Monday, August 23, 2010

First Encounter

I know this is pretty hard to believe, but in the US, I led a pretty sheltered life. I didn't worry about people robbing me. I didn't worry about violence. I felt pretty safe pretty much all the way around. Well, except for when I started watching all day marathons of law and order...and then I let my imagination get the better of me. But that's a completely different story.

What I'm saying is, for the most part I have felt a certain level of safety that I took for granted.

That is not to say here, I feel unsafe. In fact, quite the opposite. I feel safe. I do worry about people taking my things, but it is just something I am more cautious about. I am aware of people around me, I am aware of what jewelry I wear when going to certain places, I don't generally carry much cash, and only necessary documents. I make sure everything is secured, for instance the bike lock is really locked and in a visible area where people would be less likely to take it, I make sure things can't come out of my pocket easily, and if they can be buttoned or zippered, they are. Anyway to make a long story short, they are just preventions that I don't even really think about anymore...I just do them. I have never been robbed, no one has ever attempted, and most people I know haven't been either, but have heard stories about the friend of a friend type of thing.

I have never seen any type of violence here in Ipatinga. I hear about it in Sao Paulo, in Rio de Janiero on the news, but never encountered it here. Not to say that it hasn't happened in Ipatinga, we have violence and all that here, but nothing that has directly affected me or anyone that I know.

All that changed last Saturday night.

We left to go out to grab a quick bite to eat since we were starving. And actually, as a side note, we got these calzones that were GREAT! And I got mine with pepperoni which was like heaven for me (first time I found pepperoni in Ipatinga). It was a little expensive, but well worth it for me, in my opinion.

But back to the story. So we are coming home, we turn the corner to go into our neighborhood and there are all these flashing red lights, police cars, and massive amounts of people gathered around what I assumed to be an accident. Traffic accidents are VERY frequent here and I see them just about every day. Anyway so I thought it was strange for a traffic accident to occur because our neighborhood doesnt have that much traffic. But I told Sidnei to pull over because the first thing I thought about was his Dad. He had gone to work all day, didn't come home for lunch, and hadn't taken his phone with him and when we left at 8 pm he still wasn't home. So I was worried. So we jumped out of the car and went over. We saw Sidnei's Tia first and I asked her what happened. She speaks very fast so I didn't catch everything. I asked if it was a accident and she said no. He was killed. Then I spotted Sidnei's Dad who was just coming home from work. So I walked over to him and that's when I saw him.

Spotted through the throng of people was this young kid, maybe early 20's, maybe younger, laying on the road. Shot in the head. Blood pooled and running down the street. I wish I had never seen it. I will never forget the image. I will never forget the chill that ran through me. I will never forget the instant sadness that I felt for a life haven been taken.

I have seen people that have passed away before. I was at the hospital when my grandfather passed. I have been to many funerals. But this was different. This was murder. A senseless taking of a life. A painful ending for this kid and most certainly for his family.

The violence has shaken me to my core. It has made me nervous and feel a little less safe. We are certain this was over drugs. The kid does not live here in our neighborhood, but was walking through our neighborhood on his way to visit people. We don't live in a community with drugs. We live in a neighborhood of families and friends. People that have lived on the same street for more than 30 years. Sidnei said that nothing like this has ever happened in this area in his entire life. And I don't feel like it is a precursor to what will come, but it has reminded yet again, that you just never know. No matter where you are or what you are doing, you just never know. And I mean that, I don't think this is only Brazil. I remember watching news in the US where neighbors would say, "We never imagined anything like this happening here. It's such a quiet neighborhood." You just never know.


Jim said...

A horrifying sight for sure. Sorry you had to see it.

If, in fact, it was a drug-related murder then remind yourself that it was not a random crime. Most (MOST!) violent crimes in Brazil are among people who know each other, rival each other or between criminals and the police. They are not random violent crimes.

The stuff us regular folks need to be careful about are petty thefts and strong arm robberies.

I do not want to deminish your experience, just remind you to stay clear about your risk and not let your fears run wild.

Take care. Stay close to loved ones.

Corin said...

Stay safe! Happened to me early on, as well... Mind your own business, part easily with your belongings, and keep you wits about you! Take care.

Laura said...

What a chilling encounter. I'm sorry this happened to you, in your neighborhood. Take care.

Ballerina Girl said...

Wow, sorry to hear about this Stephanie.
It is very unnerving...I have had a few run ins with a few different "incidents", but never to me either.
I hope that this doesn't take a hold of you...but it is a dangerous world, Brasil being one of the places where if it could happen, it might here. That said, I feel very safe here too..and I live in one of those ones you mentioned!
Keep your eyes open and ears listening...and stay safe my friend.


Dari said...

Steph that is terrible. I am so sorry that you saw that and had to be so close to something like that. I'm glad that it wasn't someone close to you though. I hope you are doing ok. Love you!

Ronnica said... words. So sorry to hear this!

Anonymous said...

Sorry about what happened Steph. Living in Rio, thankfully, the vast majority of the craziness I've seen has been on the news. I just have faith in God that I will stay safe no matter the situation, and then try not to test that by doing anything blatantly unsafe or dumb.

Gisley Scott said...

Hello Stephanie, I'm originally from Brazil and I understand how you felt.We never think that kind of things can happen in real life until we see it. It's quite shocking.I've lived in U.S. for over a year now and still behave like I was in Brazil( constantly aware of my surroundings), so my husband thinks I act funny sometimes, lol.

I really don't know how I'm going to feel when I come back to visit my family.Not being able to do normal things as txting, talking on the phone while walking on the street, opening my purse in public, that kind of thing...People always talk about the danger in big cities of U.S. but it's nothing compare to what we(brazilians) have to deal with our entire life.

Be safe over there girl :)!
Hope brazilian people have received you with arms wide open :!)

Rachel said...

So sorry you had to see that! IT´s a horrible core shaking experience.