Life as a New Muslim in Brazil

Labels: 3 comments


I know you guys haven't seen a lot of me around recently, and, yes, I'm totally aware that what I'm about to say is going to sound like a big whopper, but I've been meaning to come back here for centuries. You know when you get into a vicious cycle of procrastination that you simply cannot get out of? That's exactly what I'm going through right now. No matter how much down time I manage to get or how much I keep telling myself that I'm going to use it to write a little, I always wind up doing something else - or nothing, for that matter (yeah, it does happen). Guess this is finally my lucky day.

As many of you already know, I've been a Muslim for nearly two years (time flies). Despite that and all the posts I've written so far, there's one thing I was totally missing: MY overall experience in Brazil. It's never been told, has it? As far as I know, the posts where I did mention it were mostly about family matters. Maybe that's why people won't stop asking the same thing over and over again...

Time to appease your curiosity!

Before we start, however, I'd like to make it very clear, FOR THE UMPTEENTH time, that I haven't even been to a mosque yet. That means I'm NOT going to be able to give you a lot of details - just the big picture (according to myself). If you're ok with that, then bear with me a little longer.

Here we go!



Where to begin? Yeah, you know their reaction - stop playing dumb! Christian parents + not-so-religious friends = trouble. As bad as it was when they found out, at least I could see it coming. My main problem is that they're not over it yet. Not a week goes by that I do not get taunted in a way or another. I've been trying hard not to lose my head (although I did blow up a few times) and disappear without a trace. For now, let's just say I'm on a leash (that's what happens when you're a 21-year-old guy who still depends on mommy and daddy to get what you want). My so-called friends, by the way, are literally gone. Not because of Islam itself, but because that's how it goes when you grow up - we simply split up and lose touch. The ones I have now are half way across the world, and chances are I'm never going to meet them in real life. Tough luck, but they still make happy anyway. :)

P.S.: That was just a quick rundown. If you want to catch up on what happened on day 1, check out this post. Then move on to the next.



Brazilians are... Diverse! No shit, Sherlock! Yeah, I know. This should be something positive, right? Well, yes and no. Let me tell you why: this whole "diversity" thing is all about race and culture. Religion is NOT part of the mix. If you're not Christian, Spiritualist or Atheist, guess what? Exactly. You'll turn quite a lot of heads on the street. If you manage to stay undercover somehow, good for you. BUT, as a muslim (especially if you're a woman), there's no way you'll be flying under the radar. While it is true that a lot of them won't give a hoot about you or your religion, I'd suggest that you watch out for maniacs. Men tend to hurt the things they fear, and Muslims are still feared (or even seen as aliens) by some. Apart from getting psychologically hurt, I've never really been through anything physical (alhamdulillah). However, some of my virtual friends have, and their experience was nothing pleasant. Ever had tomatoes or stones thrown at you? Or maybe you even got stabbed? No? You're lucky (and so am I!). They, on the other hand, can't say the same. I'm not trying to blow things out of proportion or be dramatic in any way. I'm just saying that anything could happen, so... BE CAREFUL!



When you have a muslim community nearby, working and studying are just two regular things you do everyday. I mean, even if you don't... That's just what we, humans, are supposed to do in order to survive in this world. The difference between the first scenario and the second basically lies in how dreadful these tasks can be (whether you like them or not is beside the point here). Amongst Muslims, you don't need to worry about taking breaks so you can pray, mixing, wearing a hijab, growing your beard, attending the mosque on Friday or anything else, do you? After all, this is what everybody else does. What happens in Brazil is that they're few and far between! Muslim traditions are not part of this culture. The things I mentioned above... Let's just say your colleagues and your boss may not be as understanding. Then, unless you're ok with changing yourself in order to fit in (which is totally NOT recommended), my bet is that you ARE going to have a hard time getting through to them. Again, it's not impossible, but you'd better be EXTREMELY flexible, easy-going, have a shield against nasty jokes, know how to stand your ground and have excellent communication skills, because, believe it or not, they WILL want to know about that upfront.



This part is quite interesting! Think of a muslim from your own country. Done? Ok. This is not how Muslims in Brazil are like. When you do find the casual-kind-of-muslim walking around, stereotypically speaking, he's usually not Brazilian at all. When talking about Brazilian Muslims, we have to keep in mind that most of them are just like me (new reverts). That's why the local culture still carries a huge weight on how they act or even dress like. Besides, in spite of not having had the chance to be with any of them in person (I live so far!), what I could get from my experience across the web is that they have a lot of "cliques" that aren't exactly easy to get into. Please, don't get me wrong, but I personally find it a lot easier to make friends with Muslims from other countries. It's just that they've always seemed to be "warmer" and more "receptive" to me than Brazilians have ever been (don't you dare say I'm kissing anybody's boots!). Another thing I've noticed is that they and Arab expats are literally foes to one another (yes, I AM generalizing). Word on the street is that the Arabs here and their offspring think they're somehow superior and, therefore, treat them like dirt in their own country. I thank Allah for not being part of this fight, because, the ones I've met are wonderful people. May they remain like that!



That is one thing you want to be careful about! Did you know that brazilian cuisine is filled with pork and alcohol? Oh yeah! But this isn't even the biggest problem I have to face everyday. The thing is knowing wether or not they've been used to make what I'm consuming. That delicious spaghetti mama's just fixed for dinner? Well, maybe there's a little bit of wine in the sauce. Candies? You'd better hope they don't carry animal fat. Ice cream? I would make it myself if I were you. Remember that beautiful cake you saw at the bakery earlier? Come on, I'm sure you were dying for a bite. Well, it might have vanilla extract, which contains alcohol, and uh... You know the rest. Haram! Barbecue? Assuming you were lucky enough to find meat that is truly halal, let's just say that you should keep an eye on it and prepare it yourself. Brazilians just LOVE to marinate it in beer! All right, you got it, I know. Just one more thing: to top it off, there isn't even a single local website that provides info on national products. We have to figure it all out by ourselves. How I'm holding up? I'm not. Actually, YouTube's been a great teacher. Yes, I'm making stuff myself. As for meat, I've only been eating fish for months. I don't even remember what a burger tastes like.



What does it even mean? Holidays have been gone from my life for a long time. Why? Quite simple! The ones I can celebrate would be Christmas, New Year, Carnival, Easter, Valentine's Day, bla bla bla. The list goes on! They're either "Christian" (we call them Christian, but we know their roots well enough) or... The ones that are not are just another way of bleeding us dry. Knowing these things and following the religion that I follow, I guess there's no need to say that I'm supposed to stay as far as I can from them, right? But what about Ramadan (it isn't a holiday, I know, but I'm counting it anyway) and Eid, for instance? Let me break it to you: mine are dull. There's no "celebrating" it when you're alone. If you have a Muslim community around, as I said above, fine! But if you're like me, then they're probably just going to be like any other day. In the end, it's neither Muslims nor my family, so... Make sure to remember that if you're coming here. Big cities rule!


No, it hasn't been easy, but, if we look on the bright side, some people have it worse. Although limited to big cities for the most part, Islam IS starting to grow in this country, and I truly hope things will get better in a few years down the line. It's a long run (we still need to make a lot of Dawah), but I'd love to see and be part of a muslim community around here someday. In the meantime, we need to get educated so we can avoid the haram that's all around, give it a good name and spread the word. It'll all work out for the best, in shaa Allah.

P.S.: Do you speak Portuguese? If yes, how about checking out my new YouTube channel? There you'll find much more on topics like that. Don't forget to subscribe and stay tuned!

Are you Brazilian? Have you ever been to Brazil? Would you like to share your experience in the comments?

We'd love to hear from you! :)

10 Ways to Boost your Language Skills

Labels: , , 2 comments


One of the things I like the most about meeting new people is that they're always sparkling my brain and giving me ideas for new posts. This time I've been overwhelmingly asked about what I do when I'm learning a different language. Because of the way I speak, maybe? I don't know. The thing is, giving the same answer over and over again is totally tiring me out. That's when you should rejoice, because it means that it is time for another one of those 10-tip posts that everybody seems to appreciate.

Here we go!


#1 Go for whole sentences over single words. Let me guess what! You have no idea how to take the first step. Been there. Well, you're going to have to tackle the basic vocabulary first, but here's where the danger lies (it can either get you pumped up or bogged down). If you're really old school, memorizing word by word could be an option. But, if not (and most people aren't), trying whole sentences will do the trick. I know you don't know anything yet, but it actually works (not to mention that it'll also speed things up a bit).


#2 Change your surroundings. A lot of people fall short when it comes to it. Learning a different language is not just about doing lessons twice a week. It is something that needs to be exercised everyday. Make sure you have some flashcards around so you can run through the new words as you go about doing your regular stuff throughout the day. Change the language on your devices so you can force your brain, and don't forget to replace the newspaper, magazines and books you usually read with others that are written in the language you're learning. In short, you should do your best to make your environment as challenging as possible.


#3 Think in that language. I get people telling me how hard that is all the time (and I'm, by no means, saying otherwise) but, what happens is that they only try it a few times and give up right after that. Learning a new language is no easy task, and putting yourself down will only make things worse. Remember how learning how to ride a bike was? It's almost the same. Baby steps! You'll find it weird at first, but soon enough you'll catch yourself having bilingual thoughts as well. That's when you'll really start getting the fluency that you've been shooting for.


#4 Do an exchange! If changing your surroundings is bearing no fruit, then it may be time to kick it up a few notches. Go for an exchange! Actually, if you have the financial means to do so, I'd suggest that you pack your bags right now. There's no better way to learn a different language than to live in a place where it is widely spoken. Not only will you benefit from the knowledge you'll acquire, but you'll also get to know about a different culture (which is a plus), so... Even better!


#5 Find a native. If you haven't passed the last one over, this shouldn't be a problem. However, if you're too scared or just short on money, you might be wondering how to do so. Fortunately, I wrote this post full of websites where you can find someone to practice with. Do NOT take it for granted! Getting their feedback is crucial to find out what you need to tweak and where you already rocking. No need to freak out... It'll make you feel better!


#6 Start a blog or a journal. If you really want to make the most of the language you're learning, writing in it should also be on your bucket list. I know you're out of ideas right now, but starting a blog (or even a journal) can do wonders! When you're speaking with someone, you're stuck in a certain situation where you must find synonyms and different ways to convey the message that you want if it is not coming out naturally. On the other hand, when it comes to writing, you can research all you want. This is the perfect time to learn how to say things you don't know yet, because that's when you'll have get your juices flowing.


#7 Try some tongue twisters. Another thing that is always getting language learners upset is the speed of their speech. You know how to say what you you want to say, but your words aren't coming out the way they should - you're not living up to your own expectations. Some people will tell you not to rush yourself, because it takes time. The thing is (and let's be honest here), you're desperate to be a bit less "showy" - you don't want to sound like a total foreigner as soon as you open up your mouth. Good news! Tongue twisters will not only help you with this issue, but also boost your vocabulary (new words will come up eventually). Besides, they're really fun and entertaining. If you find out that you're not really good at reciting them, at least you won't have to feel be bad about that. After all, they're supposed to twist your tongue. Even natives go crazy sometimes.


#8 Read stuff out loud. That's another great way to make sure that your words are coming out right. If you don't have someone around to give you their input, just record your own voice and compare it to the one of a native. It's likely that you'll have an accent, but your main goal is to make yourself understandable. If you're really concerned about the accent thing, you can then work it out later on.


#9 Use subtitles! When you're just getting started, it's normal for you to only understand the general meaning of what someone is saying. As long as you get their point, fine! BUT, when watching something, subtitles can make your experience a lot less painful. You'll be able to follow along as they're speaking and, at the same time, put down the words and expressions you've never heard so you can practice them later in your free time. By doing that, you'll find it way easier to remember them, since you already have a context and a scenario playing out in your mind.


#10 Let your hair down. Learning a new language is something that should make you feel happy and excited. If the outcome you're getting is the opposite, then it means that it is time to take a step back and see where you're going wrong. Try to make this experience as laid black as possible. Sing in the shower, act out, tell jokes, copy others, laugh and constantly remind yourself of how much you've progressed so far. The journey is long, but the reward is totally worth it. Be proud!

That's all I have for now!

Got another tip there? We'd love to read it in the comments. Come on, don't be selfish! :)

5 Top Links of the Week! #3

Labels: , , , , 1 comments


How was your week? Not bad, I hope, but you'd better get yourself ready, 'cause it's finally time for another link round-up! This week we have a private agency for guided tours in Rio, two new job finder systems that you can use to land your dream job in Brazil (as well as other countries), a YouTube channel that features an American guy and a Brazilian girl traveling around the world (with a bunch of tips for those who are a little short on money but dying to hit the road) and another website where you can get language partners for free and take your Portuguese (or any other language) to the next level!

Do you want to see your link on this page? Let me know through this form.

Enjoy! :)

Coxinha: The Brazilian Tasty Gem

Labels: 0 comments

If you've ever been to Brazil, chances are that you tried some local food. Of course you did! I can't tell where exactly but, regardless of that, I'm almost sure you at least heard something special about an amazing little snack called coxinha (pronounced like "cosheeña" - it's like a chicken croquette). After all, it is one of the most popular salgadinhos (savories) you'll find out there! Definitely appreciated by most of us - without a doubt! It's not so hard to find Brazilians bragging about that (try it and you'll find out why). By the way, I'm no exception. Every single time I'm talking about food with someone who's not from here, I bring it up - it's a must! What can I do? I just love it!

What happens is that, not so long ago, I used to think that I'd have to become a rocket scientist in order to make coxinhas myself. It turns out that I was DEAD WRONG. These appetizers are not only yummy, but EXTREMELY easy to make! See all those recipes I've posted so far? Forget them all and go for this one. I can't stress that enough. If you do things right and do not become a "coxinha lover," it can only mean one thing: you're an alien!


All right, all right, blah blah blah! Time to get our hands dirty!


  • 500 ml water (about 2 glasses);
  • 250 ml milk ;
  • 1 tbs butter;
  • 360g all-purpose-flour (3 cups);
  • Salt to taste (3 pinches are enough for me);
  • Seasoning (as much as you like - I usually add three bags of sazon para massas. Maybe you have something similar in your country? If not, time to get creative! Perhaps this post will help you somehow);
  • Optional: Chicken stock (I personally don't use it, but almost everybody does).

  • Spiced shredded chicken and cheese spread (tradition says so) or whatever floats your boat. If you don't want to go to the trouble of preparing the chicken, just use cheese alone. It can also do wonders, believe me! Who said we can't branch out a little?

  • 1 egg;
  • Breadcrumbs.


  • In a large pan, add water, milk, butter, salt and seasoning. If you've decided to use chicken stock, this is where it goes.
  • Stir well.
  • Heat the mixture over medium heat until it reaches the boiling point.
  • Once it happens, turn down the heat and add in the flour.
  • Stir until the mixture starts to show the bottom of the pan when you scrape it with your wooden spoon. It will get harder, but keep doing it. You're almost done! Just use your strength and try to make that sticky blob-shaped thing come together. It should be thick and lumpy enough by now.
  • Put it on a greased (or non-sticking) tray and leave it sitting there for a few minutes. You don't want to burn yourself, do you?
  • When the dough is cool enough to handle, knead it VERY WELL.
  • Pinch off a chunk of dough, roll it out and add the filling. If you want your coxinhas to be the same size, just roll the whole thing out and use a cookie cutter (or a glass) to cut out the pieces that you want. I personally don't bother (mine are huge anyway), but... As the saying goes, "to each his own."
  • Mold it into a drumstick (or a little water drop).
  • Now is time to coat them with breadcrumbs. Well, you do know how to do it, don't you? Ok, you don't need to answer. Just whisk the egg with a fork and dip them (one by one) into it. Then into the breadcrumbs. You can shake off any excess, but make sure they're well coated.
  • Fry them until golden brown.

P.S.: Coxinhas can be served with condiments (ketchup, mayonnaise, mustard, etc) and, in case you're coming up with something big, bear in mind that they can be stored in a freezer for up to three months before you fry them.

You're done! Quick and easy, right?

Let me know how yours turned out in the comments below, ok? Please, don't be an alien!

Bon appétit! :)

Aryel Lanes © 2012 | Designed by Meingames and Bubble shooter