Losing Sam, finding Sam, then sleeping in a favela
Trip Start Feb 19, 2006
58Trip End Aug 17, 2006
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Now guys, before you read on, let me just reassure you now that everyone is fine - hence me writing this in my blog instead of phoning England in tears wanting to come home!
I got a different coach to the other three from Parana state and Sam (whoīs staying in Curitiba), arrived the night before. When we met Mark and Tom Friday morning, they told us that Sam was missing. They had gone to a club Thursday night, but when looking for Sam to leave, had been unable to find him. After searching the club for about 2hrs, they decided that they had no choice but to return to the youth hostel. It was a little more worrying, because Sam had no money on him (the other boys had been planning to pay that night so that Sam could go to a cash point the following night), and he didnīt know the name of the youth hostel we were staying at...
So we spent the entire morning just sitting around talking, trying to phone and text Sam (with no response), and wondering about what else we could do. After we could get into the rooms, we had a shower (communal showers, which the girls didnīt like! The top of the shower curtains were clear so that we could see the room and guys were wandering in and out to go to the loo or clean their teeth or whatever, which was a little strange!) Anyway, at about 1.00 in the afternoon, we decided to ask the receptionist to call the police (I think this was a fairly big move given how much we had been told to avoid Brazilian police!). They took a description etc and said that they would send a message to all patrol cars to keep an eye out for him. If there was no sign of him by the following morning, we were given the phone number for the Missing Persons department. As in England, a person is not considered officially missing in Brazil until they have been gone for 24hrs.
I was definitely the calmest of us all, convinced that he would turn up with some long story about where he had been, but we were all worried (especially the other girls, who seemed to be convince that he was lying dead somewhere!) We can laugh about it now (and have had to, to stop ourselves going mad), but I guess things could have turned out a lot worse than they did.
I suggested going to check the hospitals, in case something had happened to him and heīd been taken there. Being a city of 20m, São Paulo has quite a few hospitals as you can imagine. But we searched Samīs thing for his passport and a photo and then got the metro to the largest hospital, Hospital Dos Clinicas. After spending a while wandering around there, trying to find the main reception desk, we were given directions by a nurse and found our way there. The receptionist spent a while phoning the various departments in the hospital, before concluding that he wasnīt there. We decided to split up, with three of us going to another two hospitals she had given us addresses for, and the other three going back to the youth hospital to phone the volunteer agency we were working for.
So three of us got into a taxi and went to one of the hospitals... Which turned out not to be a hospital at all but some kind of police station, which we didnīt like the look of so we continued to the other name she had given us. On the way, we received a phone call from the guys who had gone back to the hostel - saying that Sam had turned up safe and well!! When they had got back, they had been unable to fund GAPīs number, so had logged onto the internet to try and check it that way and had been in the middle of this when Sam turned up! Apparently, Katie burst into tears when she saw him, and even some of the boys said that they had started to think the worst.
Samīs story: He had been drinking a little (and hadnīt eaten), so when he decided to climb up some stairs to join the dancers, he hadnīt really realised that he wasnīt supposed to be up there! Some of the bouncers had pulled him down and started to punch him in the head. Then they had tried to throw him out. He had no money, so gave them his phone and was thrown onto the street. He said he thinks that he was in shock, and was hyperventilating with people surrounding him. He must have passed out, because he woke up in a hospital, with nurses giving him two injections, before he fell asleep again. It was a public hospital, and he woke in the morning on a chair in the corridor, with a couple sitting opposite him on drips and a dead body being rolled past him on a trolley. So he decided to just walk out, even though he was still pretty disorientated. He tried wandering around the city looking for the hostel, asked some beggars for directions and had to give them the only real he had before they answered! Then he bumped into some women who tried to help because he looked so terrible, they bought him some food and gave him R$10 for a bus to get back. But he still didnīt know where he was, tried a taxi which took him in the wrong direction so he lost most of the money. Then he decided to go into Citibank, because his uncle works there in New York so he thought that they may be able to contact him. But they couldnīt, though they did leave a message on his parentīs answer machine! Then the bank called the concierge from the posh hotel opposite, who spoke English. They let him email us to let us know we were fine (though we didnīt check our emails!), then he was shown a picture of a hostel in São Paulo where a lot of young English people were said to stay (which was pretty luckily, the hostel that we were staying at!) So the hotel called the police to take him back there (and two police cars arrived with 8 military police cars). They could only take him to the edge of their jurisdiction, then he had to swap police cars. So he arrived back at about 5pm, having been missing for 14hrs!
We all agreed that this was possibly the story of Brazil, and that it could only have happened to Sam!
So having all had a fairly unusual day, Sam more than any of us!, we decided to order pizzas and beer in our room! The we went to a club in the evening! Or tried to - the first one, no longer existed, the second was closed, so we sat in a bar for ages then 4 of us went to a gay club at about 3am, danced til the early hours, then got a taxi back to the hostel at about 7am! That day, we spent a lot of money on taxis - both from the hospitals which didnīt exist, and the clubs which didnīt exist!
We had to check out of our rooms by 12, so we only got about 4hrs sleep, then the other four from Parana went to buy bus tickets, while me, Tom and Mark went to MacDonalds for a milkshake, and then to meet them in a metro station! When they managed to get lost again(!), me and Tom got the bus to Cubatão (where him and Mark are working, just over an hour outside São Paulo), to buy some food to cook for that evening, while Mark waited for the others (for almost 2hrs! - they really are useless sometimes!!)
They are literally working in the middle of a favela, and it really was an experience to visit, and one which has really affected me in a way I guess I didnīt really expect. From their roof, you could look out and see roofs made from sheets of corregated iron for as far as the eye could see. Later, we left the education reinforcement centre where they are staying to get a pastel from around the corner, and you had to walk sideways down incredibly narrow dirt alleys. Children were sat outside their doors playing with marbles etc, and the houses were so close together (and all made of wood). The water and electricity used by the entire favela were all stolen.
Over a bridge was the main city, where we went to corner bar for a few drinks that evening. Two of Mark and Tomīs friends, Pedro and Alexandre) who were really cool came too. They live in the favela, and were teaching us how to dance brazilian style in the street! Being connected so closely to the Salvation Army, they could speak English, but it seems as though they were virtually the only ones there (and actually, the boys were teaching Portuguese and not English, because the children there couldn't read or write in Portuguese, so English teaching was deemed pretty useless). We went back at about 3am.
While I thought my portuguese was getting on OK, Iīm definitely struggling more with the accent than the others. The accent in São Paulo was different anyway, but was so difficult to make myself understood, and to understand other people too, unless they really made an effort to speak slowly and clearly! (The word ARARA is still haunting me - think that will have to be a story for when i return, as you need to hear me try to say it to really appreciate the hilarity! I practice at least everyday, and people are still in fits of giggles whenever I try! By the way, arara is a parrot, for anyone whoīs interested!)
The next day, Mark made fried egg sandwiches for us all for breakfast, Pedro and Alexndre arrived again and taught us some more dancing, then we went down to see the river. Again, an image that I think will stay with me for the rest of my life. Houses had been built at the side of the river from wood and on stilts. There was a washing line between two. Children were playing outside. The houses, here especially, seemed to be a single, fairly small room. Other houses, near where the boys were staying, may have been two rooms.
Itīs difficult to comprehend the extent to which the photoīs of favelas that we see in England, portray the real favelaīs here. Itīs incredible, really, Iīm suddenly thinking how materialistic the whole world is. I didnīt feel comfortable taking photos there, think it seemed too real, this was peopleīs lives, not a photo opportunity. But the image, especially that of the houses by the river, is burned into my mind right now.
When we got back to São Paulo, we went to Liberdade, which is the Japanese district of the city, and has the largest Japanese population outside of Japan. There was a market there which we looked around, and we went to eat Chinese food. Everything there is focused towards the Japanese influence, with street signs and shop signs etc all in Japanese as well as portuguese, plus Japanese arts and crafts, and shops selling traditional Japanese ingredients and products. It was literally like another world, a little bit of Japan in the middle of Brazil!
Then we got an overnight bus back last night, and when I arrived back in Coronel Vivida, I just slept until lunchtime!