My Journey Part 1: Sao Paulo
Thirty years ago, Kleiton Albano was born to Christina Albano in one of Brazil’s less glamorous post codes; a hilltop Favela located on the outskirts of the city. Sixteen years on there I was, Daniel Keegan, living in a middle-class suburb of Surrey, drinking tea and playing croquet. With a new identity and place to call home, you’d be forgiven for thinking I was part of some witness protection scheme! I had, in fact, been adopted by Tom and Joyce Keegan, along with three brothers, one of whom I would embark on a journey of self-discovery with when my parents paid for us to fly home and find out what Brazil was all about.
My younger brother Oli and I started out on the 11-hour flight from Heathrow to the city of our birth, Sao Paulo. Upon arrival, we met up with Aunty Vali, a Mother Theresa-like figure who had acted as translator for our parents during the adoption process, and who would now be our tour guide. Stepping out of the airport and taking in my surroundings I came to the realisation that this was more than just another holiday in the sun.
Ironically, Sao Paulo is actually the richest state in Brazil and hosts many high profile events such as the Brazilian Grand Prix and Sao Paulo Fashion Week, which run annually. Being less fashion conscious than most (especially with our Adidas Poppers on) Aunty Vali organised a trip to an event a bit more up our street and one that is embedded in the DNA of every Brazilian — a football match involving Sao Paulo’s top team, Corinthians.
Tickets cost as little as 30 Brazilian real (6.50 GBP), and although the team always draws in huge crowds, you’re still likely to get in if you haven’t pre-booked. Oli and I blended in with the 25,000 of our fellow Paulistanos, singing (miming rather) and chanting alongside Aunty ‘Mother Theresa’ Vali, who we thought required exorcizing after seeming some-what possessed by a football demon for 90 minutes!
The most humbling experience of our stay in Sao Paulo was our visit to the Favela in which we spent our formative years. Backpackers around South America would attest to the fact that the poverty level in England can’t compare to that of these countries and, to get a bit of perspective in life, a visit to one of the Favelas is a must. Television and computer games, such as Ross Kemp on Gangs and Call of Duty, have done these areas of intrigue an injustice by representing them as overrun with gangs, but the locals we met such as Leandro, were nothing but welcoming and engaging. A local economy was evident with artists selling their work, farmers selling produce and musicians busking throughout the interconnecting alleyways which make up the Favela. However, I’d advise booking an official tour. Firstly because of the language barrier and secondly you will more than likely get lost (there’s no Chessington World of Adventures style maps given out upon entry!)
I’ve never been someone who’s longed to trace my roots and establish why I’d been given up, but visiting the Favela left me overwhelmed with thoughts of my past and questions about my biological family. Back then it was a needle in a haystack job but if I ever do get the burning desire to have my questions answered, Mark Zuckerberg just made the world a much smaller place!
After five days in Sao Paulo we’d done everything we wanted to and duly said goodbye to one city and hello to the next.