Thursday, July 30, 2009

Rambo da Rocinha

Every neighborhood or city has their characters of people the are recognizeable. Rocinha has many people that stand out in the comunity as being different. People consider me a character too because I am the only person in the neighborhood who has the favela tatooed all over their body. So, I am easy recognizeable. The purpose of this post is to let you know about one of my favorites. Rambo da Rocinha!

When you see first him, you think he belongs in a war movie or a jungle. But he lives here in Rocinha. He goes by the name "Rambo". It is common in Brazil for people to have nick names. Mine is Zezinho based of my middle name "Josivaldo". Ronaldinho, famos footballer need I say more..I think you get it..

Many times I had seen him walking through Rocinha but never had time to stop and introduce myself to him. I had heard all sorts of stories about him living in a cave and all..He is always smiling and very friendly. So, this day I made the effort to say hello to him! :)

So, Rambo, whose real name is Marcio, is originally from Minas Gerais. He has lived in Rocinha now for 25 years and loves his life here. I would say that he is probably about 47 years old but keeps in good shape with all his physical work he does.

Rambo walks through the comunity wearing army fatigues for pants and a green army type shirt, with ropes around his neck, and knife in his belt. The only thing missing is a gun. But, I do not think he needs one. He wears this old green hat, like a baseball type cap.

I first met him when I was renting a kitchette (studio type place) in the ponto 7 area of Rocinha, not far from Rua 2 (2nd street). I woke one day to hear loud noises not far from my front door. It is common to hear much noise in the favela becase there is always somebody improving there house and constructions happening. But this noise was like a chainsaw, so I went to the door and saw Rambo high in a tree with ropes around him, probably safety lines so he does not fall. He was cutting branches off a tree in the middle of the favela.

I opened my door and saw him in front of me but of a distance of about 20 meters up in the tree cutting branches. I waved, and then got my camera becase I had heard many stories of Rambo and seen him walking in the streets but never saw him "working" until now. When he saw my camera he posed, no problem.

When he took a break, he came and knocked on my door. I opened it and let him in. I introduced myself and he did the same and we got to thinking ablout old times. We talked about the "old" Rocinha and how it was, about the first "dono do morro" Denis who was loved by all for instituting "A lei da favela" (the law in the favela) here in Rocinha. We had many old stories and memories of happenings in the comunity that we shared. We chatted for about an hour then he had to return to his work.

After that talk it was like, I would see him everyday. So, a couple days after our first meeting I asked him what he does. His work is a mixture of many things, tree cutter, fireman, security for big events in the comunity, trafic control and other odd jobs helping people. A friend of mine told me about how he reduced a huge trafic jam in the favela.

I have also seen the gentler side of Rambo. He loves critters too!! Many times he has snakes or other tropical animals. I have seen him cuddle kittens and even a baby goat. The thing that means the most is the guy helps people and cares for the animals too. I have put some fotos of him here.


Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Yes, I admit it: I LOVE cats!

Fotos from top center Rua 4 cat, Rua 4 my favorite beco! bottom left to right: Bey, Avril covering her face, and Pitty


I live in a place that is so full of "critters". I love them all but I have my favorites. When I grew up we always had cats becase if you had a cat, you never had rats! Quando voce tem gato, voce nao tem rato! So true!!!

Becase of the tight living spaces favelas have and not adquate services, sometimes depending on the area there are mice and rats..The biggest rat I saw was about 25 cm long which is big and probably that thing weighed about 2 kgs. But it was not near me so I am ok with that..As long as they do not come in my house, no problems.

When I was a child, we had a orange tabby. This cat was my buddy and followed everwheres I went and slept with me. I really miss him, but I have had other cats since him. All were wonderful critters.

I do not have anything against dogs, just prefer cats. I think the things I like more about cats is, they are quiet, they clean themselves, they purr, their fur is soft, they talk to you in their different types of miaows, and they do silly things. But most what I like is that they can be ying or yang..They can be the soft cuddly thing or the agressive hunter in the wild! I also like they have a certain independance too.

Where I am living now, there are two furballs, Pitty and Avril. There was Bey, my favorite but one day she just never came home. I hope wherever she is that she is safe and loved. She used to come in my window late at night and jump on my bed and curl up next to me. In the morning she would gently bite me on the face to wake me up so I would feed her. I really miss her. Pitty and Bey used have these major battles in the kitchen. I think they were jelaous of each other. Pitty being the senior cat and all, thought that the kitchen was hers! Avril just avoided and did what she liked an never challenged Pitty.

So, everyday, I was down my beco (alley), I encounter several "friends", there is a friendly black cat 10 doors down the beco that I will see many once a week. At the end of beco Travessa Real there is this furry cream colored kitty who as soon as I talk comes running. She has a deformed back righ leg and has troubles getting around, but is able to get her pets from me and others. I noticed she has two friends who live with her. Two black and white shorthairs who now arrive when I come close to her. They both headbutt the cream one out of the way so they can get to me. Such fun to have these cats fight over me..funny..

As I make my way down to the hill, I decide to always take Rua 4 (4th Street), about half way down, there is a cat that I would love to steal and take home with me. She is a medium hair Calico. I have included fotos of her. I arrive at the barzinho (small bar) and she comes running. This is a outside bar where there is a counter that stretches into the beco. People can stand outside and grab a cerveja!

So, I go by and she comes running. I give her some head scratches and she purrs really loud. Her favorite thing is to keep her back paws on the bar as she put her front paws on my shoulders and kneeds her claws into my shirt (no problem, it does not hurt), all while licking my face or hair. Very cute!!! Almost every day I see this friendly cat and I leave with a smile on my face. I am thankful of such simple things and how they can make me happy. I am very lucky!

I do not have any of my own cats right now, but I will soon, when I buy a new house here. I want 2 so they can keep each other busy.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Tio Lino: Somebody who I admire in Rocinha

Tio a student and me hanging out!

Tio Lino and some of his students!

One of my best friends in Rocinha is Lino dos Santos Filho. He is a 63 years old retired guy who was born and raised in Rocinha. He is one of the changemakers in the comunity.

So, the story goes back some years ago he was teaching art to the kids in the Valao, which is one of the poorer areas of the favela. His goal was through art and expression that children could find an outlet from all the negative things in their life.

One day while walking outside the favela, he saw a building on fire and heard some noises. He went to check it out and there was a person inside this building who could not get out. So, Lino went in the building and dragged the guy out. Another person who came a little later was able to call for the ambulance to take the injured guy to the hospital. Lino left thinking that his job was done. Some years later the person who happened to be a doctor, who he saved was able to get in contact with Lino and they exchanged letters.

After a while, sad news came to Lino that the doctor had passed away. The family of the doctor came looking for Lino to thank him for his good deed. They eventually met and the family bought a house for Lino outside of the favela in Jacarepagua, which is about one hour bus ride from Rocinha. Lino lives in Jacarepagua but every day, except Sunday he is in Rocinha. From 10 in the morning to 10 at night his life is Rocinha! I thought I was the only one who loves Rocinha..

To this day "Tio" Lino is still teaching his art classes to the kids in the Valao. He has "saved" about 60 kids from joining the drug gangs or a life of negativity. People in the Valao respect Tio Lino and for some he is like a father figure.

To me, this guy is one of the real heros of the neighborhood. About 3 days a week, after my work, I go to his art studio to help out. I do not go to teach, but just to be there if any of the kids need help. The other day, one kid just wanted me to walk him home. No problem, what many of these kids need is just somebody who will listen to them and not judge.
Recently the kids are always asking about my tattoos. Understood that kids are curios about what they mean. So, now they all want tattoos. Of course they can not have a real tattoo until they are 18, so now the popular thing is they have my paint a design on them. And I do! It is in water color paints so their parents do not get angry with me. They are happy as I am able to do a small thing that means so much to them.

When I have visitors, I bring them by the studio to show the influence he has in creating a positive environment for the kids. Outsiders need to know that people like Tio Lino exist in favelas.

The other day I saw Tio scold a kid who was carrying a toy gun. He would not let that kid enter his art studio with that toy. I saw him point at that kid and say "you can not come in here with that!" The boy looked confused and went on his way. Later Tio explained to me that kids in favelas need to learn that seeing armed men in the comunity is not normal and should not be accepted like it is. On the wall of the studio his saying is "Troque uma arma por um pincel" which means "Exchange a gun for a paintbrush".

In febuary a documentry filmaker is coming to Rocinha to film about my life here in Rocinha, but I have decided that I do not want this film to be about me but people in the favela, like Tio Lino who are making a difference! I have a list of about 15 people in the comunity who I know very well who are really making an impact here in Rocinha.

Having people like Tio as my friend, makes my work all the more valuable.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Awesome Aussies!

Ok, I have to admit I love bringing people to Rocinha. I know that most people on the outside see favelas as misery and poverty and all things bad. Yes we have good and bad here like any place. But, I prefer to show people the side they rarely hear about, the good things going on here.

foto #1 Courtney, Tania and me on top of Carlinos' Roof Rua 1

foto #2 Eat out in Rocinha group

On Friday July 3, I had the oportunity to bring a group of 13 people here just for a short visit to "Eat out In Rocinha". The idea is to break down images that favelas are no go zones full of evil stuff. So I put a advertisement on website and invited all there to Rocinha to get a taste of the food we have here. I really want to change the image that the press gives about us who live in favelas. My group was a mix of all types of people which I love becase this is what is represented in Rocinha too.

I met everybody at the Samba School Academicos da Rocinha, just outside of the favela at 1 in the afternoon. Everybody arrived and we all walked over the pasarella where everybody can get a good view of the comunity. Some fotos were taken and as we walked into the comunity, I was able to explain a bit about Rocinha and the types of food we have here.

We all made out way up to the Pizza Lit restaurant which is celebrating 10 years of history in Rocinha. It is the most famous place that everybody goes and is open until 5 in the morning. We all shared some awesome food and after made our way down to the Valao as some of the guests wanted desert. There is a nice place that has tastey pastries and cakes in the Valao. So, off we went. Most of the guests had either acai or chocolate cake of some kind. After our little tour, I escourted everybody to the buses and Kombis so they could get home safely.

After the "Eat out In Rocinha", I was contacted by one of the guests about wanting to come back for a real visit. Courtney wanted to come back on the 9 of July, so I set aside time to show her around. Courtney is from Australia and is on a six month travels around the world.

She emailed and we met in from of the samba school at 10 in the morning, but this time she brought two of her friends, Gosia and Tania as well both from Australia. They came prepared with water, confortable clothes and tenis shoes. I told them that the tour would be about 5 hours but I never stick to a definate schedule.

All I can say is that I, the "tour guide" had such a great time with these three women. We entered the favela and the first thing they wanted to do was grab some food, so we eat some pastels. We proceeded to take the mototaxis to the Visual in Laboriaux. I could see that they enjoyed the view and felt confortable being with me. Sometimes with other visitors, I can see that they are aprehensive and not sure how to "act" in the comunity.

They took plenty of fotos in the right places and we leisurely made our way down the hill. Courtney had a request that I thought was interesting. Everywhere she travels, she likes to jump rope. Something about this, just made me smile because it is simple rituals like this that breed great ideas (more about this later). I chose Carlinhos' roof (he is a friend of mine) at Rua 1 for her perfect setting to jump rope. I thought the view and location were perfect in the favela. Too bad the whole comunity could not see her jumping rope.

It was all fun until she asked me to join in. I am not the jump rope kind of person but I was ok with it and decided I would go along. The thing is she wanted to film both her and I jumping rope. Well, I suck at jumping rope but still was a good sport about it. I have to admit it was fun.
I was able to also get some fotos of her and Gosia jumping rope on the roof too! They also got fotos of them jumping catching the shots of them in the air.

We made our way down the area where I live in Dioneia. We visited my best friends and my neighbors and hung out talking, and went up on their roof for a difeerent view. My friends really liked the girls and said if they ever come back, to visit! I never saw my guests without smiles on their faces.

After a while they started to get hungry so I had to cut out some parts of the tour that I usually show. We went to Trapia a por kilo place in the Via Apia. It is one of my most favorite places becase the choises of food you can get there are many.

After, we made our way to visit one of my good friend who runs an art studio in the Valao. His name is Tio Lino and he is a retired man who volunteers his time to teach kids to make art using recyclable materials. He is a great guy and has saved many kids from the streets and getting into troubles. The girls were impressed with him and we chatted and Tio showed them the art the kids had made on display in the studio. It was not getting late around 7 pm, and everybody was getting tired.

The tour began at 10 in the morning and was supposed to be only 5 hours but turned out to last 9 after all the visiting with people and hanging out with friends. The idea was born that I know Jump rope is not that expensive and it is something you can do alone. In Rocinha I rarely see anybody jumping rope. I want to start a program for girls where they can learn how to jump rope, maybe even Double Dutch. I think this would be a great self esteem builder for the girls in the comunity, it does not cost a lot and its FUN!

I want to thank Gosia, Tania and Courtney for reminding me why I love my work so much!

I made anothe "Eat out in Rocinha" on july 11 and was surprised when Courtney showed up with a bag full of Art supplies for the kids!. I am so happy becase I know Tio Lino needs this kind of help for the kids. Courtney could not stay and just dropped off the bag to me to deliver. Nothing can express the big smile from Tio's face when I gave him that bag of art supplies. Thank you again Courtney!