Similar, but Different

Day 125:


With a population of 75,000 people, Unai is a tad bit larger than my host city, Joao Pinheiro, but by Brazil standards it is considered small. 

I visited Unai from January 15th-19th last week to see where my older host sister, Rafaela, lives and works. It was about a 2-3 hour car ride to get there, so, according to Brazilians, this city is close-by. On the way I chatted with Rafa about mountains, cold weather, Carnaval, and music. 

Brazil really is a huge country. 

Brazil really is a huge country. 

That day, January 15th, we went to an event to celebrate Unai's 73rd year as a city. There were activities for the kids and cultural demonstrations. My favorite part was watching the capoeira fighters/dancers perform. Just for that specific day, all the capoeira groups in Unai joined together to demonstrate this cultural fight/dance. I always enjoy watching capoeira, but I don't have the reflexes or agility to practice it. I can't even do a cartwheel. 

View from the balcony of Rafa's apartment

View from the balcony of Rafa's apartment

After the city anniversary event, we went to Rafaela's apartment to unpack and watch movies on Netflix. I don't think I've mentioned it yet in any of my blog posts, but Netflix in Brazil is different than it is in the USA. There are a lot of the same shows and movies, but there are definitely differences. What is available on Brazil Netflix depends on what movies and series have been translated into Portuguese, so there is a slightly different selection. I've noticed Brazil Netflix has more Disney movies, which I have zero complaints about. 

Sometimes it's difficult for me to find what I want to watch because movie titles are translated into Portuguese, and most of the time the translation doesn't match up exactly with the movie title is in English. Sometimes the translations are completely off. For example, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs is Tá Chovendo Hambúrguers. 

That translates to "It's Raining Hamburgers."

The majority of popular movies are made in America. The actors/actresses speak English in these American movies, so Portuguese has to be dubbed over them. The Portuguese has to be matched to the movement of the actor's mouth, so sometimes the translation is off or completely wrong. The subtitles are also completely different than the Portuguese audio. 

It's a little odd seeing Adam Sandler open his mouth to speak and hearing a dubbed Portuguese voice come out.  I don't mind it, but some Brazilians do. Because of this, sometimes when you go to the movie theater to see an American movie (like IT by Stephen King, just for example) they leave the audio as English and have Portuguese subtitles. 

Or at least I'm told that's what happens. My city doesn't have a movie theater.


Anyways, the rest of the week I went with Rafaela to her workplace. She's a psychologist, and works with poor families on the outskirts of Unai. She works in the building on the left in the picture above. Psychology is a field I'm interested in, so it was interesting to shadow her at her job.

There was a lot of down time for me hanging out in the work building so I took to researching about resume writing, scholarships, colleges, and Brazil colonization & settlement. Staying in Rafaela's apartment that week made me think about how little time I have before I go to college and live by myself. When I go to college, I'll be paying for my own room and board and I'll be needing to make enough money to pay the bills. Staying in Unai made me question my plans for the future. It made me think about what career path I want to pursue. I still don't know, but at least now I'm jotting down my areas of interest and getting somewhere.

Pao de queijo and coffee, my favorite breakfast 

Pao de queijo and coffee, my favorite breakfast 

We also got sushi one night, pizza the next, and ate some ice cream during the hot 90 F degree day. There was a Subway shop next to the sushi place and I wanted to go and see how different Subway would be in Brazil. It proved to be similar, but different.


To begin ordering, the lady asks you if you want a 30 cm (footlong) or 15 cm (6 inch) sub. Then you select your bread and type of sub you want, like usual. They didn't have flatbread, my go-to, so I settled for the 9 grains. Then your cheese: Swiss or Cheddar. After that, you select your veggies and condiments like usual. I was surprised to see actual chocolate chip cookies (Gotas de chocolate) at the Brazil Subway. The only type I've been able to find here are the crunchy packaged kind. The final difference was the small selection of sodas they had. Most Brazilians are die-hard Coca Cola fans, so if you prefer Pepsi, you're out of luck.


I GOT TO GO TO THE MOVIES. Unai has a small movie theater, and Rafaela took me to see a Brazilian movie called "Fala Serio, Mae" (Be serious, mom.) The movie was made in Brazil with Brazilian actors/actresses so there was no hassle of dubbing or subtitles that don't match the audio.

I had no idea how much I love going to the movies until I came to Brazil. In Alaska, a good friend of mine and I have gone to the movies more times than I can count. The movie theater is an equal distance away from her house and mine, so before I could drive we'd often walk and meet each other there to see a movie. There's good memories connected to movie theaters for me, so I'm happy I got to see a movie in Brazil. Once again, it was similar, but different.

This movie theater was pretty small, so only two movies were showing. At the cash register, you pay for your movie ticket and whatever concessions you want. You select your seat at the cashier from a screen of the empty seats. Then you get separate tickets for your concessions. I got a small popcorn and a canned soda, so I had three separate tickets. One for the popcorn, soda, and movie. There was no fountain soda, just canned or bottled.

Back to Joao Pinheiro

Rafaela and I drove back to JP on the 19th. We stopped in a city called Paracatu along the way for Rafa to get her hair dyed at a hair salon she likes. That took a while, and then we were back on the road. I asked Rafa to stop so I could snap some pictures of the beautiful sunset, which set just as we entered Joao Pinheiro. Back at the house, a package my mom had sent from Alaska had arrived and my host mom, Elvina, had made snickerdoodles while I was gone. I was greeted by some cousins I had never met before and my host parents at the house. The host cousins would be going with us to Belo Horizonte, the capital of Minas (my state) for a my host mom's cousin's birthday party that weekend. 

Care package from Alaska: candy canes (a little late, but will be put to use), peanut butter, root beer extract to make root beer soda, gummy bears, a letter, and cards to write letters. Also cinnamon for snickerdoodle cookies, molasses for ginger molasses cookies, pure vanilla extract for baking, and buttermilk powder for buttermilk bread/pancakes.

Care package from Alaska: candy canes (a little late, but will be put to use), peanut butter, root beer extract to make root beer soda, gummy bears, a letter, and cards to write letters. Also cinnamon for snickerdoodle cookies, molasses for ginger molasses cookies, pure vanilla extract for baking, and buttermilk powder for buttermilk bread/pancakes.

Right after we arrived, we went to a family member's house for a reunion of the family making the trip to the Belo Horizonte birthday party. I met three family members from Manaus, the capital city of the Amazon, and they showed me Cacau. Cacau is the fruit that chocolate is made from. We also ate a fish from the Amazon that night. When we finally got back to the house, I still had to pack my backpack for the weekend trip to Belo before I went to bed. 

The next morning I was completely beat, but we somehow managed to divide the family members going on the trip into 3 cars and off we went at 6 am. 

The Moreira Clan

Contagem, Belo Horizonte

Birthday parties are used as an excuse for the family to have a reunion and extended family members make the long drives to meet up at the birthday parties. The car ride from Joao Pinheiro to Contagem, Belo Horizonte is 5 hours long. The party was fun. I met more family from my host mom's side, fished in the small lake by the sitio (and didn't catch anything), took a much needed nap, helped cut up a huge variety of beautiful fresh fruit, showed my Alaska presentation to anyone that was interested, played pool, and went to bed at 1:30 am the night of the birthday party.

Too busy peeling that kiwi to smile for the picture  

Too busy peeling that kiwi to smile for the picture  

They made me stop peeling the kiwi for the picture  

They made me stop peeling the kiwi for the picture  

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There was a moment during the party where I was called over to a table to talk about Alaska. Before I knew it a small crowd had formed around me. There is a certain shock value when I tell people where I'm from. 

"YOU'RE FROM WHERE? ALASKA? I didn't think anybody actually lived there except for Eskimos. I thought it was a frozen white wasteland with igloos and penguins"

*cue the dramatic music and cut to a scene of an eskimo bundled up in a seal-skin parka trudging their way through knee-high snow with their Alaskan husky loyally by their side, the wind whipping ice crystals into the air as a green aurora borealis dances above*

I will never get tired of telling people about the place I'm lucky enough to call home. I will never get tired of showing photos of an 80 F degree green Alaska in the summertime. Most people are interested in knowing more about where I come from, and I'm more than happy to rant about the place I grew up. It's an instant conversation starter, and I'm grateful for that.
I've never been more thankful for the land that raised me.

"Maybe you had to leave to really miss a place; maybe you had to travel to figure out how beloved your starting point was."
-Jodi Picoult

I'm now back in Joao Pinheiro after this past week of travel. I love traveling, but it's nice to be back.

Today I saw my little host siblings from my first host family for the first time in a month. When it was time for me to go, my little sis Elise kept saying "Fica. Fica." Fica means "stay." 

I missed my little siblings.
Exchange has given me more family members than I can count, and I'm thankful for all of them. 

Until my next post,

Natasha Talvi 


Tasha Talvi