious to any inherent dangers in standing out so much.
6. Valeria E Janete
On Globo TV there is a comedy sketch show called Zorra Total, which is the closest equivalent to our SNL. The show takes place on a Subway in Rio and contains assorted characters representing different crazy stereotypes from Brazilian society. The person driving the train is someone doing a great job of impersonating the newest President of Brazil: Dilma Rousseff. One of my favorite character combos on the show are Valeria and Janete. Valeria is an animated transexual with bright red hair and her friend Janete is a slightly “special” ugly girl that stands and gossips with her daily. Here is a clip of Valeria I kind of adore:
7. The Heat
Humidity is normally the death of me, but I have to say that now I am back home I kind of miss it. My skin has never been more soft and I have never had such clean pores from sweating out every last drop of water in my system. The warm air at night is kind of nice, but mid day you will most likely need to do what I did, steal some air conditioning wherever you can. With a little burst of cool air every now and then you won’t die, and even the palest of gringos can survive the moist blast furnace of a Brazilian Summer.
8. The Volume
Brazilians are a very quiet and reserved people… Ok I’m lying, Brazilians are loud and raucous and know how to enjoy life at high volume. Don’t expect to get much silence in your life when visiting this country unless you are waaaay out in the boondocks. If you are at a restaurant, walking around the city, or even talking to someone on the phone this city and it’s people are busy having their fun as loud as they want to. I encourage you to join in and add to the cacophony especially if you happen to be there during the loudest time of year: Carnaval!
The beads, the glitz, the loud thumping samba music and the city alive with crazy street parties and drunken fun… it must be Carnaval. There are two sides to this yearly celebration that I witnessed, the big party time side and the more serious competition of samba schools through the Sambadromo for the title. Brazilians take both very seriously, you are here to party and if you are in the Sambadromo you are here to win… and party. You can’t imagine the amount of detail, energy and money that has been poured into the floats and costumes. These samba schools raise money all year to create their presentations each year and it all boils down to that one and a half hour performance as they strut their stuff through the Sambadromo. It was incredible to see the city all but shut down the next day when the scoring of the judges was being read on TV. Of course the school that won celebrated long into the night, and even into the following weekend. For one full week the city takes a break from their daily routine and parties like you wouldn’t believe. You better pack a strong healthy liver if you want to keep up with this country’s way of celebration, there is much drinking involved.
This year the school of Tijuca won and I have to say that their theatrics and presentation were something to behold. Here is some of their performance:
It makes me want to learn to play the accordion, not to mention adopt a large colorful tube creature!
10. Last, but certainly not least: The People
I love the people of Brazil. The thing that struck me the most about Brazilians is that no matter how little money, or what the circumstances may be they are happy and make do with what they have. The openness and giving spirit I was privy to while visiting truly warmed my heart. In Brazil, even if you have next to nothing you can always make room for one more at the table. I think the people of the US could take a lesson in being happy to just wake up each day and maybe pour more of themselves into the quality of their life as opposed to just making money and worrying about getting by.
If you ever find yourself traveling to Brazil let me and Levi know, we have so many more suggestions to impart to you, not to mention a bad ass crash course in mean things to say in Portuguese! As a treat I close this week with this year’s big Summer Jam “Ai Se Eu Te Pego” by Michel Teló Blast it and feel the heat as Brazil moves slowly into Fall and we emerge from our cold cold (mild) Winter! The song loosely translates to “Oh if I catch you! Oh Oh If I catch you!… Delicious! Delicious! The way you’re gonna kill me…” This song is EVERYWHERE in Brazil and people were shocked when I started singing along to this catchy tune. (Yes, I had to buy the album and I may or may not dance in my living room singing it while cleaning.)
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