So I guess I never really explained what I'm doing here. For those of you who don't have a totally clear concept:
Notre Dame's Center for Social Concerns has a program called ISSLP--International Summer Service Learning Program. There are about 50 students participating this summer, the biggest group yet, and they're located al over the globe from Uganda to Honduras, Thailand to Mexico, India to Brazil. We go usually in pairs, and do service work for 8 weeks, the type of work varying greatly, obviously, and all of it is funded by the CSC. Woot for free money. We haveta do some reading and a paper at the end, and during this last spring semester we had a once a week one credit class to prepare for the summer (not that it succeeded at all, but it did, on occasion, bring up some interesting points). So Olimpia and I are here in Brazil working closely with the Maryknollers around here, most of them lay missioners. They do all sorts of things and we're doing little bits of work with each of them, thus the variety of our work.
TODAY we went to visit Sister Carolyn who lives on the outskirts (sort of. it was still pretty far in) of the city. She works a lot with an indigenous tribe, the Guarai who live in a Aldeia which is like a sort of community, a mini-reservation. It was really sad. We just sort of walked around because they know her and so she stopped and chatted a bit with some of them, and it was really eye-opening. There were about 400 people living on a really small hilly plot of land that had been cleared by them of Eucalyptus trees, meaning they now cannot do anything with the land because those trees sucks the nutrients out. They are hunter-gatherers and live on the edge of a national park but can't hunt anything and likely wouldn't find anything anyway. They have a river but it's polluted and whatever they caught from there, as Sister Carolyn said, "would probably kill them." Apparently when people want to abandon animals they take them a lot of the time to the entrance of the aldeia and just drop them there. Because of that there a a gazillion dogs everywhere, most of them mangy and underfed, and walking was trecherous not just because of the rocks and hills but because of the dog poop everywhere. Because of the debateable ownership of the land, and all sorts of political this-and-that, they are not allowed to build permanent buildings on the land, so they all live in plywood favela-like houses. Everyone was dirty, and just really pitiful looking. They don't ask for pity, and are in the process of buying a mach larger piece of land out in the countryside, but it was really depressing to see it all. There are 9 little wash houses that a church organization came in and built, each with a shower, a toilet and a tub to wash clothes. 9. For 400 people. As we were walking there was some Brazilian country playing (sounds somewhat Mexican, not like US country) and Sr. said they recently got electricity there (!!!) so now "the place sounds like everywhere else." We saw a low building made out of logs and with a grass roof that served as their prayer house. In it, and all around, were women smoking these large, funny looking pipes. I have no idea what they were smoking, I couldn't place the smell. Everyone wore old dirty clothes, but just normal street ones, nothing traditional. There was also a nice (relatively speaking) building that had a kitchen in it where a group comes in and they have cooking and sewing lessons. Today they were making soap out of cooking oil, which they get each month as a handout from the government and usually throw away because they have no use for it. Attatched to that building was a long corrugated tin roof covering a paved stretch that was littered with benches. Later Sr. Carolyn told us that each weekend an Evangelical church comes in, brings the ppl from their church, set up the benches and have a service there while the Gaurai just sit there and watch. They're a very laid back and non-confrontational people, so they don't like it but they don't kick them out either. Ridiculous that that church does that. "Trying to convert the pagans. What they don't realize is they have a religion, thousands of years older than theirs, and which in many ways is much more spiritual and deep than theirs." The Guarai have really interesting beliefs, which we only heard a little bit about, but the one I thought the most intruiging was that their traditional music is always only sung by children, because the children are pure, and if someone is to sing and pray to their creator it must be those who are most innocent. Very cool.
Um yea, I guess there's more to say but it's too much and I can't say everything. Oh but after that we went up to a tall hill/low mountain that's sort of on the outside of the city (though it streches behind it too) and got to see Sao Paulo in all it's glory but also we got to witness the smog coud that hangs above it which we live right in the middle of. Ew.