At first glance Salvador, Brazil is a huge developed metropolis, a beautiful modern city with all of the urban qualities that you would imagine a city in the United States to have. There are towering buildings, malls, public transport, tons of people, and, of course, traffic. But under this picturesque impression that Salvador could leave you with there is a harsh reality of racism, sexism, and poverty that play a role in people’s everyday lives. The more I am exposed to and become a part of the culture here, the more I experience the effects of these issues.
Since the Brazil crew arrived we have been having classes in the historical heart of the city, Pelourinho. Having class there and making the two hour bus commute every day I see homeless people sleeping in the street and approaching anyone who passes by asking for money or food. People of all ages approach me daily; young children to elderly men and women who regularly grab my arm and say “Comida, comida!”(Food, food). It’s emotional every time I have to turn away and ignore someone who is starving and is asking for my help. It’s been even harder for the last week as I have been living with an extremely wealthy family. I have realized that in my three weeks in Brazil I have been exposed to more of this part of the culture than my current host brother and sister who have lived here in Salvador their entire life and have never even ridden the bus. On any given day in Brazil I need to take the bus a minimum of three times a day. I feel that this is how I was before I came to Brazil: sheltered from the harsh reality of poverty. We see poverty and homelessness in the U.S. and address it as a problem, but the situation here is incomparable.
The more I see the issues that are prevalent here in Brazil like racism, sexism, and poverty, the more I start to understand why I am here: not just to come and help people, but to be exposed to and understand the issues of the communities that we will live in and learn how to address them as effectively as possible.