West Virginia University
2 Jun

Another Hundred Questions

Harrison | June 2nd, 2007

Harrison Case
West Virginia University College of Law, 2L
June 2, 2007
Day 21 – Summation

WVU Law Students together with our Brazilian Law Student Colleagues

In the aisle seat, I can only see a small patch of the Earth out the plane’s window. As I look down on the unending city lights of São Paulo, which we saw only from airplanes, I know many of the city’s inhabitants are just starting their Saturday night as we wearily embark on the ten-hour red-eye to New York. Of our American destination for this flight, one TV cop drama always ended with the tag line ?there are eight million stories in the naked city. This has been one of them.? By that measure, there are twenty million stories below me, in Brazil’s largest metropolis. I don’t know even one of them.

Even where we did venture – the rural Amazon, and it’s frontier-style capital, Manaus; Vitória, the Pittsburgh-sized city perched on the rocky coast; and finally Rio de Janeiro, home to opulence and poverty that turned my stomach equally – we rarely could catch more than a few moments of the lives of the Brazilians we encountered. Behind every convenience store clerk, patient with my minimal and broken Portuguese, I know there is a family, a community, a nation. I wanted to follow every bus driver home, ask the waitress what she thought about the homeless man out front. I wanted to ask the beach vendor if he hated knowing that he?d never be in my shoes, sitting idly on vacation while dozens of his cohorts attempted to wring a few bucks out of my American billfold.

In a small village on the banks of the Rio Negro, the enormous Amazonian tributary that was our classroom for the better part of a week, small children played like small children do everywhere. Brothers pushed and shoved each other and little girls hid behind their mothers? legs. They had a modest school and a soccer field. I wanted to know, though, where their older siblings were. I saw no teenagers, and no one my age. Gone to Manaus, probably, looking for work and for McDonald?s, credit cards, Paris Hilton and pot. Maybe gone to college, some of them. Would they return afterwards? Did they want to help out their communities, or did they view them as hopeless backwaters, only served well by abandonment? These are the Brazilians I want to not just meet, but know. On this trip I learned more than I could have hoped for, but for each answer I found was really another hundred questions.

The chances we did get to spend real time with Brazilians, then, were precious to me. My hosts in Vitória were a man in early middle age, who sat as a local judge and taught Civil Procedure at the university we attended there, and his wonderful family: his wife, also studying to be a judge; her sister, a few years younger than I and fresh out of law school; and the judge?s elementary-age daughter, who probably spoke the best English of all, due to her instruction in an elite private school, but was so shy I rarely got more than a stare, or at best a giggle.

They taught me, intentionally and otherwise, more about Brazil than any book could. I learned about who gets to go to college and where; who becomes a judge and why; how the sleepy city they lived in had been transformed by petrodollars; and what they thought of America. Like my view of Brazil, their experience with America was a sliver of a snapshot – vacations to Orlando are incredibly popular with wealthy Brazilians. Thankfully, they realized that Disney World is no more an honest reflection of America than Copacabana Beach is of Brazil. But they loved to watch 24 and Desperate Housewives, and from the girls’ room I could often hear Avril Lavigne or some other American export.

I realize that even after 3 weeks in Brazil, I probably know less about the country than my hosts know about America. We may import a lot of oil, beef, and oranges, but we don’t import culture. We?re on the other side of that trade imbalance; America is loading virtual container ships with pop culture, policy and power, and barely a trickle is coming back to us. I now know that try as I might, I can?t truly grasp the reality of a place like Brazil until I?m in it above my head, cut free from the safety net of being a tourist, and 100% committed to sticking around through the good, the terrifying, and the mundane.

As our plane?s lights dim, the lights of the coastal cities also recede into darkness. The in-flight display shows us over northern Brazil, the mutilated but still incredibly vibrant rainforest a black expanse below us. Down there, somewhere along the river, is someone I want to really live with, to become friends with, to understand. I don?t know when, if ever, an opportunity to do that will arise. I am now certain, however, that I can?t afford not to take that chance when it comes.

31 May

Final Hours in Brazil

Unknown | May 31st, 2007

Rachel Keeling
West Virginia University College of Law, 2L
Friday, May 31, 2007
Day 20 – Reflection

Extraordinary Rio at night

Approaching the last hours in Brazil, our Ipanema Beach House slowly transformed back into the way we had found it. A week before, a long line had formed from the door of the beach house to the street as we checked in one by one. We found our luggage stacked, covering the first floor. The room assignments were given and our pieces of luggage were slowly removed and taken to our rooms. We settled into our summer-camp like arrangements eager to continue our journey. WVU law students had taken over the beach house. Just as our beloved river boat became home, the inner walls of the beach house would provide comfort. And so they did, with the exception of the occasional cold shower.

With the trip coming to an end, for many, the last hours in Brazil were spent reflecting upon the amazing experience we had just had. A Friday morning filled with pastries, the beach, and walks became an afternoon of packing and goodbyes. As we waited for our buses, I sat atop my luggage and looked around the room. Everyone?s luggage once again filled the bottom floor of the beach house, barely leaving room to walk. The drab colors of the canvas luggage reflected the somber feeling in the room. Our trip, our cultural experience, our time together had come to an end. We grew accustomed to the company of our colleagues and found comfort in our close knit group. Weeks of sleeping side by side unified a group of acquaintances. Some of us knew one another before we left and some of us were complete strangers. But these last hours in Brazil were shared by a room full of friends.

The first nights back in the United States seemed very quiet; sleeping in a room alone seemed somewhat foreign. Even though we have all gone back to our ordinary lives, we share an education, a home at WVU College of Law, and lifetime of memories. We were the group that saved the trip to Brazil!

31 May

Final Days In Brazil

Keith | May 31st, 2007

Blake Harrison
West Virginia University College of Law, 2L
Thursday, May 31, 2007
Day 19 Reflection

We had a chilly morning on the beach hanging with WVU law students, followed by Professor cummings’ lecture on the differences in Brasil’s and the U.S.’s systems of affirmative action. What I found most interesting in the lecture was how race is classified in Brasil. Brasilians do not categorize themselves by the race of their parents, but how they appear physically. In Brasil, there are nearly 100 different race categories, each exemplified by skin color, hair color, hair texture, nose structure, and lip size.

After the lecture, we ate at a small cafe around the corner from our hostel. The wait staff was very helpful in catering to our language barrier. An English speaking manager was sent to our table to help us place our orders. Upon the completion of our meal, we returned to our hostel to prepare for our last night in Rio. We conversed with young British travelers and discussed in depth their views on religion as we waited for the group to get ready.

Around midnight we arrived at a corner lounge a few blocks from our hostel. The music ranged from electronic to hip hop and the drinks were moderately priced. After a few hours of dancing, we returned to our hostel to rest up for our travel day back home.

30 May

Favela, Futbol, and Farewells

Michael | May 30th, 2007

Michael Jacks
West Virginia University College of Law, 2L
Wednesday, May 30, 2007
Day 18 – Reflection

A stunning view of the Rocinha Favela (ghetto), that the group was able to visit

The Favela

There were three specifically memorable events on May 30th on Brazil ?07, the trip of a lifetime. The first was my trip to the favela as part of Luiz?s tourist caravan, the second was a memorable soccer game at Maracana, and the third was Professor Outterson?s emotional farewell.

The favela has been fairly well portrayed by my counterparts on this page already, so I am not going to dwell on the details. I enjoyed the motorcycle ride up the hill, although I don?t think we ever went more than 20 or 25 miles per hour. We saw a complete absence of any city or urban planning, many poor people, piles of garbage, and the one little school/daycare in the middle of it all. Hopefully the pictures will help to explain this place. It is hard to understand without being there. The positive things to take away are the incredible resilience and adaptability of humanity, how people exist in unhealthy and entirely substandard living conditions, only to ride the bus into town to work for a pittance for those better off. Those people are tough, living like that. It was hard to walk through it, and look at people and children and starving dogs, without feeling awful.

It is an odd kind of place to be a tourist in, but ultimately not surprising. A man like Luiz finds the potential for profit, to innovate in an industry based on people traveling to a city to look at things they haven?t seen before, and he takes off and runs with it. Multiple tours per day, hopefully with the idea of promoting awareness of poverty and inequality (inequality as a word, does not even come close to describing the incredible dichotomy we saw in Brasil) may help the people there rise up from where they are. I can hope so, and hope that tourists that choose to pay for that tour do so with some sort of true emotion in their hearts and some sort of desire to help, and not just as some sort of thrill-seeking zoo tour. 200,000 people crammed into less than one square kilometer. Drug dealers with guns you can see, oh, and a motor cycle ride to start up your adrenaline. Tell your friends to watch City of God and then brag about walking through a favela ?just like the one in the movie.?

I can only say that I was sick inside walking through that place, disgusted not with the people and the filth, but with the situation as a whole. I didn?t want to talk to anyone about it, or talk while I was there, the feeling itself was overwhelming and all-encompassing. The perspective we have, from flying thousands of miles for pleasure from a stinking rich nation that provides a handy pattern of exploitation to the rest of the world, and from staying with and meeting some of Brasil?s richest people, is what makes it hurt the most. The children in the favela don?t know any other way. They don?t understand the standard of living that a privileged few enjoy behind locked doors, stone walls and electric fences, razor wire, guard dogs, doormen and bulletproof car windows. Maybe their parents do, as they are the doormen and bus drivers, the waiters and maids and garbage men, the wandering trinket sellers on the beach who all have the good fortune of serving the rich Brasilians and the rich tourists like us. I started out with the perspective that I was not a rich American tourist, because I am far from the U.S. standard of ?rich,? but almost every one from our country is rich compared to this.

Brasilian Playoff Soccer at Maracana

Maracana Stadium was built for the 1950 World Cup, which was hosted by Brasil. At that time it held roughly 300,000 people, standing room only, no seats. It has since had seats added (not that anyone uses them) and is supposed to hold 150,000. The night we were there, it probably had between 120,000 and 130,000. It was almost full. We went as part of a tour group, and promptly lost our guide after being out of the van for about 35 seconds. I?m not sure that this wasn?t done on purpose. There ended up being about twelve of us who stuck together through the match and managed to find our way back to the vans after the match. 5 Americans from WVU Law, 4 British, 2 Norwegians, and 1 South African. I think there might have been one or two Dutch guys also.

The difference between American sporting events and this game was remarkable and striking. The atmosphere is much better, fans let off fireworks, road flares, and sparklers, and wave giant flags, singing songs that insult the opponents, their mothers, and possibly some rival team that isn?t even there, and no one sits down. Americans seem to want to sit on their butts, consume as much crappy overpriced food as possible and only get up and cheer maybe every 15 or twenty minutes. The only type of sporting event I have never been to is an NBA game, and I?m sure that those games do not upset this rule. Also, although the tickets to this match would have been expensive to many of Rio?s population, at about 12 US dollars, the earlier game we went to, which was not a playoff match, only cost about six dollars. Beats the hell out of trying to buy Steeler?s tickets.

Maracana, or specifically the police there, had the biggest Rottweilers that I have ever seen, quite intimidating. I would guess 140 pound dogs, minimum. Another interesting tidbit, there are no seat numbers on the tickets, you just go and sit wherever you can find space. Oh, and one beer costs about a dollar. Again, dramatic improvement over American sporting events.

The experience was memorable, with the match scoreless until the late minutes, only to have the away team put in a beautiful goal, which was matched moments later by the home team in stoppage time, ending in a one to one draw. When the away team (Figueirense) scored, it was like everyone in the stadium had been punched in the stomach, silence but for the few supporters the other team had, who lost there minds. The home team (Flumeniense ? one of four Rio teams) put in a cross to draw even, and everyone celebrated out of relief, but the final outcome was still disappointing to the home side. As soccer does one of the more intelligent things when it comes to playoffs, the teams then traveled to the other team?s home stadium to play a second match. (update ? looks like Flumeniense went and won the second match 1-0 to advance in the Copa de Brasil one week later ? but I am reading this off a Portuguese language website, so no guaranties) This home and home series allows both teams to play in front of their fans, and garners twice the revenue. Imagine if the BCS championship game was done in a similar fashion.


The last event I will write about from Wednesday May 30th, although it happened before I went to the soccer game, was the final departure of Professor Kevin Outterson. He was one of the original co-conspirators of the Law in Brasil trip and concept originator, as well as being one of the best teachers at our school. Most of the students on the trip were first years who never had the opportunity to have him in class, but it only took me about two days in the Amazon to realize how bad it was that he was leaving. WVU Law has always had (to the best of my knowledge of rumor and hearsay) a major problem with talented young professors spending their first few years there and then using the experience to springboard off to another school. Hopefully this will change, and hopefully K-Dog will come back, if only to stop the more sensitive members of our group from bawling like babies. Outterson for Dean in ?08.

30 May

Rocinha Favela Reflections

Unknown | May 30th, 2007

Melissa Harvey
West Virginia University College of Law, 2L
May 30, 2007
Reflection Day 18

In Rio, the favelas cling to the hillsides, stacked like legos between the more affluent neighborhoods. On our tour with Luis, we started at the top of the Rocinha favela. To get to the top, we hired motorcycles – think dirtbikes, motorcross. Like every other too high, too fast facet of this trip, I hesitated. Everyone else picked a driver, a bike, hopped on like old friends, and was gone. I stood there, last left until Luis looked at me and assigned me a driver. Then I stood beside my driver until Luis insisted I get on the bike. So, off we go, careering around switchback turns among buses, vans, pedestrians, dogs, chickens, and so many other motorbikes. Like some absurd race we zoomed up the hillside, passing everyone, cutting off our own party. From last to first, I arrived at the top two minutes before anyone else from my group. As the tires of the bike slid and skidded in the dirty water covering the streets on the dry day I couldn’t help but think of the sensation of us skidding on our sides through the muck under the wheels of an oncoming city bus. Not here, was my silent wish. Not here with the smell and the dirt and the bright sun on this street. I think about that a lot, how I´d like to go with dignity. But, like everywhere, people die here every day.

And it made me wonder, why do I think here is a place that lacks dignity? I went on the last day, after hearing the opinions of all my peers. It´s so terrible, how they live, I hear over and over. But I´m not so sure. A life of fear and groveling lacks dignity, but the favelas are safe, Luis says, because of the drug lords. There is a crazy beauty to the architecture of the favelas, floor stacked on floor into the hills, a patchwork of terra cotta and concrete and bags of trash.

There are stores tucked everywhere, with some of the best pastries and pizza I´ve had in this country. The residents pass by on their cell phones, the children with their hello kitty bags. And I find it very beautiful. The only sorrow I feel is for the children. So many I saw with health problems, sores on their faces. But I wonder who we think we are to judge, we who slave away to our economy, who sell ourselves for six figures and eighty hour weeks. Are we so rich? In Vila Vehla, our hosts kept the cleanest house and worked the longest hours, living the American dream of escape to the middle class life of luxury aparments and the Ford Focus.

And Luis says – don´t give the children money. They used to beg and we taught them to paint, to sell their art. Buy if you want. And I did, but I wonder why is selling a product better than begging? Why is fair trade better than fair allocation of wealth? The first world also has the shame of poverty.

And dignity is something that you own, and that you must refuse to relinquish. I will never try to steal theirs with pity.

29 May

Journey into the Heart of Rocinha

Unknown | May 29th, 2007

Aziz Yousuf
West Virginia University College of Law, 2L
Tuesday, May 29, 2007
Day 18 – Reflection

It was around 10 a.m. as we piled into the vans and made the journey into what we were told by most Brazilians was a ?no-man?s land,? a place of chaos, poverty, and death. Every Brazilian I had spoken to in Rio and at the university at FGV thought us crazy for attempting to visit a favela. They would say things like ?Oh my god, you?ll get robbed or shot!? However, after a 40 minute van ride, here we were at the entrance to Rocinha (Rio?s largest Favela), and so far it seemed pleasant enough. We?re told that we will be making our way to the top of the Favela on motorcycles and then slowly walking down on foot to better immerse ourselves in the culture and the people. I choose the newest looking motorcycle, hoping that the driver would be extra careful so as not to damage his new ride, unfortunately he ended up being a speed demon zooming through traffic at break neck speeds racing the other motorcycle drivers.

As the landscape blurred by and in between utterances of prayers that I make it to the top alive, I couldn?t help but notice the large and industrious community before me. Every one was happy, working, and chatting. In a way it reminded me of when we were in Manaus (capital of Amazonia) back in the Amazon. There was less of the wealth and grandeur of downtown Rio, but there was still a thriving economy here. People were not huddled in fear and boarded up in their homes fearful for their lives, or begging on the streets.

We finally reach our destination at the top of the main street, looking down to see the favela sprawling out beneath us, a giant conglomeration of small brick and concrete buildings stacked precariously one atop the other like a house of cards as far as the eye can see. I get off the motorcycle and resist the urge to kiss the ground after having survived my death defying ride with ?speed racer? as I came to dub my driver. We look around and the first thing that catches my eye is an electrical pole with hundreds of jury rigged connections jutting out like the spokes on a bicycle tire in every direction. We quickly learn that though the people in Rocinha are poor in comparison to their neighbors in the city, they are extremely resourceful, finding ways to tap into the city?s electrical grid, and even creating their own water system and aqueducts utilizing the fresh water supply of the surrounding mountains and forest.

We begin to make our way from the main road into the heart of the favala entering through one of the side street. As we leave the main road we pass what I take to be a local man sitting by watching the group of bewildered tourists coming through. Our guide Luis later informs us that the man we had passed was in reality a look out for the ADA, the ruling drug gang in Rocinha, set up as an advanced scout in case of a police raid. Luis went on to tell us that during police raids the favela is often transformed into a war zone as officers begin to shoot indiscriminately. With that said one could feel the tension levels among the group begin to rise even as Luis assures us that precautions to guarantee our safety had been taken in case of such a scenario.

We begin to continue our walk and shortly most of the feelings of apprehension dissipate as we lose ourselves in the narrow alley ways of Rocinha. This was truly a whole other world unto itself, completed insulated and isolated from the rest of Rio. It seemed as if we?d entered a labyrinth with tiny streets and stairwells (not more then one or two shoulder lengths wide) leading in every direction. We pass countless people carrying all sorts of goods and supplies up and down the tiny streets. These are the supply chains of Rocinha, Luis informs us that this place is so isolated and cut off from greater Rio that deliveries here are impossible, yet the people here have a strong enough sense of community that they have created a delivery system all their own, ferrying everything from goods to mail all over the favela. We pass a number of pipes and crude sewers, once again we learn that the city does not provide water, sewage or trash collection for most of favelas, so once again the people have proven to be innovative, jury rigging their own sewage and drainage systems. Much of the public functions and maintenance in this small enclosed metropolis is run by a community association that hires and manages the administrative and civil affairs of Rocinha. It amazes me that even with all the stories of chaos and lawlessness that I was told prior to entering the favela I have seen nothing but order and civility among these people. I?m shocked to find that even the gun-toting gangsters great us with smiles and calls of ?relax? and ?welcome!?

As we continue our journey we meet the local artisans who create amazing pieces of art depicting life in the favela, Rio, and Brazilian culture in general. We even encounter many young children channeling their energies not into crime but into various art projects that they sell to the visiting tourists. There?s an abundance of children in Rocinha, many rushing to school with their orange school shirts on, and others peddling their goods to tourists. At one point we encounter a group of children no older then 6 or 7 making their way to school while carrying a mattress on their heads, and as they see us they politely stop and move to the side allowing us to pass through first down the narrow pathway. They smile brightly and call out ?good afternoon? in Portuguese. I can?t help but smile back at them as we pass by and watch them scurry on up the path behind us. It?s peaceful here in Rocinha, and in a sense I am reminded of all the places I?ve traveled to during my life and how life in Rocinha is no different from any country where people are poor. One learns to make the best of what they have and this is true for the people of Rocinha.

As we near the end of our walk I begin to reflect on the things I have seen, within the favela, the warm people, the innovative spirit, the bustling self contained economy, and the strong sense of community. During this moment of reflection, as we make our way from the inner regions of the favela and emerge onto the main street, something hits me. I had come to Rocinha with idea that the favela would be solely if not predominantly occupied by the Afro-Brazilian population. The Afro-Brazilian population seemed nonexistent in down town Rio, except for the occasional maid or janitor. As with most countries with race problems, I had assumed that the Black population was predominantly if not exclusively relegated to the favelas. However, during my exploration of Rocinha I was shocked to find that the favela seemed to be occupied at times by more white Brazilians than black Brazilians. I was perplexed by this, especially considering that Brazil has such a large Afro-Brazilian population, most living in poverty. This continued to puzzle me until I learned that even within the favela itself there is also an economic divide among the people. I discovered the Rocinha, due to its close proximity to downtown Rio and jobs, was a higher end real estate location in comparison to the other favelas further out into the country side. That meant that not everyone could afford to live within certain parts of Rocinha. It made me sad to think about what conditions were like in those far off regions and if all the negative remarks I had previously heard about the favelas referred to those poorer inner cities. I?d like to think and hope that much of the positive aspects and strong communal feel of Rocinha also exist in those inner regions and that in the face of poverty the people there have also found a way to thrive.

With those last thoughts running through my mind, we cross through the market place back to our waiting vans and look back one last time at Rocinha and its people. I wave goodbye and begin my journey from the shanty brick and concrete buildings of Rocinha and onwards to the tall towers of downtown Rio.

29 May

Favela Tour Reflection

Unknown | May 29th, 2007

Jenifer Finney
West Virginia University College of Law, 2L
May 29, 2007
Day 17 Reflection

Initially, I was filled with a great deal of anxiety about visiting the favelas. I really didn’t think of the potential educational value. All I remember thinking before our visit was, “Why on earth would I go there; isn’t that a place that we should actively avoid?” However, after having the experience, I quickly realized that the trip would have definitely been short-changed if we would have bypassed our opportunity to visit the favelas.

For instance, there were a few things that I experienced in the favela that troubled me. There was a drastic lack of sanitation: the streets were covered with trash, the sewer system was open, and the air smelled very unpleasant. There were many serious structural problems. Walking around the favela made me feel like I was in maze that was hilly, uneven, and slippery. In other words, I felt the need to take each step with particular care. It made me wonder how often the elderly experience life threatening falls just trying to get around their own community. Moreover, I was also bothered that the favela was the only place in Brazil that I saw slot machines around nearly every corner. Even in Brazil, it seems as the though the people who have the least are enticed most often to throw away what do they have. Lastly, I was bothered by the fact that armed gang members were needed to protect the favela from the police—just to be clear, it is more so the fact that the police are the enemy here that bothers me and not the fact that I was nearly shoulder-to-shoulder with several heavily armed teenagers.

On the other hand, there were also a few things that I observed in the favela that surprised me. Foremost, I felt very safe. Further, the people seemed happy, and there was an apparent sense of community. The favela was self-sustained: there was business there, a daycare, schools, post office, private street cleaning, and many other things because the government refused to provide these services. Thus, it seems as though the more the government neglects the area the more the residents exhibit pride about where they are from.

In sum, while in the favelas, I saw things that I have never seen before, but I feel like a better person for having visited. To close, if any of the things aformentioned bothers anyone reading this, here’s something to think aboutâ??several of my classmates mentioned that the favelas are not much different from American ghettos; this bothers me greatly. Does it bother you?

28 May

Rocinha Favela

Anoa | May 28th, 2007

Anoa Changa
West Virginia University College of Law, 2L
May 28, 2007
Reflection Day 16

To me a `hood is a `hood. While there may be varying degrees of poverty and differing structural issues, similar issues face poor areas everywhere we go. As we approached the Rocinha Favela, I was amazed at the striking similarities between the main street and parts of the Bronx, or parts of East Harlem , or parts of the South Side of Chicago or even the West Side of Chicago. My stomach was in knots. As rich as we are in the US, we are still losing the same battle as the rest of the world.

As we ride up a windy road on motorcycle, I take in all the sights and sounds. These are people like you and me. They are working, living, loving, dying, and enjoying life. Every Brasilian we have encountered who learned of our pending Favela tour tried so hard to dissuade us, with scary tales of violence and overbearing drug lords. They acted as if we were going to some unknown hostile territory. Unknown yes, but hostile no. As we begin on the walking part of our tour, we see children going to school, people going to and from work or running errands. Our guide Luis explains that the children are public school students. The little ones with orange shirts are in kindergarten. Just like my daughter Nailah. Bright eyed and ready to learn, the children march off with their back packs in tow. This is real life.

As we descend into the actual neighborhood, we begin to navigate narrow corridors. Luis explains to us that the street we are on was once a major byway, that had the capacity to hold cars. Now it can barely support two way passenger traffic. Along the way we stop at a local shop and an art studio. We stop and say hi to Luis´s grandmother as she looks out the window. Luis, our tour guide appears to be a man of the people. Luis is our Lula (the Brazilian President) the kids shout out! He brings hope to many people in his community. He helps to connect the kids with his friend a local artist who teaches the kids art in his studio and then helps sell the best paintings. They teach the kids to use their talents instead of begging for money or turning to crime. After touring the art studio we meet perhaps the finest young artist in the neighborhood, Nicholas. At 9 he is fluent in Portuguese, Spanish and English and he is an avid painter. He talks to us for a little while and shares a little about what inspires his work. He has been painting for about four years. Nearby his father beams proudly at what his son will accomplish. Hopefully Nicholas can go far. I am interested in seeing how he grows up. What would it take for us to help these children empower themselves with the tools they need to thrive and be successful Brazilians?

The people Luis works with are only a small group and cannot expect to correct all the wrongs around them. But it is a shining example of what is possible when Brazilians come together and take action. Grassroots community based programs produce the best results. I feel at home here, around the people. Another major success for this community, is the day care center. The center is funded solely by donations and money from the tours. In the day care center it is naptime, but many children wake up to sneak a peek at the gringos (foreigners) who look at them. Seeing the little ones makes me think of my own children. I know how hard it is to have safe, decent and trustworthy people to care for your children. This center is a life saver. The women and men who care for these children do so out of the belief that they deserve love and care and attention, while their parents are away at work or school. During the tour, Luis has a surprise for Professor Outterson, the top floor has been completed since the Law School´s visit last year! They will be able to have a second nursery which can hold about 20 more children.

My own personal struggle pales in comparison to the daily challenges faced by the residents of Rocinha. Even though there is the uphill hike to catch the bus or motorcycle taxi and the inadequate garbage and sewerage system, the people here don´t let the shortcomings take away from living. It is easy to have anger and despair at a situation (and while some may choose to drown their sorrows) at least from our brief visit the residents of this community are as vibrant and diverse and proud as any other in Brazil. At home in the US and abroad, we need to stop fearing and ignoring poverty and work together to end its reign on our society.

27 May

Christo Redentor

Unknown | May 27th, 2007

Shaquana Cooper
West Virginia University College of Law, 3L
Saturday May 27, 2007
Day 15 Reflection

Today was an extraordinary day. The day started with a tour to the Jesus Christ statute better known to Brazilians as Cristo Redentor. As we walked up the stairs approaching this marvelous wonder we were able to bask in Rio’s beauty. This was the first time during our whole trip that I felt blown away. It was here that I had my big “oh my gosh I cannot believe that I am in Rio” moment. The water looked so crisp and clear. It was a beautiful teal color mixture of the most perfect blend of blue and green. The sky was so bright and open and because we were so high up and so close to this marvelous statute of Christ I felt like the spirit of God, the power of God in the air. The mountain tops were even more beautiful than any postcard or my description can emulate.

Once we walked up the statute was even more breathtaking than the many pictures I saw from fellow classmates from the trip last year. This is truly one of the Seven Wonders of the World. The statute of Liberty has nothing on this architectural beauty. This Christ statue at a height of 710 meters stood with his arms wide open with Rio’s beauty surrounding him. His facial features were carved with extraordinary details showing his strong masculine bones structure mixed with a soft and loving feel. On his chest was a carved heart for all to see that his love endures forever. His hands showed the scars from when he was crucified and hung on the cross for our sins.

At the base of the Christ statute there was a small chapel where I went and said a prayer of thanksgiving. Soon after we had a brief class session where we compared and contrast the US separation of church and state to that of Brasil. Many of us noticed when we were at the court house in Vitoria there were Christians painting hanging in the court as well as a cross hanging in the middle of the wall. We discussed how Brasil became a predominately catholic country (once the Portuguese settled here the converted the native Indians into Catholicism in order to make then ‘civilized’). We also discussed that during the Pope’s most recent visit he wanted President Lula to enforce Catholicism within the school system but the President said no.

After the class session we left to go to the Santa Teresa cathedral. I must admit that I really didn’t want to go but I am glad I went. This cathedral was very unique in structural shape because it is shaped like an upside down cone with beautiful stained glass windows.

For dinner I was able to experience one of Brasil’s churrascaria restaurants and I must say I was really impressed, stuffed, satisfied, and happy. I ate more meat tonight that I have within the last three months, and I enjoyed ever minute of it. I had a little bit of everything from lamb, to pork, to beef, to goat, and chicken. I would highly recommend this experience to any and everyone.

I ended my night doing what I love and enjoy doing the most and that is SHOPPING. After dinner we went to the Copacabana Market and I had a blast. There were so many vendors selling beautiful art work, clothes, and souvenirs. Tonight was my test run to see what the different vendors were selling. I plan on coming back later during the week to do some serious shopping.

27 May

Futbol & Favela Funk Party

Unknown | May 27th, 2007

Alvin Hathaway
West Virginia University College of Law, 2L
May 27, 2007
Day 15 Reflection

Attending a futbol match at famed Maracana Stadium

While in Brazil I have experienced many new and exciting things. One experience I look forward to each day is the food starting with breakfast. A typical Brazilian breakfast consists of freshly baked bread, ham and cheese and a variety of exotic food. Another thing I look forward to is the exciting events we had on our schedule each day. Two of my most memorable events were the Futbol game, Flamengo versus Botafogo and the Favela Funk Party.

Futbol or soccer, as it is called in the States, is by far the most popular sport in Brazil and can be compared to one of the most popular sports in the States, futebol americano. Once we got to the stadium is was pretty evident that the most popular team was Flamengo. Outside the stadium fans marched around the stadium waving Flamengo flags and chanting team songs. The stadium was flooded with thousands of fans dressed in the team colors of the Flamengo, red and black. Though both Botafogo and Flamengo are Rio teams, I was very happy that I was able to get a black and red flamengo jersey beforehand because they were by far the Lakers of Rio. This experience reminded me of student section at WVU Mountaineer football games, where students are covered in blue and gold from head to feet. Like at WVU football games, the Flamengo fans sang a chant to express there dedication to there favorite team. “Uma vez flamengo, sempre flamego/flamengo sempre en hei de ser/e’o meu maior prazer ve-lo brilhar/seja na terra, seja no mar/vencer! vencer! vencer!/uma vez flamengo, flamengo at morrer!” (Once Flamengo, always Flamengo/I will always be flamengo/my greatest feeling is to see them shine/Over the land, over the sea/To win! To win! To Win!/ One Time Flamengo, Flamengo until death). While the Flamengo chant is much more emotional than our “LETS GO” ? “MOUNTAINEERS” chant, the same sort of team spirit was present.

Later that day we were yet off to another event, a Favela Funk Party. To my surprise the atmosphere and location of the party were quite different from how I previously imagined it. I imagined an outdoor carnival like atmosphere, but instead the party was located in a gigantic warehouse with a top balcony level (with VIP booths) and a few long bars. A few other things also surprised me. I was surprised to see that the disc jockey was using what seemed to be top of the line equipment. The DJs equipment looked like something that you would expect a DJ on MTV to be using. The funk party also had a gigantic projection screen which displayed various advertisements during the night. As midnight approached, most of the group was tired after a fun filled day. So we hung out for a little while longer then returned back to the hostel to rest for another exciting day.

About the program

Participating students had the opportunity to study international and comparative law in Brazil. Lectures and seminars were led by WVU law professors, with some lectures in Rio & Vitória from Brazilian professors. All lectures were in English. Students visited Brazilian legal institutions as well as held classes in Brazilian law schools. Seminars took place throughout the trip on various topics, including international environmental law in the Amazon at a jungle lodge.

Interested in WVU abroad? You can also check out WVU’s From Abroad blog.

About our authors

Learn more about the bloggers in our project:

Recent Articles


RSS Articles