This is the End.

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So here I am – six weeks, two pairs of worn out trainers, two bottles of suncream, two hair cuts, many chickens and many bottles of beer later, I have completed the most surreal six weeks of my life so far. I am not entirely certain as to what I had expected to achieve by travelling to one of the most dangerous cities in the world, but I am certainly glad that I made the decision to spend so much time there and I have definitely returned to England a much improved person. Though, I regret what felt like a premature exit from the Brazilian city.

I have faced an endless list of challenges that have all been difficult, sometimes quite terrifying, have tested my patience to a level that I have not previously endured, and arrived in two main forms. Undoubtedly, the first has to be familiarising myself with the city, by far the largest, most diverse, most fascinating and terrifying city that I have ever experienced. Getting lost, a popular hobby of many tourists, occurred regularly, with my refusal to sacrifice my pride and manhood through asking for directions only developing my confusion and lack of knowledge of my geographical position further. I have witnessed poverty on an unbelievable scale, acts of crime and violence, cultural difference and mannerisms far beyond what I had imagined before my arrival – many of which I hope that I have sufficiently covered in previous entries, the mugging and prostitution being personal favourites. My second greatest challenge has been working with children. Rio has forced me to tolerate many things in such a way that has improved my patience dramatically. The language barrier is an obvious one, especially when trying to successfully formulate a conversation with the children. I’d like to think that we achieved one or two successful conversations, irregardless of their simplicity or whether or not they genuinely made any sense. I tremendously enjoyed their company and will miss spending my week days with every one of them. Teaching English, or at least attempting to, proved to be a great challenge in itself. Though enjoyable and a beneficial activity to all concerned, I found it difficult to maintain the attention of some of the children, a frustrating problem that made me finally understand the reasoning behind one or two detentions that I may have picked up in my school years. But, then again, thinking back to how I would have taken to such alien and confusing lessons at the age of 10, their struggling concentration is hardly surprising. I have enjoyed my continuous attempts in speaking Brazilian Portuguese, constantly leaving me in a state of utter confusion and putting a smile upon the face of the person who had the misfortune of listening to my almost certain gibberish. On more than one occasion, I remember even resorting to the use of French vocabulary to replace any missing Portuguese, a reasonable substitution, no?

I have met many great people, all having had a significant impact upon my outlook on life, particularly those that I had met on my project and who inhabited the Favela. The project’s permanent staff were inspirational, instantly earning my respect through their continuous hard work, devotion, and obvious care for the health and welfare of their local community. There are so many obvious problems in all areas of the city, yet the project that these people had helped to establish and its continued impact symbolised hope, and provided the first steps for creating a route out of poverty for the many children that it looks after. It is these children that I will miss the most, and played the most significant role in making my six weeks so unforgettable through their positivity, happiness and enthusiasm.

The unrivalled beauty of the city seen in its culture. geographical situation, beaches, infamous sights and historical buildings will remain forever imprinted in my memory. Without these inspirational surroundings that continued to fascinate and surprise me, I doubt that this collection of writings would have maintained its diverse topics and certainly would have become monotonous, whilst my enjoyment in authoring them would have disappeared long ago.

Thank you, Rio. I hope to see you again soon.

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Bieber Fever, Backstreet Boys, Beer.

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It’s definitely been an interesting and somewhat spontaneous penultimate week in Rio. An unplanned stay in a Copacabana Beach hotel on the 1st November with two friends has provided an unforgettable and unexpected story to share with others. After dropping our bags at the hotel, the three of us set upon what would become by first Copacabana adventure – a search for something to eat and a suitable alcoholic beverage vendor somewhere along the globally iconic section of coastline. Not entirely sure of what to expect, a feeling that has become all too familiar during my stay in Rio de Janeiro, we almost immediately stumbled upon a substantially sized group of girls looking rather excitable and tremendously happy. A find that at first stimulated our hopes of an enjoyable and interesting night soon sunk into a feeling of temporary disappointment, as we walked closer toward the group their median age suddenly plummeted whilst various areas of their bodies appeared to be draped in an impressive array of memorabilia endorsed by a certain 19-year-old Canadian heart throb. I am proud to admit that I do not keep myself updated on Justin Bieber’s latest touring destinations, yet we had walked straight into the middle of an agitated and hungry pack of Beliebers that had collected outside the main entrance to the Copacabana Palace Hotel. How did this happen? Suddenly, an outbreak of screams rivalling the fans of a Rio derby at the Maracanã forced me to protect my ears and look skywards. Sure enough, there appeared the cause of the teenage commotion that we had found ourselves in the center of. I can’t say that I wasn’t tremendously excited by the whole situation and I have confidence in saying that the two companions that I was sharing this moment with also shared my emotions. Even more regrettably, I also can’t say that I didn’t charge through the large group of girls like a lion amongst a herd of zebras after hearing rumours that Bieber was plotting an escape from the rear entrance to the hotel, because I did, smiling extravagantly whilst doing so after realising that my half marathon training had not gone to waste. Somewhat amusingly, a google search of Justin Bieber the following day revealed an interesting insight into his Rio experiences, the links are below. The remainder of my night seems relatively tame in comparison, though we did unintentionally find ourselves in another prostitute filled bar, though didn’t stay long after receiving the bill for our drinks and meeting an overconfident Texan toting an iPad and a girl on each arm who, presumably, he had planned to pay for.

Waking up on Saturday morning to the view of Copacabana Beach felt extremely surreal, despite having to battle for covers with two male friends throughout a relatively uncomfortable nights sleep. Though, realising that I didn’t have to pay for the room soon made everything worth while (Thanks Anton’s mum). This was the first time that I had experienced Copacabana in daylight, and it was absolutely amazing. The beach was beautiful and absolutely packed all day long, with the familiar, welcome sight of Brazilian bottoms owned by the many beautiful women occupying Rio’s beaches. Having been fortunate enough to have experienced both Ipanema and Copacabana beaches, falling in love with them both, I have come to understand that there is something extremely special about the latter. It could  be the picturesque and luxurious reputation that it has earned through its portrayal in literature and on the big screen, or the many spectacular hotels that create an astounding backdrop to the 4km of infamous coastline, the beautiful promenade or even the history of the area. Whatever the reason, I fail to believe how anyone could formulate a negative view of Brazil’s most iconic piece of coastline. I ended my day at Copacabana fort, a defensive structure completed in 1914 on the southern peninsula of Copacabana to protect the entrance to the harbour of Rio de Janeiro. As a history graduate, learning about the fort’s historic significance was obviously fascinating but it was the views that the fortification provided across the Copacabana coastline that were truly breathtaking, an image that will be difficult to forget.

I celebrated my 21st birthday last year with a drunken University night out followed by the second worst hangover of my life, and a visit to Ipswich to watch Burnley lose 2-1 from the directors box. This was a fantastic birthday celebrated with my nearest and dearest and I enjoyed every minute of it, but I couldn’t have even begun to imagine that I would be celebrating my next birthday in Rio de Janeiro. Due to a number of volunteers having premeditated plans to travel to Florianopolis and Salvador on my birthday, Thursday, I had planned my main celebrations for Wednesday evening. After a fun, lively and loud pre-drinks at the volunteer house beforehand, we travelled to Botafogo to attend the Casa da Matriz club well aware that it would be a karaoke themed night, arriving feeling sceptical and doubting how successful the night would turn out to be. I’ve never really attended a great number of karaoke nights, nor have I particularly enjoyed the few that I have been to. This is most probably due to a lack of singing talent and a missing quantity of confidence that is needed to display my broken vocal chords in front of a crowd, however intoxicated they may have been. Shockingly, however, Rio’s nightlife continued to impress and astound, and I enjoyed one of the most memorable nights of my life, definitely celebrating my 22nd birthday in style. Singing questionable nineties and noughties chart toppers with my adopted Rio family definitely proved to be a fantastic method of celebrating my birthday. Now, I’m not saying that Brazilian beer provided a temporary fix to my obvious lack of vocal ability, but I can proudly confirm that we did indeed receive an extensive applause and yells of appreciation from the other party goers after successfully performing an absolutely brilliant rendition of ‘I Want It That Way’ by the Backstreet Boys. A career option to pursue upon my return to the UK? Perhaps.

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Lapa Steps with TeamFun on Friday…

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Room for Improvement.

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I am writing whilst sat upon the peak of Pão de Açúcar, only having to slightly turn my head to absorb magnificent views across Rio de Janeiro, expanding to Cristo Redentor, Cobacabana, and the Atlantic Ocean. Nestled between the rolling hills that form the background of Rio and dotted between various districts of the city lay the many favelas that make such a significant contribution to the size and demographics of this amazing city. To me, the favelas are influential in the beauty of this city through their inhabitants, culture, and even through their colourful contribution to my current view from Pão de Açúcar. But, they are equally as significant in providing a functioning demonstration of the many problems that exist here. It is both amazing and astonishing that the city will play a significant role in next year’s FIFA World Cup, and in 2016, host the Olympic Games. I can only hazard a guess at the total cost of playing host to such events, but after spending a month here it pains me to imagine how much more usefully and humanely that money could be spent. Now, I’m no expert in the economics of global sporting events, but I highly doubt that the World Cup or the Olympics will bring significant and long term improvements to the many people struggling in Rio de Janeiro. I sense an unfair distribution of services, tourism investment and corporate sponsorship. Corrupt elements within the national and local governments remain, the obvious existence of significant crime and poverty, two protests descending into violent clashes with the police occurring here since my arrival all signify that there is clearly room for improvement within the social, economic and political structure of a country that holds the 6th largest economy in the world.

My time here has plunged me into thinking about how I could possibly make a difference here and what I could do to help. As I am not Barack Obama, head of the United Nations, World Bank or a billionaire business tycoon, clearly I am only capable of attempting to make the smallest of improvements in such a vast city of well over 10 million people. So what can I do? What can outsiders do to help the people here? The longer I spend here, the more I learn and understand through the people I meet and through my own assumptions. Perhaps the most effective way to illustrate all of this is to provide a case study of a boy living in the favela that I am currently volunteering in.

Anderson, who’s company I enjoy tremendously, also happens to be one of the most talented young footballers I have seen so far. You may remember that in an earlier entry I had mentioned witnessing a young boy score a bicycle kick, Anderson was that boy, and has continued to impress since then. He is 12 years old, and I hold the belief that if he was a British or any other European national, he would quickly have been enlisted in a footballing academy or development project of some form, most probably leading to a successful professional career. Very idealistic I know, and possibly this would only happen in Perot circumstances. But Anderson does not have this opportunity, and will most definitely continue living in Thera vela for the rest of his life. Anderson’s father died several years ago, and his mother struggles to put food on the table for Anderson and his younger brother with her monthly salary of £120. I have visited their home, horrified to hear that whilst Anderson shared a bunk bed with his brother, their mother slept on the floor of what regrettably I can only describe as a small, asbestos roofed, single roomed garage. Anderson doesn’t have the opportunities that many other children have around the world. The state only provides education for two days a week, and due to the fact that both protests that have occurred here in the last three weeks have been organised by teachers, I doubt very much that the education system is a stable and entirely successful institution. Anderson’s mother cannot afford to pay the £25 monthly fee to send him to the local Vasco da Gama footballing academy, whilst I doubt that club scouts venture into the favelas regularly. Anderson is always smiling, enjoys playing football with the other children and shows a true eagerness to learn in the classroom, yet I worry about his few opportunities to succeed.

Anderson’s situation upset me tremendously, he should be given the opportunities that I received as a 12 year old boy. Furthermore, Anderson is not alone and there are many others Lenten children in very similar scenarios, whether their talent b in football, mathematics, art, dance, or any other skill or gift that would lead to a promising career in the UK. I had naively thought over the idea of sponsoring Anderson through the eagerly phases of an academy with a fellow volunteer, but it soon became obvious that it would not be as simple, straight forward or successful as I had first thought. There would be no guarantee of an improvement to Anderson’s quality of life, surely the money would be better spent on providing food for Anderson and his family? Why sponsor Anderson, how fair would it be to select him over other young talented footballers? The list of problems goes on.

A lunchtime conversation with the house construction project coordinator, a Dutchman who left his comfortable lifestyle on Europe behind in order to move into the favela five years ago, gave tremendous insight into the many problems that have been troubling my thoughts since I had arrived here. Fabian attributed the lack of opportunities for children to two main factors. The first is a government whose first and foremost objective is to improve the overall economy, promote big business and promote profit, therefore ignoring the ‘little’ problems and minimising their solutions to focus on bringing the two largest sporting events in the world to Brazil. I can only hope that Brazil’s economy doesn’t to follow the road that the Greek economy took following Athens 2004. The second factor is the favelas themselves. The children are not exposed to a world where they can aspire to become someone in a particular profession. A doctor, fireman, veterinarian, lawyer or even investment banker may be the aims of many children or adolescents in the developed world, yet children here are raised amongst violence, growing up idealising the gangsters and drug barons who appear to have the money, the girls, and the. Attest technology and gadgets in the favela. It is easy to see how children who know no different opt to follow that lifestyle, and this is sadly a case for many.

In exposing and illustrating just a few problems, however, I am disregarding the many successful programs and projects that are making tremendous improvements in their respective areas of operations. The project I volunteer at, emarca, is one of many brilliant examples of this. The staff are caring, clearly love what they are doing and aim to improve the community that the you have grown up in. The children that attend the community centre for football, education, arts and crafts or any other activity are regular attenders, signifying that they enjoy what they are doing – choosing to learn and play at the centre rather than potentially causing trouble on the streets. The project has also succeeded in opening the minds of many children, giving them aspirations for the future to pursue through their education and life choices. This has been demonstrated by an activity that I had asked a group of children to complete on Wednesday, to identify and illustrate what they would like to become when they grow up. I was thrilled by their creativity and enthusiasm, a feeling only enhanced by the results that I received. Two firemen, three doctors, an artist, a builder, a security guard at the Maracanã and a pop star. One boy was clearly thrown of course when the project coordinator decreed that a professional footballer was not a feasible response to this activity, opting for a dream job at the home of Brazilian football instead. Still, the responses from all nine children were fantastic, and I would argue that their thoughts were almost identical to the aspirations of many children in the UK, a warming and encouraging thought.

I continue to enjoy my time here excessively, and I look forward to my final two weeks in Brazil.

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A mugging, a football match, and a gang of transsexual prostitutes.

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I’ve now completed my third week in Rio, three weeks that I have absolutely loved, enjoyed and will cherish for the foreseeable future. I have decided to extend my time here by an additional two weeks, and am keen to remain at my current project where I feel I am progressing in building a relationship with the children and staff there. Though I will be spending a greater amount of time away from my family, friends and the comforts of living in England, I greatly look forward to spending more time here and celebrating my 22nd birthday with the new friends that I have made here, in the city that I have come to love. Who knows what could happen?
This week has been definitive in my appreciation of Brazilian lifestyle and culture, deep recognition of the problems that exist here, and the impact that all this has had on my outlook on everything. I’m sure I’ll go into depth with this a bit later on. But first, I’ll give a brief update on how what I’ve been getting on this week.
I experienced my first, if a little pathetic, mugging on Monday afternoon as a fellow volunteer and I were waiting for our bus to Take us home from the project. Though quite terrifying at the time, my stubborn personality clearly proved a success after I bravely, or more likely stupidly, continuously refused to hand over more that the bus hey that I was holding in my hand. Still, the petty criminal was clearly satisfied with his single figure earnings, politely thanking us with a smile and a thumbs up before moving off on his getaway bicycle. I will never forget the image of Jesse, my fellow muggee, returning the thumbs up and smiling at the man as if he had done us a favour, I will also never know why he did this. Immediately breaking into into a nervous laughter, I think we were satisfied with how well the situation was endured, though it is something I would most definitely not like to experience again any time soon. I’m quite certain that others would not give in so easily, or indeed be quit as polite as this gentleman thief.
On Wednesday evening I was fortunate enough to have attended one of the quarter finals of the Copa do Brasil between Flamengo and Botafogo, a true Rio derby. I realise that in attempting to accurately illustrate my experiences in Brazil I have consistently referred to atmospherical features and differences, and I’m sure that it’s repetition in my writing has irritated some readers. Those readers may just have to bare a little more, as my initial thoughts upon entering the Maracanã stadium greeted by the sight and sounds of 60,000 fans, revolved entirely around the astonishing atmosphere of an almost full stadium. Surely I can be forgiven? We had bought tickets for the Botafogo section and opted for standing in the midst of the loudest and most lively supporters. Even an hour before kick off there was more enthusiasm from the fans than I have ever witnessed at any English football game, and these were enhanced by the accompaniment of drums, horns and flags. Though the Botafogo fans were easily outnumbered by their Flamengo counterparts four to one, songs and chants were constant and deafening. The sight of the packed stadium was impressive alone, and I was impressed by such a large proportion of female supporters around the stadium. I was equally as surprised to witness the gladiatorial Seedorf and his Botafogan squad thrashed 4-0, with a significant chunk of the Botafogo crowd disappearing as the third Flamengo goal hit the back of the net. However, it is impossible to discredit the fans any further – such was there excitement and hooliganism infectious, I may or may not have been jumping up and down on my seat, swinging my t-shirt above my head whilst singing words I did not understand at the top of my lungs. A truly enjoyable and unforgettable experience.
Completing plans that had been repeatedly postponed, on Wednesday evening myself and two others began our journey to the peak of Corcovado, forming the platform for the statue of Cristo Redentor. I for one was eagerly anticipating the iconic views across the city and Ocean, my anticipation only enhanced by our plan to reach the statue in time to watch the sunset. I was not disappointed, the panoramic views and Cristo himself greatly exceeded my expectations. It goes without saying that we ticked the bucket list boxes in pulling the most touristically possible poses with the statue behind us and had fantastic fun doing so, why be embarrassed? We definitely chose the best time to go, managing to catch Cristo in daylight, sunset and illuminated by spotlights in the dark. My only regret is that I think I would have enjoyed the views a little more had I made the hike through the national park to the top of Corcovado instead of getting a minibus. There’s always next time.
I think I will publish a separate entry regarding my thoughts and realisations that were mentioned at the beginning of this brief update, as I believe it may become a lengthened post. I shall leave you with the delightful news that on Thursday night I was approached and caressed by not one, but two transsexual prostitutes. Clustered like packs of gender confused wolves on almost every corner of Lapa, a nightlife hotspot, a degree of skill is required in avoiding the attention of the wo(men), a skill I am learning and developing the hard way. Still, all in good fun.

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A little slice of heaven.

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Heavy rain showers on Wednesday and Thursday provided a good mix up to my daily routine, a welcome change as I always enjoy a different environment and a challenge. The rain flooded our football pitch in the Favela, meaning that the children needed indoor entertainment in the community centre classroom. I could no longer rely on my gift of exceptional football skills, or more likely my height, weight and age advantage in entertaining the children, and would have to incorporate a much wider vocabulary than yelling gol, passe and chuta in order to successfully communicate with the next generation of Ronaldinhos and Neymar Jrs. Facing a classroom of cheeky 10 year olds armed with nothing more than a whiteboard and a marker pen isn’t up there in my top five all time favourite situations, but their enthusiasm to learn and their ability to ease my nerves with giggles and smiles resulted in the time passing quickly and left me wanting to spend more time with them to help teach English. After spending a few hours teaching various groups of kids the English for exotic fruits and types of clothing, I’m pretty sure they’re experts. The challenge also improved my Portuguese – I am now fearless should I be faced with the challenge of ordering a pineapple and orange smoothie or a pair of trousers in a Brazilian shopping center.
Perhaps heading out for drinks on Thursday night wasn’t the best of ideas considering we had to be awake at 6:30 On friday morning to travel to the bus station to catch our coach to Buzios for the weekend, and attempting to pack after having too much to drink the night before only made matters more entertaining. The three hour journey was probably the most enjoyable bus ride I’ve ever had, driving uninterrupted through the most picturesque landscape you could imagine, with forest and the continuous rolling hills and mountains providing the most magnificent roadside entertainment. We were to be spending the next two nights in a hostel, and it looked pretty good, too. It’s just a shame it was managed by a group of very moody and disorganised Argentines that had overbooked the hostel for the weekend, resulting in a lot of unnecessary moving around. Once we had organised all eighteen beds to accommodate our group, we left the hostel in search for food and to explore the town centre. Restaurants and upmarket but touristy shops lined both sides of the main streets whilst botequims (bars) occupied the available spaces between them. The coastline was amazing, and just as in Rio it became clear that the ocean and sand provided a valuable income to many of the locals of Buzios. Boat taxis were prevalent, as were the cart vendors selling anything from coconut water to barbecued chicken.
Friday evening, similarly to every other project-free evening, was spent in the bars. The botequims are generally fantastic in Buzios and in most areas of Rio, service is good, the beer ice cold and relatively cheap, whilst the atmosphere is almost always calm and enjoyable. In the smaller bars, it is often the case that drinks are accompanied by an impromptu and spectacular performance by a three or four piece samba band, always a welcomed sight and sound! All this information instantly becomes useless and irrelevant as soon as football makes it’s way onto the television however, with the local music being replaced by shouting and intemperate body gestures aimed toward dissatisfactory shots, passes, and appalling decisions made by the referee. In either scenario patrons often spill onto the streets, giving great indication toward the most popular venues to drink and socialise in town. Anyway, several beers later we were hit by the biggest rainstorm I’ve been caught in since I arrived in Brazil, the streets appeared to flood almost immediately and our plan to venture a few hundred meters from the outdoor bar we were at to the nearest club grew less appealing as our feet began to disappear under the rai water. Okay, it wasn’t quite that bad but it was very wet, and luckily for us a restaurant took us in and we could enjoy a few more drinks without getting any wetter.
Saturday was a good day. On Friday afternoon we had booked tickets for all of us to go on a boat ‘tour’ around a the coast and small islands around Buzios, it was definitely the best £15 I’ve spent since the warmest trench coat I have ever purchased from asos last winter. Setting off at 12, it was a two and a half hour trip in the most amazing weather, and though we took a few beers with us the boat crew provided us with a steady stream of freshly mixed caipirinhas every time we anchored to allow all the passengers off the boat to swim. Caipirinhas seem to be a staple in the Cariocan diet, and after consuming my fair share I can best describe them as a stronger and even sweeter mojito, though I’m still not quite certain of its ingredients. Whatever was in them, they certainly made jumping from the boat into the water a lot more fun. Music, alcohol, the ocean and sun? An afternoon well spent!
Saturday night was much drier than Friday, and after refuelling after the boat trip with fajitas at a Mexican restaurant we headed out to a crêperie/sports bar (?!) to start the night. UFC is hugely popular in Brazil, and as I enjoy watching one man spin kicking another man in the face as much as the next guy, watching 5 fights in a row whilst sat at a bar with a beer and a chocolate crêpe is my idea of a great Saturday night. The atmosphere in the open top bar only made the experience much better, with the noise in the bar during the heavyweight championship bout easily rivalling the noise heard in any packed out botequim in Rio during a local football derby. After the fights had finished at about 1am, we headed to one of the local clubs. It really was a local club, a fact that became immediately obvious by what I can only assume were the stereotypically large derrières of the many Brazilian women that appeared to act as an obstacle course on my way to the bar. Though I was feeling confident after a few caipirinhas and a few more Brahmas and thought I was dancing brilliantly at the time, in hindsight I am doubtful that I came close to rivalling the feet and hip movements of the other club goers. But, I had a brilliant time and I loved the music, I only wish I could have stayed there for another night.
So, the weekend in Buzios was a holiday away from what many would call a holiday in Rio. Though, as I hope these blog entries have established, my time in Brazil has so far rewarded me with far more experiences and challenges than I could ever have seen or done on any holiday that I have been on, and I’m sure there will be many more surprises to come.

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Favela life.

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I had been told on Monday that Tuesday afternoon would play host to a party for the children of the community. I arrived at the favela on Tuesday morning prepared only for what I had expected to be an easy and relaxing morning preparing the community centre for the afternoon’s celebrations. But, I was met on my way into the favela by one of the local project coordinators who asked for my help to move materials that were needed to construct the house on the plot that I had assisted in clearing at the beginning of last week. How could I say no? An opportunity to prove that the white Englishman wasn’t afraid to get his hands dirty, and to work hard in the hot Brazilian conditions? I think it was equally an opportunity to prove all of the above to myself, and it was certainly one of the most physically demanding days I’ve endured.
We made our way through the narrow and dark corridors of the favela until we came to an open square, from which a somewhat intimidating stack of well over a thousand large clay bricks stood in front of us. Dressing in my party attire was hardly the best idea, and I knew as soon as I stepped out of the door in the morning that I had probably shot myself in the foot by doing so. Carrying 1200 bricks bare chested and bare handed was not quite my idea of a party, but I came to understand so much more about life in the a favelas and how much this house meant to the family that would be moving into it after it’s completion. Two of the family’s daughters, aged 15 and 17 years old, helped us throughout the morning carrying almost as many bricks and getting just as covered in orange brick dust as I was. I kept making comparisons between English children at a similar age and the children of the favela. Some may point out some technical illegalities in the he use of child labour, which rightfully and humanely exist most prominently in Economically Developed countries such as the United Kingdom. Those same people would also point out that such laws should also exist in Brazil, and they do, as it is illegal to obtain employment under the age of 16. Though, with such a troubled history and vast amounts of poverty it is unsurprising that there are still over 3.7 million working minors in the country. Anyway, the point I want to make and what I had learnt that morning is that these two young women wanted to help. I for one, at 15 or 16 years old was well known by my family to dodge and avoid any form of hard work, certainly in terms of physical labour. I seem to remember believing that mowing the lawn was a task too dangerous and far too physically challenging to give up an hour of my time for. Maybe I’m wrong in describing the children as ‘wanting’ to work with us in carrying the bricks. Maybe they felt it was the least that they felt they could do after receiving help from the volunteer organisation in the payment and construction of their house. Maybe it was just expected of them, which would contribute a degree of reasoning toward the continued existence of working minors in Brazil. Whichever underlying motivation it is, they helped us with a smile, aided in overcoming the language barrier with laughter and made a hard and painful morning into something enjoyable that I will never forget.
From afar, the favelas may appear beautiful in the foreground of a sunset or in the background of a photograph of Cristo Redentor (Christ the Redeemer), but the appearance and smells of the favelas cannot be sugar coated. The close knit communities however, are something that I have never experienced before. Children playing in the streets together, music can be heard from all areas of the favela, and most amazingly almost everyone you walk past is either smiling or laughing, a feeling particularly prominent amongst the young children. Less is most certainly more in the favela, whilst the simple joys are definitely enjoyed to their upmost capabilities.
The significant use of modern appliances and technology here has also surprised me, though I am unsure as to whether the image that I had imprinted in my mind of favela life may have been to naive to depend upon. Most shacks and houses are connected to electricity, through a terrifically hectic network of overhead electricity cables and telephone lines that supply the power to televisions and lighting amongst other things. I’m quite certain I heard several families listening to Radio 1 earlier in the week, and I’m certain that British and American popular music is just as enjoyed here as anywhere else.

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