About Pandemic Prowling: In this series, Pandemic Prowling, I share stories about my travels across 4 continents (Asia, N. America, S. America, Africa) amidst the outbreak of Covid19.
Time to Go…
More then a month into Brazil, I had accomplished much of what I had set out to accomplish. Having taught myself the guitar a few months prior in Mexico, I took what I had learned below the equator and busked on the streets of South American cities. I had seen the major sites of Brazil including Christ the Redeemer, the Amazon Rain Forest and Foz de Iguacu. I felt there was little reason for me to stay. So time to go.
At the time, Columbia, another Latin American country, had just reopened their borders days prior. There was the option of spending some time there, but in my heart, I wanted to move on to bigger better things. I had high hopes that going to the African continent will yield riches, and after all the lockdown delays, I was impatient about getting it started.
But first, I wanted to pay a visit to my hometown, so I booked a flight back home going from Rio de Jinero to Sao Paulo to Fort Lauderdale, FL to Charleston, NC then San Francisco, California. A long journey despite having stayed in the Americas. I didn’t expect too many issues getting back, having faced so many travel debacles, I didn’t think I would have a problem.
One Last Adventure
I spending a few days in Rio’s favelas (slums) before leaving the country which was a lovely experience (mostly). The steep hills that the underprivileged lived in were difficult to access, but I managed while at the same time reminding me to be grateful for the luxury I enjoy. I do remember one instance where I was trying to get to the top of the favela, and I noticed the streets get narrower and narrower with police presence all but gone. Now to clarify, these favelas are known for their drug wars with only one road in and out making many police presence easily spotted by criminals.
So is it safe? It depends
What I did see as I walked higher and higher, farther and farther from the cops is more and more idle young men. As I went up further, I noticed some of them carried walkie talkies, look outs monitoring police activity. They gave me a curious look. I kept a cool face and kept pressing forward. They could tell I obviously looked different and was an outsider. As I went even further up, I began noticed a few of these shirtless, tattooed young men carrying military style rifles, staring at me intently…
I thought to myself:
“Nobody coming for you boy”
“You all alone with these gangsters on their turf”
Inside my head I threw my head up to scream at the sky…
“Be cool man” I soothed myself. I kept a stony outlook and pressed forward.
And by the heavens I left unscathed.
The next day I grabbed my things to leave the slums for the airport. At the bottom of the favela I struck up a friendly conversation with one of the cops stationed at the location (police are said to be stationed at the entrances of favelas not to prevent violence but to contain it within the slums.)
As I watched another cop yelling at a young man running back into the slums (a petty thief most likely). This friendly cop in his broken English told me I had nothing to fear, I was not the target (though I could be caught in the crossfire). It was the cops that were targeted. He gave me directions on how to take local transport (my style) to the airport while I waited for my burgers (it was going to be a long journey).
I bid him farewell as I headed to the airport without issue. And a long story short, the domestic flights were without issue as well. And at the passport control checkpoint, I just said “Fala Amigo” (common greeting in Brazilian Portuguese) to the officer and he good naturely stamped me out of Brazil and waived me through.
My flight back to the States was a lone flight, but again by good graces, were all without issue and I made it back home (for the time being) safely.