Published: May 30th 2011May 27th 2011
The flights to Brazil were surprisingly bearable. I met a lovely girl on the first flight who works PR for Aritzia in Canada and we gossiped about Gaga. On the second, my fellow passenger was Brazilian and spent a long time telling me about Brazil, the weather, the country, the language and most importantly, the Cachaca. :) The third was spent looking like a fly trap with my mouth hanging open as I had passed out and barely noticed take off or landing. Arriving in Brazil was a bit mad. The Sao Paulo airport leaves a lot to be desired with no instruction whatsoever, a boot off the plane, a neverending walkway followed by an unexpected baggage pickup, passport check, security check with no actual 'check', a surprising exit into the airport entrance, now completely out of the 'secure area', and a new baggage check and check in with a new security check. All spaced out tremendously without signage and with multiple floors and an unconvincing elevator. After being thoroughly convinced I would never find my way to the gate, I finally passed through the last security check and ended up waiting an hour for my flight. I met Thais, our
Brazilian contact at the Rio de Janeiro airport and we took a taxi to the hotel. The sights along the way reminded me of the trip from the Hawaii airport, palm trees, varying neighborhoods, and a strange combination of old and new. Buildings looked as if they were hundreds of years old and were in good condition; others looked as if they were only 40 years old but were falling apart, many had no or little roof left, and there was a lot of rubble and junk in the streets. A highlight of the trip in was seeing a broken down Carneval vehicle with gigantic sparkling watermelons hanging off the sides. On the way, Thais told me more about our project, you can read all about it here: http://geekphysical.blogspot.com/2011/05/giant-printer-in-rio-de-janeiro.html
or get the short version which is: we are printing the hand prints of 1923 fans of Vasco da Gama, the Brazilian football team. 1923 was the year the president of the Vasco da Gama football team said NO to racism, holding up his hand, and turning down a championship game after he was asked to remove all black and poor players from his team. So we're actually working for a
great purpose and I love that the project has more meaning now than ever before.
The first two days spent in Rio have been... working. Or, Dzl working and me doing my computer thing. For the first time ever, we have a 'staff', as in, 3 guys who don't speak English but do speak Engineer, communicating fluently with Dzl as they all understand each other and know who needs what tool when and how. It's pretty amazing to witness. This leaves me writing blog posts, capturing and editing video and ... writing this blog post. :) The first night, our guide/logistics coordinator, Thais, took us out for some Brazilian meat. The 'thing' to do here is to go to a meat buffet called a Churrascaria. It was a great experience, fantastic beef, great sides of broccolini, carrots, and potato, and all barbecued to perfection. The second night we went with a group, our other guide, Fabio and his girlfriend knew a great pizza place so we headed into Santa Teresa, a bohemian upscale place that we've been told Amy Winehouse frequents on her tours, going so far as to tour Brazil and each night returning to her hotel in
Santa Teresa, not an easy feat considering the distances in this country! We had fantastic pizza though, a huge plate of pizza which everyone simply ate with knife and fork off the shared plate. A side note here about pizza and cultures. In British Columbia, (I'd say Canada, but I don't know about the east coast) we order a pizza, or two, and share it amongst 3-4 people, taking a piece and eating it with our hands. In Copenhagen, you order an entire pizza to yourself, same size, but tiny crust and very thin, and eaten usually with knife and fork unless on the barge and then it's hands, but that's a special circumstance. When I first arrived in Sweden (same deal) I was shocked and thought, I can never eat a whole pizza! But...sure enough, when it's that thin..I can eat about 3/4 of it. :) Here, it is one giant pizza for 6 people to dig into, with knife and fork. Interesting. We also noticed that the pizza place is right outside of a ninjitsu (no kidding) studio, and we decided that it must have been pizza-ingredients-chopped-by-ninja, which led to many ponderings on ninja activities. Also, a cockroach
Our studio is very cool, at least in my opinion. It's right across from the stadium, on the 5th floor so overlooking everything nearby. It's very 'illutron' in a way, a bit run down, but functional, many windows, and lots of space and ability to paint on walls as we please. :) There's one large room where we're building everything and a smaller room which is functioning as our 'office' so it's working really well. Today we're going to go down and test print on the walls of the stadium so we're building structures for this and Dzl is busy inventing all sorts of solutions to meet the requirements of the stadium, high walls, rough surface, inlaid walls that the printer will have to 'reach' into. It's intriguing.
... some days later...
Okay so now we've been here a week. Annnd it's okay. Today it's raining. Pouring actually, and there's a huge line of football fans all waiting to buy tickets to Sunday's big game so we can't print as they are all in our way. I've felt like a prisoner, trapped in the intriguing office in the sky here, overlooking the stadium, connected, but strangely
not part of the action below. There is a team of 4 guys Dzl is working with and so they are handling all the 'work'. The work has been nearly 12 hour days since Saturday (today is Friday). Tuesday was the big press release day and it was great, the event has been mentioned all over the internet, in the papers, on TV: here's one from Global TV: http://sportv.globo.com/videos/vasco/v/marketing-do-vasco-entra-forte-na-campanha-contra-o-racismo/1518466/#/últimos/page/1
It's been a very interesting journey so far. We're located here: http://goo.gl/exjVR
which is on the 'favela' side of town, see Wikipedia about that http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Favela
a 'shanty town'. There are many of these throughout Rio but most of them occur here, on the North side of the area. There is a four kilometre long tunnel which is like a magical transporter. On one side, it's like Miami, fresh beautiful beaches with steroid-happy people working out, looking buff in bikinis and too-tiny shorts, football and volleyball being played in the sand, and endless fruit drink and caihpirihna stands along the waterfront. This is the Rio of postcards. On the other side of the tunnel, we have broken buildings and people. Everything is in a state of just surviving. We've seen countless
near-car accidents, one guy hit and lying in the middle section of a free-way, families sitting in the streets, crippled people, poor people, hungry people. We've also seen life here, not the shiny happy muscular life of the South side, but rather, real life. The life around us as we sit and watch the printer print. We see families taking their kids swimming in the pool beside the stadium, kids coming back from school, and endless array of people on bicycles laden with cakes, or drinks or other goods that they are precariously balancing as they try to sell their fares in the streets, a lot of people who have given up on shoes altogether and have rough feet that have become street-ready, and these sorts often seem to be pulling or pushing giant dollies filled with scrap materials, tvs, or wood or something like that. There is a steady stream of traffic in and out of the stadium, kids going to hang out and have their lunch there, people visiting the stadium or the bathrooms inside.
The most exciting part for me is people's reaction to the printer. Many have called it "impressora aranha" spider printer... it does
indeed look like a spider, climbing the wall and leaving behind hand prints and names as it moves. I don't think they've ever seen anything like it before, much less technology like this being used on or around their stadium. They stop and stare and sometimes ask what it is about. Many of them seem proud of it and sometimes say congratulations. People driving slow down and look out the window. Every bicycle and motorcycle stops and watches. It's fascinating to see their reactions.
There's also a lot of things that are a bit hard for us to grasp here. We have two Brazilians working with us; they are absolutely amazing, they come up with brilliant solutions to problems, and communicate without a common language to Dzl, using only hand signals. Dzl is good at this anyway but it's amazing to see the three of them work together. They don't however, have any care for safety, they're happily climbing the stadium walls to put up equipment, or using paint thinner haphazardly, Dzl's using two pairs of gloves to handle it, and they're washing their hands with it. This is hard for us to swallow (not the thinner, which someone
nearly did swallow when it was stored in a water bottle, amongst all the actual water bottles, but I mean rather, the situation) but we have asked others about it and apparently, that's just the way it is. There's also some kind of rivalry existing between Sao Paulo and Rio. I've been told so far about a difference in accents (a person from Sao Paulo telling me to definitely not learn Portuguese from a person from Rio, and the next day, the exact opposite being told to me by a person from Rio), in attitude, relaxed versus worried, beach versus city, and so on.
As far as our location goes though, it's great to be able to see 'the real Rio' as I've decided to call it. After an encounter with too many people pushing sales at us on our two hour escape to Ipanema beach, and a colourful clown playing a guitar walked past, Dzl said "get me outta this crazy place, I want to go back to my Favela!" which I thought was quite justified. People here are generally friendly and helpful, and no one is accosting us or asking for anything. Everyone keeps their own space
and distance which is a nice juxtaposition to the fever and hype of Ipanema. On the other side of this, I've ONLY seen the inside of the stadium and the street where we're printing. I took one walk, just around the building where our office is, right outside our printing area, and was chased down by our security guard, Juan, who I have now affectionately come to refer to as my bodyguard. Out of breath he says to me "crazy girl, white, and carrying a camera, and walking in the favela, no! If you want to go out, ask me and I'll go with you!" so that was that, and since then, I've sat and had many good conversations with him (he lived in London for something like 14 years and speaks perfect English) but I'm still not allowed to wander.
I did escape twice though so far. I mean, I'm not really needed here. I'm logistics and marketing and administration girl on this job, not build-it girl, but I feel I should be here for Dzl. So one day, I took a taxi and met with Mille, my friend from Denmark who is here, training with her Brazilian
Jiujitsu school. We met on the Ipanema beach, at "Poste 8". Apparently, in Ipanema, people meet each other at the lifeguard towers "Poste" and her favorite is number 8. It was great, we laid on the beach, girl-talked and then walked into town. Suddenly I saw where and what the postcards of Rio were trying to show me, the beach, the people, the sun, the fun energy. No similarities whatsoever to the area around the stadium. That night we met Mille for dinner at an all-you-can-eat Japanese restaurant. It was the first time Dzl got to see 'the other side' and even though it was nighttime, the effect was not lost on him. The second time I escaped, I took Dzl with me. After an excruciating run of doing too much work for too many hours, the printers finally evolved enough to run on the walls, properly on their own. Knowing that it takes two hours for the printers to complete a wall, I waited until both were happily printing (for the first time!) and grabbed Dzl, hailed a taxi, and left the printers in the capable hands of the Brazilian team. We had two blissful hours walking on the
beach, eating shrimp and fish, and jumping in the ocean before heading back to reality at the stadium. It was a much needed break for Dzl and I was so happy to get him into the sun and to see a bit of Rio! Hopefully we'll have a few more opportunities like that over the next few days.
On our drives into the stadium in the morning (it's about a 30 minute drive from the hotel) we've seen a lot which is great, different areas of town, a view of the largest brothel in Rio "with 15 different rooms!", the Christ statue on the hill, the area where Carneval happens, and some truly crazy driving. Our driver even got in an accident one morning, nothing serious but I've decided that to drive here, one must be in a constant state of merging, there is no being annoyed at someone cutting you off since that's all that ever happens, constant merging, cutting off, re-negotiating and moving on.
And now, another problem with the printers... it's a hard environment to work in, one day the computers are roasting in the sun and the next the motors are drowning in the
rain. More to come...