Posted by Emily Block | 0 comments

Brazil! (Day 3)

Ok, I really flipping hated my alarm clock when it went off at 7:00 today!  Doesn't it know I like to sleep in until at least 10 or 11?!?  haha  Once again, I had a day that made waking up early more than worth while.  

I was pleased to find that some of my friends would be going on this file program with me.  The plan for the day was to go to an orphanage for kids and adults with neurological disabilities and then to take them on a field trip to the zoo.  I know that many of  the people on this trip got on the bus a little nervous that we would be interacting with people with disabilities.  (I, of course, was excited to be meeting people like me, but still a little nervous about communication barriers.)  

I spent the bus ride there goofing off with my friends 

and chatting with the tour guide.  He was one of those people who knows a great deal about many things.  By talking to him, I feel like I got a much better idea about what living in Brazil is like.  His view contrasted quite a bit from what our gives in the more rural areas described.  In the city, it is very difficult to get a good education.  Private schools are good but very expensive and the public schools are horrible.  A student can go through school and graduate without knowing how to read and write.  He said that a kid had to be very motivated to learn anything and that he had to work very hard to spend time outside of school to learn what he wanted to learn.  Drugs are also a huge problem for kids.  Drug dealers target kids starting around age 11 or 12 buy handing out free hot coco or juice with that is spiked with cocain (not sure who to spell that).  That way the kids get addicted and are drawn into buying and eventually selling drugs.  The guide said that is is rare to see kids live past 22 if they start out on that path.  I asked why the police didn't top this and he laughed and said that he would estimate that about 85% of police workers were corrupt.  All of this was shocking to me since I had only heard of Brazil's excellent economy and growing opportunity before I talked to him.  I asked why the good economy wasn't helping things like schools and he replied that there is corruption.  He added that all these things are getting better in the past few years though.  I asked about health care because that is something very important to me.  He said that there is private and public health care just like education.  Public health care is not so good when you need a check up (there are long lines to see doctors that take all day or more)  but excellent in an emergency (everything will be paid for and you will be taken care of).   By the end of our conversation, we were just arriving to the orphanage.

I must say that it was very overwhelming walking into the orphanage.  After hearing about all of these problems my guide has spoken about, I was worried what conditions I may find there.  I was pleasantly surprised that it was a really nice facility.  The kids and other residents were all wearing friendly blue uniforms and the staff were obviously very caring.  Though the kids didn't have parents, I could tell that they were very much loved.  The facility was clean and other than a lack of toys or playground, it seemed like a happy place.  I overheard some of my fellow SASers talking later about how sad it was, but I didn't really find it that sad.  It was true that the kids had very profound physical and mental disabilities, but for me that is not a sad thing.  They smile and laughed, and gave and received hugs and kisses just like any other happy kid.  The only sad thing was that their parents had abandoned them because of their disability.  

I had a great time playing with the kids and adults there!  My first thing I dis was help a smiling young woman up the stairs which felt really cool because I have needed help up stairs myself.  I used my expert physical therapy strategy I learned from my mom so it wasn't even difficult for me to manage.  I was thanked with a hug which is probably the best way to thank someone.

I spent most of my time showing the kids the flipping saucer things I had brought.  I was really glad that they seemed to be entertained by the thing jumping up off of the table.  The saucer things flew al over the place with random trajectory and the kids had fun running after them.  

Soon it was time to go to the zoo so we loaded up onto our busses and headed out.  I got some pictures of the city as we drove and got a good laugh when someone on the sidewalk saw me taking a picture and posed outrageously for me.  We were separated by the window and language, but we shared a good laugh in the few seconds it took the bus to drive by. 

When we first got to the zoo things were a bit chaotic.  It started pouring and our group had many people in wheelchairs (including me) and not so many people who knew how to push them correctly.  People kept getting suck in ruts and I would jump out of my wheelchair, show them how to told the front wheels back to get over the barrier and then get back in my chair and wheel myself a long.  My fellow SASers helped serve lunch to the kiddies and I looked on and took some pictures.  I was mostly unable to help because I was stuck in  a wheelchair traffic jam.  haha  

Once lunch was done and the rain had subsided, we ventured out to look at the animals.  I did ok wheeling myself for a while, but the zoo wasn't quite accessible so I had to steal one of my friends to help me up a cobblestoned hill.  I tried to get out of the chair because I didn't want to take up any pushers, but my legs started their shaking thing and I sat right back down.  

Too soon it started purring again and we rushed back to the tiny overhang. Luckily it was a warm rain and all of us seemed to enjoy it more than anything.  I have never heard laughing like the kids as they were getting soaked in the rain and watching the other kids form their wet hair into spikes and mow hawks.  I had a chance to play with the kids while they waited of their bus to come pick them up.  I was happy that my party blowers were a big hit.  Many of the kids couldn't actually use them, but they thought I was hilarious as I demonstrated.  Also as we were waiting my guide translated to me that some of my workers joked that they were going to take me back with them since I was in a wheelchair too.  I thought that was very funny.   :0)  Too soon we were waving goodbye as their bus pulled away.  I felt like the whole experience was amazing and yet quite hectic and rushed.  

Back on the boat, my friends invited me a long to explore the city.  I was ridiculously excited because I had kind of resigns myself to only doing filed programs since I wasn't sure how people would feel about pushing me around in my wheelchair.  They didn't mind at all so after a lunch on the boat, we set out on the town.  

We decided that there were most definitely weeping angels in there.  (Doctor Who reference to be ignored by non-Whovians)

One of my friends proved to be an expert tour guide and took us to the opera house and a museum.  The opera house was really fascinating because it was made in the style of French Neoclassical.  As I was touring it, I felt like I was back in Paris!  The museums were one room each and all in one building.  It was air-conditioned and we met a cute guy who worked there so we stayed much longer than the collection warranted.  Most of the time we spent talking to the guy we met about the U.S. because he was really interested.  

Yes, yes.  Quite, quite.  Being up here in the box seat sipping a good year of bottled water is far preferred to the tedium of sitting amongst the common masses.

From there, the three of us meandered the somewhat accessible streets until we got to the main market.  The ground there was relatively even so I was happy to be able to wheel myself around to look at all of the booths.  It was amazing how quickly I settled into communicating in broken Spanish, my two words I know in Portuguese, and hand gestures.  Later, when I got back to the ship, I was a little overwhelmed when everyone was speaking English again.  I was able to spend most of my remaining Brazil money (SAS makes you get $50 worth as a minimum) on some really cool things.  I achieved my goal in finding something in Brazil wood which is the beautiful red, smooth wood that instruments are made out of.  It was carved to be a fish, but one of the eyes was missing as well as the stand it was supposed to rest on.  They guy I bought it from kept trying to have me choose the one that wasn't broken, but then laughed when he saw I was set on the funny looking fish.  I also got some polished seed pods, a woven bracelets, and a ridiculous jungle hat.  It strangely  felt really good to be back in the chair and working out my arms.  I guess it would seem strange for someone missing using a wheelchair, but it is a similar experience to missing walking when I first went into the wheelchair.  

After we had made our purchases and chatted/gestured with some of the vendors, we headed back to the boat.  On the way I was really happy to stop in a CVS-like place to stock up on crackers and some sweets.  Right before we got back on the boat we finally found someone selling Brazilian flags to add to our collection.

We enjoyed a dinner full of great stories and laughs before they set out on a nighttime field program and I gratefully showered and went to bed early.  What a day!


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