BRASIL – GERMANY with Seu Elson
History was written today, unfortunately in a very sad way for Brasil. I spent this day with Seu Elson. A 60 year old man who lives in favela Barreira, close to the Vasco da Gama Stadium here in Rio. I do not know if it is because I am starting to get tired or if it is simply this way, but today fell hard on me. Both in a positive as in a negative way. Seu Elson lives in a small house that was mostly constructed by himself. Favelas are all built in an illegal way, but most of them are legal by now. Your house becomes legal when you have an electricity meter. Most houses in Barreira have a meter, Seu Elson lives in the favela of the favela. Here the houses still tap off their electricity and it is the part that is hard to reach. Seu Elson lives of his cart. He collects recyclable material and when his cart is full he walks with it to the collection post. A walk of 45 minutes that starts in the narrow streets of the favela where the cart hardly fits. And continue on four lane roads where cars and trucks drive like idiots. When living here I have seen so many people in the streets collecting material and I have always wondered what they do with it. Today Seu Elson had a full cart, so we walked to the post together. For 45 minutes we talked and laughed. Although he is a man that likes to be alone, or at least spends a lot of time alone, he seemed to know everybody that we met along the way. Alongside this, I could not help wondering the whole way what he would earn with the content of his cart. It was packed and very very very heavy. I set my estimate at 40 reais (13,30 euros). After unpacking the cart at the post, Seu Elson was happy and I was shocked, 12,90 reais he had earned. On the way back Seu Elson kept on chatting to me, but I found it hard to listen. My head was spinning how unfair the world is. Halfway it turned around in being amazed about how happy he seemed and how he never complained. And I cheered myself up. It could not be true that I was the one with a camera bag filled with a few thousand euros of equipment being sad, while the man next to me that just earned 12,90 reais was happy.
Getting back in the favela we made a couple of stops in shops where he picked up more material. By the time we got back to his house the cart was nearly full again. After drinking a soda the match started. Seu Elson watches all matches alone in his house. His family lives in a different area of Rio, but he does not talk to them anymore. Before we could get into the match it was already 0-5, incredible. After a while two girls that live next door joined us. The second half they walked around the favela with me, because I wanted to feel the ambiance. Seu Elson stayed at home. It was not a surprise that the ambiance was not so good, but still peaceful. Coming back we watched the last minutes of the match with Seu Elson. The shot below of Seu Elson leaning on his arms we have put in scene, he was not as happy as the rest of the day, but still happy. Leaving him after a chat about how the Seleção had played I felt still a little sad about how unfair life can be. But more grateful, I have learned a lot today.
Caro Seu Elson. Muito obrigada por hoje, por abrir o seu mundo para mim e para seu felicidade!