The life I’m currently leading.

As I lay in the sun by the 15 metre crystal clear, not a spec of dirt in site pool. I know that behind me in the huge Italian villa, that I now reside in the grounds of, my spaghetti alla pomodoro is being cooked to perfection.
I’m living in some dream world, getting paid while the family who employ me to speak english to their children are away, on a spur of the moment holiday.
They waved goodbye and I was given strict instructions to do what I want, relax and enjoy my break. Only being here a week, and coming from an Australian winter, I had full intentions of doing very little, and working on my tan, but then the guilt got me.
As I was bid farewell, the housekeeper was firmly instructed to have everything perfect on their return, and reassured her work would be inspected on their arrival.
When I say I’m living in some dream world, it is in two senses. This extravagant lifestyle that I’m not paying a cent for, and a world where white privilege is still in full force, where I am seen as a friend and the Filipino housekeeper a slave. Where she must put up with her boss screaming profanities at her, in order to keep an income. An income so she can continue to support her brother through college.
Support her brother, just as she has done for the previous eight years, as three brothers graduated.
I have two brothers, we keep count of every last cent we owe each other, and will make sure we reclaim it when payday comes. I can’t even fathom moving to a different country, learning a new language, to work everyday, just to send money home.
I’m not sure if our boss knows that I would walk away if she spoke to me with the anger she does her, or if she simply does see me as part of the family, rather than someone who is there to do everything she asks, no matter how ridiculous it sounds.
I watch this lady who, tells me coming to Italy was a dream, and then her dream became a reality but is now a nightmare as she dreads her work everyday, but the money is just too good for her to leave. I to had dreamt of living in Italy, but in an entire different sense, I came here to avoid working, she came here to support her entire family back in the Philippines.
I’m now into my fourth consecutive European summer, I’ve visited over 30 European countries, the housekeeper, is yet to leave Italy at all, not once, in eight years. She worked for seven years at one place, seven days a week. Every day, for seven years. I’d be lucky to have worked properly for seven months out of the past four years. It’s just so surreal to me, that I am treated so differently to the lady who does so much for them, whereas I am simply paid to speak.
The way my new friend, the housekeeper is treated here disgusts me, I admire her, and could never imagine being in such a situation. One where you have to withstand the abuse, because your family, who you rarely see, relies on your next pay cheque. She is unbelievably positive and I know, no matter what, when I raise from my lounge chair, head inside and insist I cook my own lunch, she will be standing there smiling, even though she knows in three days time, the storm that is her boss will return.

Salvador. 

I saw açai hostel and I wanted in, messages were sent and I was on my way, six weeks volunteering in one of the most unique and vibrant cities I’ve been. The city of Salvador has the most preserved African culture outside of Africa itself, it’s loud, messy and a little bit intimidating but I was in absolute awe. I did very little research before arriving other than seeing how much fun the hostel was and reading that it was in fact one of the most dangerous cities in Brazil…comforting. That said, I can safely say that although I saw people chasing after others with machetes, heard countless stories of guns being pulled, and had someone from the hostel robbed or scammed pretty much everyday, I didn’t experience any of this. If you ignore the time a waiter chased me down the street and threw my clearly unappreciated tip at me. Tuesday nights were when Salvador really came alive, in the winding cobbled streets of the Pelourinho it all happened, samba in the streets, Capoeira martial artists and Olodum drummers perform. Although my coordination or lack there of didn’t allow for it, there were people from everywhere following the drums as they wound through the streets into the large squares following on with the set moves from the band, the atmosphere is something that has to be experienced to actually be believed. Samba can only be followed by one thing and that is caipirinha’s and a authentic samba bar conveniently located right across the street from the hostel.Six weeks flew by and before i knew it I was into my last week.To be fair, I don’t really do all I should of in this unreal city, like see the main church or pick up as much Portuguese as I should of, and by that I mean I could get a pineapple juice and that was pretty much it. I did have a ton of fun and experience a very different culture and traditions and see some killer Salvador sunsets.

Ouro Preto. 

IMG_5513
Leaving Rio my plan was to begin my trip up North. This began by heading into the mountains to Ouro Preto, a town stuck in time, full of Museums and churches all in amazing Baroque architecture, the picture perfect image and a huge contrast to where I had just been. The town that literally translates to Black Gold was the old capital of Minas Gerais and played a huge role in Brazil’s gold rush and still relishes in its rich history there are numerous mines you can visit around the city, although I didn’t make it. Since its hey day it has since become a huge university town, unfortunately for me it was summer break so the city was dead and the hostels empty. I would have loved to spend numerous days wandering the streets and sitting in town squares but with no one to talk to and the town being fairly lifeless, it being cold and rainy, I got my museum and church fix, changed my plans and headed back to sunny Rio.  

 This town was unbelievable, it’s winding cobble stoned, steep streets and colonial style building were fascinating to see and just topped off by the surrounding mountain background. 

 

Ilha Grande. 

 

Amongst our time in Rio was a quick trip to Ilha Grande, the former home to a leper colony followed by Brazil’s most dangerous criminals in the Island prison, when this closed in 1994 tourism crept on in. A bus and a boat away this car free island is the perfect accompaniment to the amazing city of Rio de Janeiro. Arriving to the news the town was without power we wandered the candle lit streets and were entranced by this seaside place. IMG_5378We stayed in a perfectly located hostel with decks over the water. With only one full day here we did the biggest must do- hike across the jungle clad island to what is said to be one of the worlds most spectacular beaches Lopes Mendes. Tough in the heat, but worth every drop of sweat. Howler monkies in the trees, and amazing views over the bay, we fought out way through the jungle with plenty of time to enjoy the clean quiet beaches.IMG_5368 With plans to spend a morning exploring we were unexpectedly thrust onto the 10am ferry rather than our planned 1pm, so our time in Ilha Grade was suddenly cut short as we crossed the seas in our hungover stupor marvelling back at the amazing quiet island, wishing we had more time. 

Rio de Janeiro.

IMG_5439The marvellous city, this nickname is no word of a lie. Rio is huge, wonderful and one of the most remarkable cities I have visited. It was a nice change to get some sun and warmth after our freezing few weeks and I could think of no better place than Rio de Janeiro to soak in the sun. The plan was two weeks here before Ruth headed home and I headed north, I however tried to leave but ended up back, staying close to three weeks which could of easily turned into a lifetime. 

We got extremely lucky, in those three weeks I only had one day of rain leaving us with lots of opportunities for sightseeing. We headed up to see the big guy Christo or more correctly Christ the Redeemer, overwhelming in size and the amount of people crowded around the tiny view points. With zero organisation it was impossible for us to get a good look over the entire city and we just weren’t prepared to force our way through the packs of people, we did still manage to catch some pretty terrific views though.   IMG_5296

After one sight seeing day it was time to relax, and where better to relax than one of the most famous beaches in the world. We headed to Ipanema, which is not your ordinary beach experience. Not solely due to the over exposed Brazilians but the availability of everything you want or need on the beach. Just sit back while people bring you anything you want from açai to bikinis. We opted for some caipirinhas in the sun as we hung around for one of the most beautiful sunsets I have even witnessed.   
  I took the free walking tour of downtown to get some local tips of the city. It was fascinating to hear of the corruption and displacement in Rio especially involving the favelas as well as the negative impacts hosting the world cup and Olympics is having on the city and its people. It wasn’t all negative thought, we visited some beautiful places and learnt a lot about the city, ending at the amazing Escadaria Selarón.IMG_5258
We spent our time in Rio moving between neighbourhoods to get a feel or the different aspects of the city. From a few days in the quiet hills of Santa Maria to a noisy weekend of partying in Lapa, and there wasn’t a single one we didn’t enjoy, although I would have to say the clean streets of Ipanema were my favourite. IMG_5463
I had heard many warnings about being careful in Brazil, that we were more than likely going to get robbed, I can say without a doubt, there was not a single moment in this city that I felt unsafe, I loved every single moment of it and will definitely be jumping at any opportunity to go back. 

Iguazu Falls. 

 Close to three kilometres wide and almost 300 separate waterfalls, we had made it, with only the slight hiccup of all the ATM’s in the town being out of money and in turn us being left with no cash for entrance, this saw us put our visits in reverse, so with the clear blue skies it was over the border to Brazil.  Although my grandmother wasn’t impressed with my weekly photo of “just some waterfalls” It was beautiful, the sprawling falls, the clean park, everything but those terrifying little animals, the coati, an ant eater faced oversized possum like creature that attacked anything that resembles food and those foolish enough to try and eat around them. The Brazilian side of the falls is the more visually pleasing side and gives some amazing panoramic views, it also allows you to walk a platform under ‘The Devils Throat’ which is the most impressive of all the falls and devides Brazil and Argentina. 

 The next day, in not such beautiful weather, It was back over to Argentina to experience Iguazu for a second time, with two thirds of the falls belonging to this side it is a bit more adventurous, you are a lot closer to the action with paths through the forest, animals popping up from everywhere and sections where we were actually alone in silence without a single other tourist, something that would be impossible to achieve on the Brazillian side. 

 
Whist there we decided why not experience the falls directly, so we boarded the boat, tucked our clothes in, and held on for dear life. It was soon very apparent that no amount of tightening our drawstrings was going to help us, we were soaked through, every layer, and the sheer force of the falls so intense all we could do is cradle our heads and scream a little. I can’t say it was enjoyable, but it was definitely something for the experience list.   

   Iguazu falls is one amazing natural site, and after we had a money mishap everyone we spoke to said it would be better to see the Brazilian side before the Argentinian, and I would have to agree especially if you catch some suburb sunshine as we did. 

Buenos Aires. 

 

Mimicking a European city the Argentine capital put me at ease from the start, and being home to my favourite guy Papa Frankie made this city complete for me. Arriving in Buenos Aires a little trip to the cambio was in order. Basically the Argentinian economy is shot and their money is pretty useless, the fact their largest bank note is the equivalent to six dollars gives you this impression from the get go. For the visiting tourists this is good news- welcome the blue market, where if you are in possession of US dollars or Euros you can change them on the street at a significantly higher rate than what the banks give you. Once we made it to the appropriate street everyone was wanting our dollars. Knowing the going rate for the blue market we simply went to the first person who was willing to give it to us, and we were thrilled we did, on one swift move we were in the back of a tiny flower stand swapping cash behind a curtain, definitely adding to the experience, and making it feel a whole lot sneakier. 

Buenos Aires is huge with over 15 million people, but in no way gives the feeling of its size as it is divided into multiple neighbourhoods. During our stay we tried to visit a few, starting with Recoleta, which contains what is strangely enough one of the city’s main tourist attraction the Cemetario de la Recoleta. This cemetery almost like a mini city holds the crypts of Argentinas elite, built up and decorated with marble and gold it is huge and even offers a map to assist with your visit, definitely reflecting the neighbourhood it is housed in.  

 Palermo was next, said to be the hipster neighbourhood of Buenos Aires, we wandered the funky streets surrounded by bars and cafes but We were there for one main reason, La Cabrara! This fancy restaurant houses what is believed to be one of the best steaks in Argentina and they do a pre Argentina dinner time seating, where they offer 40 percent off. Once again my dislike for steak didn’t work in my favour and my options were limited to salad. According to Ruth the steak was superb and my salad wasn’t too bad either. La Boca the colourful working class district of BA was our last visit, Full of coloured buildings and tango in the streets, this neighbourhood was great to spend some time wandering in, but definitely too overpriced for us to eat.
 Before we knew it, our time in this wonderful city was over, one filled with so many different areas you could spend countless weeks there, said to be the Paris of Latin America and we definitely felt that European influence like no where else here.