The lunch hour

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Today, I spent the lunch hour at Master Boys, a motorcycle courier service near the Faria Lima metro station.

The lunch hour (from about 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.) is the main break time during the day for motoboys, and they make the most of it. They park their motorcycles inside the gate of the office and rinse the morning’s sweat off, eat lunch and sometimes nap.

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Despite the danger they put themselves into with each delivery, they all seem lighthearted about it. Everyone in São Paulo is aware that at least one motoboy dies per day (some say two, even three die a day), but even kids are taught that motorcycles are cool. I passed by a child playing on a toy motor(tri)cycle on my way to the metro this morning.

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And I learned today that you don’t disturb a resting motoboy’s sleep. You might get a shoe thrown at you if you do.

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Lastly, I finally made contact with Luciene, the only motogirl employed by Master Boys. She was very kind, but I could tell she was tired. She’s agreed to a video interview on Saturday, and I’ll be spending more time with her in the coming week.

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Hospital Clinicas has essentially turned me away from photographing in their physical therapy ward – a complete 180 from what they told me five days ago. Apparently, authorization will take longer than the time I have left in São Paulo. I’m pursuing a backup through another NGO of sorts, and will let you know how the meeting with them goes tomorrow.

Cheers.

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Wandering Faria Lima

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I spent my afternoon wandering São Paulo in the Faria Lima area, looking for an open repair shop or any interesting scene involving a motoboy.

After a bit of searching in a misty rain, I came across an auto shop with a lone bike being worked on.

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The three men in the shop were very friendly, offering me the best coffee I’ve ever had and letting me hang around while they replaced a broken tube on the back tire of the bike. Motoboys, who make little money to begin with, must pay for all repairs, as they own their bikes personally.

Lastly, under a bridge I came across a motoboy parked to avoid the rain while he checked his map for directions. He then whipped out a bright orange comb and spent a minute or so checking his appearance in his mirror.

I’m waiting on hospital access and permission to follow the firefighters’ emergency response team to the scene of accidents for this story to get going with the really impactful images. I think it’s safe to say that Christmas has slowed everything down for nearly all of the group’s stories. By the middle of this coming week, things should pick up.

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Thanks for stopping by.

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Avenida Paulista from above

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I spent a few hours tonight on the roof of an 11-story building overlooking the intersection of Avenida Paulista and Avenida Brigadeira. My intent was to get a photo of a motoboy speeding through traffic from above.

With the help of a fantastic Candian-born, Brazilian-raised journalism student named Ana, I gained access this afternoon and returned this evening to see how it looked in better light (it ended up being overcast, as I assume it will be most days).

Initially, the super of the building was unsure if he should let me up to shoot – his concern was that the photos would be published somewhere and he would get in trouble for allowing me access. After a lengthy conversation that I understood only random words of, Ana bet him 10 reales that they’d never see the photos no matter how hard they searched for them. Like that, I was in.

I hope they don’t find this blog.

The view, as you can see above, was incredible. It seems that the city goes on forever – the metropolitan area of São Paulo contains somewhere near 18 million people. I’ll be heading back to the roof at least one more time, as I didn’t get the image I wanted. But spending two quiet hours alone on the roof of a building overlooking a busy, foreign city isn’t the worst way to spend a few hours on the last day in the Mayan calendar.

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Thanks for looking.

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Rainy city

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Yesterday, while the blizzard was raging in Nebraska, it was pouring rain in São Paulo.

Downpours were so bad that 29 people died in floods and mudslides in the Rio de Janeiro metro area. The rain was coming down in São Paulo, too, but not to the extent that it was up the road in the Carnival capital of Brazil.

So, naturally, I headed out to shoot. There was no translator available, but Brian came along and we took the metro downtown.

My story while in São Paulo is on motoboys. These men (and, sometimes, women. I’m working on finding a female rider) are essentially couriers who zip in and out of traffic carrying documents or packages to their destination. The short explanation of the story is that they are paid little for a very high risk job.

According to a few news reports, one motoboy dies per day in São Paulo. There are thousands of them here, and they are necessary to the way business has adapted to incredibly congested traffic in this huge city. If you want to get a document or package across town in a reasonable amount of time, you need a motoboy.

As one contact told me at dinner two nights ago, no business can survive without a motoboy.

So I tried to make some pictures of them in the rain, and made some pictures of pedestrians as they dealt with the rain, too. Without a translator I was unable to talk with anyone (not that they wanted to stop and stand and chat in the pouring rain, anyways), but here’s what I came away with.

My pants are still hanging out the window drying.

As always, thanks for looking.

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