Sunday, June 11, 2017

Hot Spots in Rocinha

I have always wanted to showcase the good things about the favela. The media tends to only focus on the negative but these communities are so much more than drug dealers and poverty. In Rocinha there are over 6,500 businesses here. With a population of about 300,000, the people here want their own restaurants, stores and other places to shop. The biggest pride one can have living in the favela is to be able to control your own destiny and future, that is having your own business.

A couple of months ago I received visitors who were doing research about restaurants and night life in favelas. I decided to take them on a walking tour showing them the places where residents go to eat drink and hang out. We did kind of a "Pub Crawl" checking out drinks and the finger foods. We started half way up the hill and I proceeded to show them some of the most popular hot spots in Rocinha.

The first stop was BARRACO, a English Styled Pub. The decor is very modern and its obvious that the owners invested a lot to make this place top notch. They have been open since 2013. Very nice inside and you don't feel like you are in a favela. The Pub is attached to a hotel and bakery. Right outside the front door is a bus and van stop. The environment is calm not very rowdy. In Rocinha, this place is considered upscale. The prices are a little higher for food and drinks than some of the other places but the inside of this place is clean and fresh with nicely styled wooden tables and chairs. There are 3 big flat screens and 2 pool tables as the back of the pub. We stopped by for about 40 minutes and we were able to check on the party scene as the place was busy without being over crowded. Service was good. The chicken pieces with sauce were very good. The music was a slower version of Samba music with many people dancing. This place also had security at the door. I think because they are connected to the hotel, that their guests safety is their priority, which is understandable.

I had a chance to chat with the manager Luiz. They have two favorite drinks that sell very well, "Caipirinhas" and "Capivodka".  Prices are 10 reais for the Caipirinha and 12 reais for the Capivodka. There is a warm friendly vibe to this place.

Their hours are Monday, Friday and Saturday 6:00pm until 4:30am. Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday from 6:00pm until 1:00am. As far as live Music, Monday is "Forro" night. Friday, Saturday & Sunday is a mix of a live band with Dj's during the breaks. They have free WiFi for those who want to stay connected to friends.

We walked down the hill about 80 meters we stopped at ROCINHA 40 GRAUS which I just featured in the previous blog post. A quick stop there to have a quick drink and check out the ambiance. This was more like a mini street party. For music there was a dj playing. See previous post for details on when they have a live band. They had drink specials and finger foods. They have free WiFi. Rocinha 40 Grau is open from 10:30am until 3-5am depending on the night. Thursday-Sunday there is always some form of entertainment with live bands or Dj's or both. Friday and Saturday they are open until 5:00am.

We moved on a little bit further down the street where there was a live Forro Band playing in a place called PIZZA LIT. Pizza Lit has been around for about 30 years. Serving some of the best pizza in Rocinha. They have hosted many cultural events there and now are jumping on the music scene to attract more people to their establishment.  Every Friday and Sunday they have live music which starts from 7:00pm until about 4:00am. Saturday Nights is UFC night or if UFC is not showing, there is always an interested football match up. We grabbed a drink and then a friend of mine caught my attention and joined our group. He advised us to check out a new place close by.

So after paying our tab at Pizza Lit, we walked not even 1 minute down the road and saw this new place called TAMU JUNTO. The place was definately new. Music was playing in the background and there was a huge big screen tv playing football. They have been only open for about 1 month and will be adding live bands and Dj's to their establishment. Staff was friendly and started to get crowded as we arrived. Looks like this will be one of the hot spots. They had drink specials and finger foods to start. The owner Douglas told me that eventually they plan to open for lunch time and offer full menu. They have free WiFi. Right now their hours are 7:00pm until 2:00am week nights and 7:00pm until 4:00am weekends. I wanted to show my guest other places so we continued to walk down the hill.

I wanted to show my guest best "por kilo" restaurant in Rocinha. I have always liked the food here at TRAPIA SOCIAL as there is plenty of choice and its not just finger foods or some meat with rice and beans. For guests who don't feel comfortable ordering off a menu, this is a great alternative. Price is by weight. Put what you want and the amount on your plate and you pay according to what your plate weighs. Vegetarians love this place as there is plenty of salads, vegetables, different kinds of beans and pastas. Their por kilo is open from 11:30am until about 6:00pm. After 6 they have full menu. Because we arrived after the por kilo we just had drinks. They have a fully stocked bar and their specialty drinks like the "Capivodka" are tops. The guests enjoy Caipirinhas and Capivodkas. They offer drink specials as well and on selected evenings have a live band. When its summer there is air conditioning and they have free WiFi. Best thing about Trapia is that there is plenty of seating for up to about 100 guests and it's open 24 hours.

We were close to ending our night tour but I had to end off with showing them one of the newer place called Esquina da Noite or Night on the Corner. It's is a small place but a outdoor place covered by a roof. When the crowd grows they spread tables and chairs on the street. Ivan, the owner says business is good. They are open from 5:00pm until 7:00am. Because of where they are located in the Via Apia, they get a lot of foot traffic. This is more of a meeting spot. There's music in the background but seems like a nice place to go after the parties. Good choice of drinks and finger foods. They don't have WiFi but my phone was picking up a free WiFi connection.

We spent about 7 hours in total checking out these various places. We started at 8:00pm and ended around 4:00am. It's awesome to see just how Rocinha is developing with all of these new businesses by locals. Night life and socializing is vital in Rocinha and for the last couple of years there were only 2 or 3 places where people would go but now there's new opportunities. New jobs being developed and the younger generation creating fun things to do. Most of the owners who I spoke to were mid to late 20's or early 30's. I had a great time showing my guests the night life in Rocinha. I hope more people come to check out what's going on here with the bars and night clubs.

Pub Crawl & Tour Experience
1.) Barraca
2.) Rocinha 40 Graus
3.) Pizza Lit
4.) Tamu Junto
5.) Trapia
6.) Esquina da Noite

If you want try out this kind of Favela Pub Crawl contact us at:

Thursday, June 8, 2017

New Nightlife in Rocinha

Rocinha has opened up new bars and clubs to cater to the interest of more people wanting to socialize.   Just up the street from my house a place called "Rocinha 40 Graus" or Rocinha 40 Degrees has opened and now has variety nights. We welcome visitors who want to party with us!

Here is what is going on weekly.

Wednesday - Every Wednesday is football night and theres a usually a Flamengo game going on. Flamengo is the team of Rocinha and the place is usually packed.
Depending on when the game starts, usually its around 7:00pm people start to gather. To get a seat, you ned to arrive about 30 minutes before game time.
Thursday - Thursday is Pagode Night with a live band. The activities start at 10:00pm and end around 3-3:30am.

Friday & Saturday - are Dj's night where the top Dj's in Rocinha come to spin a variety of music styles from Funk, Hip Hop, Charme (R&B) and other styles. This kicks off at 10:00pm until about 5:00am. ****Saturday is also fight night when the UFC is on tv. So, its a combination of UFC and dj's.

Sunday - is a mix of live Pagode and Dj's spinning tunes. Festivities start at 7:00pm until 2:00am. **** At times Flamengo football team is playing a big game which would be fit into the schedule.

Below some photos of the activities:

If you would like to come in Rocinha and be part of one of these nights, contact us at

Friday, May 5, 2017

Aging Sucks!

I know this is my first post in a while but I have been dealing with some health Issues. 

About 4 months ago I started questioning my health.  I haven’t treated my body very well. In 2010 I noticed my health changing. I started gaining weight and losing my fitness levels. But it’s only been within the last 6 months that I have noticed my health getting worse. Things like chronic fatigue (no energy) and weight gain.

So, about 5 months ago I stopped drinking any kind of soft drinks and substituted with water. I drink a lot of water now. I started doing research online about natural aids to help lose weight. I have about 30 kilos to lose. Every evening I am researching about foods and spices that aid in weight loss naturally.

In the beginning of April I also decided it was good to get a check up, so off to the doctor I went. There is the clinic here inside Rocinha, but to get blood tests you need to return another day and I didn’t want to do that. Just outside of Rocinha is a cinic. You need to pay but for what you get, its very reasonably priced. I got full blood screens, Chest X-Ray and ECG all for about 300 reais.

A week later I got all the results back. Chest X-Ray - No problems, ECG - No problems. Blood tests some problems: 1.) High Cholestrol   2.) Thyroid problem.

So, I went online and researched everything I could for about 1 week solid on how to improve the cholesterol problem and how to get my thyroid functioning normal again through natural means. I do NOT want to be on drugs the rest of my life!

First thing I did was to empty out cabinets full of any kind of food that’s in a bag, a box or a can. And substituted it with healthy foods.

My cabinet in my kitchen is filled with glass containers (plastic is not good) with spices such as Turmeric, Ginger, Ginseng, Cayenne Pepper, Black Pepper, Coconut Oil. Supplements I have added like Calcium, Magnesium and Potassium, Omega 3’s, Selenium, B12. These are just some of the things that exist in my cabinets.

Every morning I make this concoction that consists of green tea (I soak the green tea in water before), Turmeric, Cayenne Pepper and Ginger. I make sure the drink is warm and mix it with tablespoon of coconut oil.  In the last 6 weeks I have lost about 8 kilos.

How I lost the 8 kilos
- Absolutely NO Sugar (including fruits)
- Eating a lot less Carbohydrates (not quite a Keto Diet but getting there)
- NO eating after 7:00pm at night
- Getting out and walking every day
- Just started Jiu Jitsu class last week

Fitness Changes

I bought a fit bit watch from a friend. This watch keeps tracks of how many steps you take, heart rate, distance walked, calories burned and how many flights of stairs.
It’s nice to set some goals. My fitness is going slow but steady. I have had the fit bit for about 10 days. Here are my averages.

Steps Taken: 4828
Resting Heart Rate:  58
Exercising Heart Rate: 120
Distance: 2.78 miles
Flights of stairs: 18

Not bad as I know I can improve on my numbers. My heart rates are fine. I have always had a strong heart. I don’t drink or use drugs so this is good. What I want to improve in the next 2 months is:

Steps Taken: 6000
Distance: 4 miles a day
Flights of Stairs: 25

These are my goals for the next 2 months.

Back to Jiu Jitsu

I originally started training in Judo in 1985 stopped in 1993. I then took up Brazilian Jiu Jitsu in 1996 started training at Carlson Gracie's academy when they had a school on the corner of Wilshire and La Cienega Boulevard in West Los Angeles California. Those were the days when Carlson had all his young fighters there. I remember meeting a 19 year old Vitor Belfort, Murilo Bustamante, Carlos Barreto and Mario Sperry. From 1996 until about 2009 I had always been involved in Jiu Jitsu in some way. 

So after all of the years exposed to this art, I felt drawn back to it. So, I joined a Jiu Jitsu school. I used to train Jiu Jitsu but stopped in 2009 because of work and no time. Everybody knows me here in Rocinha. I used to teach a No Gi class here so everybody knows what my ability used to be. This time I want to take my Jiu Jitsu training slow with no pressure. And I want to be in a new environment. Getting older sucks and movement and flexibility have changed a lot.

So, I'm sure you are all wondering how my returning to training went. I used to train in the community where I live. I also taught No Gi classes too. Everybody knows me where I live. They keep asking when I am going to return. I will return when I am back in the flow and I am in better shape. The awesome thing about training where I live is there are 3 jiu jitsu schools. They charge 70 reais a month. I trained here but Carlson Gracie (in Copacabana) was my instructor and original school. Here in Rio you need be careful because schools can get very territorial. Here loyalty to your school is very important. Since Carlson died I have been visiting and training at different places but keeping a low profile. 
Where I live, I did "some training" but they are a very competitive ranked school in Rio. Their training is very hardcore competition based. And the students are in the 17-35 year old range. I am in my 50’s. I don't mind getting my ass beat, but I at least want to be able to put up a good fight and right now I am NOT in that kind of shape. I cannot afford to get hurt.
Ok, so this is how it went down at the new school. The new school is located in a neighboring area but not a favela. I went first to watch a class last week (Thursday) and the head instructor was there. I just sat and watched. The head instructor asked me my name. He asked if I had trained before. I told him I had. He said ok, welcome to the class and I just was quiet. I just sat and observed the class. At the end the instructor asked me if I was interested. I told him that I will come back next week.
Last Saturday I had to work and Sunday there was no class. Monday was workers holiday here so no class.
I went in yesterday (Tuesday) brought my Gi (uniform) with me. I used to wear A3, but now I’m wearing A4 because of the weight gain. I still have the A3 and the brown belt. But even the belt didn't fit. So, I wore a white belt, but hold on, let me explain...I paid for 4 months. Prices here are more expensive than the favela schools.
So, I got on the mat started stretching out 15 minutes before the class. Another professor arrived took me aside and asked me my name, asked if I trained and I told him the WHOLE story of my history. He asked about my rank, I showed him my brown as I brought it with me in my bag, but explained that the belt was too small because of my weight gain. He said fine. He didn't say anything about the white belt.
I also explained that I haven't been on the mats training in about 7 or 8 years. When we were warming up for about 20 minutes I was able to do the warm up for about 10 minutes (I'm so f'n out of shape), but I know it will get better. I was able to do all the stretches with some small limitations. Need to work on the flexibility.
The major problem I noticed was being on my knees. I could only be in this position for about 5 minutes before I started feeling pain in my kneecaps. Lying on my back with people in my guard, no problem. Side control top position some pain in the knees. Me in someone’s guard, problem if more than 5 minutes on my knees.
One thing I did notice is they would constantly ask me if I knew "such and such" a position. All the positions, sweeps, attacks, submissions and escapes I had seen before. I didn't lie or exaggerate anything. I know my limitations. I just told them the truth. They were very respectful of my fat ass lol. I did not roll as I prefer to observe until I can at least feel comfortable being on my knees for a longer period of time. (My mind was telling me to roll but my body was saying, I'm not ready yet). My body won out on that decision.
I enjoyed the function of the class. The breakdown was 15-20 minutes warm up, 40 minutes techniques (all techniques were related either a submission, defense or a counter, nice flow). For example we did 4 techniques drilling yesterday and today we did 5 techniques. Then, about 25-30 minutes of rolling. Over all I feel welcome in the school. Every partner that I trained with was respectful and chill. No anti-partners in this school. And there are no spazzes in the classes. And the average age of the students is around 35-40 years old. A mature group with no egos. So at least I know, I made the right choice in where I am training.
Yesterday I went to the 7:30-9:00pm class, Today I went to the 4:30-6:0pm class. I am really tired but they have a 7:00am class that I want to try as well, just to meet all the different instructors. There are classes 3X a day so I have a lot of choice when to train.
Ok, I am laying down now as I type this and I can feel slight soreness in my hips but the big soreness is my abs.. Getting old sucks! I am on my way back.
I go back in June to the doctor to get more blood tests done to see if my diet and exercise program is working.

Monday, December 19, 2016

A Loyal Friend

I wanted to separate this post from the last one as Freddy deserves his own space without any negativity. With all the challenges of running a tourism agency, one person who has always been HONEST, LOYAL and has shown the utmost RESPECT and INTEGRITY has been Freddy Gomes.

This is my good friend Freddy Gomes. I have known Freddy since 2009 when he first contacted me through email about wanting to come stay and live in Rocinha. I helped him find a place and get settled. He was able to make his own set of friends that are like family to him. But he always kept in contacts with me. He has worked on and off as a guide with Favela Adventures and always provided top notch service.

He contacted me last year about coming back to Rocinha and I told him that he would be welcome. I rehired him as a guide and he quickly got back into things. He worked before during and after the Olympics and Paralympics. Here are just a few photos of Freddy, Rocinha tour guide.

                   This was Freddy's last tour with the guys from Finland!

Freddy is leaving tomorrow on to the next phase of his life. He is going on an amazing adventure. He has decided to bike from Rio de Janeiro to Colombia. He has a blog where he will be writing about his experiences. I wish him all the best and he knows he will always have a place here in Rocinha!

To follow Freddy's wild Adventure you can read his blog here.

Me, my Bike & a Hike

Problems finding loyal guides who are not greedy!

Working in tourism in Rio, its very difficult to find loyal, honest and people with integrity. I been working in Rocinha as a tour guide since 2007. I have employed people to work with me and give opportunities to people.

This biggest problem I have had is guides who have no sense of loyalty or respect. In the last year I have had to let go two guides because of stealing clients or self promotion behind my back. As a tour operator, I pay better than most. I am not stupid, eventually I find out things from other guides or I get emails directly from clients that tell me whats going on. Clients, especially see the type of work that I am trying to do. So, when they see a guide who is working for me undercutting the hard work I do, they tell me.

Recently I found out from a good friend who has a tour company that the same thing was happening to him. He would give the local guide a tour with "X" amount of guests and later he found out that the guide had told the guests "Hey, if you have friends that want to do a tour, just have them contact me". Therefore cutting out the tour operator. This is not creating good relations between guide and operator. The tour operator let me know that the same was going on behind my back. Basically using my name and reputation of 9 years to make money, not cool. And the people that have done this to me are people that I have helped a lot.
So much for friendship or respect?

I have taken on two new guides who are eager to work and show the Rocinha community to the world. I am hoping this will be a different experience.

Daniel has worked with us before as a helper when we had big groups. And is now studying tourism. So he will be working part time as a guide and going to school.

Jucara who is 20 years old is also studying tourism too. She is a little shy so it might take her a little longer to get into doing tours by herself.

Jose, who has worked with us before will hopefully return after his Christmas job as well.

I also have another guy who is interested. I am hoping that these people will be the new face for showing our awesome community to the world! Can't wait to see how 2017 goes.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Community in Action

Rocinha is the biggest favela in Brazil with aproximately 300,000 people. Favelas are the poor working class areas that can be seen on the hillsides of Rio. There are many here who struggle to earn a basic living, especially considering the minimum wage of about 800 reais a month. So its not surprising to see many initiatives taking place here.  The community helps itself especially around christmas time. This is just one of many things going on inside the favela.

A friend of mine told me about this event happening at the bottom of Rocinha. There was this event called Acao Social "Guerreiros de Corte" (Social Action Warrior Cutters). The event was held at the Pracinha da Roupa Suja where they usually have sports like football, basketball and volleyball. They also hold music shows and other community events there.

The event took place last week. But I have been so busy with other things. This hair cutting event was to help those in need. Bring a kilo of rice, beans, flour or some other dry food and receive a free haircut. I really needed a haircut and this was the perfect opportunity to also help out.

I brought 3 kilos of food since I thought this was more of the value of a hair cut. Normally in Rocinha haircuts at a barber cost anywhere from 12-20 reais. So I spent about this amount on my 3 kilos of food.

This was my barber "Bruce da Sabotagem" who I found out has a barber shop about 10 minutes walk from my house.

Bruce working on my hair. After he cut my hair I offered a tip and he refused and said, "No, Zezinho, this is a community project, so no money". I was impressed by these young men!

There was a line of 3 people before me so I waited and walked around taking photos of all the barbers and the particpants. It was nice to see so much support but I see this often during holidays. The community creating events that support those less fortunate.

Here are some photos from the event.

One of the organizers decided to film the barbers in action.

For the younger kids, Spiderman made an appearance.