Hamburger Hill Epilogue…

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Following up on the madness I experienced last Tuesday, this is what happened in the following couple of days…

23rd April

It was pretty crazy to wake up the next day and see it had gone worldwide on all media outlets. I discovered this had all jumped off due to the murder of innocent dancer, Douglas Rafael da Silva Pereira at the hands of the police. Watching the news on the BBC, I could see the same things I see when I walk out of the front door, this was pretty bananas.When I left the gaff that morning it was weird that everything was so tranquil after such unmitigated chaos. The aftermath though was clearly visible, there was glass literally everywhere, burnt out cars and cars that had survived were sporting nice new bullet holes.There were also reporters all over the favela interviewing people. I was under the impression that they would have been interested to get the perspective of the token favela gringo so I stuck my swede out trying to get noticed but I was sadly mistaken when no one took any notice of me.

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Whilst I was training we had a visit from the police, who came and searched the apartment. The police were attacked the previous night from people in the surrounding apartments, so they obviously felt this was a necessity. Dudes apparently came in rocking masks, I’d imagine this is a measure taken so the drug traffickers don’t know who they are to retaliate on them. It doesn’t seem like the best idea for police already under the microscope for misconduct to be given anonymity from their actions, I’m just glad I wasn’t in that piece at the time. I have come to see in the last few days just how universally hated the police are here in the favela and seeing how this whole thing has played out it is apparent that they are not the good guys in this situation.

24th April

I discovered the lift had been closed due to the rioting so after training I had to walk up the 20 or some of the ghettoist flights of stairs known to man to get back to the gaff armed with bags full of shopping. This massive climb took over ten minutes and sucked so much ass, I passed quickly by the obligatory sleeping crackhead on the way up, for the next four flights I got my shuffle on, as I didn’t wanna get my cottage cheese jacked. As I reached the top fully covered in sweat & absolutely dying. I turned the corner to discover ten or so B.O.P.E (Brazil’s military police) stood directly in front of the entrance to the gaff. These dudes carry the biggest guns I have ever seen in my life and are pretty much the scariest dudes in existence. Whilst the regular police are strapped with some big ass weaponry they also are happy enough to be texting in one hand, eating a salgado with the other whilst checking out chick’s asses. These dudes rock the meanest muggs and appear focused on nothing else but pain and destruction.  Very quietly I muttered com licença’ as I stepped through the middle of them. Did they smile at the dumb-ass gringo obviously dying from walking up seven thousand stairs? Nope, their dead eyes pierced the very depths of my soul and read any impure that I’d ever thought about having. I did attempt to strap on some nuts and takes pictures of these dudes but managed to fail due to their extreme scariness.

There was continued violence that evening as members of community returned from attending the murdered dancer’s funeral. But this didn’t reach up into the favela. That was it everything back to normality although it is still impossible to walk anywhere in the favela without having a whopping gun pointed in your face.

 

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This is a pic and video came from a blue belt match at yesterday’s Copa Arnold competition, dude in a wheelchair was helped onto the mats by the score keeper and ref and competed against his able bodied opponent. If you already do Jiu-Jitsu you know the deal but how awesome is it you can have a sport where this can take place?

 

Hamburger Hill

 

A room with a view
The two sides of Rio
The two sides of Rio

Literally just put this bad-boy together as it was happening, hadn’t planned on dropping this, hence its slight rushed nature.

A couple of weeks ago I moved into Cantagalo favela. This favela is home to legend of Jiu-Jitsu Fernando Terere, who happens to live just down the road from me, it has also produced other Jiu-Jitsu greats such as Jackson Sousa, Alan ‘Finfou’ do Nascimento and the homie Rodrigo, “Aquiles” Conceição. The decision to move into the favela was an easy one, the gym is 2 minutes from the gaff and all my friends from the academy live here. From what I had seen so far I had come to the understanding that favela life is real life in Rio, this is where 22% of the population of Rio, 1.4 million people live and I totally wanted to experience that.

Training hasn’t resumed full time after the Easter holiday, so with the Arnold classic this Saturday and the Brazilian Nationals to compete in the week after, I begrudgingly decided to go to the beach to do some sprints. I had my kicks on ready to bounce out the door when their was a massive explosion, the lookouts usually set off fireworks when the police are coming to let the dealers know they are here. But this explosion was much louder than usual, loud enough to bring everyone out of their houses. Smoke started to billow above the favela and hang in the evening air, after 3 more of these explosions I figured that sprints on the beach probably wasn’t the most sensible plan. As I was later informed this all began at the bottom of the hill which I have to walk down to reach the beach, I would have walked directly through what turned into a raging gun battle.

Whilst watching events occur out of my bedroom window, police helicopters appeared in the sky as the explosions continued. There was babies crying, hundreds of dogs barking and smoke everywhere. It had began to look like some straight up war-zone. At this point I noticed 5 children on their roof flying their kites without a care in the world, this was obviously nothing new to them.

I joined everyone else outside at the front of the gaff. The police station is about 50 feet from us and there were a group of police with automatic weapons drawn outside of it, they were pointing said weapons at people appearing in the windows. People began to pelt them with missiles which sounded like glass as they hit the floor, laughter and cheering broke out and the police searched for cover.  Then there was a full on ‘HOLY SHIT’ moment when the police retaliated by opening fire, I sprawled like I was Hector Lombard and hit the deck. There was crazy amounts of glass breaking and people screaming as the police continued to fire. I don’t know if anyone was hit or whether it was warning shots fired but it was full on brown trousers time as I crawled back into the safety of the gaff.

I’m now thinking things cannot get any crazier and then all the electricity was cut in the favela, hundreds and thousands of lights vanished in an instant. This made things super creepy, low hanging smoke-filled the air and the shadows reflecting off the flames dancing in the dark sky.

From my the view in the bedroom window I can see outside the favela, I began to look at the apartment block opposite and this really brought it home to me the inequality of life in Rio. I could see directly into these people’s gaffs, they were just getting on with their evening as normal, families eating meals, couples watching T.V. All this whilst fully fledged battles between armed police and dealers was going on in such a close proximity.

A final act of crazy shit, the police cars outside the station were torched and exploded, all this whilst people looked on and cheered. The Sounds of automatic gunfire carried on for the next hour and then everything went quiet, the quiet was only broken when the lights came back on about three hours later to the sounds of cheering. What has without doubt been the craziest experience of my life, appears nothing out of the ordinary for those who live here.

I really hate doing sprints anyway.

My man Caranguejo dropping more Jiu-Jitsu knowledge, an awesome sequence from the closed guard

 

The Last House on the Left

My stay in the imfamous Connection Rio house has recently come to an end. In the last six months I have had ridiculous levels of fun which is directly down to the people I have met and shared my time and space with. I have made some truly amazing friends from across the globe,  I’ve even had my own (much maligned) pro-wrestling click. Thus one would envision that living in a house full of Jiu-Jitsu dudes or any space that is full of people who share the same hobbies and interests would be peace and love all the time. And for the most part that is exactly what it is, train hard then come home and make penis jokes with the homies. BUT during this time, I have met some weird ass people. I have come to realise that sharing a gaff full of twenty dudes means there’s a good chance that you will encounter people that you would enjoy slapping the piss out of on a daily basis.

I thought it worthy of documenting some highlights of these ‘special’ people, no names will be given in the interests of not being a complete bastard. I had intended to write this as one blog but I have decided to split it into two, as I think there’s is only so much dumb-assness one can take reading about in a single sitting.

 

Weirdos:

I had the displeasure of meeting the inbred offspring of Lee Harvey Oswald. Whilst he appeared quiet, unassuming and introvert, Lee Harvey like guns, in fact he really liked guns. If you were unfortunate enough  to mention anything associated with weaponry he would spring to life and inform tell you all about calibers and bullets and all sorts of other boring shit that no one cares about except for other maniacs who enjoy killing things. It also turned out that Lee Harvey wasn’t a big fan of the Jewish homies, a real recipe for disaster an anti-semetic, weird-ass gun nut.

JFK Assassination Bullets

We had another dude who had an interesting idea of what constituted acceptable clothing. Upon opening the front gate to the gaff one morning, I was presented with a seriously white ass Canadian dude returning from training in his boxers. This particular Jiu-Jitsu practitioner trained at Gracie Barra which was practically a mile away, he had walked the entire way in his grundies. Rio is a pretty liberal city, when your near the beach it’s not an uncommon site to see an old dude in the speedos proudly sporting his saggy nuts. BUT you don’t see gringos walking through residential areas naked save their duds and a pair of kicks. I politely enquired where his pants were, to which he informed me that he had asked the instructor whether it was ok and he’d said it was cool. If anyone asked he if it was acceptable to walk home in their bockers through the HUD I would be like ‘yeah sure, go for it dude’ but that doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do!

Aids Spreaders:

The spread of infection is unfortunately something that is bound to happen in a house full of dudes that train BJJ. This likelihood is multiplied by the fact there are mats in the gaff that people use to drill, roll, eat and sleep. These mats are also frequented housemate’s favourite feline ‘Permenta’ who uses them for snoozing and sneezing, if you have never seen a cat eject a greeny like a projectile missile straight out the nostril then you are really missing out.  In light of this, it is in everyone’s best interests to be hygienic, unfortunately many people who come through the house didn’t appear to get this memo. During my time in the house the number one culprit for aids spreading was a gentlemen visiting Rio on his travels around South America. Dude didn’t like to wash his clothes, he complained it cost to much to use the washing and drying facilities, so rather than hand wash his business, better to just stink like ass instead. Funny enough within a week of his stay, he acquired full blown aids on his leg. Although he did stay off the mats which was than likely at the request of fellow housemates rather than his desire to keep others free from this terrible affliction. A further related issue was he liked to touch, I’m all for public displays of affection but the last thing you need is an aids spreader constantly putting their hands on you. The irony is, he was overheard doing his thing with a female housemate and he choose the shower of all places.

Interesting Characters:

There has no shortage of interesting dudes during my stay at the Connection Rio gaff, one of my particular favourites was Australian pro-wrestler turned BJJ blue belt. Super nice guy but more Hacksaw Jim Duggan than Hulk Hogan. When homeboy said he used to be a pro-wrestler I kind of imagined some super backyard promotion in the outback. I couldn’t of been further from the truth when he proceeded to show us multiple matches including cage and ladder matches in front of 1,500 people. Apparently he had once asked Bret the Hitman Hart if he had any advice for him as an aspiring wrestler and Bret told him to watch videos of his matches, which I thought was inspiring advice from the best there is, the best there was and the best there ever will be.

We had a random Brazilian dude come and stay on the mats, he was in Rio for the Ultimate Fighter trials the next day, after spending all afternoon just chilling with him we discovered it was actually Alexandro Ceconi, Abu Dhabi World Pro champion and all around bad ass heavyweight grappler. What most impressed me most wasn’t his willingness to give me and the homie a cheeky private on passing the guard but his ability to consume large quantities of Salgados. The salgado comes in many forms and guises but is essentially a Greggs pasty with added cheese and explosive deliciousness, any man that can consume their own bodyweight in them and then go and try out for a place in the world’s largest fighting organisation the next day, is already a champion in my eyes.

We had another Brazilian black belt who as well as being an absolute beast on the mats gaining international success this year was also a super cool guy. He had mentioned in passing conversation that he was in the process of a divorce from ‘crazy’ wife. It was quite the surprise then when said (soon to be) ex wife strolled down the path and shared the single bunk bed with him in a room full of 5 other dudes for the rest of his stay.

 

Part 2 coming…

 

My belt which is looking throughly ghetto fabulous these days became a bit more sexy when it gained two new stripes. Thank you very much to Professor Nogueira who felt like the belt needed this touch of pimping.

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