Saturday, April 4, 2015

Losing someone you love, I LOVE YOU FUZZY!


   My little buddy who I found here living on this rooftop in March of 2010.


Its very difficult for me to even type this. For anybody that has ever had a pet you will understand this. To lose this pet is awful but for me to write about it I think will help for me to celebrate his memory.

I have always been more of a cat person. I like dogs but living in such tight spaces in a favela community, dogs would be difficult to have. I always had cats as they were easy to take care of and I liked that they also were more independant. I live a busy lifestyle and having to take a dog for a walk 3 times a day would be impossible.

In 2010 while walking down one of the tight alleyways this little black and white tuxedo cat about 3 months old came out to greet me. I thought wow, cute cat, really friendly and all, gave him some attention then moved on to my day. Soon after that, everyday I would walk down this alley way I would see this same cat. Again he would greet me and want me to scratch his ears and give him attention. At the time I didn't have any cats and never really thought about having one, even though I loved cats.

I started to think again about wanting a cat and this cat was on my mind. One day while walking through the alleyway I saw my little friend, stopped gave him his usual head scratch and a lady from across the alleyway came out of her door. I asked her if she knew if this cat had an owner. She said that the cat lived on the rooftop and people would often feed him and give him water. I told her that I love cats and maybe I could take him. She said "sure, take him and give him a good home". I told her I would think about it. So, I went home without taking him as I really had to think if I could do this. I didn't want to take a cat that I couldn't provide for.

About 1 week later I came back, I saw the lady and told her I wanted to take "Fuzzy" home. I came with a box and blanket to ease transport. Fuzzy was up on the rooftop and I couldn't reach him. So, one of the neighbors was able to help me to get him into the box. Once in the box I ran home, opened the box to his new home. For about 5 days straight, he would not leave my side, sleep by my pillow and never a meow from his mouth. He was finally "home"! And spoil him I did.

First order of business was to give him a bath. He had fleas and it took 3 baths to get rid of the fleas. Then I took him to the vet. During the visit, the doctor told me that he had a upper respiratory problem so breathing would be at times difficult for him. I noticed that he would play for about 30 seconds and his heart beat would be accelerated. I made a decision at that time that I would not do anything to accelerate his heart beat. So, I never played with him. He knew what he could handle so I left it to him.




He was very affectionate and he loved people. His favorite thing to do was to sleep on top of the turn tables in our Dj School where the students would pet him and give him lots of love. He loved the dj school and music and students would always greet him.

From the first day I got him, he was always wanting cuddles. He loved being held and stroked. He was the most easy going cat I ever had. We used to call him "Bob Marley", because he appeared always in a really relaxed state as if he smoked a joint. A mouse could run in front of his face and he would not move.

At about 2 years old, he got sick, I took him to the vet. He had kidney problems so we went through a process of cleaning his kidneys and changing his food. He improved and was back to normal. After that I started doing more research on cats and health to make sure all 3 of my cats were fed well and taken care of. The vet recomended to change the food and I did for all the cats.

The beginning of his passing began late this past Thursday April 2nd night around 10:30pm. I heard a bang type sound coming from the dj school. I went to go check it out and found Fuzzy on the ground face down with his legs splayed outwards. I observed for a bit and just thought he was relaxing. I left the room and 5 minutes later I heard this meowing howling sound, so I went back in the dj school and saw him dragging his body across the floor with his front paws. His back legs appeared to be paralyzed. He was breathing heavy, accelerated heart beat and the pupils of his eyes were huge. After about 30 minutes he calmed down and seem to be stable but I still knew that he needed medical attention.

I immediately searched online for a 24 hours vet close by. I eventually was able to talk to one. She asked for his symptoms and I told her. She said to get him to a vet ASAP. Unfortunately I could not find a vet open as it was 11pm now. All I could do is try to comfort him, so I found him a spot away from the other cats. Immediately when I woke up yesterday (Friday April 3rd Good Friday), I left to take him to the vet. First vet is 50 steps from my front door result: closed, I walked down to another vet about 200 meters down the street, again: closed, So, I went outside Rocinha to another vet and again: closed! FUCK!!!!!!!!!!! Stupid religious holidays.. everything on not so "good" friday was CLOSED!! All I could do is again make him comfortable. He drank water and seemed to relax.

Around 10pm last night (Friday April 3rd) I got down on my stomach turned on my side facing him, and I put my head close to his about 1 foot away. I looked into his eyes and had a feeling that he would not last the night. I started to talk to him gently and his eyes responded. I could see that he was focused on me. I told him that it was ok if he had to go, and that I would miss him. I told how much he was such a cool cat and how I was lucky to have him. As I stroked his head, I started to cry. I told him how much I loved him and that I would miss him. I also told him that it really hurt me to see him suffer. I wanted to see him at peace!

As I got ready for bed, he dragged his body to my bed side and tried to pull himself up onto my bed. I felt awful as I know he wanted to be by my side. I did not want to pull him up because I know this kind of movement would put him in pain. The last thing I wanted to hear was my poor Fuzzy screaming out in pain. He dragged himself by my head but remained on the floor. I was in arms reach of him. After not being able to sleep the night before because of me worrying about him, I finally shut my eyes and off I slept.

During the night I heard Fuzzy moan in pain for about 2 or 3 minutes but I felt helpless. What could I do to ease this cats pain? This killed me hearing him cry.

The plan was today to take him to the vet at 9:30am as soon as it opened. I woke up to find Fuzzy not moving, not breathing and cold. I knew he was gone! I broke down and cried for what seemed to be like an hour. I sat and stroked his body, crying and apologizing for not being able to do more to help him.

I now have 2 cats left to give all my love. "Joy" and "Joao" know that Fuzzy has passed and are mourning their own way. Now today we will find a proper burial spot for Fuzzy. I know I can't do this. This is way too emotional for me.


             Fuzzy loves to be held like a baby.


he always loves attention from anybody..

I will never forget my buddy, such a loving caring cat!


    I let him "walk all over me"

from the time we started the dj school, Fuzzy liked to hang out on the           equipment as if he is "keeping it warm" for somebody.

    After a hard night of mixing!

    Visitors to our dj school loved him. He loved laying on people's sandals

    Always up for a chin rub!

    He liked sitting or hanging out on my shoulder

    Fuzzy posing with some of our guests.


My little buddy, Fuzzy, you have passed on but will never be forgotten!  Thank you to all the people who have supported me in this difficult time.

Fuzzy's final resting spot at the top of Rocinha in an area called Laboriaux. I want to thank my friend Jody for burying him in this special spot!



                                                    Peace FUZZY!

Jody King's favorite foto of Fuzzy. Hanging out in the Dj School on top of the turntables! I love you Fuzzy!


     "Fuzzy da Silva"  January 10th, 2010 - April 4th,          2015  Aprox: 4:00am


Monday, March 23, 2015

More Questions



Now some more direct questions that I will answer based on my experiences mostly or people who I know very well. 

1.) Have you ever been discriminated for living in the favela?
Yes, Favelas still have this stigma.  People outside think everybody here is a drug dealer, thief or violent. It is true that we have bad people here. When you have a huge population, of course there will be some bad ones in there too. With poverty of any level of insecurity can exist. That, and lack of education can lead to young people to get involved in trouble. The public school system is very poor and is not equal quality to what the middle and upper classes receive. Every child when they are young have dreams to be somebody, a football player, a fireman, a veterinarian, a teacher, many things. But sadly many of favela children will not have that opportunity. Many families live on one or two minimum salaries and this is not a lot of money. When a child grows up in the favela, he usually goes on to be a service industry worker. The most common jobs for favelados are housekeeper, construction worker, bus driver, cashier, moto-taxi or owning a small business in the favela. There are many children that would like to have other options but the public school system does not prepare these kids to go to university. The discrimination comes from the middle and upper classes and their treatment of service industry workers. They think because we earn less money that we don’t have value. But favelados run the city. If I were to make a phone call to everybody from a favela and tell them not to go to work tomorrow, this city would shut down. We do have value, we just don’t get treated with value.

My personal experiences, I have noticed when talking to people who I don’t know from outside, as soon as they find out I live in a favela, they treat me differently. Its like they don’t want to talk or be seen with somebody from the favela. I don't like to lie about where I was from or where I live. Why should I be ashamed of the place I am from? For example, I will meet somebody outside and they find out I speak English and they will want to talk to me and seem happy, smiling etc.. After a while when the conversation turns to where I live, then things change. Then its as if the person tries to find a reason to not talk to me or they will make excuse why they need to leave.  I have had this happen. Its very strange. This is sad because I read every night and I am constantly learning. I know that I can be an interesting person to talk to. Why is where I am from so important that people judge me in a negative way and they don't even know me?

I have experienced discrimination many times but its not obvious, but I pick it up in how people treat me. My skin color is white as my roots are from Ceara, the northeast of Brazil. Over 70% of Rocinha is of northeastern descent so seeing white people here is not rare. Color percentages also depend on each favela. Some have more darker skin people and others like Rocinha have white, black and brown with different shades mixed in.

Another time I was asked to leave a upper class shopping mall by security. I think the security guy saw my tattoo “Rocinha”, on my arm and wondered why I was in the mall. I tried to explain to him that I had money but still, he insisted I leave. I think he thought I didn’t have money and that I might steal something. I am white skin color but I know it must be worse for those of darker skin or black people. If I didn't leave, he said he would call the police. Being from a favela, I did not want to deal with the police as they would assume I did something wrong.

My neighbor went to a job interview and was qualified for the job the company was offering but he didn’t get the job. With him, he is mixed race guy. Again on his resume you need to put your address and if it says Rocinha, some employers can choose not to hire you. So, now I have friend in Rocinha that use outside address so they don't need to experience this kind of prejudice.

I overheard one store employee say they would never hire people from the favela because they are not reliable. Anytime inside there’s a shoot out the favela resident may not be able to leave the favela and they be late or miss work. They also said that the favelado may steal from their place of employment. People have this assumption that if you are poor, automatically means that you will steal things.

Inside the favela there is discrimination with the police.  Especially, if you are darker skin and between the ages of 14-25, expect the police to stop and search you at least two to three times a week. My friend Dembore has had police machine guns pointed at his head several times.  I think they stop him because he has tattoos and a beard.

I know I can walk by Ipanema beach in the late afternoon or evening especially near Arpoador, and you can smell marijuana being smoked and the police there do nothing. But inside the favela, if the police catch you smoking this, they will physically beat you up, thinking that you must be a drug trafficker. Two sets of rules, one for the favelado and another for the other people. So, yes discrimination appears in two forms, social class and skin color. 

I think this happens because of the media’s image of favelas is one of drug trafficking and crime. Yes, we do have these problems in our favela, but it is a very small percentage of the population that do these things.  Everybody else just wants to live an honest life, have a good job, get married, have children, go to the beach and be able to walk in their favela without a problem. That’s all we want.

We have over 1020 favelas in the state of Rio, over 780 within the municipal district of the city of Rio. At any given time the police are making “operations” in these favelas to catch drug dealers and to find drugs. Sometimes in these operations, people are killed, mostly drug traffickers, but stray bullets do make innocent victims. So, for the outsider watching the tv news every night, their images of favelas are of shootings, violence and death. Favelas are places you don’t go, dangerous areas.  All the media shows is the negative things, no wonder why most people are afraid of the favelas. Their only reference about these communities is what they read in the newspaper or see on tv.  This is the continuing cycle of discrimination.

2.) Do you feel different for being a favelado/favela dweller? What makes you different from people who live in the "formal city"?? 
Sometimes, I do. But I know I am different. I am nothing like the guy who lives in Copacabana or Ipanema. I don’t share their life experiences. They are raised in stable household, have a financially secure family, go to good quality schools, have opportunities and are connected to others like them. How can I have a conversation with a guy like this? I do not hate him. But, I don’t share his same interests or life experiences. I guess we could talk about football but you can’t build a friendship on one thing. I think also the people on the asphalt are concerned more with how others think of them. If a guy from Ipanema was found out by his friends to have a friend from the favela, some may look down on him or wonder why. This is a general statement but I have found this true in my life. I know maybe 3 people from outside the favela but we don’t hang out or anything. And they never come here in Rocinha.

Sometimes people will look down on you or treat you like they think you are stupid. When I need to go outside the favela, I just do what I need to do and then come back.  I like the favela because its real people and you can’t pretend to be something you are not.  So, if people start acting like they are better, others will put them in their place.  “You are from the favela too, so put your nose down.”  I don’t like leaving the favela. I prefer to stay inside where I feel comfortable.

What makes me different is I am humble and I appreciate everything I have. I am thankful as life could be far worse.  I don’t value material things over people. I am also not ashamed to live in this favela!

 3.) Do you feel uncomfortable when you go out of the favela to other neighborhoods in the city? 
Sometimes I do because outside is so big and be confusing. Inside the favela we know where everything is and if you get lost or need help there are people who will show you the way. I do leave my favela as have many friends in other favela communities so I like to visit them. It's sad because we are all human beings that share this planet. We all need to get to know each other and work together for a better world.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

New Questions



This foto really has nothing to do with the questions but I saw these two and I thought why not? For some of these questions are serious and I had to really think. So have two adorable cats as a foto just helps for me to appreciate the simple things, the good things, like my two cats who love each other dearly. "Fuzzy" is the cat on the left and he is the oldest at 4 years old and his fluffy sister "Joy" to the right.

I receive many emails and people asking me questions about my favela life. I don't know of anybody else that writes a blog about their life in a favela. I think many don't like to talk about their life because they think nobody is interested. I started this blog because people were curious and little information about favelas is known other than what you hear in the media. So, I started this blog and I am happy I did. Many of you read my posts and then email me. Its nice to have people wanting to know what life is like.

Below is some questions that were recently sent to me, and I want to share them with you. I answered the best I could for the amount of time I had. Im sure I could have said more or gone into more detail, but then I would not be posting it now.

• How is it like to live there in the favela?
This is a very general question and I could probably write a book about living here. It can be chaotic and everywhere you go you see people. I love living here because there’s so much to do and so much activity. Rocinha is like an anthill. You can see people working, kids walking to school. There is a lot of traffic with cars, buses and motorbikes everywhere. We who live here are very fortunate because Rocinha has everything. We have over 6,000 different types of businesses here. We have 4 national banks, 2 radio stations, 1 monthly news paper, 3 forms of public transportation, 8 sushi restaurants. Rocinha really is a city of about 300,000 people packed into 190,000 sq meters of space. Sometimes the weather affects the electricity or internet connections. Many people now use internet. We only have internet here since 2002 so its still new for many people. People are always improving their houses to make them better and you can always hear construction work going on somewhere inside of here. And Rocinha is still growing. 

• How would you describe your community?
Its amazing what the people do here. This place is organic, built by the hands of the people. So much creativity and even with all the problems we have, people still smile and there is a good vibe to this place. The amazing people inside this favela is what makes this place what it is! I enjoy when people in the favela get together to watch the football games or any sporting event. Today the Flamengo football team beat Vasco and so much happiness on the street!

• What do you have here that does not exist anywhere else?
A real sense of community. We all know each other. People say "hello" to you on the street. They stop and shake your hand. For me, I feel loved, needed, wanted and cared for and this is the only place that I feel this. I have lived in other places (not favelas) and I never felt such warmth of the people that I feel here. Rocinha is love! 

• What annoys you the most?
That the government will not help us improve the social services here. They can spend billions on the World Cup to please investors and the rich, but how about the almost 2 million in Rio that live in favelas? We are the people who work in the service industry and make the city run. Without us, the city does not operate! We need some better system of waste management for the garbage. We need open sewers to be covered. Better education for our youth so they can have improved opportunities to go to university and get better jobs. It would be nice to see kids not getting into trafficking or other crimes. Its all about education! Brasil does not invest in its youth. What a waste especially in the favela where there are so many talented people. People deserve to live in dignity. We need a police that respects every citizen no matter the social class.

What does make you proud?
We are survivors. We experience a lot here. Life can be difficult but we have each other and we do help each other. Even with the challenges we still manage to keep going. The favela needs to continue to improve. And slowly inside the community we are making changes that we can. People start their own small businesses. They improve their houses. They problem solve with help of neighbors or community leaders.

• Would you like to live in another place? Why, could you explain?
No, I prefer to stay here and help by being one of those who is actively trying to improve things for people here. I cannot abandon this place. If I were to leave, where would I go? What would I do? Especially moving to a different place, I wouldn’t have friends. And being favelado outside the favela, life would be even more complicated for me. I see no reason to leave here.

• Do you think that the community is united or divided? (as if it had sub neighbourhoods?)
I don’t think we are divided in a bad way. In Rocinha we have about 25 sub neighborhoods within this large favela. I live in Cachopa and I have friends that live in Vila Verde, Rua 1, Roupa Suja, Via Apia, Boiadeiro, many areas. Every area is a little different. Some areas are more residential and where I live on the main street there are a lot of small businesses. As far as people themselves being divided, no.

• Do you feel safe, or do you fear living here?
Most of the time I do feel safe here. I walk through all areas of the favela and have no fears. The only time its dangerous is when the police and traffickers decide to start shooting at each other. But as for residents here, I don’t have fears of anybody here and there is no reason for me to fear anybody. 

• What are the places that you find most safe? And those you are afraid of
going to? I am not afraid to go anywhere inside of here. I live here and many people know me. I am more afraid of certain neighborhoods outside the favela.





Thursday, March 19, 2015

Forming Partnerships






All Fotos: Jody King

I have been in the tourism business for about 8 years and I often get questions about Rio, other places to see and visit. At Favela Adventures we have decided to focus 100% of our attention of developing interesting things to do while visiting the favela where we live. I think its best for us to be experts at one thing than trying to be just average and offer all sorts of different tours. Our tours are only specific to Rocinha. To find out more about the work we do and our community involvement please check out http://www.favelatour.org 

I often receive requests from visitors and tourists who want referrals to other great tour companies that can offer good quality tours for a reasonable price. Most of our clients are middle class people from all over the world, so its not like they are looking for VIP treatment. 

What I am looking for is a cross promotion type of partnership. I would promote your company on my website which would include a write up about your tours, giving my viewers and idea of what services you offer and of course direct contact to you either by email, telephone or both. And I would expect you would do the same for me.

At some point after seeing your website and having email contact, I would want to meet you in person to get to know you a little better just as you would want to meet me.

My clients expect excellent service which includes that guides that speak fluent English, Spanish or Portuguese. The most important is that the guides show up on time to meet guests. In the past I have had problems working with outside tour companies showing up late with all sorts of excuses. This does not go over well and can ruin both partners reputations. I have great reviews on Trip Advisor for a reason. People that are visiting Rio are here only for a certain amount of time and want to visit many points of interest and the last thing they need is guides who show up late or not at all.

I am currently looking for a partnership with a tour company that includes activities or visits to sites such as:  

-Cristo Redentor
-Sugar Loaf
-Santa Teresa
-Rio City Grafitti or Art Tour
-Rio Downtown/City Walking Tour
-Niteroi Museum of Art
-Authentic Samba Show at Salgueiro or Mangueira Samba Schools
-Lapa Night Life Tour
-Football (Soccer) Games at Maracana Stadium
-Boating Tour or Party
-Fishing Tour
-Diving/Snorkeling Tour
-Sambadrome
-Hang Gliding/Para Gliding
-Photography Tours Specific to Rio

** I am open to receiving ideas about other types of tours as well. 

As I have done research, I see that some companies offer tours that are very expensive. Not every foreigner is rich nor do they want to feel ripped off. My prices for my favela tours between 65-75 reais each person which is actually on the low end compared to many hotels that charge from 120 to 160 reais for a 2.5 hours visit and hostels charging 90 reais for a 3 hours visit. The reason why, is I don't need to pay a commission so my tour prices can be very reasonable.

What I want to do, is to eliminate the whole idea of having to pay a commission to somebody. Chasing down payments, having to check bank statements for deposits or chasing money is not fun and a big waste of time. Been there, done it and it hasn't worked well. 
This makes everything easier and no stress.

If I promote your company on my website, through business cards or word of mouth, I expect you to do the same. I am all about helping others to earn more business, especially with tour companies who offer a great service. We currently work with an excellent guide who does about 12 different hiking tours in Rio. His services are great and he is very affordable. If a client asks me about a hiking tour of Pedra Bonita or Dois Irmaos, of course I will refer to my partner. This way its not about counting how many tours I referred to you or you to me. The clients contact you directly to take your tours. The information is there for them to make the decision.

If you have interest in wanting to create a partnership with Favela Adventures, please contact me at: visitrocinha@gmail.com




Friday, March 6, 2015

Changes for 2015




The year of 2015 was a good one. We increased our tours by 38%. Each year I keep the numbers of what was earned. Our top guide was able to make more money than ever before. Dembore rented out his house during the World Cup, worked making tours with us and also played some dj gigs. I was so happy to see a guy who before was taking home 800 reais a month to now see him earn close to 2,500-3,000 a month.

The World Cup was extremely busy and we were able to employ 6 guides. Three guides full time and 3 part time. Our tours were so popular that I had to turn away business. I passed on tours to other guides here in the favela. Dembore earned almost 4,000 reais in tours during the World Cup.

I am very thankful of the good karma that has been part of my life for the past 10 years. I really believe that what you put out there comes back. Working in tourism I have met people from all corners of the earth. Many have come back to visit or volunteer here. I have never had such a great job. The dj school is popular and successful.  And our future looks good to buy this building.

I want to put out thanks for several people who are important in my life. Without these people 2014 would not have been the success it was. Thanks to Dembore, Tais, Jody, Obi and Magno. Rita, for all your support of our work here in Rocinha and keeping the community happy by bringing the "Eu (heart) Rocinha" wristbands. Berit, for your caring for the most needy of people here. I know you will return soon! Daniel for your numerous visits and making the camera project a reality. And all of those tourists who came on our tours and have helped with the dj school or donations that support our various projects here in Rocinha.

Ten years ago I never thought I would be doing the work I am doing now. I was a sign painter, dj, working in a spa. My life was very different and more stressful. When I returned to Rocinha I was not sure what I would do but had ideas on work that would be satisfying.  There were several people in Rocinha that suggested I show foreigners our community. In the beginning I did not want to do this because I was not sure what I would tell people.

After much thinking and meetings with residents, I decided I would do everything to learn about this community. Its one thing to live here and exist and another to live here with a real understanding of how everything operates here. I wanted an accurate story to tell I did not want to reinforce negative images of favelas like the mainstream media shows. Everybody has access to the negative. I just wanted to show the everyday life of what its like to live in Rocinha.

So now its 2015 and we have been at this business for over 7 years now. We have been able to give many jobs to residents and show the favela they way we want. Many tourists have returned to volunteer with many projects here. And the World Cup generated over 50 kilos in donations of school and art supplies who benefited 4 of our projects in Rocinha. This work has been so rewarding.

With all of the success there has been sacrifices. My social life has been cut down considerably. I have had to learn that others now depend on me. Without me working online and answering emails, the other guides would not have work. My responsibility outside of myself is bigger. The sacrifices are there and there is good and bad to this. The good, is the ability to help others earn a living and myself earning a good wage.

The biggest sacrifice has been my health. My health is not the same as it was 10 years ago. Ten years ago I was in shape and competing in MMA and playing Ice hockey.  Now I am out of shape and at 5 foot 4 inches tall I weigh 218 pounds. Or 157 cm tall and about 100 kilos. At my height I should weigh about 165 pounds or 75 kilos.

Since 2009 when the business really got busy, I haven’t had the time to take care of myself. It has be difficult to find time to do other things outside of the tours and the dj school. But I am going to make some changes.

The first obvious thing was to have some dental work done. My mother lost all f her teeth by the time she was 35. I see some of this heredity pass on to me. So, I will take the steps necessary to improve my dental health. The second thing I want to do is to get in better shape and try to lose about 25 kilos  (about 55 pounds) of weight. I know this will not be easy, as I need to organize my time so I can make this work.

I have been to the dentist 2 times in the last ten days. I still have more work to be done. Getting teeth pulled is very painful, especially the recovery period. I was at the dentist last night and still my mouth hurts. But as my mouth heals it will be much better.


I am on my way and 2015 is my year to finally take care of me!

The challenges in hiring locals



   Foto by Jody King: Jody with tourists playing football with the local children!

This is a rant that I wrote about 2 weeks ago and I certainly feel better now, but it represents what many business owners have to go through when it comes to hiring people or trying to form partnerships with people in your own neighborhood. This is not exclusive to Rocinha or Rio, but many places I have lived. I had similar experiences in the US and Canada too. I write about this as I think some people need to hear this as some may not want or cannot express themselves like the way I am going to. It needs to be said.

I live in Rocinha, a huge favela and I really do love living here. I know and understand that as humans we all have our each individual ways of doing things. Nothing upsets me more than people who try to take advantage of others and people who don’t value one’s time. And people who claim to be friends or partners but don’t treat you like you are. People who don't respect me or my time, don't deserve my respect or time. I do my best to follow through with comittments that I have made with people and I have no problem saying, "NO", if I cannot do something.

I love teaching people about our favela and the truth of what goes on here.  Unfortunately the media tends to sensationalise the bad things. Rarely do they talk about the good things. So, this is where we come in to show the reality of the situation. Hiring help or working with others here can be a challenge.

Since 2007 we have been working here showing the tourists our life from the inside, from the view of the residents. On my website it states that we only hire people from the favela.  The majority of people who work with me know and understand the value of what we are trying to accomplish.

Hiring guides who speak fluent English who live in Rocinha has been very difficult. I have had two guides who worked with me who stole money from me and one guide who doesn’t understand the value of people’s time and responsibilities.

The two guides who stole from me there’s nothing much I can do. So, one stole 40 reais and the other stole 85 reais. Was it worth it to lose a great job over such little money? Its not the amount of money stolen that concerns me but that they don’t seem to understand that their actions create a reaction where they end up being the big loser in the end. They come from jobs making 40-50 reais a day to work with me and earn 90-120 reais day but they don’t value this.

Last night I had a tour booked for another guide who lives here who has his own company. He is a good tour guide and have had nothing but great reviews of his work. His only problem is he has no concept of time or he says he will show up to meet me but then doesn’t. I have a big problem with people who tell me they are going to do something but don’t do it. These people are the same people that if you were to do this to them, they would be upset and complain.

When I do tours I bring enough money with me to cover the bus fare for all my guests. This tour guide never has money to pay and asks the tourists to pay and then at the end deducts the amount from the tour fee. I don’t agree with this. In my company we always pay the bus fare up front as this is standard procedure for most tour companies. It doesn’t look professional if on my website it says that the bus fare is included but when I arrive I’m asking the guests to pay for the bus. Even if I do compensate them at the end, I just doesn’t sit well with many visitors. When I am working with tourists I cater to "their culture” of how things work, not Brazilian culture or my own “culture”. They are paying me to provide a service and have certain expectations of professionalism from me and the guides who work with me.

Yesterday afternoon, I had made an appointment to visit a friend and their daughter was having a birthday party in another favela. The party started at 8:30pm but I told them I would arrive by 9:30pm at the latest. So, last night I asked this guide to come by between 7-9pm to pick up the bus fare for the following days tour.  He replied that he would come by between 7-8pm. I’m thinking this is perfect for me because I wont miss the party.  If he comes by at 8pm I can leave right away and arrive at the party around 8:45-9:00. They know I would be arriving a little late but they said it was ok. So, 7pm comes around, no show, 8pm comes around still no show. I’m slowly starting to get upset because this person is obviously not thinking of his responsibility. At 9 pm still no show. I call my friend and tell her that I’m not sure If I will make it because this tour guide has not shown up or even called me to let me know what is going on. But I wait it out because I am thinking that he might just be late.

Finally, I make a decision to cancel his tour and decide to do it myself. He never did show up last night and no phone call telling me that he would not show! Total disrespect for me, my time, my friend and her 6 year old daughter that was expecting me to be present at her birthday party. This guide ruined my whole night. He only thought about himself and not that his actions would create a problem for me and my friend (who organised the birthday party).

Around 11 pm he sends this message saying I am “too hard and its my way or no way, I thought we were partners.” etc. He is upset with me. Hey dude, I was home waiting on YOU! I don’t tell people that I will meet them and not bother showing up! If I cannot make an appointment, I call and let the person know. One phone call from him telling me that he could not come could have avoided all this trouble! This coming from a guy who told me he really needs a job and money.

First lets clarify what the word "Partner" means. A partner, to me, is somebody you know, you spend quality time with who is on the same wave length as you and shares similar goals especially if you work together. A partner is somebody you trust and work together for the benefit of both people, not just one person. Developing a partnership takes time. A partner is not one who you meet on the street in passing say hello, then move on. They are a person who is usually a close friend. Because when working with a partner you share things, experiences that otherwise you wouldn't share with just anyone. So my definition of a partner is very different than what some people here think of it as being.

By not showing up, this is not a partner. Some people don’t understand but this is still a job. Would he act this way if he worked in a supermarket or a hotel? Of course not, they would fire him. So why is working with me so different.  Lets make this clear, I know for a fact that if I did this to him, he would not be happy. He would be pissed off wondering why I didn’t call him or show up.

Partners treat partners with respect. They do what they say they are going to do. If they can’t do something, then they call to say they can’t do it . Partners do not leave their partners waiting for them, then don’t show up and no phone call.  I would never think of doing this to someone.

I think there are several things going on here. I am very serious about my business but this is why my business is successful. I am not “hard”, I am disciplined! I still enjoy life but I know my responsibilities. If you show up at my place for an appointment and you are 5-10 minutes late, no problem.  And I am talking an appointment, not a party where arriving on time is not as important. But not showing up and no phone call is unacceptable. This is simple common sense and respect for your “partner”. Also the guide is 24 years old and young.  I am in my 50’s and having lived in different countries I “get it” when it comes to commitments with other people.  We all have busy lives and things to do!

Interesting enough, I have two other guides that work with me and I have never had an issue with time, being late, not showing up or lack of communication. Dembore and Obi are both Brazilian born in favelas. I think the difference is both Dembore and Obi have had heavy contact with foreigners and foreign culture. Dembore, born in Minas Gerais in a favela there, had the opportunity to live in the USA for 8 years. In living in the US, Dembore held down several jobs, mostly working as a server in restauarants and as an internet installer. So, Dembore understands the value or having a regular job, showing up on time and when dealing with friends, showing this same respect.  Obi has a brother married to an Australian girl and has had a lot of their influence regarding responsibility rub off on him. Obi is the part owner of a hostel in Rocinha and deals with foreigners on a daily basis. He understands the value of being on time. When tourists come to Brazil, many are here for a short time. They want to see as much as they can while here so it is imperative that if we work with them that we respect their time and limitations. It’s business 101.

I have another guide who is not born in Brazil but lived in Vidigal for 13 months and has lived in Rocinha 8 months. Jody is from England and loves Brazil and enjoys living in Rocinha. He loves the great choices of food, decent transportation, a lot cheaper rent and the friends he has made here. He also is volunteering with some football projects here. He approached me over 8 months ago asking about working with us. He had done tours in Vidigal and also specializes in over 10 different hiking tours in Rio de Janeiro. He is motivated and again, I have NEVER had any issues of lateness or not showing up when he said he would. Just this morning he came by my place to pick up a refrigerator. The moving guy had scheduled to meet at my house at 9 am. Jody arrived at 8:45 am.  I had asked Jody to come a little early because I had to leave to work by 8:50 am to catch the bus. We get along great because we show this respect for each other.  This is the kind of people I want working with us! Dembore, Obi and Jody, never a problem.

It’s interesting because this tour guide who wrote to me mentioned something about “your culture”.  I am a business person, so, I have a “business culture”.  In other words, I get shit DONE! I am sure he never would have mentioned this if he were in Sao Paulo. The “culture” of Sao Paulo is a “business culture”. Much like the developed world. In Sao Paulo if you don’t show up or call, people will not take you seriously and it will be very difficult to find work.  And this is in regular relationships too. I see a big parallel with Rio and Los Angeles and comparing Sao Paulo with New York. The Rio/L.A. thing is similar in you have the tourism, hot tropical climate, beach culture, relaxed attitudes etc.  Is it the sun in Rio that creates too much relaxed of attitudes here? In New York and Sao Paulo, life moves faster and people get stuff done and they don’t wait for slackers or flaky people! But I have met serious business people here in Rio where we “click” and understand each other they “get it”. SUCCESS TAKES SACRIFICE!! And success is not about money. Its a mindset that any project you take on, you work 100% until it becomes a reality. It’s too bad I didn’t learn this until I was in my 40’s. But, I know my goals and I prefer those people who share them and want to take part.

When I lived in the USA, I had a job that started at 10 am Monday-Friday. My responsibility was to show up on time! No excuses. It was a job where I was paid to do a job. If I was sick or an emergency came up, it was MY responsibility to show respect to my job and my boss by calling them and letting them know my situation. . This is not “my culture”, this is life! In most countries this is how life works! I can’t choose the time I want to go to work. This kind of attitude is true in most things in life. Look at sports like football. You show up late? You are showing disrespect for those players who have showed up on time and this behavior is not one who is a team player!

I want to give jobs to more people from the favela but it has become a big challenge finding those who show the responsibility and understand of what it takes to do this job. I am very easy to work for. I do not micro manage as the guides are from the favela and know about life here and how to show the guests the community. They have their independence as I don’t tell them how to do their jobs. 

The three things that make a successful tour guide and person are : 

1.) Show up on time 

2.) Respect and follow through on commitments that that you make 

3.) Communicate if you can’t do something or you are going to be late.

These three things is all I ask from people who work with me. Is this unreasonable?

If you work with me, all I care about is that your word can be trusted and you do what you say your going to do. Otherwise, don’t waste my time!


If you want to be the regular “Joe”, continue on, but I got shit to do!