Five Things I Learned in Brazil

Alan De Leon - Brazil

April 23, 2013

I am now presenting a reflection of things I did not know until I began living here in Brazil.

So! Here it is:


1. Exotic Fruits

The next time you walk into an American supermarket, notice
all the different fruits they have to offer. It may seem like a lot.
The truth is that those stores carry but a mere decimal of a fraction of all
the kinds of fruits that exist in the world. That’s right: America does NOT
have everything. In Brazil alone, there are many native fruits exclusively
found here, and the most popular of those fruits is the guaraná – ever heard of
it? It is used to make the most delicious soda I’ve ever tasted. Maybe you have
heard of it, but I am positive you never heard of cupuaçu. You say you have?
What about the jeninpapo!? Pitomba? For sure you never heard of the maracujá!
(I’m fooling you. The maracujá is actually a variation of the passion-fruit). I
have only begun to list all of the uncommon fruits found here too, and these
new tastes are even more surprising than the numbers.


2. Language Barrier

In the United States I am categorized as a Hispanic
“minority.” I am one of the first in my Mexican family to be born on the north
side of the Rio Grande. Spanish is my mother tongue, but even still I don’t
remember crashing against a language barrier with English. The majority of the
curriculum in my elementary school bilingual classes was taught to me in
Spanish up until the 4th grade, meaning that my teachers practically 
finessed away the struggles and challenges contingent with learning an unknown
language. And even still, in a hometown like Houston (or Texas in general),
 Latinos thrive and make up a solid majority of the population. When I was in
high school I would say that ¾ of all the students were Latino. It is because
of this that I never truly felt like a “minority” until I arrived here in
Brazil, and wow, let me tell you. Very few Brazilians I know can fluently speak
English or Spanish – only Portuguese. Being at ends with a language was
actually a foreign experience to me – even though I am practically a foreigner
in the United States at large. During my first couple months here, I had finally felt
what it was like. It was crazy.


3. TV Antennas

I would’ve preferred to live the rest of my life forgetting
the horrors of ever wasting so much of my sanity and time fidgeting those metal
wands just to get clear reception. But no – they
still exist, and along with the annoyance that has slept quietly in the
darkest corridors of my memory for all these years, they will not be going away
anytime soon.


4. Music

I am the kind of guy who enjoys Rap and Hip-Hop. I like
rock/nu metal/electronica music as well. None of these genres are too popular
in this corner of the earth though. What you will find here are the roots to
universes of music known as Axé, Fogo, Bossa Nova, Samba, and Pagode. Ah yes… the
Pagode. Every day here in Bahia I have been treated to Pagode in truckloads
(literally, because some trucks have large speakers strapped on their roofs,
blasting bass-heavy music at maximum volume that can be heard for miles), and the Bahian
hunger for it is insatiable.


5. Amazon

Here is the thing about the Amazon: it actually breathes.
When I stepped off the jet as I arrived at the center of the Amazonian
jungle, I immediately felt covered in an invisible, warm blanket. Have you ever
looked at the sky and wondered what it would be like to walk right through a
big, soft, puffy white cloud? Take a stroll alongside the largest river in the
world, and you’ll know what it feels like.


There you have it. I could say more on behalf of these
subjects, and I have learned many other things throughout my life in South
America. If you want to delve into a deeper conversation with me though, take
me out for a fresh mangonada when I
fly back to Texas, or perhaps to dinner at a Thai joint anywhere in the United
States and let’s talk about it over a steamy dish of Pad Thai and a medium serving of pan-fried dumplings (any meat) to
start – it has been a long time since I last had a taste.


My time in Brazil is indeed running out.

Alan De Leon