Saturday, January 10, 2015

A special friend returns to stay in Rocinha!

Interview with Stey Endel in Rocinha!

I get the opportunity through tourism to meet so many friendly people. I met Stey and she was able to first visit the favela and check it out. Then she contacted me a few months ago saying she was returning here and wanted to stay in the favela. My friend Adam was able to find her a home stay with a family and the rest, I will let you read her impressions below!

Can you tell me your name, where you are from?
I’m Stephanie, my friends call me Stey and I’m from ParisFrance.

- Why did you come to Brasil?
It’s not my first time in Brazil. Since I’ve been little my parents have taken me there for vacations. As my family is from French Guiana bordered on the north of Brazil, it was quite easy for us to come there often. So I just fell in love with this country. Besides, each region in Brazil is different : the population, the food, the people, the music, even the culture. So need more than one travel to know them all and I really wanted to come back in Brazil as an adult to (re)discover and learn everything again. So far I’ve came 4 times since 2010. However, I decided last summer to come back in Brazil and to stay longer enough to live like locals, practice my Portuguese, help the community if I can and to feel like I was part of something, part of the country.

- When you arrived where did you live?
I arrived on the 5th of November in Rio de Janeiro. I didn’t to go to an hotel in Ipanema, I didn’t want either to go to a pousada in Lapa. I knew exactly where I wanted to be : in Rocinha, the biggest favela in Brazil. Thanks to Zezinho, our tour guide when we first visited the favela a year ago and Adam who’s in charge of the Favela Experience, they helped me finding an accommodation in Rocinha. I wanted to live in a family : it’s the best way to get knowing people, their habits, culture, language and of course sharing my experience and stories too.

- How did you find out about favelas?
One of my friend told me about the Favela Experience and the tour he did in Rocinha. He gave me the contact and I asked to be with the same guide, Zezinho. I read his blog and I contacted him.

- Why did you decide to move into a favela (Rocinha)?
First of all I wanted to do a voluntary work. The best way to help the community is to live with the community.

Second, I wanted to live “the real Rio”, far from the spotlights, the tourists and the people who live just like in Europe. I wanted to meet people who are just happy with what they’ve got, people who are proud of their favela and who welcome you like family. No fuss, no bling bling, no English or French speakers, just simple things.

Some people would say : it’s cheaper to live in a favela than in a pousada or in a hotel in Rio. It’s true, but it’s not the money who will attract you in a favela. It’s the experience and the people.

- Before moving here what did you know about favelas?
We all have clich├ęs about favelas : poor neighbourhood, ghetto, violence, poverty, slum, drugs, dirt, no drinkable water, no electricity etc.  The place to avoid according to many guide books.

- Since living here, have you impressions of favelas changed much?
Since I’ve lived in Rocinha my vision has changed of course. Well, all favelas are different, some are more dangerous and poorer that some others. But people need to get their own opinion and not the one the medias want us to get. You need to get there and see by yourself. People may not be rich as people in residential districts, but people are happy, respectful, real, helpful, friendly. Kids are going to school, people are hard workers, brave, people don’t steal and even if some streets are dirty, it’s not unbearable.

Besides, it’s not dangerous! I mean each city, each district are their own areas where you shouldn’t go for a walk. In Rocinha it’s the same and I felt safer. Rocinha for me it was just like a town : many shops, bars and restaurants (even sushis restaurants), a hospital, schools, a post-office, makers, great street party until 8am, clubs, banks, a surf school, a sport complex, swimming-pool, supermarkets, public transports who lead you straight the other side of Rio… even the beach is only 10 minutes by foot.  

I thought also as a foreigner who knows no one I would be alone, or hanging more at the end in the tourist areas of Rio. I met great people in Rocinha, I had, have still, friends there. And this is make my experience even more beautiful.

- What do you like about living in the favela? 
The people, the fact that I felt alive there and safe most of the time, the amazing view I had from my house and the fact that I could do whatever I wanted : practicing sport, helping the community, doing some shopping, going back home late, partying, meeting friends at the beach or at the basketball playground, surfing….. I was just living normally basically. No stress about anything. And if it could get unsafe, people who just tell you “don’t go out today it’s not safe”. That the thing in Rocinha, people are talking to each other, people’ve got your back.

- What don’t you like? 
Sometimes it can get dirty (trash in the streets) and the traffic can be horrendous. Also, the neighbours can be very loud, nothing to hide, but at the same time you can enjoy the party next door!

- If you had a magic wand and could change anything, what would you change about the favela? 
I would make better stairs/ways for elder people to go up and down easily, I would fix some playgrounds so the kids can play football or basketball safely without getting wet when it’s raining. Just little things to make things even better there.

- Has your experience been worthwhile? 

- What advice would you give someone who wanted to move/stay here? 
Don’t be afraid just live it at 100%.

- Would you come back to live here again? 
I can’t wait to go back to Brazil, live again in Rocinha and see my friends again.

Anything else you would like to comment about regarding life here?
I love Rocinha and nothing, no one would make changing my mind. 

Stephanie F-E