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BRAZIL | Saturday, 31 January 2009 | Views [2682] | Comments [1]

In Monte Azul Favela, Sao Paulo, Brazil

In Monte Azul Favela, Sao Paulo, Brazil

I finally got off the boat from Manaus to Belem! A couchsurfing host named Fabien picked me up and took me to his apartment, which is located in the middle of the city in a nice, high rise building apartment. He spoilt me insanely over the next few days, which was certainly a relief after the boat trip! He took me to a wonderful restaurant, and shouted me a all you can eat, delicious buffet!! He wouldn´t take no for an answer! Then we went to a park where there were lots of birds and butterflies.

The next day, while Fabien was at work, I decided to make him a pasta dish to make up for his generosity, but when he came home, he dragged me out for yet another meal... just as nice, and was like a mix of traditional Brazillian and European food. The chocolate dessert just melted in my mouth!! I had totally gone from cat food smelling tuna, to like five star dining!!! Fabien was even nice enough to help me out with much advice for the Nomadic Hands project )www.nomadichands.com).

It took me about 50 hours by bus and cost me $490 Real to get down to Sao Paulo from Belem. I was happy upon arrival, as my mate Jerome (who I travelled with in Peru for two months, about four months ago) was there to pick me up from the metro station and take me to his couchsurfer's (Bruno's) house to stay. 

Jerome also decided to give me an early birthday present and so sent me on a weekend of white water rafting with a whole lot of couchsurfers!! Most of the people who went were Brazillian, and so I really got to practice my Portuguese while meeting a whole lot of new friends including two now awesome mates Ricardo and Raoni.

The reason I came to Sao Paulo was to get a new passport (as mine had been stolen months ago in Peru). Unfortunately when I took all of my paperwork to the Embassy, they would not accept one of my guarantor forms (that had been sent from Australia), due to the fact my friend had written in black pen over blue pen on the form!! So I am still here... waiting for another to arrive!

But the good thing about all of this waiting is that I have also met many couchsurfers who are doing great things for social and environmental change... like Adriana (who is working on food organics) and Skip (who is working with non-profit organisations). I also stayed with Skip at a friend Eduardo's house for a few nights, and was taken to his university to see what it was like. Another couchsurfer I had been emailing (Dirk) volunteers in a favela, and invited me to go and have a look at the work they are doing.

Dirk has been volunteering at Monte Azul (Blue Mountain favela) ( http://www.monteazul.org.br/ ) for the past six months, because he wanted to help people. When I arrived at Monte Azul, he was sick and couldn't leave the volunteer house, but instead sent another volunteer (Cristoph Rust) to show me around. Christoph, who is twenty years old and has been working here for four months, came to volunteer for a year instead of doing military service in Germany. He came with the help of an organisation called Freunde der Erziehungskunst Rudolf Steinen, and teaches violin, gives English lessons, and helps in the kindergarten and in many other areas.

Cristoph kindly showed me around the favela and showed me all of the wonderful things that the organisation (that has the same name as the favela) Monte Azul has done over the past thirty years since it was first founded by a German woman, Ute Craemer. I met with Ute, who also said she was working on another project called Alianca Pela Infancia ( http://www.aliancapelainfancia.org.br/ ), which helps children. Christoph showed me the workshop, the library, the bakery, the kindergarten, the hospital, and the kitchen (which I did some lunch preparation in the next day). He also took me to Centro Culture Monte Azul, where there are capoeira, music, painting, language and dance classes, and also special activities for the disabled.

I was then taken by Christoph, to Carminha's house for coffee and biscuts. Carminha is a woman living in the Favela with her three teenage daughters Brena, Brenda and Bruna. It's quite interesting that Bruna actually has a boyfriend called Bruno too! She is very happy in the favela, and said to me how much better it is now since the organisation Monte Azul (which she now works with) came. She told me how it used to be alot poorer and how she used to live in a wooden house on the river. Her house now is quite nice, and even has a television (on which we watched a movie about a favela in Rio later that evening after she invited me to stay the night on the couch).

Before staying the night at Carminha's house, I went for an hour or two to visit the volunteer house and say hello to Dirk and all of the other volunteers. There were quite a few volunteers, and at one stage, after popcorn and cheese on bread, I could hear about 5 languages being spoken at the same time, in one small room... English, German, Spanish, Portuguese and Japanese!!

On the way back down to Carminha's house, I saw many open garages with Evangelists preaching inside. I ended up finding out that if people want to go and watch this they must pay 10% of their wages!!! Although I was in a favela, it was much safer than walking the main streets of Sao Paulo at night, because everyone knows everybody in the area. We did however walk past a young boy of only about twelve years of age, who had become involved in drug trafficking!

When Christoph and I arrived back at Carminha's house, we played a game of Badminton out on the street with her daughters and Bruno. I then went into the house again, and was offered first a nice meal, and then a comfy couch to sleep on. The next day she even put corn-rows in my hair!!

Carminha mentioned to me that she had looked at moving into a house outside of the favela, but said that she felt much safer here where she has met alot of honest people. She first moved to Monte Azul from the state of Salvador with her husband because he had a heart condition and could only get operated on in Sao Paulo (SP). Since then, her husband has moved to another area in SP with another woman, and Carminha re-married to a German man. Before she came however, everybody from her old home up north had said to her that she will either have a good life with money and be successful in SP, or she will either not have a chance and die in a favela.

But with her connection to Monte Azul, and free food (as she works for the organisation) free education for her daughters, and free medical expenses, she believes that she has a very good life.   

Christoph came to pick me up the next morning and took me to the kitchen where we made pizza bases, before eating lunch and then visiting another house in the favela where a disabled girl is living. I went to the bathroom upstairs, and was quite surprised to see a turtle wandering about, trying to enter the room that had the bathroom after I had left!?! We took the young girl for a stroll in her wheel chair, and just before leaving the favela, I visited the hospital to see pictures of what Monte Azul used to look like... alot poorer.

Volunteers are currently needed at Monte Azul so please email [email protected] if you are interested in helping or visit http://www.monteazul.org.br/ for further information.

 Alianca Pela Infancia (http://www.aliancapelainfancia.org.br/) is in need of donations.

Tags: belem, brazil, bus, favela




I'm always glad to hear there are many foreigners that come to Brazil eager to see everything and are happy to get mixed up with us, even in the favelas! I'm sure you realized it's not all about drugs and violence.

have a safe trip and I hope you still have great experiences to write about!


  claudio_depaula Jan 31, 2009 11:53 AM

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