Saturday, July 3, 2010

favela blues

Tonight, I've lost my patience for favela living. I try and turn the anger and frustration I'm feeling into empathy for folks who know no other way of life, or, who still live in conditions more precarious than our own. It's 3:30 a.m. and Zaya has us awake for her 1st night feeding and can't back to sleep. Eder's working his charm to get her asleep (an impressive ritual). She actually held out 6 hours sleeping before she woke (woke up starving), so I'm not complaining about her.

I'm complaining about an alarm that has been going off at the old factory located across the valley from Eder's house. It sounds like a police siren, and it's so loud it sounds like it could be in front of our home. It has been going on and off for 24 hours now. It is unbelievable to me that no one has come to resolve the problem, and I'm imagining how many hundreds of people who inhabit this neighborhood are effected. We actually did call the police during the day yesterday, but still nothing is resolved.

On top of the non-stop alarm, there's been no water for a day and a half. Our dirty dishes have piled up and there are few clean ones left to use. We had to go next door to Eder's Aunt's house (they have a reserve water tank they use in times like this) to take our showers. Our laundry and dirty cloth diapers are also accumulating. And, (not fun) the septic system stinks.

Despite not having running water inside, there is plenty of it outside. Salvador is in rainy season and the rain started about 10 days. Every day there are rains, but for the last 24 hours, it's been basically pouring on and off. When there's this much rain all at once, the streets get flooded making it hard for cars to circulate in the city, so most activities get canceled and most people stay home. It's probably best to stay home, since Eder and I are both sick with colds. But I'm on my 6th day in a row stuck at home and for those of you who know me, can imagine how stir-crazy I'm getting.

The last time it rained like this here there was a landslide in our back yard and a wall crumbled on top of the neighbor below's roof. That happened mid-april, when I was 9 months pregnant. Their house was finally fixed and the family just moved back in this week. I look down at the two layers of concrete walls that Eder's family put in and pray that this time it's stronger than the last and won't give under the weight of this house with all this rain (now heavier since the addition was put on).

Constant rain also means none of our clothes are drying that have been hanging out for over 2
days. Another un-foreseen irritant of the rain is that there's a leak in our roof. Turns out Eder's father, in his haste to complete the apartment for us to move into, hired someone he didn't know to do the roof and the guy didn't seal it properly. In the middle of the night last night Eder noticed the ceiling in Zaya's room leaking. When he punctured a hole in it, sure enough, a ton of water had been accumulating between the ceiling and the roof. We have a bucket collecting the dripping water (which, conveniently, is what we've been using the flush the toilet!). These are the joys of home-ownership everyone talks about! We'll add this repair job to the list of other things that still need to get finished in our home - attaching the kitchen sink faucet to the pipe (we have been using a hose from the wash area outside to wash dishes), door handles on the doors... etc.

While we're on the subject, I'll take the time to complain about the city's solution for sanitation removal in the favelas. Unlike the wealthy neighborhoods closer to the city center where garbage is removed at least 3 times a week from the front of the residence, those who live in the periphery only receive garbage removal once a week. Residents have to dispose of their trash up on the commercial strips that border the hills they live on. There are no dumpsters or containers for the trash to go in, so huge piles accumulate right in the middle of the hub of the neighborhood. It's disgusting, unhealthy, ugly as hell. I don't understand how Brazil can be so obsessed with people's health - priding itself on the National System of Healthcare and sponsoring national vaccine campaigns to reduce infectious disease on the one hand, and let garbage fester for a week at a time in such close proximity to residents.

I'll end with some photos that illustrate the miraculous transformation of our apartment - in February it was just the roof of the house where they hung laundry. (Note the state of Zaya's room - the photo with the little girl - Eder's goddaughter Camille - was taken when I was 8 months pregnant!) Now it's our beautiful home that I love, despite all the little irritants I am venting about in this blog. The final photos are the latest in Eder's artwork (the last image is a piece he did on a vacant house across the valley from us. Something to brighten up our 'hood . Til next time..

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