I awoke feeling like I was in a Hindu household. The Ganesh tapestry on the wall, the incense “altar,” it reminded me of home. India is popular in Latin America, especially Brazil. One of Brazil’s latest big budget soap operas was “Caminho da India” (“The Path from India”). My first morning in Brazil I breakfasted on fresh fruit and granola prepared by my Couchsurfing host.
After showing me around Lagoa da Conçeica, a popular area on the eastern side of the island, we ate lunch at ShivaVeg. We ate an organic spinach salad, organic cabbage salad with fruits and raisins, brown rice, and a vegetable curry with shitake mushrooms and drank watermelon juice with coconut water. After I finished one of the most delectable meals I’d ever eaten in South America, the waitress asked if I wanted more. My friend explained that if I wanted more of anything, she would serve it to me for free. I almost cried out of joy.
As my friend had to meet her parents, she left me to wander around Lagoa. I, of course, had to cross of the first item on my agenda, “Buy a Brazilian bikini.” That was easier said than done. In Brazil, a bikini is more than an item of clothing to be used during the yearly summer beach trip. Brazil is replete with world-class bikini designers, rendering a person like me who has lived away from the beach for 12 years, confused and clueless. Luckily, my Brazilian friend was able to resolve my dilemma. Brazilians know their bikinis.
Shopping for a bikini was a fun language and cultural learning exercise my second day in Brazil. I had to speak in Portuguese to all the shopkeepers. I loved the fact that they considered me a fellow countrywoman; in Brazil, I’m Brazilian until I open my mouth. I learned lots of useful vocabulary as well, including causa (bikini bottom), tanga (bikini bottom), and bojo (bikini top), which are important words to know in Brazil!
In the cool of the evening, we walked the five minutes from my friend’s house to Praia Campeche. Living five minutes from the beach must be heaven! I went for a run, stretched, and did yoga because Floripa seems like a great place to get back in shape. I swam while my friend bodysurfed. Every Brazilian we passed on the way back to the house asked about the waves. My friend responded “As ondas sâo massa!” “Altos ondas!” and “Sâo legal!” (the waves were awesome, awesome, and awesome!). A community of surfers that use more than ten words for cool, was I in Brazil or Hawaii?
After the beach we showered and dressed up for samba. We went to a place called Varandas where every Friday night a group performs samba live. My friend explained to me the differences among samba, samba rock, and chorinho and taught me the choruses to the songs. I sang along in my beginning Portuguese attempting to be like any other Brazilian. As the night wore on, my tipsy friend grabbed me and started dancing samba with me. She scolded me repeatedly for shaking my hips. When I dance salsa I’m told that I don’t move my hips enough, but when I dance samba I’m told that I dance like a salsa dancer! I was surprised by how closely couples dance samba. Americans believe that latinos dance salsa too closely. They`ve never seen Brazilians dance samba before. After my friend instructed me several times, “Mais juntos” (“closer together”), I finally screamed, half-joking, “There’s no room for the Holy Ghost!”
The night ended at the barracinha de cachorros quentes (hotdog stand). After my friend had told me about the vegetarian hotdogs available in Floripa, I had bugged her all day that I wanted to eat them. She had replied, “Later, later. We’ll eat them at 2 AM.” Around 2 AM I told her, “Cara, tou vesga de fome! Tou morrendo de fome!” (“Dude, I’m so hungry I can’t see straight! I’m dying of hunger!). Brazilians put weird toppings on their hotdogs. In addition to the regular condiments, they add peas, potato sticks, mashed potatoes, and a whole host of other ingredients I can’t remember. After 15 years of not eating a hotdog, I dug into my bread covered with toppings. My friend was right about eating the hotdogs at that time of the morning. I had no clue what I was eating, I just knew that it was 2 AM and it was gooood.
The sand dunes of Praia Joaquina
Lagoa da Conceicao (which I am now living next to)
Hot dog toppings
My first hot dog after 15 years!