Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Riviera & Alegrete

The week after we hosted brunch happened to be a long weekend. Thursday was a holiday, so most of the university was shut down on Friday, and then Monday was a Brazilian World Cup game. Jake’s new Gaúcho friend, Antonio, and his fiancé, Tchana, invited us to see their hometown, Alegrete.

Of course, at 5:30am, as we piled into the car, the first thing Antonio did was hand Jake chimarrão. After stopping at a farm to feed Antonio’s horses, and being surrounded by cows, we figured out we were on our way to Riviera, Uruguay for a chá de bebe. (It took me awhile to realize they were not talking about tea, it means baby shower.) And, I laughed as Jake and Antonio conversed the entire trip. (Remember that this was about a month after he arrived, and Antonio does not speak that much English.)

“Riviera is so much bigger than Chui,” was the first thought that went through my head when we arrived. I was surprised. It had just started getting winter coat cold in Rio Grande, and Jake had not brought a jacket. So, we spent a large part of the time looking for a coat for him. Of course, it couldn’t be a winter coat, like a North Face or Columbia jacket, it needed to be a Gaúcho jacket. These thermal jackets are wool button-ups look like lumberjack shirts, but are warmer. The biggest problem was Jake was too tall for the jackets. They didn’t have long enough sleeves, were too wide and still didn’t cover his torso, etc. I think we must have looked at 20+ stores. He did happen to find one that fit, and decided not to buy it at that time. Later, while the women went to the baby shower, Jake and the guys went back to buy the jacket and look for other Gaúcho items, specifically a mateira (the thing in which to carry all the chimarrão stuff).
Jake, in his new jacket, and me in Alegrete

I happened to find a 16G memory card for $12 (USD). I might have taken 300+ pictures over the 3 days…Here is the weekend through pictures:
The baby shower was an interesting experience. Let’s just say for the friend hosting the party, cost was not an issue. We walked into a pool house that was completely heated, with food on the table and workers bringing out drinks and more options. The best game that we played was strange, to say the least. Someone came out with a bucket of ice cubes. Within each ice cube was a plastic 1-inch baby and the water had been flavored with strawberries. The first one to suck the ice cube and free the baby won.
Lunch Line at Tchana's House. By the way, her dad is an amazing cook.

Antonio's brother-in-law invited us to see his horses. Although this isn't where is horses are, the landscape and experience was great. They kept saying it was the real gaúcho experience. 

Pecan Tree: I had no idea that pecans are covered by two different shells, the green one you see here, which is soft, and then the hard one below.

We picked up fallen pecans for the apple pie I made later that night. We also found out that you can open pecans by crushing two together. 

This is what a "real" gaúcho looks like. He works on the farm we were at. He is currently heating up water for chimarrão in the little can/pot over the fire.
This statue is in Alegrete. Can you guess who/what that is supposed to be?
We taught them how to play poker. We didn't have money or anything to use to show betting, so we improvised with pinhão, a type of pine nut. I was dealer for 5-card draw.

On the way home, we stopped in Bagé. We were looking for a mateira for Jake, and picked up one of Antonio's friends. On the way back from the 3 store border town next to Bagé, we stopped at this farm. While talking, we were invited to pick a type of orange off of the tree by the house and eat them. It was the first time I have ever done that. 

Sunday, June 15, 2014


A while back, the ETAs in Pelotas told us about a festival of doces that was going to occur in June. At the time, they did not have a lot of information, but I was excited. A festival of sweets? Count me in.

Pelotas, RS is famous for its sweets. Since Rio Grande is about an hour from Pelotas, doces de Pelotas are everywhere. Even the three snack shops at FURG sell a variety of them. Catherine and I have decided that doces de nozes (it is like a pecan truffle thing) is one of the best. The doces de amendoim (peanut truffle thing), is at the top of the list as well. Of course, I was excited to go to the festival, but I had no idea what to expect besides lots of sweets.

After waiting in line, two friends, Jake, and I entered Fenadoce and we were met by carnival rides, a giant building, and food tents. It was incredible. The building alone was gigantic. It housed booth after booth of people selling food, books, all things Gaúcho, clothes, blankets, and more. Additionally, other booths had travel and business information. Behind the booths sat the Cidade de Doces, the city of sweets. Set up as a mini town with little storefronts lining the indoor streets, place after place were selling doces. It was amazing. Our friends even bought us a cuia (the chimarrão cup), and engraved it: Lembrança dos amigos do Alegrete (A reminder of your Alegrete friends).

Jake and me in front of Cidade de Doces.

Cidade de Doces
I forgot to mention that the mascot of Fenadoce is an ant...

Jake found a giant cuia that he wanted to take home.

The doces de nozes are the milk chocolate and white chocolate covered sweets in the middle.

The doces even look like the Brasilian flag.

Once we had eaten our weight in sweets, we moved to another small building. As we sat and drank quentão (warm, spiced wine), we watched a group perform typical Gaúcho dances. Although the entire event was incredible, I was done eating doces for a while.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

The Brunch Bunch

I love Brasilian food. However, I have been missing U.S. food lately. Additionally, I wanted to do something nice for all of our friends here. So, I decided to have a Saturday morning brunch for everyone. (First, I had to explain what brunch was.) 

I was not sure what to expect, but we heated up the griddle once people started to arrive and made batches and batches of French Toast and pancakes. I also made cinnamon apple syrup and heated up some strawberry syrup. Since the house used to be a restaurant, the griddle was relatively big (six lines of flames) and we made enough food to feed 17 people within a few minutes. Amazing!
Everyone at Brunch
Afterwards, I taught the Brasilians that were over to play B.S. and Slap Jack. My hand was definitely red for a while. Then, we moved outside and played a giant game of Ninja. Once everyone had the hang of it, we played several games, getting quicker each time. By the end, the best ninja was Wesley, and all you saw were hands flying everywhere.


Who is the Ninja?

Ninja dive!

Definitely would call the day a success!

Sunday, June 8, 2014

It's June...?

Wow! It's already June. The last month has flown by, and a windy, humid cold has started to settle in. Coming from Michigan, I thought maybe I would be able to handle it. I was wrong!

The weather fluctuates between cold and freezing, which is intensified by our non-insulated house with no inside heating. We finally got heaters, but because of the lack of insulation, the rooms don't really stay warm unless the heater is on, meaning we live in a house that stays between 55-65 degree Fahrenheit. The rain also makes it colder. The colder it is, the harder it is to dry clothes and everything else.

Jake and Catherine both didn't believe that it got cold here. Jake didn't bring a winter coat, even though I told him it would be freezing, if not drop below, during the month of July (since the seasons are reversed). So, Catherine and I have been on multiple expeditions to find warm clothes. For some reason, it is harder than it seems. We've made our way to the mall in Pelotas, and walked around Porto Alegre.

Other than that, work has been great! My students are amazing, and they seem to be enjoying the conversational class and are motivated to learn English.

Additionally, I have started to take Libras (Brazilian Sign Language) classes, as well. I am thinking of even starting a research project looking into Deaf culture here in Brazil.

Jake has also made a new friend. The friend does not really speak English, and Jake has only been learning Portuguese for about a month. Yet, somehow, the two are constantly talking about something or another. The met on a Thursday night, went running together on Saturday, and then had an impromptu churrasco. By the end of next month Jake will be speaking Portuguese and his friend will be speaking English at this rate.