Friday, February 17, 2012

Everyday life in Brazil I -Study / Groceries

I have had some friends ask me what I am doing in Brazil, so I thought it may be interesting to share what my day is like.  It may not be as interesting compared to the travel entries, but here goes it.  I wake up on average at 7:30 A.M. Brazil time.  I always thought Brazil was further west then the USA, but since living here I have figured out it is actually further east so they greet the sun earlier then we do.  When I wake up in Brazil it is 6:30 A.M. EST during daylight savings time and 4:30 A.M. EST during standard time.    Yes -- I bet you did not know that when we fall back in the fall they jump forward because it is spring in Brazil and when we spring forward in the spring they fall back because it is fall in Brazil.  So, during standard time Brazil is 3 hours ahead of the east coast and 1 hour ahead during daylight savings time.  This makes it a little difficult to communicate with my family and friend back home but its manageable.  As I began thinking about what to write I realized that it would not be a play by play of my day because each one is different.  I have decided to highlight some everyday activities of life that I participate in and compare.


 Before leaving for Brazil I knew that learning Portuguese would be very important and difficult, thus I purchase a couple of books (Brazilian dictionary and Portuguese for Dummies). My brother Dan gave me a copy of the famous Rosetta Stone to use as well.  When I first arrived in Brazil it was easy to stay devoted to two hours of study daily and Rosetta seemed to be my method of choice.  What is Rosetta Stone?  Well, it is a computer course which teaches you conversational language through the use of images and repetition.  I found that if I boot up the computer and put in the cd as soon as I wake in the morning, there is a better chance I will get my dose in.  If I put it off until later it often gets bumped from the day’s itinerary by some other activities which there are plenty.   The lesson began with identifying how to say girl, boy, man, woman (menino, menina, homem, mulher) and has progressed to the boy is on the table  ( o menino em cima da mesa) and the women is throwing the ball (a mulher esta jogando bola).  I have found this method to be quite effective and have enjoyed it . 

OK – so I am studying the language – how is it going you may ask? Well, like learning any language there are a lot and I mean a lot of things to be identified.  Every time I turn around there is another word with a tricky pronunciation to learn and I have not  even studied much with sentence structure.  As I have stated in other blog entries, I spend most of my time listening for identifiable words when I am around groups of Brazilians talking and have notice my vocabulary increasing.  That is if they are speaking at a pace where I can understand anything.  I often get frustrated that I am not learning faster as I really want to spend time speaking to new friends who don’t know English but I am still hopeful that day will come.  So.., I worked daily on the Rosetta Stone lessons until we headed off to Rio for a 10 day experience (my blog link) and while we were there the cd got left in the carry on bag.  I also have to admit that once we left Rio, I did not pick up my Rosetta assisted habit and that trip is almost a year ago already.

I cannot be too disappointed with myself for the lapse while in Rio as I did pick up a book my cousin Lisa gave me about Brazil and found time to read about the culture, history, and some of its cities. I think part of the excitement of living here is learning about the lifestyle and country dynamics so I guess a little lapse from formal language study is OK. Along with this book I have begun reading the Portuguese for Dummies book, but do not have any conclusions about the effectiveness of it’s method. I will keep you posted. 

Over the past month I have begun a memorization app on my ipad that gives me a daily word to study and memorize.  I have some new found vigor to learn since discovering this and a new website that has helped me learn more which is a Brazilian Podcast.  These two new sources are surely assisting with increasing my vocabulary but there sure are a lot of words to learn.  Every once and a while I get the Rosetta stone out and work on that some.  I hope to be the "think I can train" until I actually can and then I will be able to explore so much more of this wonderful country.  My friends here are also a great help as some of them can translate for me and others have just enough English to mix with Portuguese which seems to make learning happen naturally.  I keep plugging along and learning new words as I get prepare to someday work on sentence structure. However, my grades in school were just average in English so we will have to see when I start Portuguese.  

OK, enough talk about learning the language -- lets get on with the other daily activities.  I think I should share about.....

Groceries – Groceries!

The experience of getting food in Brazil is a little different then in the United States but then again it is quite similar.  The average day we find ourselves at some point heading somewhere to obtain groceries whether that is meat, produce or just general needs of the household.  On certain days of the week there are fairs held in the squares throughout different  communities of the city.  Similar to a farmers market back in the United States but I have to say on a grander scale.  You can purchase fresh fruits, vegetables, clothing, honey, grains, cereals, flowers, peppers, meats, fried foods, and spices of all kinds and in Goiania these fairs occur often so you only need to get enough produce for the next couple of days.   Each fair seems to have its specialty which I am attempting to learn so I can get to the appropriate fair in order to find the best produce I want.   I know when I am back in Atlanta I am disappointed in the limited selection in the local supermarkets as they are shipped from so far away.  Even the Decatur Farmers Market does not compare to the freshness found here.   Papaya, bananas, mango, lettuce, peaches, pineapple, oranges, carrots, cucumbers, etc ... grown locally and grown fresh can all be found at many of them.  The markets have sprung up in neighborhood where they block off a street – invade a city square or inhabit the open air structure that has been built to house it.  These fairs are a great place to people watch as well and the produce is very inexpensive.

In the neighborhoods there are what I call individual specialty stores.  They are focused on one or two products and selling them to their customers.  For example the bolo's store (cake store) which sells 15 different kinds of cakes.  If you have spent any time reading my blog or following me on facebook,  you would know that Brazilians love their cakes and baked goods.  Just like at my grandma's house growing up,  there was always time in the afternoon when the table was cleared for a coffee pot and an array of sweets.  For me that used to be cookies and cakes,  for Brazilians it is often cake and different kinds of bread, but I guarantee you will find people flocking to the table mid afternoon for a small bite to eat and java to drink.
Another example of these specialty stores are the butcher shops that sell a variety of meats.  Cut to order,  meat doesn't get any fresher then this and what a great place to find something to prepare for dinner. 
 If you miss one of the fairs or these specialty stores don't have what you need,  there is probably a small local grocery store close as they are on almost every other block.  They have a variety of foods and complimentary items depending on which one you go to.   Since it is not always possible to get your fresh produce at the street fairs,  you soon learn which day of the week these local stores get their produce delivered.  They are good for the little things you forgot or have now decided you need.  A bakery is often a part of the mix, tempting you with smells of cheese bread and other delicious salty and sweet treats.  There are a couple in our neighborhood where we shop on a regular basis and seem to be many more that we have not. 

fruits and veggies
The final option for groceries is the supermarkado or supermarket.  These large groceries stores are set up like any supermarket in the United States with it’s produce and meat departments,  soda and cereal isles, bakery and frozen food freezers.  They have a large variety of items to choose from just like their counterparts in the good old USA.   Venturing from strictly groceries to household cleaning products, clothing,  personal products, and even an occasional nick nack.   There are a few differences I have noticed as I wander down the isles exploring.   The eggs and milk are found on a shelf and not in a refrigerated unit.  Milk in Brazil is found in 1 liter cartons and you can choose from skim, semi skim or whole just like the USA.  Prior to the milk being poured into the cartons, it is put through a process called ultra-pasteurization or ultra high temperature treatment (UHT).  This process heats the milk to 135°C (275°F) for around 1–2 seconds, compared the 15 seconds at 72°C (161°F) for  "high temperature, short term pasteurization (HTST) which is used in the US.  This UHT processing of milk extends the shelf life to 6 to 9 months and makes refrigeration unnecessary until the milk is opened.  (thank wiki...)  Personally I miss the creaminess of the milk pasteurized the traditional way but have learned to use the milk here for my cereal and occasional glass of milk.
cereal Ilse
 A little known fact is that eggs can actually last several months without refrigeration.  My grandparents  always had hens laying fresh eggs on the farm and they ate them quickly with nine hungry mouths to feed.  However, I am sure from time to time the eggs sat in a basket for a day or two.  Althought this is a difference, after a little research I was quickly reassured it was OK to use them.  Without refrigeration, it is important to crack the egg in a bowl before adding it to whatever you are cooking to make sure it's good.   Another difference I have noticed is the cereal isle is only about 15 feet long.  There are not 100 plus choices, instead you basically have 10 or less cereal brands to choose from and that cuts down on the amount of shelf space needed to provide your options.  Most Brazilians do not eat cereal for breakfast as they prefer their breads, but I
eggs on the selves
do hear the younger generation likes it. The rest of the store is pretty similar to those back stateside with promotions displaying items and sale prices.  Different techniques to get you to choose one brand over
another or even to spend money on something you really do not need.  Glad I cannot read all the Portuguese so  I don't get sucked in.  Upon leaving the store I observe the final difference.  All the cashiers are sitting on stools to assist you at the check out.  I am not sure why this difference stands out to me but I find it interesting and I am not sure why cashiers in the United States are not allowed to
Milk on the selves.
pull up a stool to perform their job.  It just seems to make sense.  To finish my supermarkardo obsevations, there are express lanes and regular lanes for checking out and there is always a line of people waiting to pay and be on their way homes.

Well - I hope you have enjoyed this first "Everyday life in Brazil" post -- I have begun working on a few more and will post those as I get them finished.  Feel free to leave a comment if this has been an interesting post or not and if you have noticed any difference yourself - please feel free to share as I do know I have some Brazilian readers who have spent time in the United States.

Have a good rest of your day and happy grocery shopping.

A local Butcher shop


Anonymous said...

Hi Dave! So glad I spoke to you on the plane!!! hahaha! Thanks for sharing your view points! You have very cool observations on the stools for the cashiers, milk pasteurization techniques, and of course, what I miss the most, which is the freshness of the fruits and veggies! we have the farmers market here, but somehow I can't compare... miss Brazil now... on Everday life in Brazil I

Dave said...

Yes me too -- I have met a lot of wonderful people on the overnight flights. I am glad you enjoyed the read and hope you keep coming back! I will be writing more! on Everday life in Brazil I