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.