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My Negão
Thursday, 10 July 2008

A street in a poor neighbourhood in Rio. Houses are some walls with a roof. No paint, no doors, no windows. Big holes in the pavement make me stumble and almost fall. I still haven’t figured out how carioca girls handle these streets in high heels. At the sound of shooting, a strong arm pulls me into a little bar. Five guys run past, yelling and treating their guns like lassos. After a few minutes of momentary peace, we can jump on a bus and take off to the safe zone: Zona Sul, where I live.

My negão is angry with me. Because when we arrived in this area I asked directions from a random guy. I shouldn’t do that. It could lead me to drugs, rape or death. Being a white, Zona Sul girl is not always the best way to get around in Rio. Not when you need to pick up a stack of organic cotton in Zona North. Where life is different.

So I have my negão. My big, black friend from a favela, who practices muay thai, who speaks slang that I never really understand, and who looks like he can bite your throat off even though he’s actually really sweet. To me at least.

‘We shouldn’t walk in this street’ I once said to him. That was obviously very silly of me and made him smile from ear to ear. Because with this guy I’m safer than I could imagine. My friend knows the city, knows what to do and what not, where to go and where to avoid. And he protects me in all my crazy adventurous naivety.

Rio is not the only dangerous place on this planet. But I’m afraid my negão doesn’t fit in my Samsonite .

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