Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Our Neighborhood in Brazil

My dear husband standing in front of our apartment building. At the top, you can see the roof. The two windows to his left were our front room and bedroom (green shutters) windows. Notice the grafiti on our building. It was there when we arrived, still there when we left with more red graffiti added to it. Grafiti is a problem in Brazil.
Notice the small business to the right of my dear husband. In Brazil there are many small businesses located in and among homes. Thank goodness for the zoning restrictions we have here in the USA, we found there was a reason for them.

Most people in Sao Paulo have bars on their windows and doors. They also have gated garages or front yards. For example, the door to our building was always locked and barred. We had a little telephone-type connection in the kitchen where we could ask who was at the door and if we recognized who it was we could push a little button that would release the barred outer door and allow them access into the building. However, we spent most of our time in the living room and it just seemed easier to look out the window or open our apartment door and look to see who wanted in. Running into the kitchen seemed illogical most of the time, so I only used it if I happened to be in the kitchen when it rang.

Many times we would have peddlers who rang all the apartment bells, hoping to be let by one of the tenants into the building. What peddlers, you ask? Well, most people depend on propane to fuel their gas ranges (the tanks are like the ones here in the USA so popular for outdoor barbecues). We also bought drinking water, since Brazil’s water is not treated and cannot be used for drinking purposes (unless you wanted to be a daredevil and risk illness from ingesting parasites and what have you). So, quite often people would come by and want to know if anyone in the building wanted to purchase gas or water, or even cleaning supplies. Sometimes it would be the postman with a package for someone. He couldn't leave it unless the door was opened for him, since it wouldn't fit through the mail slot.

We lived in Apartment #1 on the first floor; on the second floor was Apartments 2, 3, and 4, with #4 being directly above us; on the third floor was Apartments 5, 6, and 7, with #7 being directly above #4 and was where the Elders had an apartment. There was a roof above the third floor, where we could hang clothes to dry.

Sao Paulo has very polluted air which would always leave a layer of black, greasy grime on all exposed surfaces. This made constant cleaning necessary. I would clean our floors nearly every evening to keep ahead of the grime. It was also necessary to clean the stairs of our apartment building every two weeks. Right after we moved in we participated in a meeting with the “Apartment Manager” (we later found out that he was not, in fact, the Apartment Manager, but was merely acting as a liaison between the owner and the renters).

It seemed that each apartment was supposed to take a turn at cleaning the stairs, but there wasn’t a firm schedule, so no one was taking responsibility. We knew nothing about the need for us to do this cleaning until this meeting. The bottom line was that the stairs weren’t getting cleaned on a regular basis. Someone suggested each apartment paying a prorated amount and hire someone to come in and clean it. Elder Davie, representing their apartment, was not interested in that option. The Elders are given a monthly allowance that was barely enough to cover groceries, bus and metro fare, and personal expenses, so they were loathe to spend any of it for someone to do work that they could handle themselves. He suggested that each apartment be assigned a specific time to take a turn. He said that then we would each be committed to accomplish the task rather than just expecting someone else to do it. They liked his suggestion and decided to try it out.

Some of the other tenants wondered about us taking a turn because of our age, but we indicated that we would be glad to take our turn. After the meeting, they asked if anyone had anything to add. I asked Elder Davie to translate for me to tell them that we liked our neighbors and our apartment and that we wanted to do our part to keep the stairs clean. Some of the discussion had been a little bit testy and I think this helped to smooth feelings since they were all smiling after this comment.

After the meeting ended, one of the tenants, a nice lady named Cida who lived directly above us, gave me a hug and said something. Elder Davie interpreted for her and told me she said that she liked having us for neighbors. She was a delightful neighbor and we enjoyed her friendship and hated to see her move out mid-way during our mission.

Cleaning the stairs was quite a process as we were to find out. Right outside our apartment door, in a compartment in the very small foyer was a great, big, looong hose. We would unwind this hose and carry it up the stairs all the way to the roof. We would sweep and scrub the floor of the roof and then rinse it with the hose and squeegie it dry, pushing the excess water into the drains provided for that purpose. Then we would do the same to each tier of stairs, scrubbing, rinsing, squeegieing (is that a word?) and then wiping the stairs with dry cloths (that at the bottom would be quite wet) as we worked our way down each tier. I usually did the drying part, since that seemed to be the easiest for me as we worked our way down. Then we would scrub and rinse the sidewalk outside the front of the apartment building, scooting the water to the curb to be carried away. Afterwards, we would drain the very long hose and wind it up and store it back it its compartment once again.

We were always teamed up with the Elders, and that made it easier for us. Our turn came around about once every month-and-a half or so, so it wasn’t too much of a burden. About the last couple of months of our mission, it was decided by someone (no meeting this time, just a decision handed down) that a person would be hired to do this work and that each tenant would have an additional small amount added to the utilities bill that we all shared (for the common areas of the building). In a way it was nice to have someone else just do the work and not have to worry about it anymore.
More to come about our neighborhood in Brazil at a later time.


Annemarie Allen said...

It reminds me of living here at Cambrige Crossing. We need to clean the dust from the sand pit every day!!! Thank heavens it's not black tar like substance like in Brazil.

Bonnie the Boss said...

My little Brother served a missin in Campinas. He loved it. It looks like you are having quite the experience.
Thanks for stopping by my blog and commenting. We never really took the petcock off. We just talked about it, and had a good laugh.

Barb said...

Hello Gloria,

I couldn't find an email address for you in your profile, so I'm using your comments to let you know you've won one of the six copies of Knit Two by Kate Jacobs that I'm giving away.

My goodness - when I first saw your blog, I thought, "I'm going to be shipping a book to Brazil!"

But upon further reading, I'm thinking you live in the states. Whew!

I'll need you to email me and send me your mailing information.

Congratulations! You can email me at

chloe palmer said...

I love to hear of your misson. It sounds so cool to live somewhere else and meet wonderful people.I remember when we redid your house and I got to paint it was so fun.