So, it’s been a while since my last post, and that’s for a few reasons. Mainly, I wanted to give myself a bit of time before I posted a reflection blog because I wanted everything to set in. Today marks one month since I have been home from Brazil and I miss it more and more every single day.
It’s really funny because when I think back to the nearly 9 weeks ago when I landed in Rio de Janeiro I was so afraid. Fear of the unknown mostly. I remember getting picked up at the airport by a taxi driver who spoke no English who was holding a sign with my name on it. We awkwardly (and very interestingly) tried to make some conversation while he drove me to my new home of Rocinha. On my way back to the airport, I had a similar situation, except I was having a full out conversation in some basic Portuguese about the traffic, the rain, and favelas with a just as friendly taxi driver.
I don’t want to sound cliche when I say that Brazil changed my life, and I never want to be the girl who goes abroad, does some voluntourism, gets her Facebook pictures, and leaves. When I say that Brazil changed my life I mean that it completely changed my scope of thought.
The world to me, before Brazil was small. I had seen a few things worth noting, but never anything as incredible as the beauty of Brazil, and I’m not even talking about the landscape. Brazil is so special because its people are so happy. I met people who graciously opened their homes to me. They cooked me dinner, they brought me gifts, they gave hugs. We mattered so much to these people we hardly even knew. I often wondered how every single person I met there was so happy.
Maybe it’s something in their water. Maybe it’s in their healthy lifestyle. Maybe it’s in their overwhelming sense of community. Whatever it is, it made an impact, and I hope to take that same attitude with me where ever I go. I miss Rocinha every single day, and the favela and every single person I met there hold a very special place in my heart. I tell everyone, “Project Favela was the hardest work I’ve ever done in my life,” and it is 100% true. But it was also the most rewarding, and I don’t know if I’ll ever get to experience that overwhelming sense of pride in something ever again.
After finally recovering from weird stomach viruses and infections, readjusting to American life, and settling into my home again, I can wholeheartedly say that I will be back to Rocinha and the day I return will be very special.
I am beyond grateful for the opportunity to experience the real Rio de Janeiro. I hope more people take the chance to visit Rocinha because it will change your life. You’ll learn to love everything about your neighborhood and you’ll miss it like crazy. Even the stray dogs and the scary clumps of electrical wires that would often be far too close to puddles of water. You’ll miss the scary bus rides down tiny curvy streets and the way the sun went down at 4:30pm. You’ll even miss being awoken by construction workers every day at 5 in the morning (okay maybe I don’t miss that) but there is so much I miss about Rocinha that I would talk about it for a whole day if I could.
Thank you to everyone who was so supportive of me during my trip (especially those who had to deal with me when I thought I had lice.) Thank you to the Project Favela team for showing me my full potential, giving me chances to lead, and giving my life some purpose. Thank you to every single person I met in Rocinha for welcoming me with open arms and treating me like one of your own. A big shout out to the After School Clubs kids who I know will never see this, but they honestly were my favorite part of being a volunteer in Rocinha. Those kids are going to change this world and I can’t wait to watch them grow into incredible human beings.
Eu te amo, Rocinha. Muito obrigada por tudo. Ate logo.