Thursday, April 22, 2010

Lonely Planet travel forum and favela prejudices

My guests to Rocinha, Carl Oley, Conor Sullivan, and Jade

In febuary I had the chance to host a woman from Malaysia. I have never met anybody from Malaysia so I thought this would be a good oportunity for me to get to know somebody from a different place. She contacted me through my website in September of 2009 about setting up coming to stay with me here in Rocinha. She wanted a home stay not a hostel or hotel. I always will welcome people who want to stay here and learn more about we who live here.

She came during carnival and her purpose was to enjoy Rio and see how I live in the favela. With her work schedule she did not have much time to stay here. She has traveled a lot in her life and told me that she always prefers to stay in the non turist areas. Rio during carnival can be very expensive for people on a budget. Her plans after Rio was to go trekking in Argentina for two weeks and then move on to other places.

The reason I write about is becase of the negativity on the Lonely Planet forum about her choice to stay in a favela with me. It seems that some people there have problems with her wanting to stay in a favela? I have no idea about these people and why all the negativity. Travel forums are suppose to be about an exchange of imformation and cultural enhancement. It seems some on the Lonely Planet forum look at her as staying in the favela as being a bad thing.

Now I understand that the “favela tourism” thing has people thinking many things but how about asking somebody who lives here about the issue? It seems the people who have big problems with it do NOT even live in favelas. I have written before about “favela tourism” and most people know how I feel about this. In short, to me, as long as the favela benefits in some way, and is not exploited, then I welcome tourism here.

My opinion about my guest coming here, I see it as her wanting to expand her travel experiences. We walked all through the comunity, ate out at different places in the favela she met many of my friends. She also went out on her own to see the comunity. This woman has traveled a lot and seemed to enjoy the friendly people here.

I usually do not post on travel forums as I do not have much time but I think I needed to make clear some things. She was not staying here as part of some tour. She wanted reasonably priced accommodations and wanted to experience favela culture. She had told me that the reason she has the ability to travel is becase she finds cheap accommodations and then is able to save money for her flights to all the places she wants to go. She is a experienced traveler.

While she was here, we sometimes did things together and sometimes she wanted to do things on her own. I wanted to support what ever she want to do. When she first came, I showed her where to catch buses to get around, how to get to the beach, where the cheapest and best places to eat in the favela. Becase she came during carnival and only for 4 days we did not have much time to do some of the things we wanted. A lot of the cultural programs in the favela was closed due to the blocos in the streets and varios parties in the comunity. I wanted to take her to a capoeira or samba performance but for 6 days here in Rocinha, no cultural programs were open, only street parties. We only left the favela once together to eat at a por kilo place, which I never did this before in my life. It was a great opportunity for me to experience life outside the favela. I would not do something like that alone. I need say, I do not leave the favela much becase I work here and I do not need to leave here.

Now becase I posted on the forum, there is this guy bubba who thinks that I wrote the original post as a way to promote my business. I am not stupid. I know very well the rules of these forums and if you try promote, they will remove your ability to make post in the forum. I am sure they can see that my post is from Rio de Janeiro and my visitor is across the world in Malaysia. A simple IP address check could show this.

It seems in places like the internet like Lonely Planet, everywhere you go there are people out to be negative about things. Why some these people are negative about favelas? Better to ignore and exclude hoping a problem will go away is NOT the answer. What becase we have curruption and drugs here? What becase poor people live here? I think everwhere in South America has this problem. The government of Brasil is the most currupt. Do I agree with curruption? Of corse not, but I just live here. These are social problems left to politicians and sociologists and others with education that I do not have. I am just a simple favelado trying making my way in this world. Hopefully in my work, people can see the work I am trying to do.

I think those who know me, understand how much I am trying contribute in my comunity. I live here in the favela. Everybody knows me. They like the work I do with the tours becase I show the good that exists here. Do you know that just as you are curios about the favela, people in the favelas are curios about you! I do not talk about drugs becase people already know about this. I work with art project here to try to keep the kids here out of trouble. I can not save everyone but if one kid can use his art to make money or even help raise the self esteem to do better in school, then this is good. I feel it is necessary to give back to the comunity of Rocinha that has given me so much. Everybody knows about the negative things in favelas, but how about the positive?

I am the one who lives here, not these people who write on these forums. Why they have a problem with this? I have no shame of where I live. It is what it is? I would not want to live anywhere else. Here in the favela we do not have these type of people who criticize everything people do. People are too busy trying to live there lives. It seems the people who have the most complain the most. In the United States is a perfect example. There they have everything as far as things to buy. The eletricty and water and services always work, they have everything, and they still complain!!! Yet here in the favela rarely do I hear people complain. We do the best with what we have. And the ones who seem to making the most problems on the forums are the Americans. And then they wonder why nobody likes Americans. Hey, American why do you hate me and my favela? What did I ever do to you?

So back to those negative people, if you have problems with people coming to favelas, This is YOUR PROBLEM, get some help becase people will continue to come here wether you like it or not. It is not my concern why people come here. Better though if they do offer to help in some way or want to understand how we live. But all you negative posters on Lonely Planet. they say in the US, GET A LIFE! And get off the internet and get out and travel.

For those who have interest to read this ridiculous stuff, here is the link to the forum posts on Lonely Planet. Feel free to reply but please make clear of who you are so they do not think I am posting under a other name.