Friday, July 18, 2014

The World Cup is Finished, Time to Start Working Again

After Brazil's staggering defeat against Germany the atmosphere in Brazil changed from festive to kind of depressed. The fact that even though the Germany humiliated them in front of the home crowd, Brazilians would still support it in the final against Argentina, tells a lot about Brazilian relationship with their neighbours. 

The atmosphere in Copacabana was up to the German goal absolutely insane. Around 100,000 Argentines came to Rio to see the final and most of them came to see it at the beach. Starting in the morning, they were singing songs (including very provocative ones about Brazilians), jumping around and just generally being cheerful and excited about the match. All this changed suddenly the moment Germany scored. There was silence (being broken by a few German supporters, who were getting absolutely mental) and Argentines literally started praying for Messi to score. Unfortunately it didn't happen and Argentines left Copacabana disappointed. The riot police had to intervene a few times with pepper spray, but apart from that there were no major issues. 

To the surprise of most people, the Cup ran pretty smoothly (excluding some of the unfinished airports etc.) and I don't think there were any major issues or protests, although the absence of protests could be attributed to the police allegedly arresting the main activists before the important games and thus disabling them from being able to organise the protests.

People all over Brazil were joking that this time the year will only start after the Cup has finished. In January people kept celebrating the new year's, then came the Carnival, the preps for the Cup and the World Cup itself. But now that all this is finished things will slowly get back to normal. Or as normal as things here can be. 

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

A Busy Week

This week was a busy one at Two Brothers.

Sunset at our building in Valão
We decided to build a garden on the roof-top terrace of our building. Even though the task of ordering, carrying and putting the bricks together with cement and mortar seems like a trivial task, it turned out to be slightly more challenging than we expected. Carrying the bricks and the 30-kg bags of soil up the three sets of narrow stairs to the roof was pretty tiring, but that was only the first bit of the challenge.

The volunteers perfecting their building skills:

Because we had zero experience with any building related activities, the work that we thought would take us an hour, lasted from noon until late at night. We were pretty sceptical about whether our garden structure was going to hold, but when we checked up on it after a few days, all the bricks were still holding together!

After a few days, however, we realised that the heavy structure might be a bit too much for our roof-top terrace to hold, especially when the soil gets wet, so we decided to change our plans a bit and create a hanging garden instead.

While one part of the volunteers was busy building the garden, Giselle was teaching on the floor bellow

On Monday we did a field trip to the cinema with our adult students 

We took them to the cinema to watch "the Maleficent". Even though some of the students were a bit sceptical about going to see a Disney movie, most of them enjoyed it in the end.

The volunteers with their adult students at the cinema

Our school will be open during the period of the World Cup and our English lessons will continue.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Rocinha Turning Yellow and Green

There is less than a week to the start of the World Cup and the whole city of Rio is turning into Brazil's national colours. Rocinha is no exception. There is practically no bar, restaurant or main street without the Brazilian flag or at least some yellow-green-blue decorations.

A local supermarket 

One of the Travessas leading to Via Apia

A local clothes store

Nova Rocinha

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Ignored by the government, Rocinha was responsible for it's own development for many decades. Resident Associations eventually formed and took over the job of the government, drug gangs replaced the police force and some NGO's helped out the few schools located within the favela. This history formed a community distinctly different from the rest of Rio's Zona Sul, or as a matter of fact, any other place I've been lucky enough to spend some time in. 

The obvious differences are the crazy amount of power cables across the streets, the never ending labyrinth of becos (allies) on both sides of the main roads and the obvious lack of infrastructure. Some differences also reach beyond the surface. People here build their own houses, fix their motorbikes by themselves and clean the part of the road in front of their house. Unlike anywhere else, this community looks after herself instead of waiting for help from the outside.

Still, there are things which residents struggle to provide. Education is a perfect example for this. Most of the residents being immigrants from the Brazilian Northeast, a poor region dominated by agriculture, there is a lack of formally educated people.

How motivated they are to learn new things, if they have the opportunity, is proven to me by my students in every single lesson. Not only are they grateful for every piece of information they receive during the lesson, they frequently ask for additional exercises and homework(!). It is a pleasure teaching students with such a high degree of motivation!

Damian Durrer, Resident Volunteer

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The World Cup Fever

There is less than a month to the World Cup, everyone here in Rio is talking about it, so I decided to have a short debate with my intermediate class about the issues surrounding the event. The purpose of the lesson was for the students to practice pronunciation and to enrich their vocabulary. 

I showed my students two videos that I found on the BBC webpage. One of them was about a football fan from São Paulo supporting the World Cup by wearing clothes and eating food only of Brazil's national colours. The other video showed the mass street protests that occurred last August and are at somewhat smaller scale happening now.

A very colourful football fan. For the video click here

Protests in São Paulo in August 2013. For the video click here

Everyone in my class was against the World Cup in Brazil and a lot of students pointed out that the money invested in the stadiums could have been spent much more wisely, which also is the opinion of general public in Brazil. 

The class solving the exercises on the board

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Learning to Give Directions in English or How NOT to Get Lost in the Becos of Rocinha

Becos are something typical for Rocinha. They are small narrow streets usually full of stairs, which make it rather complicated to navigate your way around.  Because of this, I decided to teach my adults intermediate class how to give directions to a tourist lost in Rocinha. 

We started with a few simple phrases and then gradually added vocabulary until the students were able to direct the foreigner from the very bottom of Rocinha all the way to their favourite bar or restaurant.

Some of the basic phrases we learnt:

Cross the pasarela
   Go up the Via Apia

Take the third street on your right
When you get to the market turn left and go up the street past the banks

Take the beco on your right

Continue going up the stairs

 Go up the Estrada da Gavea

Turn right to a beco, go to the end...

 ... and the snack bar will be on your right

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Ready to Start the Classes

Five new resident volunteers, William, Damian, Adi, Martha and Urša have all arrived to Rocinha and our new building, which was being renovated, is ready.

From left to right Willian, Damian, Adi, Martha and Urša, the newly arrived resident volunteers in front of the Cachopa house.
Working alongside field coordinator assistant, Jennifer, we spent the last few weeks organising the classes timetable and allocating the time slots amongst ourselves. We will have a beginner, an intermediate and an advanced class for adults and a class for children and for adolescents.

Damian teaching local kids how to juggle

We also started advertising the classes by sticking posters pretty much everywhere in Rocinha. 

We put them up local bars... 

...and restaurants.

The classes start March 31st when also more updates will follow.
A view on Rocinha and São Conrado from the top of the hill