Friday, October 7, 2011

Dia 37: "Snacking is a Brazilian sport."

Breakfast this morning started with the words "Convince me to get a Facebook," spoken by Sameh Uncle. What ensued was a 40-minute tirade by me, making him promise never to get one. Hate that I love you, Book of Face.

It was a sad morning meal, because we had to bid the lovely Flavia goodbye! She is going home to her family in Sao Paulo, but I hope to meet up with her soon in DC.

Our field visits this morning were to two favelas (slums), Manguinhos and Alemao. Ruth, the head of Social Development for the state of Rio, was our knowledgeable guide.

Manguinhos is where my friend Mila works, and has not been pacified. It is one of the most violent and dangerous favelas in Brazil -- but we stayed in the safe part. The library, school, and community center we visited are extraordinary facilities. I was stunned to see the vibrant decorations, modern technology, and excellent resources of this government-funded library.
Ruth told us about a number of initiatives in place to make the development of the area eco-friendly. For example, there is a program whereby families who bring used cooking oil (which can be recycled) to a collection center receive free detergent in exchange. Another initiative involves Manguinhos women learning to make jewelry from recycled materials as a source of income. These programs prove that being green doesn't have to be complicated at all!
We then saw two films, one on the development plan for Manguinhos, and one about Alemao, our next site. A teleferico (cable car trolley) has recently been built there, ostensibly as an effort to reduce the commute times of favela residents. The actual reasons for its construction, however, are more convoluted, as many speculate this may be more for tourists than favela dwellers. In any case, the teleferico's view of the slum sprawling miles and miles is really eye-opening. The favela is bigger than many nearby cities.

At each station of the teleferico are mosaics made by the women of the favela. Sameh Uncle especially was really interested in this artwork, so we subsequently checked out a colorful exhibition of other pieces of their art.
Bye! Bye! Bye! The word that makes me cry.
We liked this work so much that we actually got the address of the local studio where these pieces are made. We went there, met the artist, and even got to see some women at work making these mosaics. The business model is really interesting. Children draw pictures, which Volmario (the artist, who lives in the favela) transforms into a blueprint for the work, and the women produce the final product. This is brilliant. It is a source of income for the underprivileged, which combines art with public service, while involving both women and children. Bingo.
After this packed morning, news of lunch was readily welcomed! We ate at a wholesome traditional steakhouse before returning to the hotel to rest up for our evening.

We went out to a great place in Lapa called Rio Scenarium, but I unfortunately felt ill at dinner. When three jackets and a thick pair of socks did not help, I decided to retire to the hotel for the night. Please pray for me!

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