When I was in Brazil I spent most of my time in a place called Florianopolis, I lived with a Brazilian family and worked at a school in a Favella (slum). The family’s daughter spoke good English but no one in the family spoke a word of English, and when I first arrived there I didn’t speak a word of Portuguese. However, this didn’t stop us getting on and using body language and sign to understand each other.
I worked in the school all week and then spent my weekends exploring with the other English people that worked at the school with me. These people became not only my friends but my family, we would sometimes call each other just to hear someone speak and not have to concentrate, and you tend to find yourself with a headache from trying to concentrate so hard at understanding people.
I remember watching an episode of Mr Bean whilst away, and even though he doesn’t actually speak in his sketches, I was comforted knowing that he was English and when he coughed, sounds stupid, but I knew it was an English cough! This whole time made me realise how well we communicate with each other and how well it doesn’t matter what community you’re from there is no divide unless you let there be.
Working in the school really opened my eyes to a world I had not seen before, I’m not sure that many people by the age of 19 can say they have worked with drug lords children in Brazil.
The community there is very strange as on the maps the places where these favella’s are, are actually not even marked but look like they might be a field or something. The police don’t drive there at all, and when they do it’s generally with bullet proof cars (strange).
The actually community that they live in however, is very protective of each other and each others children, they were more than happy for us to be working there as they saw that we only wanted to help. We did have to make sure we wore our t-shirts though, so they didn’t shoot us...needless to say I felt like attaching mine to my skin! The only time the community was disturbed was if a family fell out with another. One of the teachers would say how terrible it was in the evenings; as you would often hear gun shots through the night...can you imagine that!
While I was there I was lucky enough to see a drugs run, we had gone to the shops with some children to get some milk and rice for lunch, it was the children that stopped us crossing the road again and told us what was happening, basically on the tops of roofs set all over the favella were boys about 16 years sitting down, but one was standing. Then one by one they stood up and sat down, where ever the one stood was, was where the cocaine was being taken to, next we saw the police, heard a gun shot and then all the boys got down and the next thing we saw was a black car pulling at 100mph out of one of the back roads followed by another three cars all the same going in different directions. This was the scariest and most amazing thing I have ever seen.
To think that it was 9 and 12 year old children looking after us was surreal, we were there to teach and look after them not the other way round, it just showed me the kind of world there is out there and how others live. It made me understand why these children hardly showed any emotion towards violence at school and why many of them became so violent towards the others so quickly. In my time there the trust and bond between the children and me grew and the day I left, was one of the hardest ever.