12/2022: I have been here in São Paulo for almost three months now and a lot has happened. Especially the first few weeks were very exciting and every day was exhilarating. I was impressed by how warmly I was greeted and welcomed by everyone here. I especially remember the children's reaction very well, as they threw themselves straight at me and wanted to show me the whole facility straight away. In general, my first week was all about getting to know the facility first.
Zu Monte Azul gehören insgesamt 3 Einrichtungen: die Haupteinrichtung Monte Azul, Peinha and my placement Horizonte Azul. While the other two places are more centrally located in São Paulo and are partly integrated directly into the favelas of the same name, the surroundings around Horizonte Azul are more rural in comparison. More nature and better air are definitely advantages at my place of work, but a disadvantage is the long distance to the main institution and the centre, as it takes at least an hour by bus to get to the southernmost metro station, sometimes 1.5 hours depending on traffic. However, you quickly get used to the long distances within the city and the unfamiliar surroundings and crazy bus drivers make the journeys always exciting. Nevertheless, we often use the cheap option Uber because the buses are very full, as most people commute from the periphery into the city. Shorter rides are available from the equivalent of €1.20 and are thus often cheaper than the bus.
Especially at the beginning of my service, however, a major problem emerged in everyday life: a lack of knowledge of Portuguese. Every person you met - no matter where - was very interested in talking to you. About who you are, what you do and where you come from. You hear these questions very often, as European-looking people are hardly ever seen in the periphery. Unfortunately, during the first 6 weeks I could understand almost nothing and could hardly answer the questions. As time went on and I practiced a lot at home, I started to get better and better. After about 2 months, I was already able to have smaller conversations about simpler things and by now I understand most of my conversation partners and can talk about more complex topics such as politics and culture. Nevertheless, I would recommend everyone to prepare themselves better linguistically for a voluntary social year, because you save yourself a lot of time and frustration. There is still some way to go before I can really speak fluently, and I am curious to see what I can say about my language skills after another 3 months.
The aforementioned was especially problematic at work in the beginning, as I could hardly take on any tasks and rarely understood what the children wanted from me. My normal working day is like this:
At 6:30 in the morning my alarm clock rings and I get up, take a shower and have some breakfast. At 7:20 I have to leave the house and after about 7 minutes I am at my workplace. At 7:30, most of the children are already there and we sing songs together to start the day and say a prayer. Afterwards, the children have breakfast, usually simple things like crackers with some kind of cream cheese and tea or cocoa. Then, depending on the time, there is a joint activity such as painting or handicrafts, or the children have free time and play on the grounds. There are 2 football pitches, a large playground and table tennis tables. However, the football fields are especially used, where I watch the children during playtime and often play a little football with them myself.