Although my friends live in a fav or vela (translation 'the hood') as I now call it, many people don’t lock their doors. We don't have a lock as such, just a small padlock which is to be used when the house is unoccupied for long periods of time, which is virtually never. The danger of theft is low and if anything did go missing we would speak to the 'owner', meaning the person in charge who oversees the proceedings of the favela, such as the trafficking of drugs. Although they are involved in criminal activities, the 'owners' usually have a sense of honour and take care of their own.
Gunfire is an unavoidable part of life in the favela primarily due to police raids, and the fact that there is a high level of corruption within the police force only exacerbates matters.
During my first week I heard the gunshots that resulted in the death of the 'supervisor' of drug trading. I heard gunfire on a few other occasions but it all seemed very surreal and I think I have a minor death wish.
The news is dominated by incidents of shootings and I suspect that as with all things that transpire on a regular basis, however awful, desensitization is inevitable.
Overall though, life in this particular favela is quite sedate in comparison to others.
Clearly, you cannot enter favelas at your whim, you need to have friends there (this is of course conditional) or be involved in a volunteer project. Such projects are abundant and to become truly conversant with life in Rio I think you need to become acquainted with life in favelas.
Now Melissa knows many people within the community and they are aware that I am a close friend who's staying with her, specifically I’m a Gringa (a white foreigner) but this term is not used in an offensive manner. However, I still need to take precautions when taking photographs, obviously certain people cannot be photographed and when taking pictures at night I can't be too conspicuous because I might be mistaken for a journalist.
Nevertheless, the majority of people living within favelas are hard working people that simply do not have the luxuries we enjoy so liberally in the developed world.
Additionally, and unexpectedly, I experienced a sense of community closeness that I have never encountered before.
Welcome to the favela! That's Nicholas (my bestfriend's son) striking a pose.
The favela entrance by day. Inviting.
The main pathway of the favela.
Our place is the one at the very bottom on the left.
The view from the living area that greeted me every morning.
Our front door. The aliens have landed.
Night view out of our window.
The joys of doing laundry. Thankfully our friends let us share their improvised clothes line.
More joyous laundry.
Just inside the entrance. Quiet night.
Favela pup. He didn't like the camera flash all that much.
Going down into the depths of the favela.
This is the same slope but leading up.
The back stairs leading out of the favela.
The back stairs ascending. They really worked my gluteus maximus.
This was the main street at the front of the favela. It could take you up down and all around.