Post Number Dois:
Well, well life in Brazil has continued to impress me as I reach the end of my second week here.
A week ago we were afforded a unique opportunity to spend time with children from a poorer neighborhood in Salvador. These poorer areas, known as favelas, rarely offer an opportunity for children to develop and prosper. (Picture a neighborhood built on a steep hillside with no running water or sewage, with apartments built three stories high by amateur (at best) carpenters using only cinderblock and clay.) We visited a community center that gave these children an alternative to life on the street and helped us understand how these kids get along from day to day. For two days we were showed around the center, dancing and playing drums with the kids.
Per usual, I found the most lasting impressions came from outside the planned events. I don't mean to sound ungrateful for the hospitality we were shown by the center, but I was very happy to steal some chances to interact with the kids outside of the arranged events. The center has two horses (cavalos) on the premises that eat the grass around the yard and wander around. One of the meninos pulled me aside and informed me that the white horse was very skinny because the brown horse ate all of the "good" grass. He then explained that I shouldn't pull the white horses tail because he'll kick me up into the sky, wise advice from the surprisingly vocal young sage. He then offered to teach me how to play foosball on the center's aging foosball table. Noticing that there was no ball, the little boy told me not to worry and grabbed an empty spool to serve as our makeshift ball. With ball in hand, the boy proceeded to "teach" me by beating my soundly. We high-fived and I thanked him for letting me play. It was a very simple exchange, but that's what I will take away from my favela visit, very cool.
My one regret is that we weren't able to play futebol with the ball we got the kids. I could tell they wanted to play as bad as we did, but I guess the opportunity just wasn't there. For me and Alec this whole trip has been a reconnection with the grassroots of soccer. Everyone here plays, and it would have been really amazing to have played with little ones who literally only have a ball and some imagination.
We did get our chance a day later when we traveled to Itapirica with our host mae and irmao for a weekend at their family's house. Around dinner time we were getting ready to head back from the beach and grab janta when some kids spotted our bola. We exchanged the customary "joga?" "sim eu jogo" with the guys and set up a small-sided game on the beach. They were impressed they had met some Americanos that could play, and we knew enough Portuguese to talk with the kids. With Salvador and the Atlantic as our backdrop we played for over 45 minutes, and it was an experience I'll never forget. There was no language barrier, only a common game, the power of sport connecting two very different cultures. After the game our opponents offered us coconuts, climbing a 45 foot tree and kicking down coconuts, catching them in towels and cracking them on the rocks. We sat with our friends and watched the sunset on the beach as we sipped fresh coco verde. Que legal. It really was something I'll never forget.
Soccer has really been our saving grace here. We bring our bola everywhere, and whenever the opportunity arises we whip the ball out to juggle. It's amazing how many people have joined in with us. I wish it was like this in the States. There is definitely a communal aspect to this game that is incredibly strong in Brazil.
This is kind of a one-sided article, but I hope to fill in more as the week continues, including many more picture updates!! Thanks for checking in.
Graf with favela in the background, notice how huge they are..take up 70% of land area in Salvador
Welcome flags to Itapirica
Our ride to Itapirica
My host family and Alec and I (Alec, Carla, Maya, Paulo, Kade)
Our friend and his horse on the beach at Itapirica, stoic pose
Moonlit, long exposure with Salvador across the bay (midnight)