Let me begin by taking you readers on a sensory tour of Brazil:
SmellMy first memory of Brazil (from the time that Tom and I visited over a year ago) is the assault on the olfactory senses I experienced as I stepped off the plane in Sao Paulo. There is a sort of cheese bread made here that is very popular. It is made with Parmesan cheese. I remember as a child calling Parmesan cheese, "stinky cheese". I thought that I had just become accustomed to the smell as I got older, because I now love Parmesan cheese, and I no longer think that it smells bad. However, I am now beginning to think that we Americans have genetically engineered Parmesan cheese so that it has lost it's unappealing smell, and has a milder flavor for our delicate palettes. I have come to this conclusion, because, (and, I am here to tell you), that Parmesan cheese is STILL stinky cheese. The smell of this foul cheese baking in the airport at six o'clock in the morning, is not a pleasant smell (at least, not to me--but then, NOTHING is pleasant at six o'clock in the morning!)
There are many unusual smells here, as there are in any large city, I am sure. But, one of the most putrid is in the grocery store. I will never again complain about the smell of the meat counter at Macey's. At least I can identify the particular odors there. Here, they now have refrigeration for the meat counter, thank goodness (I am told this was not always the case), but there are still smells emanating from it which are not enticing. The worst, by far, has to be the dried, salted fish. These are some type of huge sea creatures that they fillet in such a way that they look like cat pelts. I don't know how they do it. I truly thought it was some kind of small, crawling animal that was filleted and dried, until I was told it was a type of fish. These things have such a fetid odor, that I get queasy every time I walk by. Now, granted, I have an overactive sense of smell, but I cannot imagine how anyone could possibly want to buy that for dinner. It smells like feet. Sour, sweaty feet.
And then there is the "river". Every city has one. We call them the "brown rivers", and I will not speculate here what flows within their banks. But, let me just say this: I miss our (America's)sanitation system--out of sight/out of mind. For some reason, the river in our city has a particularly bad smell at a certain intersection close to our house. I always pray that the light will be green at this intersection, because I am not very good at holding my breath. Tom has dubbed this odor, "The Trifecta"; a perfect blend of sewage, silage, and exhaust. I think he has pinpointed the smell pretty accurately, but I try not to breathe too deeply.
There are wonderful smells too, like the mouth-watering smell of meat roasting on spits over a fire; the pleasant aroma of sweet jasmine, laced with the perfume of orchids, wafting through the neighborhood; the sweet-tart smell of fresh oranges permeating the air around the orange juice factory near Tom's work. And, I must admit, even the fresh baked Pao de Queijo (the cheese bread) has begun to smell good.
SoundThere are many sounds unique to this part of the world (or at least unique to me). I have mentioned before about the many varied birds' songs and calls. I can't really describe it, but it really sounds like we are living in the rain forest. (Perhaps I imagine a rain forest right now, as, I am at present, listening to the sheets of rain pouring down outside.) The birds are a constant reminder that we aren't "home" anymore. It is a reminder that I enjoy.
Another sound, not quite as pleasant as the chirping of the birds is the "raining of the insects". A couple of months ago, we began what Tom referred to as, "The Seven Plagues of Brazil". Each week there was a new swarm of insects infesting the city. Seriously, they covered the ground, the house, the air. Walking around outside, you would be hit by flying bugs. (I made sure to keep my mouth closed at all times.) There was the week of the (relatively) little flying beetles, the week of the giant flying ants, the week of the mosquitoes (okay--those ones are always here), and the week of the GIANT flying beetles. These beetles aren't as big as the cockroaches, but they came in such an overwhelming number, that they were a force to be reckoned with. What does this have to do with sound, you ask? Well, the first night that the giant beetles came, Tom and I were sitting in the living room, listening to them fly into the house with such force and frequency, that it sounded like a hail storm. It was creepy. Bam! Bam! Bam! It sounded like tiny soldiers were ramming the house, trying to break down the fortress. We didn't leave our windows open during the plague weeks.
SightAs you can imagine, the morning after the giant beetle hail storm, we awoke to quite a sight outside. The ground was littered with beetles--some alive, slowly crawling for cover; others alive, but stuck on their backs, trying desperately to flip over (in vain). The majority of the beetles, however, were dead; squished in the street. Literally, the road was paved in the carcasses of dead beetles. My morning run was interesting (and disgusting) that day. (And here we have another sound to delight the olfactory center--the crunching of beetles underfoot--I turned my ipod up loud and tried not to look down.)
I already talked about the "skinned cats" in the grocery store. There are other sights there as well, many pleasant, but some just downright weird. And, being the positive person that I am (haha), I choose to focus on the strange. I was shopping right before Christmas at a local grocery store, when something caught my eye in the freezer section--it looked like a hoof sticking up out of the bin. Naturally, I walked over to get a closer look, only to discover a whole pig, wrapped in cellophane, staring back at me through frozen eyes, whiskered snout/mouth agape in a final, futile plea for deliverance. Now, I have eaten whole, roasted pig before, (and found it delicious), but I've never come across one staring at me in the freezer section of the grocery store.
The sound of the continued rain outside reminds me of another interesting sight. We have some pretty heavy rain/thunder storms here, and we are just going into the rainy season, so I am looking forward to many more. I have always loved thunder storms, but I have never lived in a place with storms quite like this. Last week, Tom and I were driving home from doing some errands, and got caught in a torrential downpour. I mean, the water was coming down in sheets, not drops. It was like driving through a wall of continuous water. The windshield wipers could not keep up, and the streets were like raging rivers. Tom was driving, so I found it fascinating from my comfortable position in the passenger seat. The coolest storm, however, would have to be the time, not long after we arrived here, that we were taking the kids to school, and the rain was coming down so fast, that it had no place to go. It was a busy weekday morning, so there was significantly more traffic than the aforementioned storm day. The streets that day were also like rivers. The cars parked along the side of the road acted like reefs in the ocean, causing the water to spray up like giant waves. One motorcycle, parked at a curb, looked like it was going to wash away--I wish I would have had my camera. There are always a lot of people on foot and/or driving on motorcycles here, so that was a fun day to drive in the city center. Tom tried to be really careful, but it was impossible to not spray the other motorists (including motorcyclists) and pedestrians with great walls of water. The kids cheered loudly with every hit, like it was the best video game they had ever played. Tom just kept saying, "sorry" to all the people he drenched, but, I heard him laughing as much as the kids. (Truth be told, I was laughing the loudest.)
TasteI have tried so many new foods here that it is hard to narrow the experience down to a few paragraphs. I love to try new foods. I find it fascinating that fruits grow on this earth that I have never even heard of before--and I get to taste them! I can't describe the fruits adequately in writing. Many of them have unique flavors that don't compare to anything I have ever tasted. So, you will just have to come and visit us here in Brazil if you want to know what they are like!
When I think of the sense of taste in Brazil, I think of rice. We have eaten so much rice here. It is delicious, but I am missing my russet potatoes! (We have potatoes here, but they aren't russets, and they just aren't the same.) You would think that our son, Jaden, who adores rice, would think this a Paradise. But, sadly, he hates the rice here. That is because it has flavor. It is always cooked with onions and garlic. I can still make plain rice, but then everyone else complains, so the majority rules, and poor Jaden gets plain rice only on special occasions (when I don't feel like listening to him complain). He will be glad to get back to Grandma, who always has a big pot of plain rice for him with every meal.
One thing I will miss about Brazil, is the fresh juice. You can get fresh squeezed juices everywhere and it is fantastic! The pineapple juice tastes like you are eating a pineapple, the mango juice like a fresh mango (fresh mangoes are SO much better than anything you can buy in Logan!), fresh lime juice (with sugar), fresh orange juice (of different varieties), etc., etc. They also make popcicles out of fresh juice, and they are awesome! I will miss "Beijo Sorvettes" (locally made ice cream and popcicles) when we go home.
TouchWe are in the middle of summer here, so I don't know what all you Cache Valley people are complaining about! Below freezing temps and snow storms sound pretty good on a hot, hot, hot day. (I'm sure I'll be complaining about the cold next year around this time.) The weather is strange here. We go from Amazon hot to downright chilly overnight, and then back to sweltering temps again a day or two later. (Really, it only feels chilly because of the heat stroke that your body is reeling from the day before.) The temperature changes can be pretty dramatic.
There is nothing more refreshing than a cold shower on a cold day. (With our solar powered water heater, we don't get hot water on overcast days.) But, I'm not complaining; most people here don't even have hot water...EVER! And, I get nervous showering in the hot water anyway, because sometimes it smells rotten, like an animal crawled up in the tank and died; which is probably the case, but I try not to think about that, as I let the water stream down on my body. When I think of touch, I think of how I miss feeling clean.
We've had some pretty wonderful experiences with touch while living here, also. Like the feel of the sand between the toes on some of the world's most beautiful beaches. The refreshing sensation of swimming in cool ocean water on a blistering hot day. The relief of a sudden storm after weeks of intense heat. And, the tender, personal touch of a woman, who's name you don't even know, wiping tears from your eyes on a particularly hard day. You see, with all the strange smells, sounds, and sights of this country, the sense that has been touched most for me is my 6th sense--my emotional sense. The people never cease to amaze me with their openness, their kindness, their generosity. And even though my heart aches for home at times, longing for sensory stimuli that I am familiar with, my heart has adapted, finding comfort in the warmth and beauty that is Brazil.