Hello everybody! I am catching up from yesterday, which was a long, informative, festive, day. I did get to begin the day with a dip in the amazing pool at Tais and Renato's building. When I build my dream house, I want one just like it! We started the day at 8:30 by going to a Red Cross hospital where they repair cleft palates. Hospitals in Brazil are more "cheerful", if any hospital stay can be cheerful and seem to put people more at ease than do ours in Estado Unidos. There is not the undercurrent of litigation fear, and it seems to really be about healing. We saw some children with some devastating disfigurements who were being helped by top-notch surgeons and other medical staff. One little boy broke my heart. He had a major cleft palate, along with some eye disfigurement, but he was running around hugging all of our knees, listening to Sponge Bob and laughing. His mother seemed to know that in that place, he was going to get the help that he needed. I realized that I have absolutely nothing to complain about in my life. All the minor irritations that I think are a big deal, really are nothing.
The most impressive thing to me at the hospital, though, was meeting Dr. Lucy Dalva Lopes Mauro. She is a leading world expert on maxillofacial surgery. She has, and continues to write books that are used by medical students and doctors on the subject. She graduated from medical school in 1953, so she' s nearly 80, but I get the impression that the place does not run without her! She is passionate about her work, and she is so inspriring.
Next, we had lunch at a social club, which at home would be something like the University Club or the Petroleum Club with the president of a large Rotary Club here, the Rotary Club de Sao Paulo Aeroporto.
We next went into the favela, or slums of Sao Paulo. If you have seen the movie "City of God" or Cidade de Deus (see, I'm getting better! I'll be Claire Huxtable before the end of the trip:-), please put that stereotype out of your mind. The people who live in the favelas are poor, and live in conditions that you could not even imagine. There are 14 million people in Sao Paulo, and 1.2 million of them live with sketchy water and electric service. I have attached a picture so that you can see how vast this poverty is. However, in the middle of this are two jewels. First, we went to a social program sponsored by Rotary that trains teenagers to work as chefs. Every week, a chef from a nice restaurant comes in and brings food to show the kids proper preparation techniques, hygiene, and other cooking (cozinhando) tricks. I have attached a couple of pics of that as well. The other part of this program is a free day care for working parents in the favela. I took a picture of this little girl because she reminded me of my niece, who I really miss.
The next program we learned about was Pedreira, also in the favela. They train boys 15-18 on computer and technology skills, and they are CISCO- licensed. This means that they receive training and funding from CISCO, and so when these boys complete their studies, they can basically get a job anywhere they want in IT. The 3 boys pictured above, Alan, Rodrigo, and Andre are some of the top students. Their eyes are so bright and open and they are so eager to learn and grow. They all are headed to university and want to come to the U.S. And their English is very good! It is amazing what this program does, considering that there are 1,000 murders per year in the favelas and 50% of those are boys under the age of 18. That took my breath away.
Last but certainly not least, we attended a Rotary Club de Sao Paulo Aeroporto meeting that was a celebration of the sixth anniversary of the club. I don't know what your impression is of Rotary members, but in Brazil, they love to have a good time. We were able to present our club banners to the president of the club and meet many interesting people, including a young man from Chicago who is on a yearlong Rotary exchange. He speaks Portuguese like a native, and has only been here since August. Just to give you an idea of how much they like to party, we arrived at the meeting at 7:30, and left after midnight. And this is a weekly meeting for them. Sheesh!
I am so impressed by Rotary and what it does internationally. It blows my mind to see all the good things that Rotarians are able to accomplish. They are also very collegial and very happy to see the GSE team. It's a great organization.
Here are a few funny things from the trip. We are all having a good time getting to know each other. My teammate Crystal, who we now call ESL, has apparently chosen Portuguese as her native language, and now speaks broken English. For example, we were laughing at lunch one day and she started choking on her water. When she recovered, she said, "I got choke!" She chooses to leave out all helping verbs and prepositions from her speech. And this girl is from Alabama! It is hilarious. I will tape something to put on the blog. She sounds like a cross between Borat and Salma Hayek! Also, we are all walking around in a constant state of blindness because everywhere we go, everyone wants to take a picture. We have our own paparazzi! It is really funny.