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First days at the favela Babilonia

April 3, 2012

Today is Monday. My heart is bursting; the sights sounds and smell seem so alien. I don’t know where to begin. I sip green tea in my daughter’s kitchen. It is the hub of her home, a newly renovated and decorated apartment in a recently ‘cleansed’ favela called Babiliona. It was built by the army in 1930 while they were stationed here. One of the first favelas , with Providensia (built 1879), built to give the soldiers homes for a few months. When the army moved out it became the home of migrants, slaves and those who needed cheap living accommodation; now, no longer temporary homes but a vital part of the growing city.
‘M’ moved in here with her recently graduated partner, three months ago. Before that it had been a single story house owned by Seu Manuel. He lived here for over twenty years with his wife and only daughter who has since move out and has a home and children of her own.
During this time Manuel struggled with the effects of the Rio rain and poor damp protection, so he decided to build another story on the existing property and move upstairs. So doing he was able to make fundamental changes to the foundations and the lower brickwork and render the lower apartment damp free and comfortable for future tenants, who would provide him with an income during his retirement. Allowing Manuel to remain relatively comfortably in the community where he has lived and worked all his life. Having the time, expertise and improved cheaper building materials the little apartment became by Brazilian standards, if not palatial a desirable and cheap first home.
I return to my bursting heart. Everywhere, It feels is so foreign! The favela although it is built of concrete, not made of wood, is still a shanty town and difficult for a distant mother to understand. The streets are barely a few feet wide and very steep. There are cats, dogs, children dust, dirt and broken drains. The environment appears vulnerable and unstable. In the evening the streets are noisy with comings and goings; as I write, outside a television is being smashed and the copper wire being removed. As the night draws in so the quiet comes. The morning comes slowly and so the streets are swept, washed and rubbish removed. And the vast army of work men begin the day – regenerating. Me? I wonder whether a bursting heart is more comfortable than a broken one?
I think so.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. February 10, 2014 9:28 am

    Reblogged this on Living, Libraries and [Dead] Languages and commented:

    While things in Brazil as regards the health of my daughter and son-in-law are far from perfect, they are not so bad as they might have been. Their injuries are beginning to heal. My son-in-law is not yet out of the woods, but this week we hope he will have his operation and sent home to be with his partner. She is at home, having physio and getting mobile already. She is well on the way to have the pins and brace removed in 3 months time; which is two months sooner that we first feared.
    With this in mind we can now make plans for our July visit; when they will be much more able to to receive guests. We bought the tickets before the accident and we feared that our visit would be brought forward for reasons that were less welcome.
    Now we can tentatively begin to make plans to extend our horizons when we are next in Rio. Although Rio and the beaches are fabulous, there is still much to see; a bus, train or plane away!
    Meanwhile I will look back at our previous visits and the impression they made.

  2. Adilson Gomes Pinto Junior permalink
    February 10, 2014 10:40 am

    Amazing description Nela!!! We are waiting for you here again for a new adventure!!

  3. February 10, 2014 5:53 pm

    I cannot wait!!!

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