Today we started our volunteer work in the creche of a community called Salguerio on the edge of the Tijuca rainforest. We have to walk from the volunteer house to the metro, and then travel to the end of the line and walk up to the community. Viviane, one of the members of staff for Ike Poran took us and introduced us to the staff. We helped them decorate part of the school for Father’s Day, which is this sunday for them and then went to meet the people who work in the community garden where we can choose to work if we want to. We’ve been offered a tour into Tijuca forest in the early morning by the man who runs the gardens, and we’re planning to spend our Thursday working there. We arrive at 9 in the morning and leave at 4.30, Fridays are generally days off for volunteers but I think the two girls on the same project as me are planning to spend them at the creche too. If I had more time, I would do the same, but only having two weeks I want to see as much of Rio as I can too.
We spent the rest of our morning talking to a few of the older kids who hang around at the school, swapping a few odd bits of languages. They seem very keen to learn English! It’s strange being in a foreign country where the vast majority of people have very little or no English at all. Being English we seem to expect everyone else to use the ‘international language’ and get pretty stuck when they don’t! Trying to work out what the staff wanted involved a large amount of sign language, but they are all very friendly and allow us to help out in whichever part of the creche we want. They also provided us with some typical Brazilian food; beans, rice and beetroot. Would have been lovely if they’re hadn’t been chicken in it, I felt incredibly awkward trying to explain vegetarian and didn’t want to offend the cook or be rude. They seemed fine though, and although I tried to explain that I would bring my own lunch to make things easier, I think they may cook me something specially! After our lunch we fed the babies their lunch. They’re a class of about 15 all two years or under. We then gave them showers, changed their clothes and generally entertained for the rest of the afternoon. Some of them are incredibly cute with their little afros and huge eyes, they all seem very happy too which is nice.
Walking through Saens Pena to the project features a large amount of old style VW camper vans which are used here for practically everything. Food stalls are run out of the side of them and they also are used as ‘combis’ a form of public transport which is a kind of cross between a bus and a taxi. I will try and take some photos soon, but it’s difficult as unlike I’m used to being able to do in Europe, you can’t just whip out your camera and take touristy pictures of everything. The area we stay in has a very high crime rate, we have to be very careful what to have on us and to keep things hidden. Don’t take out anything you’d be upset to lose, a lot of people in our house have been mugged but mainly at some fault of their own too! I want to take some pictures in the creche too, but I might wait a while to get to know the staff and the kids better. You want to make sure you’re not offending anyone. Hopefully soon I will have millions of photos of trees, birds, monkeys and butterflies to post on here.
Tomorrow we’re going back to the creche again. I’m not sure what we’re doing, but it was mentioned previously that we ‘pick’ a child to look after so that we can get to know each other better. I’ve got my eyes on a lovely little girl called Vittoria, she is totally obsessed, as are a lot of the kids, with the fact that I have very red hair. I’m also planning on going to talk to the gardeners, this time armed with my phrasebook as they don’t speak a word of english, and see if I can arrange a trip into the forest. The language here is pretty difficult to learn as there’s Portuguese which differs to Brazilian Portuguese which also differs to the dialect spoken in Rio. Correct pronunciation is incredibly important and very different to English. At least as they don’t speak our language for a change they appreciate the effort even when we get theirs totally wrong!
Tomorrow I think we’re going to see a football match and then out for the night afterwards as it’s one of the girls in our house (Amanda’s) 21st birthday. There’s also been a bit of talk of hang gliding or jet skiing at the weekend…