Monday, March 24, 2008

Easter Egg Hunt- Bahia Style

Easter is a big deal here in Brazil, but they don't do Easter the way I grew up with Easter back home. No baskets, no painting of eggs, no Easter egg hunts. I asked my mom, who's coming down this weekend for her fourth visit to Brazil, to bring one of those cheapo egg dying sets with the tablets and the little wire egg holder so I can save it for next year. No reason to check my culture at the border...

What they do for Easter here are big, chocolate Easter eggs. These range in size from several times the size of a normal egg up to about ostrich size. The eggs, which come wrapped in colorful plastic with a flourish at the top, are hollow and have surprises inside. They are also surprisingly expensive. In February all the supermarkets and discount stores mount elaborate steel scaffolding to hang the eggs from- the effect being, shortly after they have been stocked, of walking through a grand egg trellis, where you can reach up and pluck off the egg of your choice. The purpose of the scaffolding, beyond the trellis-plucking effect, is most likely to keep the eggs out of the hands of those who might squash them. Like their chicken-produced brethren, they are pretty delicate.

So I, in my self-absorbed foolishness, forgot to get the eggs this year. Or rather, put it off until Easter Sunday itself, when I remembered. I had an oh shit moment, which was compounded by the fact that not only was it Sunday, when most stores are closed anyways, but it was Easter Sunday, which meant even the supermarkets and discount stores were almost certain to be closed as well. My Easter egg hunt this year was not for little painted eggs hiding in the sofa cushions, it was to be a city wide hunt for big, costly, plastic-wrapped chocolate eggs.

My first stop was my local mall, Center Lapa, which is within walking distance of my house. It's pretty humble by Brazilian mall standards- Brazilians love their malls almost as much as Americans do. Actually- I take that back. They like them at least as much as Americans do. When I was a kid I always used to consider our local malls to be haunts of the working class- back in Amherst most of the kids were too cool to hang out at the mall- that was where all the Hadley kids hung out. Hadley is a neighboring farming, or mostly ex-farming, community. However, it's dangerous to make generalizations based on the actions of teenagers from Amherst, who are notoriously snooty and seem to go out of their way to not do what is expected of them. When I was in high school, we were too cool to go to the mall, so we hung out on the church lawn. Now that's cool.

Here in Brazil, and probably in other parts of the world outside of Amherst, people get dressed up to go to the mall. Rather than being a place to get bargain prices, things tend to be somewhat to outrageously more expensive than what you can find in other places. I used to go to the mall with some frequency back when my money was worth something and I was suffering from more homesickness than I do now. Nothing better to kill your homesick blues than go see a movie, in English (with Portuguese subtitles, and no Twizzlers), and eat an Italian at the Subway.

So here I go into Center Lapa, fully expecting my first dead end. But- lo and behold- Lojas Americanas is open! Lojas Americanas is the Brazilian equivalent of K-Mart. They even use the same color scheme. Great place to get eggs. And hey- there are still hundreds of eggs hanging from the trellis-plucking-scaffolding!

And then I got closer. Some of the plastic wrappers looked pretty deformed. I reached up and began checking the eggs for structural integrity.






All of them. Hundreds of eggs- all in various states of manglement. I was one of about 20 last-minute shoppers squeezing wrappers in a vain search for an intact egg. I did find one- but it was diet chocolate and had to be hastily un-plucked from the trellis.
The only eggs I found worth buying were some normal chicken-sized ones in a kind of blister pack that promised a present inside- they were cheap so I got a bunch for Ruan and Lucas' cousins:
  • Gel
  • Gisele
  • Uga
  • Anderson
  • Florzinha
  • Bebé
And three more for the immediate family in case I couldn't find anything else.

Then I left.

Next- the car. And off the Extra. Extra is almost a Wal-Mart, but with more emphasis on the food. Wal-Mart actually owns another big box supermarket chain, Bompreço (Goodprice). I know you'll find all these links to different Brazilian retail giant's websites fascinating- I expect you'll spend hours browsing them- I know I do.

I used to really really love shopping at the Extra, I had become worn down by dingy supermarkets and noisy little stores that never had what I was looking for. The Extra was bright and shiny and had almost everything I could possibly ask for (except Twizzlers, but that's another blog post) I have plants and a vacuum cleaner and a printer and tools and inflatable mattresses and dozens of CFL's all purchased at the Extra. I bought the sound system and roof rack for my car there. Admittedly, despite their jingle- "Mais barato, mais barato- EXTRA!" (less expensive, less expensive... you get the idea) it is considerably more expensive than lots of other places. But I didn't care, it was worth it just for the consumerist ambience. These days I shop a lot less at the Extra, I'm trading it in for Mercado Rodriguez (what- no website?? I like them even better now) not only for the better prices, but also because they have lots of those little shopping carts that have a plastic car underneath which helps keep Lucas occupied and quiet (usually) while I'm shopping. There's things I can't buy there, like Xingu- the only dark beer worth drinking here as far as I'm concerned, but with the budgetary belt tightening I've been doing I don't even buy it much anymore. The Extra also has hard-to-find items like Celestial Seasonings tea and even Haagen Daz ice cream, but I refuse to pay $14 (yeah, US) for a pint of ice cream. Actually, if they carried chocolate chocolate chip, I probably would have bought one...

The Extra was my next best bet for most likely to be open and also to have the eggs. Luckily for me, I was right on both counts. They still had plenty of eggs, although not so many as Lojas Americanas. The difference being that these ones were intact. I got one for Lucas with a little skater dude toy in it (which he promptly swapped with his cousin for an airplane that was in one of the tiny eggs I got at my last stop), one for Evani that just says 'almonds' on it so I presume it has some almonds or almond candy inside, and one for Ruan that had a little iPod-copy radio in it- batteries not included. I did it! Another holiday saved. And the search wasn't even that bad.

The three eggs cost me 50 reis. The first time I visited here, that would have been $13.50 US, now it's almost $29. Fifty reis is now a lot of money for me. Happily the eggs were well received by all, so I guess it's worth it.

Isn't it?

Next year we'll do Easter American style.


michelle said...

Dude,I'm totally mailing you some Twizzlers...

markuza said...

yesss! I'm gonna write a whole post about Twizzlers...