So apparently I worried people with my last post, haha, ok I'll be more positive now:
I'm really having a great time here, and am very happy I came. It's awesome that Olimpia and I knew each other before too, because we get along great and can talk about the things going on and sort through things and feelings together. Its also nice that shs from a Latin culture too and so though some things are obviously different and new for her, the general feel of Brasil isn't foreign plus not very much here surprises her. So yay. Oh, and just abit ago she bought her first Havaianas, so now she's a real Brasilian!
So prison was really interesting. Definitely different from the movie-esque image I had in my head. It was kind of a campus, and right in the middle of this big nice park, with lots of grass (not too green because of the winter) and red red dirt. Olimpia made a comment about that, and it's true the dirt here is almost orange, it's a really interesting color. The cuffs of my pants are always wither black or orange, depending on whether I was in the city or not that day haha. But yea so the prison security was really kind of lax, mainly because they trust ITTC who we went with, but we did have to sit on this weird lil stool that took an Xray to make sure we weren't carrying drugs up there haha, and yet other than that they just patted us down and made us walk through a metal detector, so it'd be the easiest thing ever to bring something in your shoe or something. The biggest problems they have there are drugs (apparently there are way more drugs in the prison than outside) and cellphones--people sneak in SIM cards and it's a big deal for some reason. The women offically aren't ever allowed to call out, and can only recieve two calls a year. Crazy. OK btw the prison is called PFC, dunno what that stands for, and it's a smallish women's prison in Sao Paulo (on an American laptop aka no accents) and has 740 women in it, about half of whom are estrangeiras. There are some other South Americans, lots from SouthEast Asia, TONS from Africa, and also quite a few from Europe, a couple from Canada, and of course no Americans, hehe. Mainly the services ITTC provides for them are helping them get ahold of their families--they write letters and then ITTC scans them and emails them and prints out the replies from their families, and sometimes ITTC will call the family directly, or the consulate, if needed. They also help with some sorts of legal things, and such other stuff I don't really understand. Olimpia and I went to the office today to start scanning the letters, and they're super backlogged--we were scanning things that had URGENT written a gajillion times on them that were from march and april. =[ But once we started I realized why it took so long... the scanner and computer are old old, and scanning the often multiplepaged letters and trying to decipher the email address and then attaching the pictures and sending it off takes a LONG time. But it's fine, gives us something to really help out with, you know?
Anyway I'm awful at writing these posts because I get off track, repeat myself and leave things out. So sorry for being so incomprehensible sometimes.
So yes, the prison. We went in there and when they visit, ITTC (btw that's something else I dont know what stands for) always goes to a room inside the school building with bunches of desks etc. I thought it would be an orderly you-come-in-when-she-leaves sort of thing, but almost as soon as we sat down the entire place filled up with these women wearing white teeshirts and never-matching khaki or yellow or orange pants. In that room during those 2 hours they are able to laugh and cry, to feel fear, to feel hope, they write letters to their loved ones back home and read responses, they get their news from their lawyers, from their consulates, they are addressed by name... it was really powerful to witness. If they ever show emotion outside the walls of that room they are considered weak and will regret it, so it's a respite for them. However only those called may enter the room, and it seems to be about 40-50 women each time who are called for some reason or another. Also, ITTC always meets with the new estrangeira prisoners, and while Olimpia and I were there we saw Luciana (aka chefinha aka the under-boss, she's super cool) talking with two European girls who were our age. They literally could not have been older than 24. Almost every single woman in that prison is there because they were caught trafficking drugs, and almost every single foriegn woman was caught in the Sao Paulo airport. It's really a tragedy because these women are not the ones who the government should be going after... whether they were completely informed or not, whether they were willingly ignorant or not, they still are the victims in this situation. So I was looking at these scared little blonde white girls struggling to speak English to Luciana and to understand hers, and heard them say Amsterdam over and over (and sort of giggled about that because how typical) and from the snippets I heard they were just on vacation and brought something to someone here and now they're stuck in a Brazilian prison for who knows how long. I mean my god how much of their life is now put on hold?? I made the comment to Olimpia that they could just as well be me and her... scary stuff. Screw up once and that's it.
As for what we were actually DOING there, we were interviewing some of the English speaking South Africans in order to learn more about day-to-day life there and were asking them what they wished they had known as newly incacerated foreign women within PFC. We're going to make some sort of booklet/pamphlet thing about it, so that'll be really helpful to some people I think. We definitely got some good information and in the booklet we're thinking of putting all what ITTC does in there too so they'll have that info.
OK haveta be off to a meeting now and sorry for the disconjointedlness of all this. Love to all.