As I contemplate reaching my fourth month living in a favela, I’m looking out over the Atlantic ocean at a calm sea, six islands in the distance and flocks of birds in V-formation gliding over the water. I like to think the V is for Vidigal. Said to be the “Zona Sul” of Rio’s favelas, it’s known partly for it’s beautiful sea views and partly because it rubs shoulders with the likes of its well-to-do neighbors, Leblon and Ipanema.
It’s been about 45 days since I’ve forsaken the hustle and bustle of Rocinha for the serenity of Vidigal, but my time in R-town was not without its memorable moments. There, I did such things as carry heavy items on my back as I walked up the stairs (a must-do), re-register for Internet service once a month, wonder who stole every last one of my neighbors t-shirts (he was never seen wearing one) and stand in for my announcer friend at the mattress store (where I’d announce to passers-by in English that there was a “special sale just for you!” and that “we’ve got everything you need at unbeatable prices!”).
Other notable experiences included seeing a full-sized bus going in reverse on an incline at a rather high speed and an older guy overhearing me speaking English to a New Yorker and interrupting us to inquire about an urgent matter. He wanted to know whether a gallon of gasoline cost more than a gallon of water in the US (the New Yorker later postulated that his bags were all packed and this was the deciding factor for his travels).
Despite the colorful nature of it all and my tongue-in-cheek recounting, I began to long for peace and quiet and that meant seeking out a smaller, calmer favela. Word on the street was the neighboring Vidigal was the place to start my search. Halfway into my second month here, I can confirm a thing or two about the ‘VDG’. Firstly, normal sleep patterns can be easily attained. Secondly, moto-taxis can be one’s best friend (unless, it’s close to midnight at which point there’s about a 20-minute wait to go up the hill). Thirdly, the closer you live to the ocean, the less it feels like a favela (and the quicker you can get to the popular beaches).
When all is said and done, though, at the four month point I’m calling it quits. My nomadic nature tells me I should seek out new horizons and explore another region of Brazil. When I reach where I’m going, I’ll be sure to write…
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