Monday, April 29, 2013

Monsters come to visit Rocinha


I get interesting requests from visitors to the favela. A representative from Universal Nutrition Vitamins and Supplements contacted me about some bodybuilders who are here for the Bodybuilding Expo/Arnold Classic. They are doing the tourist route of Sugar Loaf and Christ and they had a unique request. They wanted to see the favela butI thought why not combine a tour with two things bodybuilders need to do? Workout and eat!


Living in Rocinha is a great place because we have everything here. We have 5 gyms and many great healthy places to work out. The best place we have to work out is R1 Fitness near the bottom of the favela. The gym has been upgraded and looks like any gym that you would see in any middle class neighborhood. It even has a swimming/exercise pool and plenty of aerobic classes to satisfy anybody. The gym is two floors. The basement or bottom floor has the pool with mens and womens changing rooms and a juice bar. The second floor is a mix of machines and free weight area. The third floor is a air conditioned cardio room with bikes, treadmills and stairmasters. next door is a room just for spinning. The last room is a open space used for aerobics, stretching, yoga or any other kind of movement classes. The top floor is a roof top where meetings or parties are held. For a favela, its state of the art! We have a few other gyms but this is the best choice for these guys. They even had some heavy weights.


Universal Nutrition (UN) from New Jersey has been around since 1977 providing bodybuilders with much needed supplementation. Next door to the gym has opened a supplement shop called "Strange Nutrition" and I was suprised to see that they have UN products. The visitors took photos of the products in the shop and commented on how expensive the products were. Import taxes really raise the prices so much that Brazilians pay about 2.5 times the "regular" price. There was a huge bag of Whey Protein that sold for 430 reais which is about 215US$, when in the US you can buy this same product for about 80US$. Crazy!!!!


Frank McGrath is a 34 years old professional bodybuilder who lives in Toronto. His friend Antoine Vaillant, 25 years old, amateur bodybuilder is from Quebec, Canada. Antoine is going for his pro card. The third guy of the group was Jorlan Vieira, also a bodybuilder, lives in Rio was acting as a tour guide for the group. Eric Schwartz and Travis Poulsen were promoters for UN and were there to workout and also film the travel journeys of the team. These bodybuilders are sponsored by UN so they receive products and other perks.


After they worked out, I took them to one of our best restaurants "Trapia". Its a por kilo places where the food is set up buffet style and you take what you want but you pay by weight. There is also a area where theres a guy who will cut for you 10 different types of meat, from sirloin to chicken hearts. The prices are very reasonable and the food is great. Frank and Antoine ate clean but Jorlan didnt seem to have a competition coming up so he had french fries on his plate.


After eating, we walked through the favela a little and I took them over the pasarella (footbridge) so they could see how big the favela is from the bottom. It was fun to see the reactions of the residents seeing these huge muscular men walking through the favela. I couldnt help but laugh because to have professional bodybuilders here is not common at all. Only once before did I have three bodybuilders visit here from Sweden. I love the work I do. I get to meet the most amazing people from all over the world!


I hope team Universal Nutrition comes back for a visit! But next time we can take more time to walk through and see the favela!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Teaching people how to Fish


Agencia Redes de Juventude (Youth Networking Agency)


I remember being approached by the girl about 18 years old wearing a blue t-shirt with the word AGENCIA across the front, on the streets of my favela about 4 months ago. She told me that I should come to a meeting to promote my dj school. I had the date set to go but somehow forgot the meeting and I was upset. I later found out that Agencia Redes de Juventude (ARJ) is a city funded project with interest in helping favela communities. I was not sure how they helped as I was just told to go to the meeting and I would find out more. The ARJ fund youth who have new ideas about how to create a sustainable business in their favelas.


I forgot about this until about 1 month ago I was contacted by representatives from ARJ. They asked me if I could help one of their grant receivers with their project. I told them sure. The ARJ contact persons name was Rafaelle and she sent me emails about Joao Batista the youth recepient. Joao told me that he wanted to start his project with the idea of developing tour guides in his favela of Providencia. He found me on the internet and our website. Morro da Providencia is rich in history and is known as the first favela that exist in Rio de Janeiro. The hill was settled in 1897 by ex slaves and soldiers from the War of Canudos. So, historically Providencia could be developed, if done right into a tourist destination.


On March 27th, Dembore, my partner, and I met Rafaelle, Joao and a youth reporter who writes for the ARJ web site at the Copacabana Palace. We took the favela transport to the top of Rocinha and slowly decended talking about how we set up our tours and routes depending on tourists interests.


We eventually made it to our DJ school Spin Rocinha, where we spoke more about marketing and the business of running tours in a favela. I tried to give him as many ideas based on what I have experienced working with tourism here in Rocinha. I would like to be able to eventually help other favelas like City of God set up cultural tours in their favela. I am open and available to help those who support sustainable tourism for these communities! Its like the expression “I would rather teach the people who to fish, instead of just giving them the fish”.


Joao received 10,000 reais from ARJ to start his tourism company in Providencia . This will be needed for him to build a website, make business cards, marketing and much more. Joao’s plan is to study about the history and talk to elders about Providencia. Then he wants to find a route through the community that will be interesting for foreigners to see. He plans to train 5 guides that will work with his “company”. He has alredy picked a name “Provitour” for his company. I told him that if he ever needs help to contact me. I will keep in contact with him. I am posting fotos for you to see of our day with ARJ.


Heres a link to a article that was written about our day with ARJ in Rocinha: