Monday, December 19, 2016

A Loyal Friend



I wanted to separate this post from the last one as Freddy deserves his own space without any negativity. With all the challenges of running a tourism agency, one person who has always been HONEST, LOYAL and has shown the utmost RESPECT and INTEGRITY has been Freddy Gomes.

This is my good friend Freddy Gomes. I have known Freddy since 2009 when he first contacted me through email about wanting to come stay and live in Rocinha. I helped him find a place and get settled. He was able to make his own set of friends that are like family to him. But he always kept in contacts with me. He has worked on and off as a guide with Favela Adventures and always provided top notch service.

He contacted me last year about coming back to Rocinha and I told him that he would be welcome. I rehired him as a guide and he quickly got back into things. He worked before during and after the Olympics and Paralympics. Here are just a few photos of Freddy, Rocinha tour guide.








                   This was Freddy's last tour with the guys from Finland!

Freddy is leaving tomorrow on to the next phase of his life. He is going on an amazing adventure. He has decided to bike from Rio de Janeiro to Colombia. He has a blog where he will be writing about his experiences. I wish him all the best and he knows he will always have a place here in Rocinha!

To follow Freddy's wild Adventure you can read his blog here.

Me, my Bike & a Hike



Problems finding loyal guides who are not greedy!


Working in tourism in Rio, its very difficult to find loyal, honest and people with integrity. I been working in Rocinha as a tour guide since 2007. I have employed people to work with me and give opportunities to people.

This biggest problem I have had is guides who have no sense of loyalty or respect. In the last year I have had to let go two guides because of stealing clients or self promotion behind my back. As a tour operator, I pay better than most. I am not stupid, eventually I find out things from other guides or I get emails directly from clients that tell me whats going on. Clients, especially see the type of work that I am trying to do. So, when they see a guide who is working for me undercutting the hard work I do, they tell me.

Recently I found out from a good friend who has a tour company that the same thing was happening to him. He would give the local guide a tour with "X" amount of guests and later he found out that the guide had told the guests "Hey, if you have friends that want to do a tour, just have them contact me". Therefore cutting out the tour operator. This is not creating good relations between guide and operator. The tour operator let me know that the same was going on behind my back. Basically using my name and reputation of 9 years to make money, not cool. And the people that have done this to me are people that I have helped a lot.
So much for friendship or respect?

I have taken on two new guides who are eager to work and show the Rocinha community to the world. I am hoping this will be a different experience.

Daniel has worked with us before as a helper when we had big groups. And is now studying tourism. So he will be working part time as a guide and going to school.

Jucara who is 20 years old is also studying tourism too. She is a little shy so it might take her a little longer to get into doing tours by herself.

Jose, who has worked with us before will hopefully return after his Christmas job as well.

I also have another guy who is interested. I am hoping that these people will be the new face for showing our awesome community to the world! Can't wait to see how 2017 goes.


Sunday, December 18, 2016

Community in Action



Rocinha is the biggest favela in Brazil with aproximately 300,000 people. Favelas are the poor working class areas that can be seen on the hillsides of Rio. There are many here who struggle to earn a basic living, especially considering the minimum wage of about 800 reais a month. So its not surprising to see many initiatives taking place here.  The community helps itself especially around christmas time. This is just one of many things going on inside the favela.

A friend of mine told me about this event happening at the bottom of Rocinha. There was this event called Acao Social "Guerreiros de Corte" (Social Action Warrior Cutters). The event was held at the Pracinha da Roupa Suja where they usually have sports like football, basketball and volleyball. They also hold music shows and other community events there.

The event took place last week. But I have been so busy with other things. This hair cutting event was to help those in need. Bring a kilo of rice, beans, flour or some other dry food and receive a free haircut. I really needed a haircut and this was the perfect opportunity to also help out.

I brought 3 kilos of food since I thought this was more of the value of a hair cut. Normally in Rocinha haircuts at a barber cost anywhere from 12-20 reais. So I spent about this amount on my 3 kilos of food.


This was my barber "Bruce da Sabotagem" who I found out has a barber shop about 10 minutes walk from my house.


Bruce working on my hair. After he cut my hair I offered a tip and he refused and said, "No, Zezinho, this is a community project, so no money". I was impressed by these young men!

There was a line of 3 people before me so I waited and walked around taking photos of all the barbers and the particpants. It was nice to see so much support but I see this often during holidays. The community creating events that support those less fortunate.

Here are some photos from the event.





One of the organizers decided to film the barbers in action.

For the younger kids, Spiderman made an appearance.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Pedro Lucas' Birthday Party


Pedro Lucas with Grandmother Luciana

If you ever decide to live in Brazil or Rio, you will enjoy the festive environment. Everybody loves music and parties. Every month there is always some holiday (even if the day is not important) and that means a day off from work. A day off means Party! Any type of party.

Children here are fussed over and cared for very well, even in favelas. I was invited to my friends grandson's birthday party. His name is Pedro Lucas and it is his 1st birthday. You read correctly, a big birthday party for a baby who is only 1 year old. Luciana is my friend who has the daycare that we support Refugio e Fortaleza that cares for 32 children.

Children's parties are huge with family and friends of all ages taking part. In North America children's parties don't usually start until the child is about 4-5 years old, when they actually understand what is going on. And the parties tend to be small with usually close friends being invited. The kids birthday parties in the US or Canada consist of about 10-15 kids with the birthday child. There's a cake and gifts given.

In Brazil, depending on the age its a big event. Pedro Lucas' parties had about 80 people there from babies to adults. See the following photos.

The birthday boy table with candy and cake. A big production for a 1 year old.

They even hired a Dj, Dj Novinho to play both children's songs and regular music.

The party was held on a rooftop of a house. In some photos you can see the water tanks that service the house below the rooftop. About 100 people took part in the party which started at 7:00pm until about 1:00am.

All ages were invited to this party.

The girl on the left was eating as I took this photo but she still insisted that I take the photo of them together.

My friends, Igor (Luciana's son) and Luciana's husband with nickname  "China".

This girl wanted me to take her photo. She told me that when she grows up she wants to be a model. At the bottom of the favela, there is a NGO that teaches boys and girls about modelling and clothing design. When she gets older she wants to take part. Right now she is only 9 years old.

The birthday boy Pedro Lucas

Kids here actually like when you take their picture. These kids are aged 9-11.

They even hired people to cater the party. They were from Rocinha too!

I arrived at around 9:00pm and stayed until 10:30 as I had to work early on Sunday morning. I made my rounds and said hello to everyone. I spent most of my time talking with "China and Igor as they are good friends. Everyone was having a good time and it was nice to get out and actually go to a party. Often I don't have time or I am busy doing something else. I was happy to go. I am trying to not work so much and participate more in activities here. People tell me that I work too much. I agree, I need to relax and enjoy the simple things more.