Rio. Week 2.

On Sunday I was told that I would be working at the other favela called Vila Kennedy, so I was really excited about it. It was close to Batam, just a bit further down on the same road.

The week started with a very hot morning on Monday. I wasn’t allowed to wear shorts so I had to wear long jeans and still to my surprise I got bitten by lots of mosquitoes –yes, during the morning!

I was told this favela was really dangerous, so I was expecting to see armed police and overall, military police, but I did not see any.

The streets were not paved and there was this mixture of sand and dust. Just like the other one, there was a bakery, some beauty shops, and some really cheap restaurants.

In the other one the break was at 11 so we were never hungry enough to have lunch. We’d buy some ham and cheese sandwiches and that would do for the rest of the day until dinner time. The heat made me not have any appetite.

I was expecting this place to have a well-maintained building, just like the other favela had, but in here there wasn’t a built floor with tiles, it was just concrete. The organiser of this place was a lovely old lady; a very strong woman, always fighting to give children an education, and to make the favela a better place for them. She was loving and caring towards us, and I appreciated it a lot.

Our job that day consisted in organising hundreds of books in categories. This being children, English literature, languages, adults… It was not hard, just tiring. It was not great, but I found the most important thing I could in there: peace; No tension, shouting or competitive people. Just a bunch of people doing their own thing and willing to help. It was fantastic.

We all went to have lunch at a really basic restaurant were the food was absolutely amazing for a ridiculous price. (Lunch for 4 people for less than £10). I wasn’t very hungry but the food was too nice not to eat it all.
I remember the lady that worked there, Jessica, a big young lady who had always a smile for us, and was patient with our bad Portuguese.

The other co-workers, two more volunteers were Diana, 31, from Italy but resident in Madrid, and Sara, 38, from Seville but resident in London. They were friendly and very funny. It was difficult not to love that place even when the conditions were not the best.

On the following day, Tuesday, I had to work at Batam, with the German woman. I had prepared two games for the students and they seemed to love it. On the break, this woman told me she was going to one of the students’ house that turned out to be her 10 years younger boyfriend, so I was left on my own for a long 2 hours and a half break. I decided to stay and draw some stuff. I was feeling incredibly lonely and missed the other favela where I had friends, a lunch break to enjoy with them and things to do.

I did my lesson and the game took pretty much all the time we had for it so she had 30 min to take over and teach something. She was notably annoyed. Not being the centre of attention for such a long time must had been painful. Every now and then she’d interrupt me and say random stuff –not even to do with the lesson.

On the way back she was trying to make conversation but unlucky her, I was being as dry as possible only answering with monosyllables. When we got on the bus the girls coming from Vila Kennedy were on the same bus and they called me to sit with them. I was so pleased to see nice people and be able to laugh and tell them my stories! The German woman just sat at the beginning of the bus and ignored us; then, when we were getting close to our bus stop, she got off the bus one stop before without saying goodbye.

In the afternoon we had a Portuguese class with this livey woman called Fernanda, a very talkative, social, friendly and outgoing Brazilian girl. Her lessons were always fun and for some reason we would always end up talking about really personal stuff –as long as we spoke in Portuguese. She used to go out with us at night and she was planning on coming with us to Ilha Grande, our next destination.

On Wednesday I went to work to Vila Kennedy and I started a massive painting on what would be the future kitchen room. At the end of the day I was feeling miserable about going back to Batam. I spoke to the old lady, Cleidge about it and asked her to tell Felipe that I was very happy working for her.

Later on, in the afternoon, I got a text from Felipe, the main organiser, telling me that it would be better for me to stay in Vila Kennedy as that was what everyone wanted. Everyone. That obviously meant the German woman, as Felipe and her were really close; and that’s why I did not speak to him about anything, because when I tried to, he had already spoken to her and told me that he was not happy with my attitude. (What attitude? Trying to improve things?)

But on the other hand I was just pleased to know that I was not going to share any more days with that woman, and I could just forget about my only problem there.

Thursday came and I was still doing my painting of random Brazilian fruits. It was way too big but it looked good, and the old lady, Cledge, said she liked it a lot.

We had a Portuguese lesson from 7 to 9, as usual. It was being a very intense week, with a crazy non-stop rhythm from 6 in the morning to 10 at night. Even longer if I wanted to go out for a bit with my Brazilian friend because then I had to sacrifice hours of sleep to see him. I was very tired but enjoying it at all at the same time.

Friday: We got up really early to go to Ilha Grande. In the end we were 7 people excluding the Portuguese teacher Fernanda who couldn’t make it.

My Brazilian friend, Werther, came along only to spend time with me–he had been to Ilha Grande already.

Published by

Monica S.

Journalist, activist, thinker. MA in international Journalism. Life is better with a dog.

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