Dear all our loyal blog readers,
Please accept our deepest apologies for neglecting you so! Its been a manic, emotional and funfilled couple of weeks, we have travelled a fair old distance by plane, taxi, foot and a few dodgey buses (3 states in fact) so bear with us whilst we try and get you up to date with our advetures....
For todays instalment however im going to concentrate on our time in Vitoria with a very special person and new friends and extended family we will never forget.... however before i begin, grab yourself a brew (wow i miss english tea) sit back, relax - keep your purse/wallet handy (youll find out why if you make it to the end!) and enjoy....this will be epic!!....
So on arrival in the beautiful Vitoria (after a 7 hour night bus) i woke only a dozen times when i could feel the bus on two wheels taking a corner (driving out here isnt for the faint hearted!) and Dean, obviously slept right though - we instantly felt just like what we had been comically referred to in Rio ... Gringos. With not a traveller in sight and us two standing out like a sore thumb with huge rucksacks on our backs we tentively made our way out of the Rodaverio and waited for Neia (who if we are honest were not entirely sure would turn up to pick us up after just one part portyguese, part english jumbled conversation!) She arrived and after 3 years of not seeing her and very little communication we hugged for about 20 minutes, it was fantastic - same old Neia came flooding back in an instant!!! Then we made our way to her house via local buses again feeling very vunrable with every pair of eyes staring at us!
On route Neia explained that her house was very simple and that she was extremly poor, ill be honest we didnt know what exactly to expect but after checking that it wouldnt put her out and her checking we didnt mind sleeping on the floor we were enroute and all set to clearly experiance a different world whatever that may hold. Neia also knows us very well and she knows (and willingly told hger friends when they tried to suggest she pretended she didnt live there and put us up with friends) that wherever she lives we love her and it wouldnt matter where we were as long as we got to spend time with her and at last meet her family.
On arrival i was completly overwhelmed, before i begin to explain i have to stress that Neia is the kindest, most honest, not to mention funniest and caring person i have ever met, this women came to England and worked her backside off in order to provide for her children and family, she didnt witness her sons growing up for more than 7 years in order to do this and i know personally that this ripped her heart apart (i know some peoples views on foreigners coming to England and taking the money out of the economy and la la la BUT i wonder if those same people if given the oppertunity to better their lifes would do the same! i wonder if those same ppl even know what hardship is? anyway thats a whole new debate! ill move on! :)) With this money she managed to better her fathers life yet a devestating situation happened last year that meant she lost all she had worked so hard for in order to once again protect and better her familys lives.
Neia and Eloi (her 18yr old sons) home is just off a dirt track and is next door to her other sons house. In Brazil, well in this communinty family is very important and its very common to see 3 generations of family under one roof. Next door to neia her eldest son Emanuel and daughter in law Pricilla (who is expecting) are just starting out in life and live above Pricillas mother and ajoined to Prisillas Aunty (if your still with me) once you walk up some concrete steps you are faced with Neias home, a small 2 roomed house/flat. It has 3 rooms in its intirety, one room is used for sitting;living no larger than 8ft by 5ft wide, the other room for sleeping(we slept here) a little larger than the first room and a tiny bathroom. there is no hot water nor is there a front door at present. The furniture is sparse and we all slept on thin foam matresses on the floor that i have no doubt Neia aquired especially for our stay. The accomodation was basic beyond belief but such an adventure!
Neia works with Helena in her Bakery (helena also worked with us for a period of time) and agin it was so emotional and amazing to see her again and of course sample some beautiful breads, cakes and local food such as coshinas!! small tear drop shaped (fried) potatoe with chicken filling! Elaina hasnt got a house at the moment either and at the end of the day pulls down her shutters and takes to a small foam matress. Both Neia and Helena work very hard getting up at 5am and working through till 7pm sometimes later.
We stayed in Vitoria (well its actually just ouside very near to Villa velhia) for a total of 7 nights, some 5 nights more than planned. You could say we got lost in the lifestyle, we both thouraghly enjoyed living the simple life for a while and it really made us start to question some of our lifestyle chioces, not to mention allowing us to feel incredibly humble and appreciative of all we have in life and all we take for granted.
Our time with Neia will never be forgotton, she took us to the local convent (convento) on a mountain with a beautiful view over Vitoria, the climb was eventful but we got to see monkeys and comodo dragons so looking back it was worth it but at the time i wanted to actually die! we went into Vitoria and looked around an amazing mall where we bought emanuel and pricilla a webcam so they can stay in touch via Skype, It was a family day out and not something that i think could be afforded on a regualr basis (Dean and Emanuel have a very special friendship built on Skol (beer) , football and two totally different languages - however they are like best mates, teaching each other new words it really was awsome to just sit back and watch)
We visited villa velhia, sampled the local food and visited the beach (however that trip got cut short with a quick taxi ride escape from some dodgey looking youths - Neia being the great tour guide, noticed them and slyly told us to stop speaking and just say si (yes) then she started rabbiting on in portuguese so it looked as though we were portuguese also!) the problem at times is that the further you go from Neias home the less ppl she knows and some of them will see or hear an english person and think they have lots of money and ultimatly pick pocket you or maybe worse. i dont however want to paint a bad picture of Brazil because this is rare and despite reports and hearsay back in England you are made to feel very safe here the majority of the time and you just have to have your witts about you as you would in say London However having Neia is a bonus!
In Neias home town/area we were treated like royalty and felt like celebritys, everyone wanted to talk to us, noone spoke a word of english mind you but it was part of the fun, we can undersatand alot now and hold a decent ish conversation because we just had no choice but to learn. we were invited to everyones houses and ppl wanted to take us to show us this sight and that sight but most of all even though there was a language barrier we could feel and were told hourly how much ppl loved us there. i cant even put into words how amazing the whole experiance was. We met Neias friend Arthur who became our second translator and a friend for life, he is so kind and just beautiful in every single way. His mum Gina kept feeding us (along with Pricillas mum! - wow we loved her and her partner owned the local and most happening bar in town (literally attached to there house - shutters up means its servicia (beer) time! Pabalo and all the local lads loved Dean and they all again despite the language barrier regularly engaged in football banter - Dean being Dean took to supporting a local rival team Flamengo whilst everyone else supported vasco and it was truly amazing to watch him fully emerse himself with Brazillian life. We had a bbq one day/night round Pabalo (chrassco)and i swear the entire town turned up! It was brilliant, fun, laughter, beer, brazzilian dancing - pretty much the order of the whole week really!
We also met Elainas daughters and got our haircut, manicures with Pricilla (properly spoilt) We went up to visit Neias Dad, nephews and brother in the middle of the mountains, it took us a couple of ours to make the windy, bumpy trip but the village and scenery on route was sensational and had a strange swiss feel to, the buildings and layout. thats the thing with Brazil, you travel two hours up the road and its like you could be in a whole new country.
Neias dad is lovely and lives in a house/cabin in the mountains over looking the jungle. Not far away is neias friends farm which is huge and we got to experiance coffee making the old school brazillian way, along with noticing the huge difference in farming in the uk and farming in Brazil, everyday we are sampling a new fruit here that we have never heard of but on this day we sampled, coffee, fresh milk and much more.
Neias brothers children are gorgeous especially David, who took an instant shining to Dean and i, after teaching him some basic english he stuck to our side like glue for the rest of the afternoon constantly grinning from ear to ear! we had amazing brazillian home cooked lunch and finished the day learning how to dance ´funky´and ´samba with Neias 5 nephews.
Our time in Vitoria was an experiance that we will never forget, leaving was horendous, lots of tears - even though we had only known some of these ppl for 7 days the hospitality shown was just unreal, people will give whatever they have and frienships are built not on language but on love and laughter and there certainly was alot of that. Looking back it was an emotional, unbelievable, beautiful experiance that has taught us both so much but most of all we learnt that you dont need money for kindness and you dont need a common language in order to love.
Obviously whilst we were ther we felt like we were from a very privilaged background and wanted to give whatever we could in order to show appreciation and help some of these ppl out of a difficult place, we often were not allowed however when we did treat neia and her family to say a meal it was great but just didnt quite satisfy. I spoke to my Mum (who also knows Neia) and she wanted to send some money in order to treat Neia and her family however really made me think because she requested the money go towards something that would make a difference. It got me to thinking and took me a few days in order to realise i had to do something that would make a long term difference sure a front door would make a difference, so would some saucepans, and maybe a working washing machine but still it just didnt seem enough and i know i couldnt bare to leave that place untill i knew things would be okay. so i dusted my business hat off.....
Neia has lots of qualitys but the most prominant for us having travelled here and experianced this is the following
1. Her kind, bubbly, motherly personality
2. Her English (sometimes hilarious!) speaking ability
3. The safe enviroment she provides, knowing so many people
4. Her vast local knowledge
These qualitys combined with the fact that Vitoria just isnt on the map! i mean its on the map but there really is little or no tourism here and for everyone we met bar Neia and Helena we were the first foreigners they had ever met! i dont understand it beacuse its just not featured in the travel books and rarely commented on on the net. The place is coastal with beautiful national parks and preservation areas, colonial buildings and beautiful views yet we experianced even more than that, we experianced living with a local family, the true Brazillian culture, the simple life and i know that its what 90 percent of travellers search the globe for.
Selfishly i want for our time there to be exclusive and an experiance only we could enjoy and reminese on however how could this be fair when it could equally inspire and excite another whilst bringing in money and tourism to an area and ppl that are so very deserving.
So (ping) a lightbulb went off!! Neia was born to run ´Big Mommas Casa´ a package deal that can be booked from both Rio or Salvador (surrounding cities- about 7 hours drive but just an hour or so flight away) or in fact on the internet before arriving in Brazil (for those wanting the security in Brazil). It will be a 3 to 7 day package allowing travellers to explore off the beaten track and live and experiance true brazillian simple life. The package can include learning to cook traditional food, a visit to the beach, maybe the convent maybe half a day working in the bakery. Travellers would pay and would just love to experiance a slice of what we did and this way it would set neia and her family up for the future not just a meal today and gone tomorrow, not just some money towards getting around by bus or a webcam to keep in touch, i really want to make a differnce a real difference to her life and future and with just a small amount of money to get neia into suitable accomodation (still basic but larger and with a few comforts like a door and perhaps a bed for guests.) and some marketing done it could really happen.
I know im mad, ive been told - i have also got a very big heart and wont let this one lie im afraid - Dean is totally on board he knbpws it would make a difference and also cant wait. Whilst there and since leaving i have been dreaming about it (and so has Neia) so im going to make it happen if its the last thing i do HOWEVER>>>> (this is the wallet/purse part) if i have pulled on a heart string with this blog or you love Dean and I or even just one of us a tiny winsy bit! or you have enjoyed reading any of the blogs so far or if you want to visit ´Big Mommas casa´at a discounted rate in the future or if you are at all a human being!! Ha ha - YOU yes you can help make it happen.
With your help wether its 50p or 50 pound it could happen alot sooner rather than later and you would be a huge part of it. (when its finished we want a wall full of photos of everyone that donated and helped a whole community.
If you have a heart (ha ha) please donate to the `Big Mamma´s Casa´Cause by making a paypal payment
its simple just go to paypal (create an account in seconds if you havent one already) and tranfsfer your donation to [email protected] paypal account. Then come back on here, leave us a message with the amount if you want it publicised or annomous if you like and i can/we can all see a running total. I will keep everyone updated on how we are getting on with the cause and one day hopefully very soon...watch this space ...we will have made a real huge difference to not only one beautiful family and one beautiful hard working lady but in turn a whole beautiful community!!
Peace and love guys
Dani and Dean xx