Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Favelas of Curitiba: Surviving the Trap House

The look on people's faces when they see where I live is priceless...

I had spent my first couple of months of my Curitiban exile in a nice 3 bedroom house that mestre Parana rented for the team in an upper class suburban neighborhood. But we're all broke fighters and no one is trying to pay rent, so he cut his expenses, and bought a house for us in the favela.  

And it went a little something like this. 

Parana hates waiting so once training ended I ran into the bathroom, changed out of my sweaty clothes and then rushed down to the car threw in my bag full of sweaty clothes and closed the door behind me. 

I had just gotten back from Rio and apparently I was moving... 

We rolled by the house where I had been staying. It was a pink two story house separated by the main road by cement wall and a large metal door that opened into a carport. It was located on a quiet street just around the corner from where Mestre Parana lived with Jessica Andrade (from the UFC). 

Once again I found myself sprinting into the house, throwing as much shit into my suitcases as I could and then running back out into the car (leaving behind my ipod and my tablet).

After a quick stop to a used furniture store where we acquired a mattress for R60 I was dropped off in what was to be our new house in the “favelas” of Sao Jose, Curitiba.

Me, my mattress, and Mestre Parana!

After fumbling around in the small hole, I was able to fit key into lock and swing up the big medal garage doors. An empty garage, gave way into an empty living room laid with white tile. A basic bathroom and empty kitchen completed the bottom floor. There were no counters in the kitchen. No sink or anything like that that you would expect to find, just a faucet that gave way to emptiness. When I squeezed my way into the bathroom sink and into the shower I discovered there wasn’t even a shower head. Just a hole it the wall the spit water on command. I guess I’m lucky there was water at all.

Said counter wasn't there when I first moved in.
The kitchen was just an empty room!

A precarious wooden staircase in the kitchen led up to an even more precarious second story. The small space was divided into 3 rooms by thin pieces of wood and white plastic exterior siding. There are cracks in the walls, cracks in the ceiling, and I lost several small items to cracks in the floorboard. At night the walls come alive and it sounds like there is something scratching relentlessly on the other side. I assume its termites or something because cockroaches and other bugs could use one of the previously mentioned cracks in the wall. The first week I was there I threw my mattress on top of a broken bed frame. Since then we broke the frame more and moved it to a different room, but its still dealing with a dirty mattress on a broken bed. 

Outside of the window is a sea of wooden walls and tin roofs bordered by dirt paths and mountains of debris spread as far as the eye could see. There’s a lot of messed up shit in the favela’s of Rio too but at least its framed by the natural beauty of the beaches and mountains.

The smell of burning trash is a suffocating reminder that I’m no longer in Rio. This is a different kind of poverty. Desperation saturates the air. There are entirely too many barefooted, gaunt chested kids running around and playing with sticks. Everything looks the same. Empty fields and lots of trash, I believe they call it "recycling" though. Everything looks like its under construction. Skinny teenagers that suffer from all the familiar symptoms of the drug trade whisper as I walk by. The bold ones call out. Rasta. Dread! There has been wind of my arrival already. Gossip travels fast. A fighter. With dreads. Living in the alley.

I was offered weed before I could find soap (seeing as I still hadn't taken a shower after training). A guy wearing dirty jeans and worn out shirt called to me as I was walking by. He crouched down at the entrance of the drive way, a half smoked cigarette clenched by callused fingers and dirty nails.  He had a raggedy hat pulled down over his face that he lifted up so that he could see me better as I approached. Next to him were to two young girls dressed as prostitutes in training. They were rocking matching piercings and lipstick that is entirely too red. They stood there smoking cigarettes and nodding along with everything that Dude was saying to me. They looked like they came straight out of a Sundance film.

 Everyone is wondering what the hell I’m doing here (by myself). A girl. In the favela. Alone. Is it safe?

They say its safe, but then always end the sentence talking about drug dealers and shootouts...

Generally, I tell people I’m Colombian. If you tell people your American, they ask you about money. If you tell people your Colombian, they ask about Pablo Escobar.

Note: People in the favela of Rio call me Colombian because of my accent, 
So I just went with it. I made up a nice backstory too.. Something about a town in the south
Ria Chuela or something. I could easily say I'm Dominican seeing as I actually 
lived there, but then, where's the fun in that?

I'm not scared. Maybe I should be. But whatever. I'm here because I was told to be here... 
I'm here because I want to fight. 

It may be ghetto as hell (it really is), but I have my own bed (or you know, mattress) and my own room (for now), and I don't pay rent (just internet)...

In the end I stayed there for a week alone with a suitcase, a mattress, and a couple thousand dollars in electronics. After a week the boys moved in and brought me more blankets and the rest of my stuff that was randomly thrown into bags.

Iphone photoshop is on POINT! Looks
beautiful but I'm pretty sure its infested
with Dengue or Yellow Fever or something!

Those blue things hold water that is pumped
from the street. Very common in South America.

Live From Nowhere