Right Here, Right Now.
When was the last time you felt like you were exactly where you were meant to be, doing exactly what you were suppose to be doing?
It feels like a life time ago that I was back in London, worried and anxious, emotional and scared at the enormity of the move that I was about to make. Now, three weeks later, I really do not know what all the fuss was about.
There is nowhere else on earth I would rather be.
At the time of writing I have spent the last three weeks living and working in Rocinha; the largest favela in the southern hemisphere, on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Earlier this year, as I began looking at things to do on my travels, I came across a gorgeous little organisation, called Project Favela, and fell in love almost instantly. I always think its good to have something to do while you travel. Partying and sightseeing can take it’s toll after a while, on the mind, body, soul.. not to mention, the wallet! And so finding something meaningful to do day-to-day, for me, is a must!
And Project Favela has certainly given meaning to my travels thus far.
To use their tag line – they are a little school, in a big place, that gets impressive results! Project Favela provides early childhood education and after school programs to children in the community for free, and is run entirely by volunteers, who teach classes, promote community outreach, and manage and coordinate the project on a day to day basis. But the volunteers are more than that, they are mentors and role models, and eventually friends, promoting the ethos of Project Favela in the wider community:
That education and mentoring can break the cycle of poverty, by creating opportunities that have the ability to change lives.
...Wow, just wow.
Much to my surprise (and anyone who knows anything about my artistic ability) I have been leading on an art class. I spend an hour every day with a different group and we paint, and create together… last week we decorated leaves that had fallen from the tree outside the school. This week we are making jewellery and fashion accessories with coloured pasta! I have also taught some of the older children how to do a cats cradle… seeing these smiles is the favourite part of my day!
I am going to spend at least the first 3 months of my adventure here in Rocinha. Although I have realised, very quickly, that this is almost certainly not going to be long enough for everything that I want to do while I’m here. I guess that I can always come back. Watch this space, I guess…
The photo above is the view from my apartment. I’m sharing a room with three hilarious, and warm-hearted girls who are also part of Project Favela. We all arrived within a few days of each other – and so are all on the same rollercoaster ride that is the very real experience of moving to a new part of the world. And that’s another good thing about Project Favela, having people to share the ups and downs with, figuratively and literally.
Rocinha is one of the hilliest places I have ever been. For the first few days I swear I got altitude sickness every time I climbs up to our apartment. It is worth it though for the view. I was giving some serious consideration to having a smoking relapse when I moved to Brazil, but I think were I any less fit, I would never make it home. On the plus side, my bum and thighs are toning up nicely.
The favela is pretty noisy too. Like India noisy – for anyone who has ever been. Maybe that’s a bit unfair. I don’t think anyone could ever describe it as tranquil, and it is certainly never quiet. Vibrant and full of life? Maybe. A constant festival happening outside the window? Probably more accurate.
What I will say thought is that I feel safer in Rocinha that I have done anywhere else in Rio. In Rocinha, “eu sou uma professora de Inglês em uma escola”, in Copacabana or Ipanema I’m just another gringa tourist.
Outside of Rocinha, Rio is a still a pretty spectacular place. I haven’t managed to tick off all of the sites, but there is definitely still time – this isn’t a short stay vacation! I’ve not even spent a day at the beach!
So far my highlights have to be La Escadaria Selarón, AKA the 'Selaron Steps', and the bay at Urca.
The Selarón Steps is a set of world-famous steps in Lapa. They are the work of Chilean-born artist Jorge Selarón who claimed it as his tribute to the Brazilian people. He travelled (oh how I love to travel), lived and worked as a painter and sculptor in over 50 countries around the world before deciding to settle in the early 1980s. He began renovating the steps on a whim in 1990, in the years that followed, people from around the world would bring him tiles that he would build into his design, until he was found dead January 10, 2013, on the famous Lapa steps. His body was found with burn marks. No one really knows what happened to him.
I’m not going to say too much about the bay at Urca. It is just beautiful. Made more so by all the people who line the wall along the bay, drinking, eating, listening to music, and enjoying the simplicity of being alive…
I spent a Sunday afternoon sat on said wall with very dear friend, and it was all I could do to stop myself bursting with happiness at the sheer joy of being alive at that moment.
When you're exactly where you are meant to be, doing exactly what you're suppose to be doing, THIS is how you smile.