Friday, February 26, 2016

Trap House Take 2

His alarm went off for the second time in 10 minutes ensuring that I would never be able to get back to sleep.

I slammed my fist against the thin wooden wall that separated our beds.
“PARAGUAY” I yelled, not really caring who else I woke up. It was 5 A.M., only an hour before I’m normally tossing in turning in bed. Sleep is not something that comes easy to me, so I cherish it.

15 minutes later Paraguay was out of the house leaving behind his student that was sleeping undisturbed on the floor and Sorriso an 18 year old kid spawned from Baixada Fluminese, one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in Rio. There is one other occupant of the house, a black belt in Muay Thai, who is in charge of keeping Sorriso out of any trouble. 

I capitulated any desperate efforts to resume the peaceful sleep I had been woken from, grabbed my laptop, and went downstairs to make some coffee and start working.

It was Saturday and it was way to early to be awake, let alone working, but work and training is all I know.

Later in the afternoon Paraguay returned, with his Paraguayan girlfriend in tow. Apparently his early morning expedition was a quick trip to the airport to pick up his girlfriend who would be moving in with him (and now we are 6!). Paraguay arrived in Curitiba three days ago to train for an MMA fight. About two days ago it was decided he would just move to Curitiba. At someone point it was decided that we would all leave Curitiba, Mestre is going to Rio das Ostrias. So, like yesterday I guess, Parguay’s girl packed up her stuff and moved here so she could follow him and mestre.

Through thick and thin right? The good and the bad?

My survival in Curitiba is based solely on two factors: faith and obedience.

It’s the PRVT methodology really. You train when your told to train, you fight when your told to fight, at what weight your told to fight at, in what style your told to fight in, and when you don’t have money to pay rent, you live where you’re told to live. Which is exactly how I ended up in this trap house in the suburban favelas of Curitiba!

I’m not going to lie, it seems like a cult like mentality, but with the expectation of me who enjoys an incredible amount of autonomy, most of the fighters here rely on mestre for everything from finding fights, to get jobs, to securing food. If he were not doing what he was doing I’m positive that within a week the majority of the team would either be hungry, unemployed, or engaged in some sort illegal activity.

So when mestre says jump, we are all waiting outside of his house to pack up the pieces of an octagon into a truck, drive it into the city, and assemble it, even when some of them have to step into the very same cage to fight within a few hours.

I fight because I love fighting, because I love martial arts.

Mestre’s fighters fight because they have exhausted all other options in life. Nuce has over 100 fights under PRVT with a mediocre record that will keep him from major events like the UFC.  Just last week he lost another MMA fight after receiving a hard hit to a rib injury that he had been suffering from previous to the fight. He accepted the fight despite the injury, and showed up ready to fight despite having been in an accident early that day. All of the odds were stacked against him but he fought anyway. Because of his pride and because he has a son he needs to feed. Win or lose the US85 he would gain would go a long way for him. (he owes me US60).

Curitiba has definitely been an interesting stage in my life, but I’m happy this will be my last month here. Afterwards I plan on spending a month in Cantagalo, and then what? No clue, but I have 5 more months til I com home…

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Coming Home

People are always asking me complicatedly frustrating questions, like:

“Where do you live?” or
“When are you coming home?”

Where I live varies. Rio de Janeiro, Curitiba, Barra, Sao Jose, Cantagalo, in the favela are all possible answers. More often then not though, I’m not exactly sure where I’m going to lay my head.

This fell on me when I came home as no one 
thought to inform me that they broke it!

Currently I am living in Curitiba, in a house filled with entirely too much testosterone and not enough doors… well NO bedroom doors really. I sleep on a used mattress, with no sheets, thrown on a broken bedframe that was left behind by the previous owners.  The frame slops down in the middle, so through out the night I’m constantly sliding down towards the other end of the bed where I found just enough space in between the flimsy wooden wall and my mattress to shove my suitcase. Common sense would see it fit to throw the broken frame out and put the mattress on the floor, but the upstairs of the house is mad entirely of wood, and there are definitely some things living in between the floorboards that I would rather distance myself from as much as possible. There is no light socket in the room so I run an extension cord from the other room.

Note: I am not that tragic that I cannot buy sheets. I had sheets before but everything here is so damp and the boys don’t take care of anything so there is mold. A LOT of fucking mold. EVERYWHERE! I will get sheets next week (although it will probably involve a couple hours of walking).

My room, ok maybe it is that tragic.

So, where do I live? Right now, in Curitiba. I’ve been back for a day and I’ve just found out that this might be my last month here. Apparently Mestre is moving to Rio das Ostrias, somewhere in the state of Rio, north of the actual city.

What does that mean for me? Well frankly I have no clue. Next month I will go back to Rio to train  for IBJJF Brazilian Nationals that will take place at the end of April in Sao Paulo.

Afterwards, I’m not sure what I’ll do or where I’ll go.

But for once, I know when I’m coming home….
They say coming home, but I call it going back.

When I first moved to Brazil my plan was to stay here for 6 months. A year at the most. Then I was supposed to come home and fight for my team, MiKiDo. “tear up the east coast” or something like that.

Now 3 years later I’m still here.

People ask me all the time when I’m coming back and I never have an answer.

“When I feel like it”, never flies with anyone! But now, the stars have aligned and for circumstances out of my control, I have found a reason that I need to be back in the U.S.

It’s always been a hard decision, as I don’t really want to be back. I’d love to visit and to see my family, but staying there… that’s a whole different story.  And no one understands that.

Going back terrifies me. Everyone expects me to come back three years later and pick up were I left off teaching and training and doing normal 1st world things like going to happy hour and shopping for pointless shit. To them it may be normal, but to me, it would be a monumental failure.

So in July I’m going back. Afterwards, I’m not sure what I’ll do or where I’ll go.

Closest to family I've been for awhile

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Carnaval and Shitty Sushi

Carnval is a week away but the debauchery here in Ipanema has already begun. I just had to fight my way through 3 blocks of scantily clad drunken party goers in order to find my friend on the beach. 

I waited until well past 5 to leave the safety of the favela which meant that most of the drunks were leaving the beach and making their way inland towards the bars and cheap fast food stands that were posted up every couple of feet. I clutched my new cellphone with superhuman strength as as i weaved my way through groups of people selling beer and bottled water out of Styrofoam coolers.  I never worry about getting robbed in or around the favela (Favela law extends a few blocks down and away from the favela. i.e.  you cannot live in Cantagalo and go rob a store that is in Ipanema or Copacabana, you have to go another neighborhood Leblon is a fantastic option). But Copacabana + Ipanema during holidays is just asking for some thug from the north side to come roll through and snatch your shit up! 

On top of worriying about the saftey of my cellphone, huge puddles of what appeared to be a cocktail of piss, beer, salt water and sand presented another obstacle. Luckily I recently broke my only pair of flip flops so my feet were protected by the pink New Balances that had been sent from my mom last year. 

I hate carnaval and the only reason I left my house in the first place was because I hadn't seen my friend in so long. 

The New year in Brazil doesnt start til after carnaval. Kids are released from school on summer break in December and don't return til Feb, at which point they go on vacation again for the week of carnaval and a little bit after as well. 

and adults, well the adults don't need an excuse to lay down responsibilities and drink their problems away. 

I recently read a blog about a girls travels in Ghana, she talked about how everyone was so caught up in "temporary happiness". Thats just it... Brazil is a beautiful but really fucked up place. Its hard to get anywhere here and damn near impossible to get ahead in life.  So temporary happiness is all people have. 

If your born in the favela. You will most likely be raised and die in the favela. You will most likely be lacking a suitable education and you'll never be given the opportunity to  acquire a decent job. When your born in the favela you grind. Its the only way to survive.  If your born int he favela (and you have the right mind set) the Carvanval is a way to get paid. 

I hate it, but a lot of people I know are relying on it. Exploiting the drunk is a profitable endevour. Add gringos into the mix and you are looking at a potential fortune if you know how to play your cards right.

Thats what they call "maladragem" or street smarts. Maladragem Carioca or maladragem native to rio tends to be a more refined extreme form of savagery.  

Either way, I hate the Carnaval and have every intention of spending the week hiding out in the Favela.