Favela. Google Doodle.

favela_rio

I am not only amused by the daily Google Doodle change that Google is doing but ecstatic about the creativity as well! Aren’t you excited? I mean, it’s Brazil. Everybody loves Brazil. At least I do!

Today, they have what it looks to be a doodle that resembles the famous favelas in Brazil. What is a favela? Favela is the term for “slums” in Brazil. Pronounced in Brazilian Portugues, you say “fa-vele”. The first of the favelas were built in the late 18th century and were built by soldiers returning from the conflict in Canudos who have no place to live. It is named after a famous skin-irritating tree in Canudos known as the Canudos Favela Hill where the tree is known and indigenous to Bahia.

The soldiers, being familiar with the tree, started calling the location favela which then referred to slum for the first time. Former slaves with no land ownership also settled there. Slaves with no option for work. About 6 percent of Brazil’s population lives in slums (2011 statistics). It has become a big tourist attraction in Brazil and many large tour companies actually offer favela tours in and around the country. Rio de Janeiro alone has 600 favela communities, twice the size it had in 1969.

My little story about the favela is both scary and endearing. I got inside the favela by chance and was able to walk around it with very little or no fear. It’s like the squatter’s area in Manila. Like Tondo. If you are not from there, you will think that it is the most dangerous place you could ever be. Don’t let the sun come down on you while in Tondo right? Same with the favelas.

I met someone while I was vacationing in Sao Paulo who became one of my very good friends. His name is Josadaque. I wasn’t expecting that encounter to last more than just the simple and normal encounters but he invited me and my friends who were traveling with me to a neighborhood party. We had no idea what it was and how it was but we said yes to the invitation nonetheless. We’re supposed to be adventurous people right?

The night that it was supposed to happen, both my friends bailed out and they thought it would be best that I go alone since it’s like a date for me and this guy. I was tickled pink anyway because the guy is super nice and I really enjoyed his company. I ended up going with Josadaque alone.

I had no idea that the location is about two hours away from the city of Sao Paulo. We had to take a regional train, and two bus rides to get to the place. I didn’t know at the time that the place is inside the favelas of Sao Paulo. It was my birthday week and I had no expectation of how it was going to be celebrated but this is one birthday I will never forget.

When Josadaque and I got to the neighborhood party (the location where the party was held was really more like a huge barn) where they sell beers and mixed drinks. The party was about to end. I remember that my friends told Josadaque that I have to be home by 12 midnight because they want to make sure that I am safe and okay. My cell phone did not work in Brazil. Josadaque, like a real gentleman promised my friends that he will have me back at the hotel by midnight.

He introduced me to a friend of his (Wilson was his name I believe) and instead of me paying for the drinks, his friend was buying it for me. Beer after beer after beer. I was having a ball with them too because they were super nice. I didn’t even realize at the time that we were inside the favelas until I got stuck there. After the party we went to another location to drink some more. Josadaque knew a restaurant owner who gave us free beers and barbecue on a stick. I kept reminding him that I have to be back at the hotel by midnight and he gave me the “do-not-worry, I-got ya” look. When I nudged him again after a while, he said that his friend has a car who can take us back to the train station direction without having to take the bus. I told him we have to go soon otherwise, we won’t make it home by midnight.

He asked his friend for a favor and his friend agreed to take us back to the train station with one caveat. His friend needs to pick up something and then we can go to the train station. Josadaque saw the worried look on my face because it was getting late so we hopped in the car to go on our way.

On our way to the train station, we stopped by a location where there were no electricity and we were surrounded by abandoned buildings. I actually thought it was the end of me. We stopped in the middle of this dark street and his friend jumped out of the car. We were there for a while and I was getting really scared. Josadaque held my hand secretly and told me not to worry.

When his friend returned, he had with him some kind of whatever it was and they asked me if I wanted some. I told Josadaque no. I don’t do that kind of stuff. He told his friends not to ask me because I was getting scared. Nicely, his friends respected that and didn’t bother me.

We proceeded to go and it was the scariest ride of my life. By the time we got to the train station, it had already closed. The train closes at midnight and do not resume again until the next day. I was mad! I was more than mad, I was furious! Josadaque kept apologizing and asking me to calm down. I told him that I don’t know how to get in touch with my friends and that they will be worried about me. He told me to use “Facebook” to message them and let them know that I was will with him and will stay with him in his house overnight. That’s all I can do at this point.

To help cheer me up a bit, Josadaque said that I could stay with him at his brother’s house and we can leave first thing in the morning. In the meantime, he wanted to take me to a club with his friends. And his friends, clearly fond of me, wanted to take me out for my birthday.

We got to the club and I was asked to present my ID. Josadaque told the bar owner that I am a VIP from the United States. They gave us the VIP room and even had the band sing happy birthday for me. We danced and we danced (even danced with Josadaque several times) and drank more and more. The owner of the club sent up food for us and more drinks – all on the house! YES!

It was one of my most memorable birthdays ever. I got to spend it at the favelas with a lot of wonderful people who, normally you would probably ignore when you are walking down the street. They all treated me like gold and I could never repay them for it.

Josadaque and I went home to his brother’s house (which was very clean and well-constructed concrete house). He gave me a clean towel and clothes I can change into so I can take a shower before bed. We had to sleep in separate beds though because he is not out to his brother and sister-in-law.

I tried to sleep but it was freezing cold. I only had a thin bed sheet and I couldn’t bring myself to sleep. When I was finally dozing off, I heard a knock on the door. This was after two hours I believe. It was Josadaque. He said, “Get up. We have to leave now.” I was a little confused and still didn’t know what was happening. I was asking him but he said he will explain later.

I got up, got dressed and we left. While we were waiting for the bus, we were both noticeably tired, he told me that his sister-in-law freaked out on him. His brother was at work at that time. When she realized that I – a stranger to her- is sleeping in their house, she lost it on him. I can understand though. If I was a woman and my brother brought a stranger in the house, I would freak out too! What if that stranger is a rapist or a deranged serial killer?

He was pissed off at his sister-in-law for over reacting but I told him that I understood so do not worry. He took me back to my hotel and my concerned friends let out a sigh of relief upon seeing me.

It was a night I will never forget. To this day, Josadaque and I still keep in touch. He recently wrote on my Facebook Wall – – “I LOVE YOUUUUUUUUUUU!”

Here’s what a real favela looks like.

1280px-1_rocinha_favela_closeup

That was my favela story.

Chuva

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