Friday, February 22, 2008

A Bit of Carioca Culture

I won't pretend to be an astute observer of cultural intricacies and I most certainly am not a connoisseur of fine—or other—foods. I will, however, throw out a list of my experiences and hopefully-interesting facts about what I have seen and otherwise taken in while here in Rio de Janeiro.

  • There are some fruits that you'll find in Rio that you'll never see in America. I had Goiabeira, or apple guava, in Santa Teresa. Someone I was with just shook it down off of a tree in a Santa Teresa resident's front yard.
  • Bought a small basket—which was then dumped into a bag—of a small orange fruit called seriguela, I think. There was a street vendor, most of which apparently come into the city from the favelas, who set up shop each day close to the hostel. He sold fruit exclusively. This fruit is mostly pit. You pop it in your mouth, bite down to get the meat off, then spit out the pit. It's a citrus fruit, but I'm not sure how else to describe it. You'll just have to go to Rio and try some.
  • I went to a buteco, a small storefront restaurant, about a three-minute walk from the hostel. I went there several times, as the food was good and the price was right. I would have two small items—pastel de carne (a meat sandwich), and pastel de frango, the same thing but with chicken. After a few visits, they knew me and would pull out my two sandwiches automatically.
  • In Rio, buffets are popular. You pay by the kilo. The method of paying is similar to the way you pay for other things in Rio, too, such as going to a Salsa club. You get a piece of paper when you enter. Each time you buy something, they put a mark on this paper. When you leave, they tally the marks and you pay the total, including entry to the club or dance, if that's where you are.
  • I didn't find the food drastically different than what you might find in the States. Beans and rice are common, but so are the typical meats, besides salad and potatoes. And by the way, you can have meat or chicken or fish or pork. In Brazil—and apparently Argentina—beef is meat, but chicken, pork, fish, etc., are not. Go figure.
  • I was warned countless times about crime in Rio, but experienced none. I am missing my brand new—and somewhat expensive—pocket knife, however. I think it disappeared at the hostel...not sure. I guess that could count as crime.
  • The napkins you find in restaurants are plastic-like, not exactly what I would describe as absorbent.
  • Toilet paper isn't comparable to Charmin. It falls to pieces when it gets wet. And you can't flush it down the toilet. Apparently, the plumbing system down here doesn't support light paper that falls to pieces when wet. Strange. I'm getting used to it, though.
  • Rio is a vast city. I could photograph ten hours a day for a year and still have more to shoot. Downtown is modern, but even that has a raw feeling to it. The streets are always busy, any time of day or night. Nothing like Tacoma. No matter where you go, there are street vendors. Both the metro (sub-way) and buses are a great way to travel. Of course, however, I had been warned that the buses are dangerous. I had no problems.

Here's a shot of the Goiabeira I ate, fresh off the tree:

Language in Rio

  • In Brazil, the main language is Portuguese, others being the languages spoken by the native tribes out in the boondocks.
  • At least in Rio, the Portuguese is different than that spoken in Portugal.
  • Some people speak English, but certainly not many.
  • Some of the words in Portuguese are very difficult for an American—or probably any foreigner—to pronounce. Some have a combination of an "h" sound in combination with a nasal sound. Very different than anything I've ever tried to say.
  • An "r" at the beginning of a word and an "rr" in the middle of a word sounds like "h"—so, the dance style called forro is pronounced fo-ho. The favela called Rocinha is pronounced ho-seen-ya, as an "ha" sounds like "yuh." The plural of the local currency, reais, is pronounced hey-ice.
  • If you're having trouble communicating, try Spanish, as some people there know some Spanish. If anyone tells you that Spanish and Portuguese are almost the same and that if you know Spanish, you can go to Brazil and be just fine, they don't know what they're talking about. It can help, but the two languages are very different.

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