Humility Up Close and Personal in Rio de Janeiro

A few weeks ago I drove across the U.S. from my lovely daughter, Anna’s, in South Carolina to visit with my friends in Cali before flying to Brazil. The trip was long, and hot, and only marginally interesting.

I’ve done that trip countless times since the l960s when I drove my then fiance’s TR4A from Atlanta, GA to San Diego,CA. It seems I was just a child then. Really. Could barely reach the petals, and had as much sense as a prairie hen.

On long desert stretches I improvised cruise control by wedging my umbrella between the gas and the seat. Still, I’m not quite as jaded as Loretta Lynn who allegedly said she’d seen so many sunsets she no longer opened the drapes on the bus windows.

In Cali I visited with many of my friends. Margaret, my Mini Cooper, and I arrived at the Bouldins tired and dusty. It was as close to home as a homeless woman gets; filled with affection, love, and music by Highline. I love my Tehachapi friends-men and women: the Naked Lesbians-none of whom are lesbians that I know of. Go figure. 

Then to Sherry’s in Lake Isabella. 106 fuckin degrees of dry heat that sucked the life out of me-the last remaining juice from my ageing body. I could hear it evaporating …wooshhhh. During a road trip (again across the whole country) six years ago Sherry and I discovered we shared a birthday month, year, and name!, Cheryl Ann, that we both changed a bit for different reasons, and we both gave birth to our daughters at home. Immediate sisters we were. And more music. The spunky Out of the Blue band is always a down home treat where ever you happen to live. 

And then to the Maggarts in Venice-to my old neighborhood.  Brandon, irrasible, sweet Brandon who growls and grumps, but would share the shirt off his back, writes, surrounded by his talented and handsome off-spring. Read his book, Papa’s Footprint for a merry romp through broadway during the good ole days.

I finished my ebook, Irish Mongrel Child while at Brandons. Yesterday I proofed the cover. It should be ready to download within a few days. Fulfilled, grateful for my friends, my health and my love of being alive I headed to Cecil’s. 

 Cecil-the Masseur, who I never see enough of. He is another kind-hearted man who shares what he has and is repayed with love. He is the reason I can travel as I do. I’m his Buddy-as in buddy passes on URL. He started it. About 23 years ago he gave me a ‘one way pass to anywhere UAL flies’  for Christmas. Two  passports later I am in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil because the planes to Sao Paulo were full.

I’m sitting at at a bar in the Z.BRA hostel drinking a Bohemia beer, listening to Brazilian music, writing my blog and looking for tutoring jobs. The people who work here shared their delicious lunch with me:
sausages fried with onions, black beans, rice and salad. Hallelujah.

Yesterday I toured the Recina favela.


If there is any thing in this world that is capable of stripping ego and pretention from oneself it must be this mindboggling mass of humanity stacked on top of one another on the face of the mountain like so many colorful leggos dressed for carnival.

The van full of folks from Ireland, England, Australia, Mexico and me, the USA, were dropped off with our guide. After explaining that the 300K inhabitants of this favela had, up until 2010 been ruled pretty much by serious gun toting drug lords, but now they were gone because one day 700 Brazilian policia stormed the place, killed the bad guys, and are still there, so it is safe now. I didn’t see them. I saw a few police cars at the entrance and exit. Far less than 700. 

With a certain amount of trepidation, we followed our guide single file up a path

of crooked, uneven concrete littered with occasional dog shit and other flotsom and jetsome, to a building where we climbed up some equally perilous steps to an artist’s home and studio.

 Ahh! Wow! Omg! were the utterances as we stood humble before the million dollar view-our backs to abject poverty. 

Up there, the realizitation that these stacked houses were a community of families, businesses-of schools, nurseries, bakeries, trademen-of hair dressers, barbers, carpenders…everything the same as mine and yours, hit me. It’s just way more difficult to traverse and with your immediate family living on top of you or sharing a wall, it’s definitly up close and personal.

 The favela was vibrant with life;  people coming and going, graffiti art-creative and non, a neat preschool like any other, anyplace, tender, tired moms hauling groceries on one  hip- baby on the other. Water rushed through an open concrete drain twisting and turning downward, smiling animated kids anxious to make a few coins danced to the drumming of two boys beating harmomiously on a plastic paint pail and a dented metal gas can, artist’s studio, good and mediocre art, but art, colorful and telling, dogs, cats, chickens, spaces where houses slid off the mountain, and more. Much more.

Under a thick canopy of an astoundingly intricate electrical wire

maze we made our way to a bakery where I bought a delicious piece of passion fruit cake.

How must it feel to have tourists come by your neighborhood, peering into your lives? To be famously poor? I mentiond to the young woman standing next to me that I thought it reminded me of parts of Mexico. She was Mexican, and not a little offended. I need to learn to keep my opinions to myself.

  

One thought on “Humility Up Close and Personal in Rio de Janeiro

  1. Hollis Geary

    Touring a favela at first seems a strange kind of tourism. But they’re such a big part of Rio it makes sense. It reminds me of when Donna and I were in Belfast in 2006. We took a tour of the areas where the IRA and UDF used to fight. The murals on the side of buildings (especially in the Catholic areas) will shock and amaze. Our guide explained that the IRA and UDF don’t fight each other much anymore. Instead they use their expertise in violence to monopolize the drug trade in their respective areas. ~Hollis

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