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Scenic Route "One must go without familiars in order to be open to influences, to change". ~ K. Hathaway

Settling into the culture

USA | Thursday, 25 March 2010 | Views [520]

I found a place, "Casa do Queijo" (House of Cheese), that is wonderful... Mineiros (people of Minas) specialize in cheese because there is a lot of farm land in the area and pasture land.  The typical cheese is "Quijo de Minas" (Cheese of Minas) and is similar to a mild white cheddar.  They often serve it with a Goiabada dessert loaf - the Goiabada fruit (red) and sugar cooked down and formed into a brick/loaf.  It is my new best friend/worst temptation...  Some call it Romeo and Juliet.

Another very common dish all-over Brazil (and especially here in Minas) is the famous, "Pão de queijo" (Bread of Cheese).  They are little balls of bread made of cheese; not filled with cheese but actually made of it.  I don't know the recipe yet but I will soon as it is wonderful!  They eat it for breakfast, dinner, a snack, etc.  It can be found in just about every Paderia (Bakery) or suco (juice) stand and it is usually very cheap. 

Although the food is a bit different (I made chicken salad with red grapes, onions, and peppers and made my roommate try it - they make it with yellow onion, shredded carrots, and corn), there are many things that are similar... 

Viçosa is a Minas town... It is much more laid back than the big city of Rio and has a lot of "cowboys".  On Monday, I was leaving the university and on the corner right by the white pillars, there were several people gathered (drinking beer from a cooler - but poured into small plastic cups so that they could split a large "40" of beer).  There was also a sound of firecrackers and as I approached I was able to see that it was actually leather cracking!  Several guys in boots, jeans, and t-shirts (a few of which had propper cowboy hats and belt buckels on) marked, "Cachaca e Violina", had out long leather whips and were practicing *popping* them.  It appeared to be almost a fraternity sponsored gathering and reminded me much of several events you see around UT's campus.

See some more photos here of the campus, life, etc. http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=375602&id=586190520&l=bab93f4926

I just spent some time too with my roommate that I share the veranda with.  Her boyfriend is in town this weekend and they have been inquisitive as to who I am and where I am from.  We have spent a few hours in the sun, enjoying this beautiful day in Vicosa, talking and exchanging US/Brasil frases.  For example, they use a few hand gestures that we do not; and we use a few hand gestures that they do not:

  • Slapping of the hands (back to palm) back and forth a couple of times - indicates "don't know" or "I think not"
  • A snapping type gesture that is made by pressing thumb and middle finger together while letting the index finger hang loose - as if you were packing a can of dip tobacco (don't worry - I don't dip; I just know how men pack their dip cans) - indicates "very bad" or displeasure with something; like when you find that your dog has made a mess of the trash you could make this gesture and swear, I think.
  • Our "ok" symbol - here it is equal to flipping someone off!  This could be bad for gringos that don't know about the different meaning... Glad I was warned (although I can't say I haven't done it while climbing with friends a few times, on accident)

They also asked about my music.  I pulled up you tube and shared Gillian Welch/Old Crow's "The Weight" video.  They liked it so much that they re-played it and asked me to translate some of the lyrics so they had an idea about what the song meant.  Difficult! "Take a load off Annie, Take a load for free" = ~"Dorma Annie, Dorma para Gratis"... Try explaining how Chester said "i'll fix your rack if you take Jack my dog".  Well, I shared a bit of Doc Watson and Bill Monroe as well.  They really enjoyed some of the outfits they were wearing in the 80's performances; but they also recognized the talent - commenting on how fast they were playing.  I pointed out the banjo (which they don't have here) and explained the origin of some of the traditional instruments used (fiddle from Ireland immigrants, banjo originating from african slave's drums, and the spoons which came from the ancient european "bones").  She asked how we danced to it (and immitated a goofy leg-kicking dancing style that she probably has seen on a dramatization of our culture on TV) and I showed her as best I could how to "two-step".  She tried to get her boyfriend to join in but I think he was a bit shy to dance.  All in all, a nice afternoon in the sun on the veranda, exchanging cultures ;)     

Tags: daily life

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