BJJ Gym Found! & A Favela Visit

Let me start off by saying that today was awesome.

Got up early (9am, ha!) to go to an aerial class at Base Dinâmica, an aerial gym in Botafogo. Took a bus there, which would’ve been quick, if it hadn’t been for the fact that traffic was shit.

Traffic in Botafogo.

Traffic in Botafogo.

The entrance to the aerial gym Base Dinâmica.

The entrance to the aerial gym Base Dinâmica.

Class was great. Except for the fact that I SUCK at everything because I haven’t done aerial in like 7 months. Eesh. Muscle sure does deteriorate fast. Also, their silks here are reeeaaaally bouncy, meaning they feel more difficult to climb. It was a 2 hour long class for around $30 USD, which is cheap compared to NYC. We spent 45 minutes warming up (I hate this part), another 45 on trapeze (damn I suck at trapeze), and 30 minutes on silks. I can’t wait to get better at this and not get my ass kicked by a basic/intermediate class. Their monthly prices are okay: around $115 a month for 2 classes/week, and around $135 for 3 classes/week. I’m gonna keep looking though. There are a few more aerial gyms around here, so I’ll see which offers the best deal.

I learned a loooot of vocabulary for aerial (e.g. a knee-hang on the trapeze is a “curva,” and a “beat” is a “balanço”). Also learned that “sócio/a” means “partner.”

Walked around Botafogo looking for lunch, and found a place called Estação 56. Kind of like a quick lunch joint type of place. Oh my god — the food was decent!! It had flavor! The rice was soft and fragrant! The meat wasn’t terribly tough! Hallelujah! And it was only like $10 USD.

Best dish I've had in Brazil yet! Chicken Stroganoff (yes, Brazilians have a stroganoff dish and they LOVE it) with rice, beans, and... tiny fried potato sticks? Oh, and a fresh pineapple juice.

Best dish I’ve had in Brazil yet! Chicken Stroganoff (yes, Brazilians have a stroganoff dish and they LOVE it) with rice, beans, and… tiny fried potato sticks? Oh, and a fresh pineapple juice (which was too watery and kind of underwhelming).

After lunch, I took a long walk to Flamengo, a neighborhood south of Botafogo, to meet Fabiano Freitas of Tatame Legal. Fabiano and I have been in communication over the last year or two since I started my grant application process, since I was interested in the work he’s doing. Tatame Legal is a school in Morro Azul, the favela where he grew up (and still lives), where he teaches Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) to the kids there. He wants to help them learn discipline, focus, socialization, etc. It’s such a great project. This favela was pacified by the Rio police a couple of years ago, so it’s currently pretty safe (at least from what I gathered from Fabiano).

Fabiano on the mats of Tatame Legal, his project to teach BJJ to kids in his favela.

Fabiano on the mats of Tatame Legal, his project to teach BJJ to kids in his favela.

A view of Christ the Redeemer (although you kind of can't see him since it's so bright in this photo) from with the Morro Azul favela.

A view of Christ the Redeemer (although you kind of can’t see him since it’s so bright in this photo) from within the Morro Azul favela.

We went to the roof of one of the buildings at the top of the hill in the Morro Azul favela to see this beautiful view!

We went to the roof of one of the buildings at the top of the hill in the Morro Azul favela to see this beautiful view!

A view of the streets of the favela from a roof.

A view of the streets of the favela from a roof.

The favela was interesting. I don’t know what I expected, but I didn’t expect it to be so quiet and peaceful. I mean, I know it was pacified by the police, but I still was a little surprised at how calm it was. It just seemed like a poor neighborhood with makeshift houses everywhere. No one stared at me at all..! As we made our way through the concrete streets and steep stone stairs everywhere, I could hear someone blasting what sounded like the Brazilian version of Whitney Houston.

Fabiano also showed me around Botafogo and the gym where he works and trains BJJ (it’s called ‘Upper’). His BJJ team is Nova União, and he trained under André Pederneiras. When we went to Fabiano’s apartment, he showed me a bunch of photos of him and his team, including several where he’s posing with José Aldo. Cooool. While we were at Upper, he introduced me to Michelle Tavares, which was SUPER awesome. She teaches a women’s BJJ class on Tuesdays and Thursdays I believe, so I’ll be going to her class tomorrow. We’re about the same size and since I don’t have a BJJ gi just yet, she offered to bring me one. I’m psychedddddd!

An interesting thing happened while Fabiano and I were walking through the Parque do Flamengo (see a photo of how giant this thing is here). I had a plastic bag with my leftovers from lunch. The container was leaking a bit within the plastic bag, and a couple of street kids ran up to me and started asking for the food. One kid said “Look, it’s leaking. You’re not gonna eat that. Just toss it away to me.” It reminded me a lot of the beggar kids that were everywhere in India too. There’s something very aggressive about the way they ask (and in this case tell) you to give them your food or money. It’s fascinating and, of course, a little sad.

Anyway, I eventually got home, tired and sweaty. Good day. :)

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