Back at the farm

I headed out to the Landless Movement farm again today to watch some planting of beans and go on a few errands with Nisse.

These people are genuinely happy where they are, and they really believe in the change they are creating. Nisse and her husband have been living on the farm for over a decade and are still fighting the government to gain official rights to the land. For now, they are happy with their simple life, a plywood home with donated tin roofs and animals roaming freely.

It’s one big family out there. All the families share everything, the crops, the animals, the resources to build and fix homes and anything else you can think of.

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Enjoy the holidays!

-Matt

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Christmas in Cracolandia

Gabriella struggles with all her gifts as adults in the area lean against a wall.

Gabriella struggles with all her gifts as adults in the area lean against a wall. (photo by Anna Reed)

Today Brianna and I went with the NGO Cristolandia to give Christmas presents to children living in and around Cracolandia.

Children wait in line for their Christmas gifts. (photo by Brianna Soukup)

Children wait in line for their Christmas gifts. (photo by Brianna Soukup)

Children stand under a bridge near train tracks in the Cracolandia area of São Paulo. (photo by Anna Reed)

Children stand under a bridge near train tracks in the Cracolandia area of São Paulo. (photo by Anna Reed)

Cracolandia is an area in the Luz region of São Paulo that is populated with people who are addicted to crack. Locals call the area Cracolandia. Men, women and children of all ages and races live in the area and spend every moment looking for their next fix. Crack is a drug that has a short-lasting high, so many people are often on edge waiting for their next hit.

The slum near Cracolandia. (photo by Anna Reed)

The slum near Cracolandia. (photo by Anna Reed)

Children are lead in prayer by Cristolandia volunteers before receiving their Christmas gifts. (photo by Brianna Soukup)

Children are lead in prayer by Cristolandia volunteers before receiving their Christmas gifts. (photo by Brianna Soukup)

A child who lives in Cracolandia smiles for the camera. (photo by Brianna Soukup)

A child who lives in Cracolandia smiles for the camera. (photo by Brianna Soukup)

We have been going to the area all this past week, trying to gain trust and get familiar with the area and the people. We haven’t posted any photos before today because showing a camera can be dangerous. Many people get angry and become aggressive when seeing a camera.

Toys lefts behind to make way for new Christmas gifts in Cracolandia. (photo by Anna Reed)

Toys lefts behind to make way for new Christmas gifts in Cracolandia. (photo by Anna Reed)

Kids run to the Cristolandia volunteers to receive their Christmas gifts. (photo by Anna Reed)

Kids run to the Cristolandia volunteers to receive their Christmas gifts. (photo by Anna Reed)

The gift-giving outing today gave us a chance to make photos in a less threatening way. The children were all very cute, and many were interested in our cameras and our American English. It was definitely a wonderful way for both of us to spend Christmas Eve. Most of the adults in the slum near Cracolandia smoke crack, so giving something to the kids was really great. I think I speak for both of us when saying it has been our best and most meaningful Christmas ever.

A girl poses for the camera after receiving Christmas gifts. (photo by Brianna Soukup)

A girl poses for the camera after receiving Christmas gifts. (photo by Brianna Soukup)

A woman peers over a door to see what the Cristolandia volunteers are doing. (photo by Brianna Soukup)

A woman peers over a door to see what the Cristolandia volunteers are doing. (photo by Brianna Soukup)

A child drinks a bottle outside his family's home in a slum in the Cracolandia area of São Paulo. (photo by Brianna Soukup)

A child drinks a bottle outside his family’s home in a slum in the Cracolandia area of São Paulo. (photo by Brianna Soukup)

Thanks for looking and Happy Holidays!

-Anna

The real urban jungle

Happy Holidays to everyone back home! I miss you all and hope you’re having a great winter break! Today Nicky and I went on a two-hour bus ride to find some farmers in the Landless Movement. They live on the only urban MST farm in Brazil. We met about a dozen people and nearly a dozen geese, turkeys, chickens, cats and a couple of dogs as well. One of the houses we went into to ask more questions about the Landless movement was also the home to many newborn baby chicks and they roamed freely about underneath my legs as we asked questions and exchanged phone numbers.

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After checking out what was going on the garden behind one of the small homes, we were offered lunch from the garden. The interesting thing here is, these farms are located on top of an old landfill. For 10 years these farmers have lived on this land, now claiming it as their own. The government wants it back but Brazil has a rule about squatters rights, letting the farmers stay here for now.

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Back to lunch, it was the best lunch i have ever had. My own mother can vouch that i never eat lettuce, but I had a couple of platefuls of the leafy greens with rice and beans to top it off. What was even better was the chicken wings. I had a fleeting thought in my head as to whether the chicken was hours fresh or minutes fresh. It tasted like minutes to me.

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Feliz Natal!

-Matt

A story for another time

Yesterday was my last day at the Garrido gym. They are closing it down until January 6 for Christmas break. Which is too bad because things were going well and there seemed to be a good story lying underneath that viaduct.

Things like this happen though, it happened to me in India, and it will probably happen in the future too. Now i’m back to the drawing board to a new story. Stay tuned for what will be a better story.

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Thanks for looking,

-Matt

Searching São Paulo

For the last two days, my translator, and all around good guy, Slash, and I have been searching through this huge city to find one man, Nilson Garrido.

Garrido started a boxing academy and weight training gym for people who cannot afford a gym membership underneath a bridge in São Paulo. The only issue was, everyone was telling Slash and I that it was underneath the wrong bridges.

We walked over 12 miles, uphill then downhill then uphill in the rain and then downhill in the pouring rain, on Wednesday peeking under overpasses and asking mechanics, internet cafe users, boxing club employees and anyone else we would find where to find Garrido.

Yesterday, we found him. Here are some pictures from last evening.

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Felipe Silva, left, wraps his hands in preparation to train as Anderson Assuncao watches his boxing form in a mirror underneath the Viaduto Alcantara Machado. (photo by Matt Masin)

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Anderson Assuncao, 21, warms up for a training session by hitting punching bags. All equipment at Garrido’s gym was donated. The punching bags were courtesy of a television program. (photo by Matt Masin)

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Anderson Assuncao and Felipe Silva share a laugh while training at Garrido’s gym under the Viaduto Alcantara Machado in São Paulo.

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Patricia Estambone is one of about five girls who trains at Garrido’s gym. She lives near the gym and was asked by her cousin to join her at the gym. Patricia is two months into her training at the Garrido gym. (photo by Matt Masin)

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Jorge Marcelo Soafes picks up speed as he continues a training session at the Garrido gym. Soafes works near the gym and has utilized the weight training area Garrido started for two years. Soafes has only been boxing for about a week, and started to box because it was free. (photo by Matt Masin)

Thanks for looking,

-Matt Masin