I picked up this young couple right outside a university campus. The girl explained that her boyfriend was a German, in Brazil for a students exchange program. Before returning to Europe, the young man had decided he needed to visit a slum at any cost. He couldn’t stop thinking about it after watching “Tropa de Elite”.
The blonde guy had a spark of curiosity in his eyes. He couldn’t speak Portuguese. While the girl asked me if it would be possible to drive them there, he was pure expectation. When I agreed to it, he smiled from ear to ear.
I had to go up the slum slowly. The boy wanted to see everything in detail. He drew an iPhone and started to take pictures. A tire repairman fixing a flat tire, a woman hanging diapers on the fence, a young group listening to funk music on the corner. For him, everything was great. The girl, on the other hand, seemed uneasy.
At the highest point of the hill I allowed him out of the taxi to take some pictures. Porto Alegre’s best view. The girl stayed in the car, nervous. While the German admired the view, she bit her nails and prayed not to be robbed. Typical condominium complex dweller.
When seeing a police car, the boy yelled: “BOPE! BOPE!”
I thought it was time to go back, but he wanted more. He pointed at the back of the slum, the poorest part. He wanted to go there.
I started to like the young German. He wanted a real exchange, deeply learning about the country he was visiting. Being that way, I decided to take him to a special place, going through a winding path. “Vila Vargas”, “Chácara dos Bombeiros”, “Campo da Tuca”… A labyrinth that taxi drivers know well. That’s how we got to the Central Penitentiary.
It was touching. The boy stood at the sidewalk, astonished, trying to understand what he was looking at. His girlfriend had to talk him into returning to the taxi. The spark in his eyes suddenly turned into an opaque, dark perplexity.