The idea of being tightly compressed in an aircraft for almost 24 hours isn’t appealing, but long-haul flights seem to be my thing, seeing as I developed the gift of successfully sleeping through most of the flight journey. We approach the lush greenery and specs of copper that coloured several buildings and homes below us. Bom Dia! We finally made it to Brazil! Being in a new country was exciting, but not knowing what to anticipate over the next few weeks left me extremely nervous. Before departing, my insecurities kicked in as I felt like there were people more deserving than I was to attend this programme. However, over this last week, I felt empowered by my team, who enabled me to recall my ‘why’ and recognize the impact this programme would have on the communities I represent back home and my personal development as an indigenous person in the diaspora.
Almost two weeks in, Brazil still leaves me in awe. Every day feels like the first time we landed- vibrant, colourful and fresh; an attack on all my senses, so to speak. The street art at every corner seemed to peel back another layer of Brazil to tell a different story of the country’s persistence with its social, racial and political movements- a perfect, constant reminder for me to continue the fight for our indigenous people. Relative to this concept, I couldn’t help but fixate on the number of homeless people who resided underneath bridges, at every corner of the street and on the side of the road. Seeing them in these unfortunate circumstances is unsettling because, as much as I’d want to help, it doesn’t begin to scratch the surface of the root of the issue and juxtaposes the stereotypes and perceptions I previously had of Brazil before arriving here. After the first few lectures, I realised that they were victims of a system that failed them, and although homelessness is severe in Brazil, the issue is very apparent in Aotearoa. They made me aware of my privileges and broadened my perspective to include a constantly overlooked community.
After a few days in, our lectures explored the history of Brazil, beginning with the colonisation period to the complexities of their political system and unsolicited racism, right through to the era of the country’s resurgence through sugarcane and coffee. These were heavy topics to comprehend, and the reality that most of these issues continue to occur within their contemporary society is infuriating. Through all of the country’s hardships, it is evident through their street art and sense of collectiveness- that although they’ve become accustomed to so much pain and trauma you’d expect would tear apart a community- their love continues to radiate and carry them through even the toughest of times, primarily through their fight for freedom.
I’m trying to take everything in at once while being emotionally and physically present to listen and offer solutions to these very complex matters. It’s been a rollercoaster experience so far, and I couldn’t have asked for a better group to travel with and explore the intricacies of such a culturally rich and diverse country.