Friday, January 08, 2010

Best Seventh Day in Rio: This Was the Last Day

PLEASE at least read the very end of this post, down at the bottom. If you have a heart.

Man, it's been so long since I summed up Rio stuff. I hope I've still got it in me.

Woke up that nice Saturday morning with plans to take a Favela tour around noon so we went out into our neighborhood for some walking around one last time.

My Mom's initials. On the metal.

These show-offs, they call it the Marvelous City and now they say they're going to be throwing the Marvelous Olympics. Big deal. We would have given the world the Windy Olympics.

A certain Ipanema color scheme began to reveal itself at last.

You know what I never got around to doing in Rio? Eating at McDonalds. Ridiculous, I know. That's like my number one interest when abroad: Seeing how they do things at their McDonalds. But my number two interest: trying out foreign fastfood establishments, in this case, Brazil's very own Bob's.

I only got a milkshake, Chateau had been telling me about their milkshakes. I have to say, it was a real great milkshake. But there was something to it...something extra. Something more special than usual. Something...important?

Of course! Hygiene! That's what I tasted.

Back to the beach for one last visit. Did you know there's a football team in Rio whose mascot is a vulture? This man was selling vultures. Lots of them. And was wearing a vulture mask. If only he weren't so fast.

Hey travel pals. Man. These pictures seem like ancient history to me now. Whatever happened to these guys, anyway?

There's a festival I would have loved to have been a part of.

Always with the desserts. Brazil, all you care about is dessert.

Carnival garb.

Okay, so let's get down to serious business, the main activity of the day: Our Favela trip.

"Favelas" essentially means "slum" and, to paint a darker portrait, these slums are like mini-cities unto themselves essentially run by Rio's drug gangs. Do a little internet research and you'll learn pretty quickly that they can be extremely dangerous; any tour guide you read will tell you to never ever go into a favela on your own. But favelas have become rather popular tourist destinations with many agencies offering guided tours during the day. That such tours exist was at first, to me and I'm sure to many, pretty suspect and kind of morally dubious for a variety of reasons. First, how legit is it to make the homes of the super-impoverished a tourist destination? Second, these tours exist because the agencies are paying off the gangs to let us in for a look around, so how legit is it to be putting money into the pockets of murderers and robbers? (I prefer doing that by being robbed.) BUT eventually what got me on board with the favela tours was just wanting to see these slums, see how they compared to the slum communities of Mexico City where I spent plenty of my mission.

We visited Rocinha, Rio's largest favela with a population estimated to be between 60,000 and 150,000 (nice specific estimation, Wikipedia). Our tour began at the top of Rocinha and we walked down to the bottom through narrow paths between the houses. Our van dropped us off at the bottom of Rocinha and we hired motorcycles (I know, I know, against family rules...I didn't know this was going to happen) to drive us to the top of the favela, this is the popular public transportation there. I don't mean to be trite by saying the ride was thrilling (there has to be a better word!), you know, zipping through traffic up steep hills and around tight turns, helmetless, with so much day to day chaos going on around me.

We were taken to a graffiti studio (that had a nice collection of thrift store-ish art, too) to see that productive things happen in the favelas. This is the part of guided tourism that I'm not so into, the shepherding into places where ostensibly you're supposed to be learning but the heavy heavy subtext is: "Come on, buy something. Buy something."
On the tour we were given very specific instructions as to where and when we could take pictures. I didn't see anything crazy scary that I wish I could have taken pictures of, like dudes with machine guns or fights or anything, but I could have. Or so I believe.

Sights like this warmed my Mexico-missing heart, all the wires strung up to steal electricity, phone, and now internet.

We were taken to a bakery to see if anyone would buy dessert. What a surprise. Dessert. And pressure to purchase.

And then we were taken to see bracelets made out of stripped telephone wire. Anyone want a telephone wire bracelet? No? You sure? Come on, they're right here. Stripped telephone wire bracelets made just for you.

The thing you're supposed to do when you're out in the world is take pictures of kids and really, really old people. You know, really get in close to their faces, catch the wisdom in their eyes. My efforts at this were half-hearted and I couldn't find any old people.

This jerry-curl dude kept alongside us for a while. He was a cheery fellow, the favela was full of plenty of cheery people.

We were told that Rocinha is run by a gang called Amigo dos Amigos, or "ADA" and that we'd see "ADA" spray painted all around the place. I didn't see a single ADA but I saw plenty of "Clones." I could not discern if Order 66 had been instituted or not.

ADA, according to googling I just did, is said to have about 2500 members living in Rocinha generating about $5 million a month in profit from the drug trade. This stuff is serious. (read this much more detailed report on a trip to Rocinha to learn more about the ADA and the favela)

Look carefully, there's more Clones here. I didn't even realize it when I took this picture.

And here's a nice favela cat, just chillin'. To me this was a perfectly sensible thing to photograph.

And just moments after taking this picture I was walking down a steep bit of pavement,

Stepped on something slick,

Fell down hard

and landed right on the open lens of my dear, trusty, beloved D-Lux 2. Rendering it as broken as a camera could be. After nearly 4 years of service my worst fears came true, my heart had told me my camera wouldn't make it through this trip alive, my heart was right.

A noble end, though. If you're a camera and you're going to get broken, it might as well be somewhere where people are burned to death in rings of flaming tires.

So here end my pictures from Rio and essentially, here end my tales from Brazil. (but that day we also went to check out Copacabana [where I'd say we snuck into the pool at the famous Copacabana palace, but it was so easy to do I can't really say we did any sneaky at all]and back to Lapa in daylight to check out the big modern cathedral)

But I still have one more Danger Supplement regarding what I was doing from 11 until 3:30 that night (knowing quite well that I had a cab to the airport coming for me at 3:45). I'll steal some pictures from Trish and Karen for that.


building wire said...

Sharing your trips is a good thing and it will let others to know a lot about the place. This will give them a lot of info and help them if they want o go there also.

Side of Jeffrey said...

Which one would you rather spend the night walking the streets alone in - Mexico City or Rio slums?