I’m the Big Fat, Dumb American

My daughter’s Brazilian school is rather international. More international, actually than her “international” school, which was mostly Brazilians. I appreciate this and am always interested in learning and experiencing other cultures.

The mother of her little Chinese school friend and I planned some playdates. This is an interesting mental exercise since I speak English, some Portuguese and no Chinese while she (the mother) speaks Chinese, some Portuguese and a little English.

When the play date was at my house, I did what I thought was expected. No, I didn’t hire a bunch of people to serve food and run a jumpy-jumpy (see The Play Date). But I did put out some cakes, cookies and popcorn with some coffee and juices. It’s just what we do in the U.S.A. (am I right?) and what we international moms do for play dates.

When the Chinese mother saw the table she stopped in her tracks. “Oh no,” she explained in Portu-glish-ese. “We don’t eat those kind of things.” This, after at her place I consumed, without question, a grayish, fruit-roll up kind of thing which she later told me was given to children with stomach problems, and a Chinese biscuit-thingy that, from what I know about Chinese delicacies, may or may not have contained bird spit.

She then added, as politely as this kind of conversation could go, “Too much sugar is bad for children.” Of course, at this point, her adorable little daughter had spotted the chocolate cookies and was whining and crying for one. Awkward.

What makes all this worse was that I have gained 20 lbs since coming to Brazil. Seriously. No, not the high-school kind of 20 lbs where you gain 1/2 a pound and then cry about gaining “20 lbs.” An actual 20 lbs (9 kilos). I didn’t even gain 20 lbs during my entire pregnancy. From an efficiency perspective, I might as well produced another child – although much of the weight, I’m guessing, is from vino therapy. (I’m currently working on this by going back to being a vegetarian and back to getting some darn exercise. Not ready to give up the vino quite yet, but I’m working on that too…)

So I was a bit humiliated when my skinny, Chinese, play date counterpart shunned my snack table. What must she be thinking, was what I was thinking, about American moms.

Now here comes the dumb part. A few days later at the school I was trying to tell the director in Portuguese that we would be traveling next week and Sophia wouldn’t be in school on Monday. But I was tired and distracted so I was saying “sol de Brazil” instead of “sul do Brazil” (south of Brazil, awesome trip, more to come on that). He wasn’t getting me at all. But guess who showed up to help. That’s right. The Chinese mom. Who prior to coming to Brazil had never studied a Latin language in her life. Whose first language is made up of completely different characters. Who has been here since April.

Dumb American.

It’s not about the Chinese mom. She is super sweet. But it’s interesting to have so many culture crashes in one short event.

Sorry American readers, but I’m out here representing. Just put all your positive thoughts into me losing the 20 and improving my Portuguese.

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21 Responses to I’m the Big Fat, Dumb American

  1. Jim says:

    I hear you!

  2. Danielle says:

    depressing!!! Don’t beat yourself up too much. ❤ ❤ When I get some ideas for better snacks, I'll let you know.

  3. I hear you on gaining weight- it stinks to go up not down!- but I know you will drop it when the time is right. (Weren’t you the family that had the maid dumping corn starch into every dish?)

    If my Chinese students in California were any indicator, three of them will share 1 cookie (seriously.) And their pastries are very low-sugar. I like them.

    A funny story on Chinese culture clash- the Chinese never cultivated milk the way the West did, so cheese (in the past- I think it’s shifting now) did not exist. When we had our semester-end potlucks, my French/Haitian students would bring million-dollar cheese, and my Chinese students would come to me and tell me that there was some mistake and someone had put something rotten on the table!

    • HA! That is hilarious! Well, you have to hand it to them – we could all benefit from less sugar and less cheese right? Yes, we had the maid that was using corn starch in everything. And I realized that now we stop going through a bottle of oil every week along with a few packages of butter. Yet, the positive effects of this have been slow to materialize…

  4. Maria says:

    I once overheard a French mother telling her child she couldn’t have dinner at our house because we don’t eat vegetables. Could it be because the last time her daughter came for dinner, we thought we’d give the kids a treat by ordering pizza? We do so eat vegetables. We do, we DO!

  5. Alex says:

    About losing weight- best way for me is just walking everywhere. I don’t know if you live in an area that’s walkable, but honestly it really works. I could also smuggle you some cocaine/heroin mixture when I get to SP, that stuff REALLLLYYY keeps the weight off =).

    The Chinese mother would make me fork myself is she showed me up like that. Ugh.

    Boa Sorte,

  6. Brasilicana says:

    My husband has threatened to start a dictionary of the Portuguese mistakes I make when sleep deprived and/or drunk. Just today I said “pais” when I meant “paes,” and he wouldn’t stop laughing about it for the rest of the afternoon… and the time I accidentally said “ferfume” instead of “perfume” has lived on in his memory for months!

    Good luck with your weight loss – a few small changes here and there do add up to make a difference.

    • Thanks! I spent almost the entire day making Christmas cookies with my daughter and only ate half of one (about 15 mins ago), so I think the shock of admitting that number in a semi-public forum might be the key.
      I once told my housekeeper that I wanted to pleasure her cousin. I meant to say I wanted to meet her cousin (who had started working for my sister-in-law), but I was very distracted by my daughter and auto-pulled the verb from the loose translation of “nice to meet you,” being “muito prazer,” into my sentence. Things were never the same between us.

  7. Anna says:

    chinese people are obsessed with food ( or lack of it) ….you cant eat this , you cant eat that…

    relax…enjoy life and food! Maybe she can learn from you how to be “normal” 🙂

  8. Good luck with the weight! I have the same issue, and no excuse whatsoever.

  9. nina says:

    yikes, you ate duck spit or something and she wouldn’t eat a cookie? BS! I always try to have an open mind and be extra polite it should go both ways. It’s annoying when people do the one two on you. Anyway, my brother has a masters in Chinese medicine and herbs, he kinda yelled at me when I said I was going to control sugar intake with the baby from the get go. He said that sugar was really important in a child’s development, that only you need to control intake in adulthood.

    • Might have or might have not eaten bird spit 🙂
      Very interesting about what your brother said. When Sophia was younger, the moms I knew were totally freaked out about sugar. (Sophia got probably a daily dose of chocolate from her father when I wasn’t looking.) I always noticed that the kids who were deprived of sugar were a little bit… angry.

  10. Pingback: Brazilian Challenge Day 26: The Play Date | born again brazilian

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