Thursday, September 25, 2014

Favelada Take 3 and a New House for Me!

So, How do you find someone to move something big in the Favela?Keep in mind Uhual doesn’t do stair master moves

Try getting a fridge up there! ha!
Not my house though

Checking "corners" is a good start. Corners tend to attract a certain kind of enterprise which entails long hours of sitting and watching... among other things. Due to the nature of the job, said employees tend to be well informed of the comings and goings of people who may or may not be willing to provide certain services such as moving a fridge. In addition to this service, I personally find employees of said enterprise to be a highly effective form of "GPS", as I often stop and ask for directions. The first time I went to my new place at night I actually got lost in the windy, narrow streets. I ran into them hanging outside of a closed bar and they sent someone to take me home.

This is another ally that winds through huge rocks. Its an enclosed narrow passage with only one entrance and one exit.

But, are corners safe?
On guns in the Favela: Part 2
In my last blog I touched breifly on the subject of guns in the favela. And I mentioned that most visible guns are owned and operated by the police (emphasis on the visible). A lot of people that I talk to here romatiacize about the time before pacificication, the time before the UPP was established in the community. Times when drug dealers where omnipresent and guns and tables full of drugs were not an uncommon sight. Well, pacificiation put an end to the golden age of favela law in 2009. Yes, Favela law is a real thing which I have recently seen, no heard, being enforced (because I sure as hell was not about to look out the window), but that is another censored topic that may possibly come out in another blog. 

When cops stop you they always ask, "are you a drug user?"
I've been stopped and searched 3 times since living here. Several times they have tried to freak me out by calling out my name when I walk by. Once I turned around and asked how they knew my name and he replied, "It doesn't matter, just know that I know". So naturally I didn't feel bad getting in their face at 6:30 am and telling them I'm sending them off the US. because NO I'm not a drug user and if you going to take all my crap (gloves, handwraps, kimono, mma gloves, clothes, towel, soap, food, book, etc) and spread it all over the ground at least hold my protein while I put it all back!

The golden age may be over but there are still reminents. One of the only times I've seen (heavily) armed drug dealers was coming up the above stairs at night. I got halfway up when the passage became bottle necked by people queuing to buy drugs. I hesitated for a second at the bottom of the stairs but was was waved up cheerfully by a guy with a hand gun. I walked past several crackheads and several kids I know, hopped over a pile of money, several bags of various drugs, and had to stop  to let a guy pass by as he was playing with something along the lines of a Tech 9 or Uzie. They also have gernades. Tactically, I'm not sure how effective a gernande is, but yeah they have a lot of gernandes. 

Like I said before, don't do this at home. Drug dealers can be paranoid (as they often suffer from getting shot by police). One time they were questioning another gringo  as he was going into his house accross from mine. After he went inside the guy turned to me and was like, "No, there is something not right about him, he isn't a real gringo, you, your a real gringo, but him....". So, yes, drug dealers DO have guns. But to answer the question, are corners safe. I never worry about getting hurt from the dealers. I would, however, worry about being around the drug dealers and consequently getting shot by the police. 

Back to getting my fridge moved.
So, when you need to find someone or something, going out to corners or walking around the Estrada is the best way to get lucky. I found a nice spot close to the Rua with a lot of sun and an amazing view of the ocean to the right and Pavao to the left (the pictures where in the last blog). I didn't just pick the spot for the view, I also picked it because people are prone to hang out there. 

So, I post up. 

And it only took about two minutes till I hear a voice behind me (keep in mind ain't nobody speaking English in the Favela, this is not a convo in English),

"Hey! You box right, you know so and so? I'm her cousin!!!"... Score!

Yeah see this is me boxing. With Bad-Ass coach Claudio Coelho
and UFC strawweight Claudinha Gadelha

Yeaaah, I box. I know her.

Lets pause for a cultural note: Brazilians have this saying, "o brasileiro nunca desiste" that they never give up. And damn it's so true. They are also a very straight forward people when it comes to their romantic intentions. Where as an American will try to ask you to dinner and swoon you a little, a Brazilan will just be like, "I'm trying to come over. You going to let me in". Why is this relevant?!?! because its the only way that I can explain how within two minutes of me meeting this dude, he's insisting on paying my rent, talking about let’s see how things flow...

Brasileiros will be Brasileiros. So, screw it, I decided to be just as straight forward. Why pay my rent when you can just move a small fridge. So, my new friend and I continue to wait because, obviously, he isn't going to move the fridge by himself (his nickname either means mouse or little rat… and it’s not one of those ironic nicknames, kid was little so help was definitely necessary). Five minutes later along came Matty, at first he was reluctant to join the cause but we were soon able to buy his help with US$5.00. Damn did he save the day. He took the door off the fridge (so it would fit through the narrow passages, hauled the thing ONTO HIS BACK, and walked it up the stairs with Little Rat following behind doing minimum work.

It wasn't til hours later after I had finished moving, turned in my key (without getting shot), and ran to teach a little English when I got home and realized that I was missing a piece from my fridge.

Clothes rack and political poster.
It's election session and these guys faces
are littered all over the favela

So, how do you find someone in the favela?
Like I said you go to the corner, thats always a good idea, but Matty, had made a comment that he was once my neighbor when I lived in Pavao, so instead of going directly to the "corner", I went to the second best  place to find information: the bar.

Why the bar?
 Because there are some people that seem drink professionally and THEY also tend to be well informed about the comings and goings of people (albeit harder to understand). When I was living in Pavao I lived above a bar, so if he was my neighbor, someone at the bar should know where he lives. The stairs to my old steps also tend to attrach a certain kind of enterprise but I didn't recognize the employee so I deferred to asking a drunk. He confirmed that yes I was indeed close, so I moved closer to a little cut that I know houses a couple of apartments and sure enough a door opened, a face appeared, and I was soon pointed in the direction of Matty's house.

The rua. At the bottom is one of the friendly professional drunks of Galo. He spends his days drinking and picking through trash for goods that he can sell and his nights singing at bars. 

I found Matty. And I'm not going to lie, I was pretty proud of myself for having located the establishment using impeccable favelada hunting skills. Unfortunately, Matty gave the piece to Little Rat. So back to square one, spot 1, and step 1 to finding something in the favela. I went back to the "corner" and repeated the process until I found Little Rat’s house. Unfortunately, he wasn’t home and in the end I had to wait around 2 more days until he finally showed up one night at 10PM and put the door back on my fridge.

In the end, it took me 4 stressful days to move, I had to spend a large amount of time waiting and wandering around the streets looking for people. I walked up and down about a million stairs and ate a lot of crappy food, but my new place is off the hook!

View from my roof. You can See Ipanema, Leblon, Lagoa, and the big Crist statue!

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