I grew up in Santo André, an industrial city located about 20 km from São Paulo, and my childhood neighbourhood was far from charming or friendly. There weren’t any cute shops or cafes around, the kids playing in front of my house were always the bullies, who’d throw guava at me and my dog, and the adults were always grumpy and yelling. That neighbourhood had a massive influence on the way I perceived life during my childhood and teenage years. I spent a lot of time locked in my bedroom, reading books, listening to music, and dreaming of escaping that reality.
Soon after my 21st birthday, I was given the opportunity to move house for the first time, and after that, I moved houses many times (19 times to be precise) and I experienced a huge variety of different realities.
For a while there were the friendly English neighbours in West Hampstead, who’d invite me for a barbecue or a jug of Pimm’s in their garden during the summer; at some point, I lived in the vibrant and cool East London, where I would wake up in the morning, go to work, and have a chat with the cleaning staff who worked at the night club next door (they would tell me the funniest stories about their job and we'd laugh so hard); there was also the peaceful neighbourhood in South Brazil, where my only neighbours were the grass, the sand, the sound of the waves, and an occasional Argentinian tourist trying to find their way to the beach... And there were so many other areas, in different cities with so many different people and stories.
Currently, I live in one of my favourite areas in São Paulo, called Butantã. I moved here in December 2021 and, despite being here for such a short period of time (and despite the pandemic factor), I feel there is a real community vibe. There are lots of local shops and restaurants around here (only a few of the big brands can be seen on our main street). People say hello to one another (which is very unusual to see in frantically busy São Paulo). There is also a square with lots of trees, a playground for kids, two old fridges that have been turned into public bookshelves, and a lovely food and crafts street market which happens once a month... and there are people from all over Brazil living in the area.
Despite the rough beginning in the soulless neighbourhood where I grew up, I am very grateful to have had (and carry on having) the opportunity to meet people and experience cultures from all over the world. Each experience was unique and memorable and contributed to my formation as an individual. Each of them has taught me something and helped me become a tolerant, respectful person, capable of seeing beauty in such a diverse world.