There were a few things that I/we learned during our trip back to the US. I felt obliged to share them here. (And before you think I am completely out of my mind - which maybe I am, but still - remember that we did spend nearly a solid year in Brasil before we made our homeland visit.)
* Speaking Portuguese to the sales associate at Radio Shack in Burlington, Iowa doesn't get you much help. It does, however, get you some strange looks.
* While a thumbs up is the generic symbol for thanks, please, good, etc. in Brasil, you sort of just look like a hugeamongous dork when you flash a big smile and a thumbs up at the guy who just stopped to let you cross the parking lot in front of his vehicle. (Same applies to waiters who ask you how your food is.)
* We can speak English quietly between ourselves anywhere in Belo Horizonte and talk about pretty much anything; there is a gigantic chance that no one is going to be able to understand a single thing we are saying. The same doesn't apply while we are in the US. ("Yes Babe, I agree, that short skirt was revealing entirely too much of her cottage cheese thighs and I think even some butt dimples, but next time you want to talk about the person standing in front of us in line at Target, how about telling me in Portuguese, okay?")
* Fresh fruit is dang expensive in the US, and watermelon is not readily available in December.
* It is important to maintain your lane while driving in Iowa or Georgia; similarly, you should obey all stop signs, traffic signals, etc. And you probably can stop expecting motorcycles to go flying by between you and that tractor-trailer on the dashed white line.
* Americans cannot appreciate your politeness when you use words like com licença, desculpe, por favor, and muito obrigada.
* Taco Bell and Chic-fil-A have an aurora of heavenly light around them that I never noticed when I lived in the US. Nor do I previously remember hearing the Angels' Chorus while pulling through the drive thru.
(Dang it, now I really want a bean burrito and cookies n cream milkshake . . . not necessarily together, mind you . . . but then again . . . hmmm, maybe.)
* Greeting people with cheek kisses can make for an awkward moment. Especially people you are just meeting for the first time.
* One that I never could figure out the answer to: on a plane from Brasil to the US, or vice versa, do you speak English or Portuguese to the flight attendants who you know to be fluent in both languages?
* Orange juice from a carton isn't very good (at all) once you've become accustomed to fresh squeezed.
* American men don't hug each other very often. (After working in Burlington for a week, we were on our way to the airport to go to Georgia when Eric said, completely out of the blue, "Huh . . . nobody hugged me today." Replaying the earlier events of the day in my head, I conceded that probably I had just given him a kiss when I dropped him off at the office and again when I brought the car back to him, as a hug while sitting in the car bundled up in a heavy winter coat tends to be a bit difficult to pull off. Eric replied, "No, I mean, at the office today. Nobody hugged me when I left." A bit perplexed, I asked him, "Um, did you want somebody to hug you?" Giving me a grin and shaking his head, "No, it's not that I wanted a hug, but it just occurred to me how different it is here. When I left the office in Brasil - and I was only going to be gone for a month - everybody came around and gave me a hug on my way out and wished me a Merry Christmas and told me they sent kisses to you and our families . . . and today I just sort of said, "Hey, see ya" and walked out. It was really pretty uneventful!" I giggled that I thought he just wanted the guys to hug him, and I think he thumped my shoulder or something equally mature to my adult-like response. Poor guy, it is a wonder he puts up with me some days!)