I fled New York, and now I live in Rocinha, Brazil, the biggest favela in Latin America. The other night as my friend showed me that an alley I always passed without a second glance led to my house, he said “E um laberinto” and laughed, repeating it, “Um laberinto.” Every path draws me deeper into the catacomb, the walls of the houses leaning in til you see only a jittery little strip of sky snarled in wires, and every window opens to another window, another wall. Impossibly narrow staircases climb every which way, in the minute gap between the exposed brick walls of neighboring buildings, or spiraling up through a ragged hole in the floor of the deck above. Trees grow out of barbershop walls, chains buried deep in their graying bark. Look down any street and you see a riot of textures, the bright peeling paint and green-veined stick-on marble and cobwebby concrete of dozens of kitchens and living rooms. Everything wreathed in the dense, sticky dust that I instinctively associate with the open sewer flowing in its little channel through the heart of my neighborhood. Steeply descending walkways take you past houses cluttered with birdcages and rusting bikes and through a tangle of sounds and smells. Alleys so narrow you have to turn sideways to get through open unexpectedly on tiny plazas where old guys eat blackish acai ice cream and play cards at chessboard tables, shoulder to shoulder with their stripped down motorcycles. Other common sights that bends in the road reveal: little packs of sleek dachshunds chasing each other, guys selling hot dogs (the Portuguese name is an exact translation) bedecked with quail eggs, mini French fries, and corn, parents barricading the street and dragging out an enormous trampoline (where do they store it?) for their kids, who bounce to obscene baile funk, kids fishing in the sewer canal, and everyone taking like ten minutes to get out of the way of a dairy products truck that is almost exactly as wide as the street. At one tortuous twist in the street that cuts a jagged line across the whole neighborhood, a square concrete framework, the remains of a collapsed house, frame a postcard panorama: the glittering hotels and beaches of Ipanema, and the Christ statue rising out of the dense greenery on its silvery peak. Only then do I realize how high we are above the city and how steep the hill is, how stubbornly the houses have to hang on to their stone slopes to keep from sliding into the jungle.