Becoming Cariocas

Today marks exactly five weeks since we left Oz, and the feeling of being tiki tourists is gradually wearing off. Where previously each day necessitated new ventures and the potential for small disasters was high, now it seems that routine has established itself and our confidence is becoming more robust.

Take shopping for example.

I think I have previously mentioned that our apartment is too minimalist to include a pantry, so our food lives on the kitchen bench or handily out of reach on top of the fridge. (Annoying, as frequent head injuries have occurred from things falling on us when we open the door). Consequently, and also because it is hot and humid and food doesn’t last, we go to the supermarket every day. This is located across the road, so it’s not the distance that is a particular inconvenience, however each visit requires a measure of emotional fortitude that makes the experience easy to dread. The language barrier is at its highest when we go shopping and although pictures on labels and the actual presentation of items are handy cues, there are some things that are hard to find, or (more awful) hard to order. Take flour, for example. A staple food stuff and I had to buy some. Diligently, I looked up the word for flour before I went and spotted it easily in its soft, white plastic packet. If only I’d looked up the word for “wheat” as well…..

You may be curious to know that a white sauce made with rice flour is actually just milk paste. It tastes disgusting – like clag. And incidentally, cream cheese does not substitute for plain cream when you’re preparing spaghetti carbonara. Just to tell you.

Another hazard is when I’m ordering ham from the deli and the assistant looks at me strangely and I have to quickly check whether I’ve  just tried to order two hundred kilograms instead of grams. Sometimes, I have, sometimes I haven’t. Sometimes they may just be looking at me strangely. Sometimes I’m being paranoid.

Thankfully these incidents are reducing and there are also upsides to the shopping experience. One such is that the supermarkets (all tiny by the way) make their own bread rolls and it’s quite common to be able to get them when they’re still warm. Yum! Also, the fruit is great.

So the supermarket stuff is now approaching a comfortable mundane and our confidence in going further afield to shops and restaurants has increased immeasurably.

Clothes shopping is getting better too. The first week we were here, the kids and I ventured to a shopping centre and stocked up on some extra t-shirts, shorts etc. I was mildly confronted when my size turned out to be GG (horse sized in case you’re wondering) however, I’ve since found out that there are a comforting number of sizes bigger. (Presumably letters standing for rhino, elephant and giraffe?). So, gaining confidence over the weeks, I gradually worked myself up to the big one last weekend.

Yes – bikini shopping. Some of you know I was dreading this long before we stepped foot on the plane. For everyone else, I should mention that I haven’t worn a bikini since about age seven and Mum sewed my sisters and I each one made from pink terry towelling that sagged when wet. Both the workmanship and intention was admirable, but oh the scars!

However, scarred or not, in Rio, ladies are virtually banned from the beach without a bikini, so the purchase was inevitable at some point. I took comfort from the myriad of body shapes and sizes that are happy and carefree as they’re exposed on the sand, knowing that, aside from the fact that I’m still the whitest person on the continent, (on account of not having a bikini and therefore not allowed on the beach!), I could hide in the mix. So off I went last weekend, taking Charlotte for moral support.

Unfortunately, at the first shop when I asked the sales assistant for something larger than a mouse’s handkerchief, she laughed herself to tears. Predictably, that sent me screaming silently straight to my happy place and I bolted, Charlotte hanging on to my hand and murmuring soothing words like “Wait. Stop running. You’re embarrassing me!”

The second shop yielded an adequate result which was lucky, because if I’d had to leave empty handed, it would have taken me months to muster up the courage to try again. Needless to say, this bikini is going to last for YEARS!

So our small steps seem gradually to be getting bigger and tasks that used to be mountains are reducing to their more realistic molehill size. There’s still a way to go, but now that the kids are settling and I’ve started Portuguese classes, who knows? Maybe one of these days we’ll manage to buy a cupboard for the pantry.

2 thoughts on “Becoming Cariocas

  1. De

    Heck I reckon that photo would be fabulous! there should be better promotion of the number of “don’t shoot”s you have cranked out bron. I had a similarly unpleasant experience in Italy however trying to explain in italian that “yes I understand that I am “molto grande” in the fondo region and piccolo in the tette is apparently hilarious – tell me about it!!
    Go for it girl!


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