Once I was getting ready for a weekend in Sao Paulo, all day I was doing some pre-trip business, and when there was only a couple of hours left before the bus, I went to the pharmacy for something. There I accidentally saw a very tall blond guy who was trying to find out something from the seller. It was noticeable from the seller’s face that he did not really understand the guy and was striving to call a supervisor (this is what they always do when they don’t understand someone, once in the first months of my life in Brazil I tried to find out for 10 minutes in a bar where the toilet is located, until, finally, one of the workers called the supervisor and he resolved this serious issue for me).
I got into the conversation and found out that the guy does not speak Portuguese, but speaks only English. And he told me his sad story:
A few weeks ago, he flew on vacation to Salvador (a city in the state of Bahia, north of Rio). Everything was fine and the vacation went well, it was the hour of departure. He was already standing with his luggage at the hotel and waiting for a taxi when it happened, and so unexpectedly that he did not even have time to figure it out. I don’t know the details, but in short, some guys ran up to him with a pistol or knives and took everything he had. Suitcases, hand luggage – everything, everything. So he remained standing at the hotel – no passport, no money, no tickets. Well, tickets, of course, are electronic, but how to fly without a passport? The plane leaves in a couple of hours, and there is not even a Canadian consulate in Salvador to get some kind of temporary document (as it turned out, the guy was Canadian and his name was Jonathan (which I found out later)). And he could not get a money transfer without documents, and in the city, he knows no one. And he had no choice except hitchhiking to get to the nearest city, where is a Canadian consulate. This city was Rio. So he drove for several days. In general, when he got to Rio, poor Jonathan found out that today is Friday, and the embassy is closed until Monday. So he walked from the embassy in search of shelter, someone told him that in my area people are given some kind of temporary housing (I don’t know for sure if this is true).
In general, I offered help. I said that I was leaving before Monday anyway, so he could stay at my place and wait until the consulate opened. From the place where we met I lived in 5 minutes by taxi, the distance was short, but on foot, it would be necessary to continuously climb up, which would take about half an hour, and I was almost late for my bus. While we were driving, the taxi driver, as always, had a casual conversation about this and that, and I absentmindedly answered him, at the same time translating for Jonathan. At the entrance to Parque da Sidage, he (the driver) apparently noticed a change in the script and asked if it was a favela. I immediately began to convince him that there was very little left to go up (my house was really just around the corner). But Jonathan, apparently, knew the word “favela” well and immediately isolated the taxi driver from our conversation.
“Favela ????” His eyes widened in horror.
He apparently did not expect such a turn of events. It was clear that he had heard a lot about the favelas of Rio and not the most flattering reviews. “Yes, this is a good favela” – I tried to cheer him up – “the best!”
As we climbed higher, Jonathan grew colder. “Well, that’s it,” he probably thought, “It couldn’t be worse. First, they stole all my things, but now they have kidnapped me and are taking me to sell organs in the favela! ” But he had no time left to think because here we arrived.
He looked around and apparently decided to give my favela a chance. We went up to the apartment and I quickly told him the main subtleties associated with living: how to turn the shower on and off so that it does not burn out, how to open the door if it stuck. We also agreed that if he leaves, he will leave the key on the window in the bathroom, from where I can easily get it from the outside (at that moment I did not have a copy of the key to take with me). It was evident that he was already exhausted by all these robberies and moving, and really wants to finally rest. I was already specifically late for the bus, therefore, I leaved some money on the table (suddenly he needs to go somewhere or for something else), I went to the exit. Almost at the door, I looked around and asked his name. He said his name was Jonathan and I left. I managed to catch the bus, and, in general, my weekend was a success, the new acquaintance that arose on this trip greatly influenced my future life. And part of these amazing events was this unexpected meeting at the pharmacy. In general, I am a sympathetic person, but before this incident I did not have to meet people at the pharmacy and bring them to live with me (I hadn’t even used couchsurfing until then), but at that moment, I didn’t doubt my decision at all, intuition told me that it was the right step.
Returning from a trip on Monday, I went straight to work. I arrived home in the evening. After rummaging around on the windowsill in the bathroom (a small window from the bathroom looked directly onto the stairs), I found the key and opened the door. Jonathan was not there. It was clear that he had been in the apartment for a couple of days: a half-empty bottle of cola and some new food appeared in the refrigerator, bed linen was in the washing machine, and there were two new DVDs with films on the shelf: Schindler’s List and Abel’s Funeral Ferrara (I had my laptop at home, but at that moment the Internet was just turned off (a common thing in Brazil).
There was also no note to indicate his current location. I thought that maybe he will show up again, but he did not appear either the next day or the next. A couple of days later, I suddenly got the idea of how I can find out if everything is all right with him. I wrote a letter to the Canadian consulate in Rio, roughly describing the situation and asking if a certain Jonathan, who had been robbed in Salvador, had received a temporary passport from them in recent days. To my deepest amazement, I was told that they did not know about any Jonathan, but that they would send my letter to other Canadian consulates in Brazil and ask if he had appeared there. At that moment I wondered if I had dreamed all this. I never received a second answer and did not write to them again. What happened with poor Jonathan is unknown to me. I really hope that he is doing well and returned home. Maybe he was not Canadian (I didn’t know much about accents then), or maybe he gave a fictitious name, I can only guess. I don’t even have a photograph of him, such events usually happen so rapidly that you have no time for photographs at these moments. My sister suggested that I write a post about him on Facebook and, if possible, distribute it among Canadians, maybe then he or someone from his acquaintances will see my post (the rule of six handshakes should work) and I can finally ask him about how it ended his story in Rio. In the meantime, it remains only to be surprised at what unusual situations we sometimes encounter, and how much more colorful they make our life.