My first night in Rio wasn’t exactly the quiet night I had planned on. Angelica my coworker at Rede Asta already had the evening all planned for us. Within a couple of my arrival we were on our way out to see a theatre production that incorporated traditional Bossanova music. The music was fantastic – such a great way to start the trip. But the play itself was 100% Portuguese. Luckily I managed to follow along fairly well. Tale as old as time – man meets woman, dumps his fiancé so they can be together, but the woman’s abusive husband gets angry and seeks revenge, they break up but then get back together.
Then Angelia, her boyfriend Antonio, her friend Ju and I all went out for a quick dinner. We tried for Brazilian food but most places were closed, so we went out for burgers and beers. And in fact at that moment the comforts of home were very much welcomed after such a long trip.
I have to say that so far the Brazilian people are so much fun! Super friendly and kind. Anjelica and Ju’s English is not bad, but definitely not fluent. But despite the language barrier we’ve managed to bond over our shared love of eating and Beyonce. I think we’re going to get a long quite well.
Yesterday was my first day at the office. I met the entire Rede Asta team, including the director Alice (finally!) and the coordinators who work directly with the artisans. It was so inspiring hearing about how passionate the team is about helping the artisans. Both Alice and Flavia left their jobs in the corporate world to work with Asta in the social sector, and you can tell they really love what they do. Flavia told me that after working at Asta she can’t go back to the “real world” – she wants to keep helping people and working for charitable causes. It really made me stop and think about what I do day to day and how much I want to give back not just on this exchange but in others ways back home.
We had a great intro session with Philippa in the morning to level set on objectives of the assignment. Then we went out for lunch as a team – the Brazilians are so civilized, no one would dare eat lunch at their desk.
They just moved into a new office, a co-worked space dedicated to up and coming sustainable fashion brands in Rio. It’s an awesome space, with old shipping containers transformed into offices! It reminded me of Artscape in Toronto.
The afternoon was spent learning about all the different collectives of artisans, small groups of women and men who produce the different sub-lines of products. I was surprised with just how talented they are and the intricate hand made techniques they use to produce their creations. I was also impressed with their resourcefulness. Because they can’t afford to buy materials, they typically work with sustainable and recycled assets – using things like things like plants they gather from rivers, the outer unused shells of vegetables, and even old, discarded billboards that normally would be thrown out. And through their creativity they craft something beautiful!
Today we’re going three hours outside of Rio to visit 2 artisan collectives and to meet the women in person! I’ll definitely be sharing that. And of course I’m planning to buy a few pieces as well!!