Dreamless in Paradise

Border Paraisópolis - Morumbi http://www.tucavieira.com.br/A-foto-da-favela-de-Paraisopolis

Photo by Tuca Vieira (Verified permission)

The idea of LeoDreams is simple. I catch Dreams of people I meet. An easy job you may think. But sometimes asking this question isn’t easy at all. 

When I saw this picture (on the left) for the first time I was sure: Photoshop. 100%. This is just too weird to be true. Imagine you would live in one of those apartments having a bath in your balcony pool, looking down to the favela, smiling, having a zip of wine, whispering to yourself ‘I am glad to be up here. It’s such a clean and safe place. Life is great.’ No, that idea is too absurd.

A misleading photo 

When I figured out that this astonishing photo isn’t a montage I had two principal questions in my mind.

1. How is it possible that those two world can coexist?

2. What are the Dreams of people who live on the left and right side?

To answer these questions I had visit this wicked place. At the end of the day I probably would be able to answer these questions.

Thursday 26th may:

I decide to go to ‘Paraisópolis’ which means Paradise. A Cynical name for this favela, isn’t it? To be honest: I am a bit nervous. Though I lived a whole year in a favela (which was in 2000 the most dangerous place on earth – highest rate in capital offences) and nothing bad ever happened to me I have a lot of respect going to Paradise.

Stop thinking. Go there! I get a bus which takes me to this spot. I arrive. Strange feelings. Standing right next to the tower looking to the tall fence. I walk to the tower entrance, wait for residents who live there. I want to catch a Dream & wait for some time. Suddenly the gate is opening, but there is nobody. A car rushs out of the underground garage. I put on my tramper smile signalizing that I would like to talk to the driver. I have difficulties to see the driver. Darkened car windows. She rejects me by shaking her head – and bunks off quickly. I don’t give up. I keep on trying to talk to anybody who lives in the tower. 1.5 hours hours passes. I wait in vain. No connection possible. No one wants to talk with me.

Diving in

‘If nobody wants to talk with me I rather go to paradise’, I think. ‘There I will make friends and catch dreams’. I dive in. I want to get into the heart of Paradise. To get a decent view to the tower. While I am walking I feel that people are staring at me. ‘Are you lost?’ one guy asks. ‘Not at all’ I answer and keep on walking. Then I sit down close to a guy who chops off corn leafs. 4-5 young guys around 20 years old look at me. Talking about me. One of those guys comes over and asks where I do come from. He’s totally drugged. Thinner. Numb. Another guy’s entering and wants to know what’s in my backpack. ‘Nothing, what’s your name?’, I try to distract. The guy sitting next to me tells them ‘he’s a good guy’. He couldn’t know, he didn’t talk to me. But he could feel that I don’t want to make any troubles. I feel how tension is rising. Damn. I have to go. Despite I speak Portuguese fluently, despite I know about the rules in a favela…for the first time I feel unwell in a favela. I leave and walk up the hill, getting closer to the tower. I don’t want to leave Paradise yet.How could I fail? Being close at the frontier I recognize two things:

1. Being in front of the border it doesn’t look like a border. It rather looks like a natural end of this area. 

2. One doesn’t see the tennis court, one doesn’t see the pool on the balconies. Being on         the left side looking up to the tower it doesn’t look luxurious at all. The tower rather appears boring and loveless. It looks like any other tower block. 

SAO PAULO, BRAZIL, 2005. The Paraisópolis favela (Paradise City shantitown) borders the affluent district of Morumbi in São Paulo, Brazil (Foto: Tuca Vieira)

SAO PAULO, BRAZIL, 2005. The Paraisópolis favela (Paradise City shantitown) borders the affluent district of Morumbi in São Paulo, Brazil (Foto: Tuca Vieira)

I run

While I make these two realizations I see two young guys walking up the hill. Both are part of the ‘gang’. One guy, who was friendly to me comes over. He stands in front of me looking deep into my eyes. I don’t know what happened, but he’s getting really angry with me. ‘Open your backpack! What’s in it?’, he’s screaming.  Tension reached its peak. ‘No, nothing’, I response and cross my arms demonstrating that I won’t open my backpack. His face is getting angrier. No. This is not my territory – he scares me away. I do a runner – I run like a mad man. Run Out of the favela. A 50 meter sprint up the hill. I arrive at the main road, right next to the tower. What did just happen? I just barely got robbed. Adrenaline pumping through my veins.

No Dreams but a bunch of life lessons

I am back at the same spot I arrived a couple hours ago. No Dreams in my pocket. Frustration and distrust in my mind. A guy passes and I ask him if he lives nearby. He does. Green eyes. Brown skin, no body tension. Disinterest. ‘Do you know that the people in the tower got a pool on their balcony?’, I tell him. Silence. He looks at me as he wants to ask me why the hell I am talking to him. ‘You know? I catch Dreams of people I meet. What is your Dream?’, I ask him with a desperate dye. ‘I have some Dreams’. ‘Which ones?’, I want to know. He tells me that he had to go home.

No. This place isn’t made for Dreamers. I sit down, think and make three further realizations.

3. Drugs. Thinner, crack and alcohol. Drugs often used in favelas. Substances which numb its consumers. Those drugs lead to passivity and acceptance of the present terrifying contradiction.

4. Pure anxiety. In the end of the day everybody was scared of each other. People who            live in the tower are afraid of paradise people, paradise people are afraid of outsiders        (policemen and informants – I guess that’s the reason why the guy scared me away. He might thought I was an spy). And so I was afraid of scared paradise people. This area exemplifies how anxiety gets exponentiated

5. Increasing Isolation. Caused through distrust & disinterest. High fences, darkened car windows.  Highly secured tower. The more security is achieved the more isolation follows.

All I want now is to leave this place. I am sad that I couldn’t catch a single Dream. But after thinking about the experiences and life lessons I made today sadness fades away.

One day I will go back to this place and catch Dreams. I will be prepared and I promise that I won’t do a runner like Forest Gump.

4 thoughts on “Dreamless in Paradise

  1. Allison Fedor

    Tobi, I love it! What amazing things you learned and observed! Though it didn’t go as you expected, it gave you so much more than you could have known. Thank you for then giving it to us <3

  2. Victoria Schultz

    Hey Tobi! It’s me, the Ukrainzy hehe
    Wow wow what an unusual expirience you have catched, unbelievable, and please be careful! I even didn’t know this exist. Brazil is mother-contrast itself. I looking forward to come back through Foz de Iguasu, it’s becoming too cold in Uruguay. Love to read, don’t stop

    1. Leo Post author

      My beloved Ukrainzy ((:
      Thank you for your worlds, Vic. And yes I am careful and LeoDreams will continue for sure.
      Uruguay is getting to cold? Good luck with your plan coming back to brazil!


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