Category Archives: streets

36 hours down, 68 left


Of the past 36 hours, 3 of them have been spent in my home. Despedida (good-bye party) at the Nichols on Sunday was a low key time – maybe 15 friends and ministry partners, eating snacks (delicious food by Rebecca, coffeecake by Ben), and talking about the past and future. Rebecca explained to Anna that we were having a party for me, “but it was a sad party…” yeah.

Last night at church, with a message on grace and hope. Appropriate, I thought… And then over to Jeremy’s house for one last guys night which included a rousing game of Canasta and watching most of the movie Labyrinth. (Seriously guys, we’re slacking. Whatever happened to poker nights, Rio Risk, Rambo movies, ultimate memory… My fault though, as I had final veto power over all decisions… And the company was great. I’ll miss those times.)

Digression – Some of you may have seen the movie Labyrinth. Others, like me, may have only seen snippets. For those of you who are unaware, it is… kind of hard to explain, actually. Jeremy described it as “the movie that failed in every category that the Lord of the Rings excelled in.” It is a fantasy adventure film/musical, starring David Bowie (yes, David Bowie) as King of the Goblins, co-starring lots of weird muppets from Jim Henson’s company. Frank Oz (Yoda) was even in it. Acting? Horrible. Plot? Nonsensical. Music? 80’s power ballad. Muppets? Psychedelic. Kind of a hybrid between Sesame Street, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, Sound of Music, and Lord of the Rings, if you can picture it…

I wonder where the movie came from… what is the story behind it? Did David Bowie one day decide he wanted to be in a movie?

“Let’s see… I like kids. And goblins. I love goblins. In fact, I want to be King of them. Let’s sing songs too. But MY music. And I want to have a music video in the middle where I dance and throw a baby high in the air (my personal favorite). And don’t forget Animal’s crazy cousins who remove their heads and dance around the fire. I want kids who watch this to have nightmares for months after. Oh, and maybe…”

So he called his friends, (George Lucas and Jim Henson) and I guess the rest is history. I could go on, but maybe we’ll stop now and end this digression… There’s still organizing and cleaning of stuff to do around the house… ok.

End Digression.

The rest of the day – pancake breakfast, a short time of prayer (thanks guys, I really do appreciate it), running home to get stuff ready for streets, one last day of making the sandwiches, talking with the bakery lady about how I’m leaving soon, run to the entrance – wait, are those gunshots? Yes, they are. Will it be my last gunfight? maybe. Bus ride downtown, prayer in the cathedral, walking all over downtown trying to find where the youth are… No dice. I wonder where they are – I’ve been telling them that today is my last day, and we’re going to have a little despedida. I brought cake. See a few older men and women. Meet up with three or four of our friends at the final spot (the XV), and have a good conversation good-byes… But missed seeing many that I had hoped to… I’m going back down on Wed. afternoon on my own to try and search them out – we’ll see how it works… the cake is still in my backpack, waiting for the right time. Then off to buy a couple of gifts/lembranças and eat dinner (my gas canister ran out yesterday morning… so no more cooking at home for me), and home.

Now, clean, rested, and ready to work… so I’ll do that. It’s real, and happening…



Filed under daily life, favela, good-byes, leaving, lessons learned, movies, odd, streets

Suspense! Drama! Adventure!

So we’ve been back in Rio (after our Peru trip) for just a little over a week now. This afternoon was our weekly “street event” where we go down, hang out, share a word from Scripture (with varying degrees of success), pray together, and share a snack with friends on the street. I left the house early this morning for breakfast and conversation with Jenna, then spent several hours at my school trying to iron out confirmation of enrollment details (which I need to extend my visa). By the time I made it downtown, I was already a little tired, but ready to dive in and see what would happen. I didn’t know that I would literally be diving in all too shortly!

As we sat under one of the banyan trees in the “Praça do Cavalo” (The Horse Square) conversing, playing cards, and catching up, Rich and Dandy set off to find a few others who weren’t present. About three minutes after they left (walking through open grassy parks) it started to sprinkle. Jacque and I and the rest of the 20 or so youth gathered up all of our activities (and blankets, backpacks, possessions) and ran across 10 lanes of traffic to take shelter under an overhang in front of an office building.

We sat there for a while (through two games of Uno, actually, which with these guys go on for ever!), until we noticed that the water had started rising. It filled the street, and as buses drove by their wakes would slowly lap over the curb, inching their way towards us, getting closer and closer (kind of like King Canute of the Danes… never mind…).

A moment of panic as we all scrambled to move farther down the sidewalk… and then another as we picked up everything and kept moving. The water kept rising higher, the wind whipping down the canyons of Rio’s high-rises, knocking over street signs (well, OK, just one. still, it was a hard wind)… The water finally pushed us to the corner where we stepped out into the wind – still under an overhang, but realizing that our patch of dry ground was steadily shrinking. Soon, it was not only 20 plus street youth, Jac and myself huddled together trying to stay dry, but businessmen and women trying to get home yet unable to cross the street to get to their bus stop. A few brave souls rolled up their pants/skirts and strode across the knee-deep water. (One of the older teenagers took advantage of his captive audience to make snide comments about the past mayor of Rio, who was replaced by the new mayor about two weeks ago – “12 years of Cesar Maia, and this is the kind of roads we have. Glad I voted for Paes…” when that got a laugh, his grin exploded from the wry, sardonic one that usually is in place to a blazing flash of teeth, pride in his eyes…)

After about 20 minutes of this, a cheer rose from our midst – we saw Rich and Dandy hurrying across the street, not bothering to worry about getting their feet (and legs) wet as they ran through the rushing rapids. (They weren’t worried because they were already about as wet as if they’d fallen in something big and wet – completely drenched from head to toe and back to head again.) A quick hurried conference later, and we quickly prayed, handed out food, and began plotting how we were going to get Dandy home without her getting pneumonia again (and her husband mad at us… again.)

As Dandy caught the bus at the bus stop (only having to wade through three medium rushing rivers) Jac, Rich and myself braved the path towards the metro station (convinced that 40 minutes standing in sardine conditions was much better than sitting for 3 hours in a bus trying to get through flooded streets.) We didn’t reckon on ever-growing lake standing between us and our destination. My feet not being completely wet (and more to the point, not wanting to wade through the waters carrying who knows what kind of diseases and critters), I hopped up on a metal fence surrounding one of the parks (the Passeio Publico), balancing myself on the concrete base that managed to keep my feet out of the water, and began working my way down the flooded street and sidewalk.

Rich and Jac followed for a bit until we ran into a candy salesman who had tied his cart to the fence, in hopes that thus anchored it would no longer float away. It was too big to climb around, and too delicate to climb on, so we found ourselves stymied. Rich and Jac turned back (deciding to go around the park the long way), but I would not be denied. So, up and over the rest of the 7 foot high fence – being very careful to not slip on the wet metal and impale myself (or my foot!) on any of the sharp points.

Once inside the park, I thought I’d be fine – the concrete retaining wall would keep most of the water out, and I’d be able to walk in (relative) dryness to the comfort of the metro station. Alas, ’twas not to be. I had not reckoned on the gate into the park. There was no wall there – only two swinging doors made of metal bars, propped wide open (not that it would have done me much good if they were closed.) And through the open gate rushed a torrent (yes, a torrent) of water. I saw mini-rapids and rats in kayaks made from 2-liter coke and guarana bottles. This river spilt into the park, gushing through several small waterfalls until it reached the ever-growing lake in the middle.

I stood frozen, clinging to the bars, occasionally startling random passers-by on the opposite side of the fence who couldn’t see me until they were almost on top of me, us face to face with only a few inches of rain-soaked air and a couple iron bars between an even more awkward situation. But, sadly, there was no other way. So I jumped. The water was up to mid-thigh, and the current was pulling (man, I’m glad I wasn’t wearing flip-flops today…) At this point, my jeans were completely soaked, and the rest of me not far off, so I gave up on trying to get style points (and stay dry) and decided to hurry the rest of the way to the metro station. I just hoped that Rich and Jac had made it.

(It turned out they did, pretty fine. They had to wade through a few ankle-deep rivulets, and were still pretty wet, but at least they hadn’t bathed in the run-off from all the nasty-ness, pollution, bodily fluids and wastes, and critters (both visible and invisible) on their flight to freedom and dry-ness.)

Of course, about ten minutes after we got on the metro, the sun came out, the torrential downpour died down to a sprinkle, and we were treated to a gorgeous rainbow and sunset… And that, my friends, is how we survived the great flood of ’08…

(pictures would be forthcoming – at least of the sunset and rainbow – but I left my memory card reader with the Nichols… So for now, use your imaginations…)

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Filed under adventures, fun, rain, streets

Bad boys, bad boys, whatchagonnado…

Hey peoples. It’s been a while since I’ve shown up here – nice to see you still around… I’m sure we’ve all been busy – myself? Oh, just a couple weeks travel to Peru for our WMF staff retreat, and a bit of vacation/sight-seeing in Cuzco with the friends. But I’ve been home for a few days, and am getting back in the swing of things. My time away was so rich (for a few pictures, click here), and I am grateful to be part of such a wonderful family.

Tonight while we were out on the streets, the PMs (Policia Militar – military police) stopped by. Surprisingly, there was no harassment or even questioning (not like yesterday afternoon with the youth downtown… but that’s another story). Tonight everyone was well behaved, but it brought to mind a few incidents that happened in the weeks leading up to our departure for Peru.

A few weeks ago I was walking down the road, well outside of the favela, heading towards the nearby Metro stop. I saw ahead of me a few police-men-officers getting back into their car after searching a few young men. It looked like they were about to pull away from the curb, but one looked up at me, then leaned over and murmured something to the driver. The driver put the car in park, and they settled in to wait for me to walk the remaining twenty feet towards their car. (We’ll be right back after this brief word from our sponsor…)

(One of the skills that I have been working on here in Rio is how to properly approach a cop. There is a middle ground of noticing and eye-contact that is appropriate around the favela. If you ignore him, or fail to make any eye-contact at all, you might as well be holding up a huge sign saying “SEARCH ME PLEASE!” On the other hand, if you are too aggressive and stare at every cop who drives by, or is standing by the side of the road with their M-16 cradled in their arms, you are also drawing too much attention to yourself. There is a golden mean, and I’ve gotten pretty good at it over the years. I’ve also gotten pretty good at realizing when a police officer is going to pull you aside (or off the bus, or away from the youth) and start asking questions and searching you, your bag, your nasal cavity, etc.)

And now, back to our story…

So as I was about to pass the cop car, the passenger side officer leaned out the window and ordered me to walk over to the car.

“What are you doing up here?”

Me – ”I live here.”

”Ok. Do you have any drugs or weapons in your backpack?”

Me – ”No sir.”

”All right.” And with that, the driver put the car in gear, and they drove away. Sometimes you get the lazy ones…

A few days later, I was leaving Jacarezinho when I was stopped by the cops again. It was a Monday, and I was headed to the street with 40+ ham and cheese sandwiches in my backpack, activities, a medical bag, and a few other things (thankfully I left my guitar home that day.) The enthusiastic cop proceeded to not only search my backpack, but opened up the plastic bags full of sandwiches and went through about half of them, one by one – opening each and every sandwich to make sure I wasn’t hiding anything inside them. About halfway through, he got tired, and told me I could go…

And then, the best one – About the week before we leave for Peru, I was once again leaving Jacare (catching a pattern here?) when three cops told me to stop. Again the questions began:

Officer A – “What are you doing here?”

Me – “I live here.”

A – “What street do you live on?”

Me – “Rua Santa Luzia 28, etc.”

A – “Let’s see some ID.”

(I pull out my “protocolo”, which is what the Federal Police give you while you’re waiting for them to issue your foreigner’s ID proper. It’s a slip of paper about six inches long, with your name handwritten on it, your picture stapled on, and a stamp or two on the back. It looks like something a third grader would throw together if asked to create some kind of ID. The police are never happy when that’s all I have…)

At this point, policeman A takes it from me to look at it closer, then proceeds to give me a hard time about how it’s expired, while I patiently respond, “No, it’s not, it actually was extended until December. You can see the stamp here on the back…” A is not happy.

At the same time, B asks me “What do you have in your bag?”

(At this point I only had the medical bag, along with a few books I was taking to the street with me, so I told them).

B – “I need to see that.”

So I pull out our first aid bag, and B proceeds to tear through it, opening each and every container of ointment, hydrogen peroxide, etc. “So you do first aid on the gang members, bandits, and ‘street trash’ around here?”

Me – “Well, yes, but I don’t call them that…”

B – “Do you have a license for that?”

Me – “I took a 1st Aid course in the US, certified by the Red Cross.”

B – “Let’s see your certificate.”

Me – “I don’t have it ON me.”

B – “Why not?”

I mumble something about how I’ve never needed it before.

B – “You know, you can’t practice 1st Aid without a license.”

Incredulous, I ask, “You mean I can’t put bandaids and antibiotic cream on a kid’s scraped knee?”

B – “No. You can’t.”

I really didn’t know how to respond, so I looked at Officer B and said, “Well, I didn’t know that… Thank you for telling me.”

At this point, he found a small glass jar that I use to keep advil in. (This part is my bad…) Originally, this little jar held homemade raspberry jam that Jenna’s mom had made and sent to me a while back. So, on the top of this jar of little orange pills is a sticker that says “2006”, while on the side of the jar is another sticker saying “Red Raspberry.” Officer B asked me what it was, and I told him. However, sure that he had discovered the latest underground designer drug, he proceeded to take out a pen and paper to write down what was written there. When I realized what he was doing, I sheepishly told him “That used to hold jelly that a friend’s mom sent me,” but I’m sure he thought I was full of it.

When he finished writing it down, he shoved it back in the bag and told me I could go. Relieved, I walked away, only to realize that I hadn’t gotten my “protocolo” back from Officer A (who was now crouched down in a firing position, aiming around the corner.) So I turned around to walk back up to him and gently ask him “Excuse me, but could I have my ID back?” Before I could say anything, he glanced up and noticed me. An expression of mild disgust and exasperation crossed his face, and he pointed next to him, where I saw my ID sitting on top of the big orange city trash can. I smiled my thanks, grabbed it, and turned around to catch my bus…

Thankfully, no one said anything more about my lack of a 1st Aid certificate…

Ahh, it’s good to be home. In other news, I made a small mistake regarding money. Tonight, after buying a few last items for dinner, I realized that I was completely out of money – Brazilian money, at least – I managed to find plenty of Peruvian and American money. After a while of frantic searching in every corner of the house, I was able to round up just enough for bus fare tomorrow. That way, I avoid having to walk the 40 minutes to the ATM that doesn’t charge you a ridiculous surcharge. And I even have about 45 centavos left over.

I may try to update soon about our time in Peru. As I said, it was a rich time that left me with an overflowing heart. I may have even found my voice again. We’ll see. But for now, it’s dinner time, and then bed.

Sending love your way…


Filed under adventures, favela, peru, police, retreat, rio de janeiro, streets


So this evening I was walking home and I caught myself thinking “Man, it’s been a while since I’ve had a gun pointed at me…” Of course, the rest of the way home I was all about keeping my eyes open, sure that even thinking such thoughts was a karmic shout-out asking to have guns pointed at me, or even in my general direction. But, even with such irresponsible thoughts, I made it home with no problems. It is a funk-party night, so you’re supposed to be prepared for anything… and believe me, I was. It was almost a let down that it was such a normal night.


This evening as we were leaving the streets, one of the older women who gathers cardboard to recycle appeared with several sturdy cardboard boxes that hadn’t been broken down and were filled with styrofoam. They slowly transmogrified from giant building blocks to acrobatic helpers to ammunition in an all-out box war. Imagine five young kids (ages 3-14) throwing computer monitor boxes (and anything else made of cardboard they could find) at Rich and myself (and us throwing them back) next to a mountain of trash collected from the restaurants further down the street, still teeming with people having a beer after work on a Friday night, samba groups roaming through the tables streaming out into the road… and really, who doesn’t love a box war?


A friend has clued me in to a website called “Prayers and Creeds” – a site which posts daily prayers from Scripture, desert fathers, contemporary theologians, and other diverse voices… There’s some beautiful, thought-provoking words that can be found there. I also found the following prayer there – it may be one of my new favorites…

Ipsissimia Verba?

(by Muriel McNair)

You are the salt of the earth.
Gather it together in heaps lest it be polluted;
keep it in the jar.
Let society rot in its sin and be redolent in its putrefaction
the saints pristine in their whiteness shall be gathered together as a memorial pillar to me.

You are the light of the world.
Guard it carefully lest the darkness puts it out.
Build a beautiful shrine for the lamp of God
where it may be kept safe for you to admire.
Do not take it out into the storm to look for the lost:
the wind might blow it out.
Let the lost look out for themselves
– if they are lucky they will see the chinks of light through the shutters and try to come in.

You shall be my witnesses,
so witness faithfully, on Sundays, come what may, and at as many meetings as you can
give money, make long prayers, sing hymns, and listen to sound sermons.
Teach my lambs, in particular, to get their priorities right
and keep the fold nice and tidy:
then it will be easy to find you when I come back, already gathered
from the rest
and glorifying God in your holiness.

You are my body.
Treat it gently, keep it warm,
make sure it gets enough to eat and lives respectably.
Keep it out of politics of course and the crush of the common people.
Avoid confrontation with the realities of evil.
One crucifixion was enough.


Filed under calvin and hobbes, favela, prayers, satire, streets

Visual Parables – Grace

A few weeks ago I was walking in downtown Rio. I had the afternoon free, and was taking advantage of it by visiting one of the free art exhibits at the Federal Justice Cultural Center. The featured artist, Sergio Chavez, uses cardboard, trash, and found objects as a medium to sculpt objects and scenes from the lives of the common people of Brazil. It’s beautiful, and I like it.* As I walked through and SAW what he made, I was reminded of the lines from U2’s song “Grace…”

~ “Grace finds goodness in everything… Grace finds beauty in everything… Grace makes beauty out of ugly things…”

I love the praxis of Sergio making art – beauty – out of trash.

Later that afternoon, I walked up Avenida Rio Branco, heading for a coffee shop and a quiet place to write. As I darted across one of the streets, dodging cars, bikes, trucks, taxis, and the occasional rabid pigeon (you might think that not being mammals, pigeons can’t get rabies… Let me just say you’ve never met Rio’s pigeons. Rats with wings… but I digress), I saw her walking ahead of me. I don’t remember what she was wearing, or much about what she looked like. The first thing I saw were the scars. Across half her neck. On one of her arms. Her back. Her leg. One of her cheeks, moving up the side of her face towards her temple. Thick, ropy scars that, though faded and softened with time, still traced livid tracks across her body.

I’ve always been attracted – maybe even captivated – by contrasts. It’s one of the things I love most about photography – and seeing the contrast of this young woman, her scars in tension with her poise, smile, and evident grace, was a thing of beauty. Her grace was beautiful – no self-consiousness, no covering up of her scars, but an acceptance and transcendence of them.

Our kids on the street have many scars – knives, broken glass, razors and rocks will slice through skin and muscle. Cars and busses, soccer games, fights, and abuse by drunken parents leave broken bones, sprained and swollen arms and legs, bruises dark and tender. And then there are the scars you can’t see – the scars of being unwanted, unloved, rejected by society, or just plain ignored. People are afraid of them. People don’t want them around. People pretend not to see them. Scars from those wounds last just as long.

Yet Grace takes these broken lives, and finds the beauty in them. We sit with them on the street because we love them. We break up fights because we love them. We bandage their wounds, listen to their stories, remember their birthdays… because we love. We want the best for them – to leave the streets, the drugs, the addictions and poor choices… because we love.

Ultimately, I am a creature of hope… I want to believe that as they soak up grace, change will come. I want to believe in redemption, in the future day when God will make all things new. Sometimes, I catch a glimpse of it… but I am still thirsty. I will keep walking towards the well of water that won’t run dry though. And maybe, one of these days, we’ll all find it together… Until then, such glimpses of grace like the girl with the scars and the smile help keep me living and loving…

May we find beauty – or learn to make beauty – out of everything as we learn to see through grace-stained eyes…


*For more pictures of Sergio Chavez’s work, go here or here. For an article in English, with a bit of analysis of his work (as well as a bit of Paulo Freire-ian subtext, which brings joy to my heart) go here


Filed under art, beauty, daily life, food for thought, grace, healing, hope, scars, streets

Friday Night Funk Parties

Well, it’s a Friday night in Jacarezinho, and I think we all know what that means… yes, it’s time for the Funk Party!!! In the spirit of Friday night funk in Jacarezinho, the weekly “baile funk” (pronounced “fún-ky), and all “music” (I use the term loosely) that happens to be funk related, I give you Mr. Bean dancing “Creu…”

Creu was the big hit about, oh, six months ago – and now it has filtered down to the level of popular consciousness that the five year olds at the children’s home we work with dance it. Yes, pretty much like Mr. Bean…

To get an idea of a typical Jacare funk party, imagine a wall of speakers 15 feet high and 60 feet long. Stick that on one side of the street in my favela. If it’s a special occasion, add another corresponding wall of speakers on the opposite side of the street. Fill the area immediately surround the speakers with giant styrofoam coolers full of beer, Red Bull (and other energy drinks – maybe a little “booty sweat?”), with naked wires running to the red tinted light bulbs dangling above them. Around 11, the sound checks start. Take the music Mr. Bean danced to, turn up your speakers on your computer as loud as they will go, and then stick them inside your ears.

When I come home later on Friday nights and have to walk the gauntlet, I am reminded of the US Army’s use of “less-lethal” sound weapons – or what I imagine them to be like… My entire chest cavity is vibrating in time with the bass flooding out of the speakers, setting up wierd resonances with my eye-balls and other soft tissue in my body, and my ear-balls (that’s for you Andrew) feel as if someone sticking sharp little wires into them (which, by the way, is something you should NEVER do – at least according to “Where there is no doctor,” possibly one of my favorite books EVER…)

Around one or two in the morning, the party gets started – thousands of people jam the street, dancing like Mr. Bean. (Well, pretty much…) As the sun comes up, the party dies down – by 6:30 or 7, when I am heading out the door on the Saturday mornings I have class, things are pretty much shutting down. The street is covered in plastic cups, broken beer bottles and crushed cans, the speakers are being taken down and loaded into a truck, and all the rich kids from the Zona Sul who have come to slum it for the night are heading out to the entrance and hopping in taxis to head home and sleep it off before stumbling to the beach later on in the day…

I don’t like funk music. It’s hyper-sexualized, devoid of melody, grating on the ears, and many of the most popular songs consist of nothing but inane, pointless lyrics. Yet the professor from my “Social Responsibility” post-grad course has been talking recently about the place of funk music in Rio de Janeiro today – the voice it provides for the marginalized and excluded of Rio – the anger it represents, and the cry “Stop ignoring me. I exist. I am here. I am valuable.” She emphasized the need for those who work among these populations to understand it, even if we don’t necessarily appreciate it. I’m learning, ever so slowly…

All this chronicles what would be going on during a “normal” Friday night. But, I’m not sure if tonight will be “rocking” or “neurotico” or maybe just “canceled.” What, you might ask, would be the reasons for canceling such an event?

Well, in part, it’s the sporadic gunfire I hear coming from further up the hill. I’m not too sure, but I feel the traffickers are a bit upset that the police raided the favela today (searching for the kidnappers of an adviser to the Vietnamese Embassy to Brazil and three Chineese tourists) and happened to find over 2 TONS of marijuana, plus unspecified (large) ammounts of cocaine. 4,000 plus pounds… (this is me shaking my head in disbelief…) The last time this happened, I remember talking with Rich about how they even transport and hide that much – picturing 100 guys walking in, each carrying a 40 pound duffel full of drugs…

Fun times around here…

In other news, the bus I was riding home tonight from the streets almost got in an accident (to be honest, a series of accidents) after a feud developed between my bus driver and the driver for a rival bus company. One cut the other off, which led to much cursing, racing around, cutting off the other bus, passengers yelling out the windows at the drivers, and general nastiness all around. But, they were all near misses…

Other highlights of the week –

Monday – Got violently ill – food poisoning? went to streets anyway, got sick at our prayer time, and decided to go home so I wouldn’t be sick and throwing up on the metro-rush-hour crowds. It was a good decision. Upon making it home, I found myself locked out of my house. The lock had broken. Again. Stupid lock.

Wednesday – Got to talk to one of my favorite people in the world – my younger sister Kaitlyn – and catch up on her life…

Friday – Trip to Magé (a horrible place – ok, I exagerate – but just a bit… – where, I just learned this evening, the worst prison in all of Rio is located, and mosquitos are the size of quarters) to take food, folks, and fun (no McD’s, though) to a friend who is off the streets and living in the country while attempting to get his life back on track… If you think of Nil, pray for him. Then, back to the city for a time of group prayer/contemplation with the community, off to the streets where we found out another friend has TB. I’m worried about him – he went to the doctor today and has meds, but it’s hard to take them with consistency on the street. Plus, drugs, thinner, glue, and smoking are all BAD things to do when you are having problems with your lungs… Maybe this will be a wake up call for Rafael… Keep him in your thoughts too…

And tomorrow, finally, I have practically nothing planned – sleep in, do laundry and clean a bit… Read a little while I drink coffee on the roof and eat the kind-of-like-doughnut things I found at the bakery across the street… And be thankful…

Be safe…


Filed under creu, daily life, favela, funk, mr. bean, rio de janeiro, social analysis, streets, video

Bleeding daylight

Something about Tuesday nights makes me want to sit down and write… (that’s not entirely true. I may not want to write, but it’s times like that I need to sit down and make myself tell stories and share life, thoughts, and ideas.)

That said, I manage to put it off to super-late, and am falling asleep… so, in light of that, quick vignette for the day…

Dang it. No vignettes for now… I think my problem is that lately I have been seeing connections everywhere – I haven’t been able to take things in isolation – and the individual instances of the day to day aren’t representative of the whole – of what moves my heart, excites me, challenges me, relaxes me, makes me angry…

I was reading recently that writing is about making choices – beginning with a blank page (or screen) and filling it – choosing which words go where, what stories to tell or not tell, what details to fill in or leave blank… and my choices have been paralyzing me lately.


I’ve been re-reading Gary Haugen’s “The Good News about Injustice” with this Servant Team who’s now here – this morning we say down and discussed the first part – I forget how good it is, and the hunger for justice that it wakes in me… Since then, a couple of songs by different Bruces have been resonating with me…

Bruce Springsteen singing a classic from the great depression – sung again shortly after Hurricane Katrina… the chorus is simple, poignant, and true “How can a poor man stand such times and live…” – and at the end the Boss sings “gonna be a judgement that’s a fact, a righteous train rolling down this track…”

Bruce Cockburn (a favorite, and proof that good things can come from Canada) has some great songs – two in particular have played over and over in my head today. In one (called “If I had a rocket launcher“), he sings “I don’t believe in guarded borders and I don’t believe in hate. I don’t believe in generals or their stinking torture states… I wanna raise every voice. At least I’ve go to try. Every time I think about it water rises to my eyes. Situation desperate, echoes of the victim’s cry…”

“Water rises to my eyes…” When I walk the streets of the favelas, and truly see what is going on like I did tonight, water rises to my eyes. Longing for hope, longing for change. And we do what we can. It is so little, and the need is so great. Many refuse what we do offer – an evening off the street, some food, talking, medical care, prayer… and yet, we keep offering.

Ran into a young boy named Tiago* who used to be on the streets downtown. I hadn’t seen him for almost a year – he’d graduated from the downtown streets to the favela streets. That means more drug abuse, more violence, closer ties to traffickers… I stopped and talked to him this evening amidst the smells, smoke wafting, crack, coke, and marijuana mingling as pushers yell out and offer free samples to 10-year olds… My heart burns. When I call him by name, he smiles, and is shocked. “You remember me. You remember…” it’s not enough to pull him away from the crack, but for a second, he is touched.

Bruce Cockburn has another song (“Lovers in a dangerous time…”) – in it, perhaps my favorite line in any song, ever…

– “When you’re lovers in a dangerous time, sometimes you’re made to feel as if your love’s a crime. But nothing worth having comes without some kind of fight. Got to kick at the darkness ’til it bleeds daylight.” –

That’s what I’m still doing here in Brazil. Kicking at the darkness…


Filed under drugs, favela, food for thought, music, rio de janeiro, songs, streets