Before leaving for Rio de Janeiro, people advised us to never go to a favela, the slums of Brazil.
However, once in Rio, our tour guide, who had lived in the favelas and had visited the favelas often, assured us it was safe, “we must go, so you may understand Rio’s true culture. I would not take you somewhere unsafe,” and so we trusted and went into a favela.
The favelas are neighborhoods – places where people live – places where people raise their children. Yes, the conditions are rough – electrical and cable wires hanging in jumbled messes and running every which way without a plan, buildings stacked on top of other buildings without meeting code, trash piled in the streets without a truck to take it away, high crime without police officers to keep the peace and extreme poverty without good paying jobs to make life easier. Nevertheless, people share the universal commonalities – to be loved and to live a happy, good life.
Places become far less intimidating after we see with our own eyes how much we actually have in common. A good life is a universal want. When we understand this commonality, we no longer stand on the outside fearing what’s on the inside.
How are we to understand another’s culture if we don’t go inside?
“Replace fear of the unknown with curiosity” – Unknown