Daily Differences: “Ice and sugar in your orange juice?”

My mom took this picture. The lovely rainbow of fresh fruit juices includes watermelon, lime, tangerine, and açaí.

In addition to the Brazil Mystery series, I’m starting a new one called Daily Differences, inspired by something Lindsey said in her post:

Everything is different and new every day, even if you’re doing it for the 100th time – it’s not the way you grew up doing things.

This made me remember an experience I had early in my first long stay in Brazil…

It was October of 2005, and I’d recently arrived in Sao Carlos (SP) for a 10-month research fellowship. I was still tentatively adjusting to “real life” living in Brazil – working full-time, looking for a place to live, trying to make friends, figuring out what extra activities I could fit into my schedule and budget.

On one particularly lonely day, I went to a restaurant and ordered an orange juice. The waitress responded with a question I didn’t understand. It definitely wasn’t “small or large?” because there was only one size.

“…what?” I said.

“Jelly sukkah?” – was what her words sounded like to me.

Taking a deep breath, I asked her to repeat it again, more slowly.

“Você… quer… gelo… e… açucar?”

Did I want ice and sugar?

See, the reason I didn’t understand her at first was because that’s not a question I was remotely expecting. In the U.S., an orange juice is an orange juice. There are no options.

But when you order an orange juice in Brazil, they squeeze the oranges on the spot, blend the juice with ice and sugar (if desired) pour it in a cup and hand it to you. By the way, you should always order it with little or no sugar, because most places will dump a whole cup in unless you tell them otherwise.

Unfortunately, instead of celebrating this small insight into orange juice ordering, the incident only made me more depressed at the time:

I don’t even know how to do something as simple as ordering orange juice here. How pathetic, I thought.

Now, seven years later (three of which having been spent in Brazil), I’ve become so used to the daily differences that they’ve become the new “normal” – and it’s going back to my home country that would take some getting used to. When my family came down for our wedding, I actually had to think hard about what aspects of day-to-day Brazilian life they would potentially have a hard time with, because it wasn’t easy to remember “how things are done” in the States.

So this series will be an attempt to remember and reflect on all those little things that I’ve stopped noticing… the things that are too small to be noted by guidebooks, but which make daily life in Brazil so different!