Okay, so now just for shucks and grins I give you my list of things I miss about the United States. Things that at one time I was sure I wouldn’t be able to live without and every now and then, in a selfish princess moment, I feel resentful towards Brazil for not having.
I miss music – access to new music and the easy one buck download. CD’s still rule here and they are expensive and I can’t get anything other than American top 40 pop and Brazilian music (80% of which sounds like a bad imitation of American top 40 pop). I don’t know the finer details of why Brazil has blocked the ITunes store, but I’m pretty sure it has something to do with that bone of contention known as the $0.54 a gallon tax on Brazilian ethanol and the ensuing ripple of trade lockdowns. Lula and Obama had a pow-wow about that and some other things earlier this week. I’m guessing Itunes didn’t make its way to the top of the talking points, but it should have. Come on Obama! You’re here to save the world - give us a hand with this one!
2. Wi-fi Café’s
Brazil will come around eventually with this. Rio and São Paulo probably already have, but popularity there I’m sure will be limited by how many people feel safe enough to walk the streets with a laptop. I really do miss a café culture in general (wi-fi or not). People don’t sit and relax and read or write their novel or surf the web or people watch in cafés – at least not in my city.
If you actually want to drink coffee, you can forget about grabbing it to-go in an oversized sippy cup with a cardboard cozy. I’ve never once seen a coffee to-go cup. Getting a decent coffee means standing at counter, elbowing a little space for yourself between the old timers, and quickly sipping down a little shot of extra strong coffee, paying your 50 cents and moving on your way. The whole thing takes maybe 5 minutes.
It’s not that Brazilians don’t have a coffee culture - coffee is prevalent here. There are lots of these coffee counters all over the place. And free coffee is served is in doctor’s waiting offices, on your way out of a restaurant, in the waiting area of your accountant, at the gym, even the hardware store has a little service set up. It’s not elegant mind you, these freebies are pumped from thermoses into a tiny plastic cup that looks like what you’d get your med’s served in while doing time at the funnybin, and it’s frequently lukewarm and hyper-sweetened.
But Brazilian’s don’t have much of a café culture. Especially of the Starbucks variety. I never in my wildest dreams thought I would miss that oh-so-American symbol of excess – not excess just in the sense of the turbocharged franchising that sometimes found two on the same block in New York, but also in American’s ability and willingness to spend $6 bucks on a “grande skim half-caf raspberry moca latte.” (I actually did hear someone order that on my last day as a New Yorker.)
Yet I would give anything for one to open up in my city (I drooled with envy on reading Riogringa’s description of her trip to the new Starbucks in Ipanema) I do miss the comfy chairs, and low lighting, and soft music, and the hang out culture. I especially miss that environment when it’s in the form of a stand-alone, non-franchise café like Naidre’s in Brooklyn where girlfriends and I would spend an entire Saturday afternoon solving the world’s problems over sandwiches and smoothies. I miss the creative look of the place, the art on the walls, the interesting people you meet. When I go back to visit, I spend a lot of time at Naidre’s and other similar cafes trying to soak it up like a camel.
And speaking of girlfriends, I miss them too. I had such an amazing circle of female companionship when I left. I haven’t really made anything similar here. I have one or two girlfriends, but it’s not the same. I miss having a shared history and experiences and speaking in common cultural references. It’s probably why I really enjoy reading other ex-pat’s blogs because there is that sense of shared experience – that “oh yeah! I feel that way too or had the same impression!” Funny how that dire prediction of everyone living virtually through their computer is slowly coming true – and it aint so bad…
3. New York
Just in general. It’s mystique, it’s character, the feeling of never knowing what you might stumble upon, that there is always something new and yet totally broken in around every corner, the sense of discovery, the feeling of never knowing the city completely, yet always being comfortably at home.
I love this multimedia series in the NY Times.
1 in 8 Million
It really embodies what I miss about New York. It’s stories.
If I came upon a million dollars (well, okay make it two or three) I’d move back tomorrow.
Just in general. I miss a lot of things I can’t find here. The first two times I traveled back I hauled a ton of random foodstuff home in my suitcase. I don’t do that so much anymore. Just one or two special things that are easy, like Earl Gray tea. The rest I’ve just decided to let go, but I still miss them. Things like quinoa, basmati rice, red lentils, tofu, tortilla chips, Ben and Jerry’s, maple syrup, California wines, grapefruit, dried cranberries, pecans, bagels – oh I could just keep going. Some of these things I actually can find here but they are either rare, or disproportionately expensive, like quinoa. We’re thinking of trying to plant it on our sitío. Most of Brazil is too hot for it to grow – it likes a cool mountain climate, but we’re hoping it might do well up there where it gets cold enough for raspberries to thrive.
5. Trader Joes
I don’t know how much I really miss Trader Joe’s or how much I just really wanted an excuse to post this:
It as close as Brazil will ever come to having one.