Snapshots from the past 24 hours

Apparently I spoke too soon about the rain and peace… Last night was another night of rain here – too much rain. There was flooding all over the Rio metropolitan area. The poorest neighborhoods are always the hardest hit. Thousands of homes were destroyed and several people drowned or were killed in collapsing buildings… words fail me. Our friends on the streets were cold, wet, and miserable. Many of them didn’t sleep at all last night. These are my friends.


As this was happening last night, I was at home, dry, in bed. I was dropping off to sleep when big booms started in the distance… not thunder. It was the Military Police’s caveirão (armored personnel carrier) – a behemoth on six bulletproof wheels, armor plating, turret with huge machine gun mounted on top – just what you need for driving down the streets of a residential neighborhood.

A favorite police tactic is to cruise the streets of the favelas, trying to draw fire from the traffickers. If that fails, then the big turret gun on top is put into play, shooting at random “likely” targets. Thankfully, it was almost midnight, so the shops were all closed – only a couple restaurants, snack bars, pizza places, and taverns were still open. So not too many people had to run and hide to avoid being in the wrong place at the wrong time. And after a half hour or so cruising the neighborhood, shooting at random things, they left. Typical, stellar police work.


I was downtown today waiting to meet up with Rich, my coworker, and I stopped into a snack place to grab a pastry and juice. As I sat at the little table, F (one of the street boys) came up and sat down at my plastic table with a huge grin. “I’m working now – shining shoes. Want me to shine yours?” he said? And then laughed as he looked down at my three dollar flip-flops. We shared the pastry and chatted for a few minutes, and then he jumped up, said “I gotta get back to work. Thanks, and go with God…” “Stay with God,” I shot back, and then he was gone.


A few minutes later I was standing under the overhang of a building avoiding the cold drizzle, browsing the day’s headlines from the newspapers. It was there I learned the details about the flooding. In other exciting news, police captured 3 and a half tons of marijuana in a bust yesterday. 3 ½ TONS. 7,700 pounds. Rich and I then had a laugh as we tried to imagine where they were hiding it, how much space it took up (I pictured Scrooge McDuck’s underground treasure vault, but instead of gold coins… you know.), how they moved it around (Rich’s visual – 150 guys, each carrying a 50 pound duffel bag, walking through the streets of the favela…) This is our reality.


Out on the streets – I looked down the sidewalk and saw J banging on a huge 5 gallon tin that used to hold cooking oil or something. Rich and I tried to figure out what was going on. Stumped, Rich walked down the way to ask, and came back laughing. “He’s building a grill.” Of course. So Rich and I watched as J proceeded to put together a “stove” to cook dinner. “What’s for dinner?” I asked D. “Oh, the usual – rice, chicken, pasta…” I love their spirit and joy…


I asked D why she had a bandage on her neck. “Oh, it’s not a bandage,” she answered. “It’s medicine for my sore throat. Kind of like Vick’s vaporub. See, my throat gets sore when I smoke too much crack.” Rich and I looked at each other. “But D, you’re nine months pregnant…” Her answer – “I know. I’ve stopped.” Oh D…


I was playing with V. She’s two years old, huge brown eyes, spirited and full of life. She is always getting in trouble – sometimes deservedly. We had a deck of cards that she was counting out to me. Suddenly she stopped and gathered up the cards, pushing them into my hands saying “Hide them. Hide them,” in her little two-year old whisper. I looked around only to see L, V’s 5 year old sister, coming in our direction. L enjoys taking the cards for herself… They’re still learning to share – ever so slowly…


Beauty and tragedy are all around – if we only look…



Filed under beauty, favela, rain, streets

3 responses to “Snapshots from the past 24 hours

  1. Anonymous

    Thansk for your snap shots. I am glad you can see the beauty too. sometimes it seems easier to see when there is so much muck.

    Keep up the good work.


  2. julia

    wow…that’s a great post. i really enjoyed reading that.
    it is great to see just a part of your daily life – who you encounter what you experience. sometimes it is hard to see the beauty – thanks for helping us a little by pointing it out…

  3. Karl

    I have to say “wow” too. Now I want to retract my recent entry complaining about police here.

    God bless.


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