A change in energy

Hello from the USA! We all arrived safely in Omaha yesterday after two flights. While i’m glad to be back home with family and friends, I wish my time with Nisse and Armando didn’t have to be so short.

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I spent a little more than two days out at the farm, sleeping in the garage and photographing everything else my story needed. Nicky came and joined me on Friday afternoon, and we started to cover all the holes in the story.

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On Friday night, a little before bedtime Armando told Nicky and I that his heart was going to be very sad when we leave. He also told us the energy around his home changed for the better when we were there, and he was going to miss us. Things like this make me feel so good. I posted early on after my first day at the farm hoping I would leave Nisse and Armando as many memories as I would have. It felt weird not going out to the farm Sunday morning.

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Nicky and I set it up so one of our translators can show them our multimedia project when we finish it, so they can see what they took part in and hopefully create some change for the Landless Movement.

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Have a great day,

Matt

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Hard goodbyes

Andreía crochets while watching the news in her bedroom.

It was my last day with the Emboava family and it wasn’t easy to leave. It’s only been a week and half since we met, but I know I’ll miss every member of this family. With tears in her eyes, Andreía told me not to book a hotel if I ever return to São Paulo — she’d rather have me stay with them.

Arivaldo loads a van with recyclables from a public health center.

Arivaldo loads a van with recyclables from a public health center.

Andreía sorts a variety of materials, including plastic, paper and cardboard, among other items.

Andreía sorts a variety of materials, including plastic, paper and cardboard, among other items.

Workers throw bags of recyclable materials over Cooper Glicério's front wall.

Workers throw bags of recyclable materials over Cooper Glicério’s front wall.

Agatha and Andreía laugh at a coworker's joke.

Agatha and Andreía laugh at a coworker’s joke. Sometimes Agatha helps at the cooperative, so Andreía and Arivaldo don’t have to work as long. 

After everything they did for me, I wanted to give the Emboavas a proper goodbye. I printed photos and wrote a letter, which I’ll share with you here:

Andreía, Edinaldo, Arivaldo, Agatha, Ruan and Marjorye,

You’re an amazing family. I feel so blessed for the time I got to spend with you and everything you’ve taught me. My experience in São Paulo was incredible and I have your family to thank.

You’re each special in a different way and I’m so glad I’ve had the chance to see that. Andreía – your generosity and hospitality has inspired me to give more and be open with others, as you’ve been with me. Edinaldo – your smile lights up a room and makes me smile every time I see it. Arivaldo – you’re such a hard worker and you were always looking for ways to help me and make my project better. Agatha – your laugh is absolutely beautiful! I enjoyed spending time with you, your friends and your boyfriend because I got to see you take a break from all the hard work you do at home. Ruan – you’re silly and goofy, always joking around, and you’re pretty good with a camera too! Marjorye – you’re the cutest little girl I’ve ever met. I couldn’t stop taking photos of you, even when I knew I had too many for my story.

Again, I can’t say thank you enough. You represent your country well by showing me what a loving, caring Brazilian family looks like. And you’ve proven to me that you don’t need tons of extra money to be happy.

If I’m ever in São Paulo again, I’ll look you up. I’ll always be grateful for the time we spent together.

Love always,

Cara Wilwerding

Edinaldo and Marjorye watch cartoons before starting their day.

Edinaldo and Marjorye watch cartoons before starting their day.

Agatha loads a bin full of dirty dishes.

Agatha loads a bin full of dirty dishes.

Andreía and Edinaldo have a conversation from separate rooms.

Andreía and Edinaldo have a conversation from separate rooms.

Andreía tries to convince Marjorye to brush her teeth in the shower.

Andreía tries to convince Marjorye to brush her teeth in the shower.

Edinaldo listens while Andreía and Ruan have an argument.

Edinaldo listens while Andreía and Ruan have an argument.

Ruan and Marjorye play with blown up latex gloves.

Ruan and Marjorye play with blown up latex gloves.

Ruan and Agatha laugh at their uncle's joke.

Ruan and Agatha laugh at their uncle’s joke.

Breaking the Cycle

Rafael, right, works on his Bible study at the Teen Challenge rehabilitation center. (photo by Brianna Soukup)

Rafael, right, works on his Bible study at the Teen Challenge rehabilitation center. (photo by Brianna Soukup)

Crack is drug that can overtake a person.  It can a make a good, decent person capable of almost anything. Brianna and I spent another day at the rehabilitation center outside the city. All the men are very sweet to us and are good friends with one another.  It is hard to accept that many of them have done some horrible things while they were under the influence of crack. One man, Rafael, the sweetest and most shy guy, admitted to have robbing a family man and taking about 10 dollars. In the process, slitting the man’s throat. He doesn’t know if the man lived.

photo by Brianna Soukup

(photo by Brianna Soukup)

(photo by Anna Reed)

(photo by Anna Reed)

(photo by Brianna Soukup)

(photo by Brianna Soukup)

By spending time with the men recovering in the rehab center and with some of the people we met on the streets of Cracolandia, Brianna and I have realized how powerful the drug is.  Nice, good, honest people can be turned to do horrible things; lie, steal, fight and even kill, because of the effects of the addiction to crack. Seeing how the cycle continues and how it can be stopped if more people were able to enter effective rehab makes both of us want to show these peoples’ stories. We hope that by everyone spreading awareness can help to reduce and eventually end the crack problem in Brazil.

(photo by Brianna Soukup)

(photo by Brianna Soukup)

(photo by Anna Reed)

(photo by Anna Reed)

Rafael's children, Martina (4) and Guilherme (6). (photo by Anna Reed)

Rafael’s children, Martina (4) and Guilherme (6). (photo by Anna Reed)

-Anna

“We have to work for things to get better.”

I’m growing closer and closer to the Emboava family, as I continue to visit them at work and home. The past couple days have been full of happy and sad moments, stressful situations and hard work. I couldn’t imagine living like this every day. But the Emboavas seem to take it all in stride.

Andreía sorts paper in a dumpster.

Andreía wipes her face after sorting paper.

Before heading home for lunch, Andreíá observes a wound on her father's face.

Before heading home for lunch, Andreíá observes a wound on her father’s face.

I interviewed Andreía, Arivaldo and Sergio, the leader of Cooper Glicério. Arivaldo was extremely optimistic while explaining their difficulties and struggles, saying, “we have to work for things to get better.” He talked of a better future for his family, specifically for his grandchildren.

Arivaldo holds three-year-old Marjorye's hand after dancing around the entryway.

Arivaldo holds three-year-old Marjorye’s hand after dancing around the entryway.

Like her father, Andreía also dreams of a better future. She would like to move to a new house within this year, to escape the violence of downtown São Paulo. “I have children and teenagers at home and I don’t want them to grow up here,” Andreía said.

Andreía smokes a cigarette out her front door.

Andreía smokes a cigarette out her front door.

Bruce Thorson watches neighborhood children play across the street from the Emboava household.

Bruce Thorson watches neighborhood children play across the street from the Emboava household.

Andreía and Arivaldo work relentlessly day after day, and that’s inspirational. Not only to me, but to Andreía’s entire family. The children pitch in without being asked, a concept completely foreign to kids in the U.S.

Fourteen-year-old Agatha leads the household when her mother’s not around, cooking meals, taking care of the younger children and assisting her paraplegic father. While I haven’t gotten to know her very well yet, I hope to spend much more time with Agatha before I leave. Strength and perseverance obviously run in the family.

Until next time,

Cara Wilwerding

Laundry day

The Emboava family spent this afternoon sorting, washing, hanging and folding almost all the laundry in their home. And as many Brazilians know, doing this all by hand is quite the task.

I’ve been hand-washing my own laundry in our hostel and it’s an incredibly time consuming job. I never realized how much I take my washer and dryer for granted.

As I spend more time in their home, I continue to learn new things about the family. Two years ago, Andreía bought this building for 2.000 reals (1,000 U.S. dollars). The two other families living here pay her 300 reals per month — money which Andreía uses to better their living situation.

Eventually, Andreía dreams of saving enough money to find a new home, but said it could take a while. She said it will help when her oldest daughter, 14-year-old Agatha starts working too.

Andreía smokes a cigarette while taking a break from folding laundry.

Andreía smokes a cigarette while taking a break from folding laundry.

Three-year-old Marjorye squeegees the sidewalk in an attempt to help with household chores.

Three-year-old Marjorye squeegees the sidewalk in an attempt to help with the numerous chores.

After completing a full weekend of household chores, and in anticipation of a long week at work, Andreía said she’ll sleep well tonight.

Until next time,

Cara Wilwerding

Staying overnight

Things have been going well on the farm. Nisse and Armando finished the fence they started on the 27th, now the turkeys stay behind the house for the most part. The small turkeys and chickens are able to make it through a hole in the kitchen wall and come in, but there’s not much you can do about that.

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Nick and I spent the night last night, and it was a good night to go. We watched as a rain storm slowly took over the nearest town, covering it in a wavy, gray blanket of rain until the storm reached the farm. Soon, all you could hear was thunder. The lights inside the home flickered on and off until the storm overpowered the electricity and the lights went out.

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The opportunity to document this story is giving me personal stories I will never forget. Last night when we all sat down to dinner on the farm. Nick was digging into his second plate, out of nowhere a chicken jumped up and sat down on his plate. Nick moved his plate around in the air, but the chicken wouldn’t budge. Eventually, Nisse and Armando grabbed the chicken and got him off. Nick dumped the rest of his food on the floor and the chickens cleaned it all up. It was absolutely hilarious and was a moment where all four of us could share in a deep laugh together.
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Time is winding down in Brazil. I’m going to be sad to leave Nisse and Armando and all their animals, but i’ll be making the most of the time we have left.

Feliz ano novo!

-Matt

Superwoman

Yesterday, I went to work again with Andreía and her father, Arivaldo. I learned that while hundreds of people collect throughout Sáo Paulo, members of various cooperatives have an easier time gathering materials and make more money than most. Cooper Glicério was even able to afford a mechanical cart this year, giving employees a break from hauling such a heavy bundle.

Controlling Cooper Glicério's mechanical cart, Arivaldo passes a fellow collector. Sergio Bispo, founder of Cooper Glicério, said the cart is worth 4.000 reals (2,000 U.S. dollars).

Controlling Cooper Glicério’s mechanical cart, Arivaldo passes a fellow collector. Sergio Bispo, founder of Cooper Glicério, said the cart is worth 4.000 reals (2,000 U.S. dollars).

Arivaldo loads recyclables into an old Volkswagen van.

Arivaldo loads recyclables into an old Volkswagen van.

Andreía kisses her 10-year-old son, Ruan.

Andreía kisses her 10-year-old son, Ruan.

Arivaldo and Andreía joke around as they head home for lunch.

Arivaldo and Andreía joke around as they head home for lunch.

Only a short walk from the cooperative is Andreía’s home, where she lives with her father, husband and three children. But along with this large group, two other families also live in the small, run-down building.

Andreía's husband Edinaldo, fills a water bottle. Edinaldo used to work at the cooperative too, until he was paralyzed in a motorcycle accident two years ago. He's currently searching for work online.

Andreía’s husband Edinaldo, fills a water bottle. Edinaldo used to work at the cooperative too, until he was paralyzed in a motorcycle accident two years ago. He’s currently searching for work online.

Three-year-old Marjorye tries on her mother's shoes.

Three-year-old Marjorye tries on her mother’s shoes.

Arivaldo wires electricity from the street, exhibiting just one way that the family saves on living costs.

Arivaldo wires electricity from the street, exhibiting just one way that the family saves on living costs.

During her lunch break, Andreía plays with Marjorye.

During her lunch break, Andreía plays with Marjorye.

I stayed the night with the Emboava’s to see what their daily life is really like. Their sleeping arrangements were like nothing I’d ever seen before. Plywood boards lay across concrete wall structures (without nails or screws attaching them). They climbed ladders to get to these quarters, where small beds or cots were arranged.

If a house like this existed in the United States, it would be condemned.

I was surprised to see such a cramped living area, after I’ve seen how hard both Andreía and Arivaldo work. While I spent time with the family Friday night, they went out to collect yet again.

Edinaldo and brother,  Cleiton talk as Andreía and Arivaldo leave to collect more recyclables.

Edinaldo talks with Andreía’s brother, Ailton, as Andreía and Arivaldo leave to collect more recyclables.

Waiting for her mother and grandfather to return from collecting, Marjorye plays with other girls who live in her building.

Waiting for her mother and grandfather to return from collecting, Marjorye plays with other girls who live in her building.

Her work seems exhausting, but Andreía keeps going when she gets home. She made sure I got a shower and a hot meal, cleaned a cut on her father’s face and put the kids to bed, before thinking about herself. I’m convinced she’s superwoman.

Andreía smokes a cigarette while waking up Saturday morning.

Andreía smokes a cigarette while waking up Saturday morning.

After only one day, I’ve become attached to the Emboava family. I’m going to church with them tomorrow and hope to spend as much time with them as possible during my last week in Brazil.

Until next time,

Cara Wilwerding