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Russ and Harriet in the Peace Corps, part 3: Surprises
Bar Harbor
Part 3, bringing them to their post at Aperecida, some scary bites, and birthday excitement.
CONTENT WARNING: abuse of cats.

Vol. 1 No. 19

October 25 , 1964 - November 1, 1964
Monday half of the girls went to visit the mental and TB hospitals in Cuiaba. They both run on a pitifully small budget but are very clean and the patients look well cared for. The Director of the Mental Hospital has been there for not quite a year and has made a big change. Now some patients are actually sent home. They use shock and insulin therapy but have no drugs and no trained Psychiatrist. However, the people who work there treat the patients well and there appears to be some hope. In fact, it is nicer than some of the back wards in the States. One of our friends, Nathan Smith, is going to be working there. It will be very difficult to introduce any improvements but he has worked in a mental hospital at home and may be able to do something.

The TB hospital has 40 patients, some of them very young, and has a yearly budget of less than $500. Of course they can afford few medicines and so most of their patients come merely to die. Brazil has so many needs one hardly knows where to start first.

In the afternoon we were supposed to have lunch near the health post but things got mixed up so 45 of us piled into 3 jeeps and drove to town for lunch. After lunch some of the girls visited a maternity hospital which they said was as modern as any in the States. I wish I had seen it.

The boys are still owrking on their privy and making home visits. A bunch of us went to see "The Lion" in the evening and really enjoyed it.

Tuesday we finished equipping the bags we use for home visits. In the afternoon we got our final instructions and got paid. Some of the kids leave for their sights Wednesday. We had another thunder storm so of course the lights were off for several hours. Russ and I played Parchesi by candlelight. In the afternoon one of the girls at the school where our classes were, gave us a letter to her aunt, the Mayor's wife, in Aparecida.

Wednesday we got our first small taste of isolation. Two of our married couples left for their sight this morning and the other two went to visit a family they know. We spent the day doing some last minute shipping and splurged to hateaubriand for two for dinner. Then we went to the movies and for our last taste of ice cream for awhile. It is doubtful we will find any made from boiled milk in Aparecida.

Thursday we got up at 4 and were picked up at 5. Our plane was supposed to leave at 6:15 but didn't get off until 7:30. If you have a map you can follow our crazy route - we went from Cuiaba to Caceres to Curumba to Aquitawana to Campo Grande and finally arrived in Tres Lagoas at 2:30. Jeff and Janice are stationed there but we, Cathy and Tony have further to go. We all spent the evening at a really nice hotel. Tres Lagoas is really a lovely town and will be a nice place to go for the week-end. We ate dinner at a restaurant and it took 1 1/2 hours to get served, thereupon the lights went out. The waiter brought candles and these brought the bugs down but the food was fairly good. After that we went to the movies because it was the only building in town with its own generator.

Friday morning at 9:00 we took the "express: bus to Aparecida. The bus is a VW bus and takes 3 instead of 4 hours to make the trip.
The road is a dirt one and in pretty good condition except in a few places where it practically disappears. A part of it is a "divided highway" with rocks and branches used to make the division. There is nothing along the way except for farms and a few scattered houses. We shall really be isolated in Aparacedia with no telephones and poor telegraph service. We shall have to hunt up a ham radio operator next week.

We arrived in Aparecida at 12:30 and are staying at the Novo Hotel. Our address for the time being is: Sr. e Sra. Kay, Novo Hotel,
Caixa Postal 15, Aparecida do Taboada, Mato Grosso, Brazil. We will stay here until we can find a house to rent, hopefully not too long. The hotel is rather nice and relatively bugless. Our room is extremely small but it will do. The food is pretty good and so far we haven't had to use our mosquito nets. We spent the afternoon walking around a part of the town.

Saturday we took our letter to Sra. Maylde Chama, the Mayor's wife.
It seems her husband is not of the Governor's politics but the political chief is so she took us first to meet him, Sr. Paulo Sapra. We had a really hysterical time with him because he doesn't know who we are and is worried about whether or not he will have to pay our salary. We showed him the letter we had for our medical chief but he is skeptical and is going to write to the Governor to find out more about us. We went back to the hotel and later Sr.
Paulo showed up with one of the town's doctors. We finally got through the point that he doesn't have to pay us anything and what the P.C. is but he is still going to write the Governor.

After lunch, the mayor came over to invite us to his house for after lunch. Before going, we stopped at the bus stop to see Cathy and Tony. They stayed in Tres Lagoas an extra day and were on their way to their site Paranaiba - 1 1/2 hours further down the road.

After that we went to visit Sr. Joas (the Preiferto) and Sra. Maylde Chama. They have a very nice house and were very nice to us. Another PCV had visited here two months ago to make a site survey and the mayor remembered him and welcomed us with open arms. It will be very difficult to get things done here between the two political factions but we will have to get friendly with both. The mayor is real gung ho - he has brought electricity to the town, wells and is now planning a complete water system. The latter is waiting for the necessary funds. The people here are very skeptical as to what we can accomplish with no money, but that remains to be seen.

VOL. 1. No. 20

November 1, 1964 to November 7, 1964
Happy November everybody. Well, Sunday we had lunch with the Mayor and his family. They are really very sweet to us. Lunch was very good and Sra. Maylde has offered to help me learn how to cook Brazilian style. After lunch we just talked and I read a short story to their 6 year old daughter. It was in Portugese but translated from the English about the little people (like the ones in the Sunday comics) and I even could understand most of it.
Monday was a church holiday so everything was closed but the Secretary of the Health Post opened the Post for us to see. It has 5 rooms and 2 bathrooms (one for us and one for the public). There is almost nothing there in the way of equipment - a few diarrhea pills, lots of cotton, 2 liters of alcohol and five rolls of toilet paper. Egads!!!!!!

Tuesday we went to the Health Post for an hour and then left for Paranaiba to meet the Chief of our Health Post, Dr. Roche Dias.
The bus trip took 2 1/2 hours on a horrible road. When we got there we got directed to the Health Post but it was closed. A little girl on her way to school took us to her father's store and he took us to where Cathy is staying. Cathy is staying with a very influential lawyer in a beautiful house. They boil water for her, cook food American style and she even has her own room with an electric fan while the children are in school in Sao Paulo. We arrived at lunch time and Sra. Dias (no relation to our doctor) made us eggs and rice Then Cathy and Tony took us to meet Dr. Dias.

Dr. Dias is quite a character and really must be seen to be believed He is huge, fat, toothless and dirty. He wears a diry white suit which looks very much like pajamas and basically just lays around all day. He is the head of the Post in Paranaiba and several surrounding towns (including ours) but does practically nothing. We talked a little with him and he promised to come down on Thursday to settle working conditions for us. We came back to Aparecida on a VW bus and it took only 1 1/2 hours but was just as jumpy. On the way we drove through several large herds of cattle - mostly Indian. They are so thin and wormy here.

Wednesday was another working day (Oh incidentally, the Post is usually only open 8 - 11, M. W. F.) We made a list of our supplies hardly anything worth listing and then I discussed what we would need with Donna Maria, the other visitadora. She seems rather intelligent but has never had any classes and does very little. Sr hardly ever even comes to the post. The other people all come, even though they do nothing but sit around and talk. We visited 2 schools today with some of our co-workers. The children attend school about 3 hours a day and each school has 2-3 such three hour sessions. It looks like every child gets to school for a few years but few more then 3-4 years. Some of the schools are free and the others cost some with the child paying a little and the state paying the rest. There are 6 small schools here and 1 high school.

After visiting the schools, we went to see Sr. Paula, the Sheriff again. Cathy's family had given us a letter to him explaining what the P.C. is so that is all settled. Then we went to see Dona Anna, a friend and director of one of the schools here. There is an empty house next to her and it is possible we may be able to rent it. It has 4 1/2 rooms and a nice yard with well, privy and grape arbor. It needs a lot of work but is sure would be nice to have a place of our own with room enough in it for all our stuff.

In the evening we saw "Pot of Gold" a really ancient Jimmy Stewart Flicker. The theatre here is rather nice and at least is cool and clean. Two seats in it are reserved for the police, probably for Saturday nights when there is a large crowd. Tonight there could not have been more than 15 people there.

Thursday Dr. Roche came to visit us. He wants Russ and I to work all day, even though the others don't have to, and he put us in charge of the Post. We haven't got the vaguest idea what to do yet but perhaps inspiration will strike. One of the schools wants us to teach a Hygiene Class and maybe we can work on this in the afternoon and expand into the other schools. This will be a real chore with our as-yet poor Portugese and we will really have to plan well ahead of time.

This afternoon we met Frei Luis in the Post Office. He is the Padre here and locks like he stepped right out of the Bible in his beard and old brown monk's habit. Only the dirty gym shoes strike a jarring note. He said he would like to take us with him on the 15th when he visits a large farm (presumably for services) and if possible, we will go. It should be most interesting.

Friday we met Dr. Silas. He is a Baptist (one of the workers in the Post thought Russ would like to meet someone of his own religion) and runs a small hospital here. He is essentially the only doctor in town because Dr. Dylson, the Post's doctor is rarely in town (or we haven't even met him yet). Dr. Silas is a very interesting man and he invited us to his home in the evening. We sat and talked with him and Mrs. Silas for 2 hours and really enjoyed ourselves. They treated us like people instead of "Americans". Mrs. Silas has offered me the use of her sewing machine and to show me how to use it. That should be fun because she really is nice. They served cake and tea and we made pigs of ourselves. Brazilians eat many sweets but they are too sweet for us so we get very little sugar here. It was good to have real cake again and Indian tea.

Friday afternoon I went looking for some terry cloth. I found a pattern for a poncho-type robe and thought I would make us each one. We each have only one robe with us and it is awkward when the laundry is out. Well, I couldn't find any terry cloth so I bought some heavy cotton and cut one out for me. It turned out to be too wide so I decided to make a loose shift out of it. Well, my fussy husband decided it didn't fit right so we pinned and sewed and pinned and sewed. The upshot of the whole matter is that Saturday I finished the first dress I have ever made (designed by Mr. Russell of the House of Kay) and still have only one robe. Perhaps our air freight will arrive soon!!

Harriet and Russ


Our good folks' secretary typed No. 19 without looking up on the map the names of those places in Brazil that they mentioned in their flight from Cuiaba to Aparecida - where they are now.

Please let me correct them or you would never find them on any map - let alone Brazil.

They flew from Cuiaba to Caceres to Corumba to Aquidauana to Campo Grande to Tres Lagoas.

Thanks for your patience with my errors.

Evelyn Keller

Vol. 1. No. 21

November 8, 1964 to November 13, 1964
Sunday we mainly wrote letters - 8 to be exact. Monday morning the Postman was thrilled - he loves to mail letters to the U.S. Monday we also started working. Russ started making a sanitary survey of the town with the other fellows. Dona Maria and I visited midwives in order to get the names of mothers with new babies. It didn't go too badly. The best thing that happened Monday was that we found the most wonderful grocery store in town. It has chocolates, gum, ketchup, mustard, spaghetti, canned fruits, hot dogs, sausage, champagne, everything!! We plan to make them very happy when we finally have a house of our own.

Tuesday and the rest of the week Dona Maria and I visited new babies and talked about nutrition with their mothers. Babies here of 6 - 7 months and older are still eating just milk and we have to get them to introduce fruits, eggs, vegetables, etc. into their diets. One mother had a child with diarrhea and we returned the next day to see how he was. He was fine and the mother had tried giving the new baby orange juice. She said the baby just loved it and now she would try other things too. I was really very thrilled.

Wednesday we spent an hour visiting with Dona Anna. We had a lot of fun and laughed a lot. Ercilia, the girl in Cuiaba who wrote us a letter of introduction to the Mayer here, may be coming to live with her in December. There is a vacant home next to Dona Anna and we may be able to rent it but the man who owns it won't be back in town for 10 days. The house has 4 rooms and a nice sized back hard with privy, well and small grape arbor. Dona Anna has a farm and would supply us with milk, cheese, eggs and a housecat and most important of all, her friendship. She speaks a teeny bit of English and we really have fun fooling around with her.

Thursday we visited the hospital and while we were there saw a baby only 6 hours old. The mother was still sleeping but the grandmother promised they would bring the baby to the Post when it is older. A few people even trickle into the Post in the afternoon now. By the way, the hospital just has about 12 rooms and doesn't really do much business. Dr. Silas runs it and right now he is the only doctor in town. Srs. Silas is a nurse and she helps him out. They can't do too much or handle too many people because there are only the two of them.

Friday was an absolutely marvelous day - our mail finally arrived! You see, it is like this. Dr. Nasser, the Head of the State Health Department was supposed to come visit us and stay for 2 days to help us get started. Russ went down to the bus station to meet him and his party and the rest of waited at the Post - and waited and waited - and waited. The man who cleans the Post, Jeronimo had the place just sparkling and we were all nervous. Russ didn't come back for 1 1/2 hours and then he came back alone. It seems Dr. Nasser hadn't planned to stop here at all but go straight on to Paranaiba for a week. But a nurse will be coming here next week for 2 days to help us get set up a bit better. Anyway, Mrs. Hanner (the P.C. Mato Grosso Women's Director and a nurse herself) was with him and had a big bundle of letters for us with her. We really had a ball reading them all. We sort of celebrated in the afternoon by buying Russ a pair of boots and me a birthday present but you'll have to wait until next week to find out about the latter because it isn't my birthday yet. So there!!!!.

Russ: And besides Harriet doesn't know herself!!

Harriet: A funny thing happened this week - we got a letter from Jeff and Janice in Tres Lagoas and the letter took 7 days to make the 2 hour trip. Now do you believe us about the mail situation here?

Russ: A number of you have asked where we are staying and what it is like. We live in the best hotel in town. So would you if you saw the less than best. It is the Novo Hotel, five years Novo to be exact. It is run by a middle aged woman, Dona Ozario Barhasa de Souza. For 30 contos (Cr. $30,000 - about U.S. $18.00) a month apiece we are entitled to three meals a day (if breakfast here can be called a meal. The Portugese expression for breakfast is Cafe do manba - literally, coffee in the morning and that is just about what breakfast is: coffee with boiled milk, and some bread). and a room about 10 feet square. Home sweet home, but you were never like this!! When our baggage arrives (hah!) or our book locker or both, we may have to move out into the hall. The hotel does offer a number of luzury features though. For one, there are sit-down flush toilets - only one of three has a seat, the others are just the porcelain part, but one soon becomes accustomed to that - and running water. The showers also have a hot water tap which is greatly appreciated on a chilly (and we have them) morning. Another pleasant feature of the hotel is its central location, near the main business district, of course. If you walk three blocks east or west you find yourself out of town already.

The food at the hotel is worthy of comment. Lunch and dinner are nearly identical, differing only in dessert and no soup for lunch. The meal, every meal, includes arroz e feijao (rice and beans) the absolute foundation of every Brazilian meal. Potatoes (just another vegetable here, one of several (2 or 3) kinds of squash, loads of tomatoes and lettuce (which we just look at, longingly) several other vegetables whose names I an not sure enough of to tell you. Green beans, maybe green peppers and meat. Every meal, absolutely without exception we have bife (steak) with onions. Once in a while we are served pork or fish, and occasionally ground beef (not at all like hamburger, though), and all of the meat is fried.
From the amount of grease, I would be tempted to call them French-fried, but it is fairly evident that the steaks aren't. They sometimes come with gravy. The beef tastes different here in Brazil too. Because of a general lace of refrigeration, your meat is generally served the same day it is killed. Yes, it is rather gamey and more than occasionally tough. The really good cuts - filet mignon, for example - are quite good and quite tender - but it's still better in the USA. But I still think about those 65¢ Chateaubriand plates in Cuiaba. Mind you, that's expensive here and expensive on our salaries.

Well, that is it for this week. Stay tuned some time.

Harriet and Russ

P.S. For all you who write us, in case you've been wondering,
Caixa Postal does mean Post Office Box. So there!!

P.P.S. And by the way, Dona Maria in our local Avon representative. Can you top that?

P.P.P.S. A story - Dona Ana, the woman whom we hope to live next to was feeling ill last week with a toothache when we went to visit her. She also had a bite on the back of one leg which was somewhat sore. She said it was a mosquito bite she had gotten on her fazenda. The next day it was as big around as a half-dollar, black, red, and swollen. No, she hadn't really seen the mosquito, but what could it have been? The next day she went to Santa Fe do Sul (38 kilometers from here) to see the doctor. The "mosquite" turned out to have been a Jararaca - poisonous snake, pit-viper, cousin to the fer-de-lance. That's why I bought boots today!!!

P.P.P.P.S. Another story - Harriet and I were reminiscing the other night about the Kennedy campaign in 1960 . There was a big rally in Chicago one evening fairly close to the election and it seems that the campus organization "Students for Kennedy” or some such, had organized a large marching contingent from the University of Chicago I, as a loyal worker on campus, and Harriet, as a loyal supporter were both marching - unbeknownst to each other, of course. We went from the Loop to the Coliseum where Kennedy spoke. There weren't enough seats for all the marchers as there were supposed to be, but we all managed to crowd in. Harriet had been right at the front of the parade and she managed to find a seat on the back balcony steps at the right side of the auditorium. I was fairly well back in the m middle and could only find a place on the steps of the back part of the balcony - on the right side of the autidorium. At this rally, Kennedy spoke (not for the first time, of course), of his proposal "Peace Corps" for young people to work with the developing nations, contributing another aspect of America different from the movies.

Four years ago, Harriet and I heard that speech, probably sitting within six feet of each other. Which of us would ever in his wildest imaginings have thought that only four years hence we would be m married to each other, Peace Corps Volunteers, trying to organize a Health Post in a "city” of 5000 people named Aparecida do Taboada in the Mato Grosso region of Brazil? Proposterous - only jaguars and headhunters ever heard of that place!!!!

VOL. 1 NO. 22

November 14 - 20, 1964
HI AGAIN! Well, I got a beautiful new Shaeffer's pen for my birthday. Unlike my other one, it uses regular ink instead of cartridges, the things one assumes will be available the world over!

Saturday we bought me a lovely pair of boots. When we get home will we ever look "Beat". Also visited with Frei Louis. When we left he insisted on giving us some mangoes. We also tried some of what he called Aperatif = a small sip burned all the way down for almost an hour. UGH!

Sunday we had a grand adventure. Frei Louis took us with him to a little tiny church way out in the campo. It is 30 kms away but takes an hour to get there. You go until the road gets too horrible to travel and then a little further (on the road). The church has a thatch roof and as yet no walls but the bricks are there. When we arrived, Frei Louis rang a large hand bell and someone went off to get a table. People and dogs began arriving soon after. We were introduced all around very proudly. Frei Louis put on his vestments and explained all about us. Then there was a little singing and a long discussion about the bricks. Then everyone got on their knees for what seemed like hours and the services started. As he was finishing, Frei Louis took off his vestments, folded everything away, praying all the time, We left very quickly. One gets the impression he doesn't like this monthly chore!

On the way back we stopped at a small restaurant at the crossroads to be introduced to more people. It is quite the thing to have American friends here and everyone introduces us to everyone else. The whole trip up and back took three hours but the woods here are exhausting to ride. But we got to see some very beautiful country-side and it was a great adventure. Maybe we willgo again some time.

We have made quite a hit with our pictures of Yum Yum's kittens. Some people are amazed, really amazed that American cats look just like Brazilian cats. I wonder if they realize that one half of the products available here are made by American companies and are the same in the United States.

Wednesday we went to see an ancient French film but it was so bad we left in the middle of it.

Friday Dona Cecilia arrived. She is a public health nurse with the State Department of Health in Mato Grosso. She is wonderful and a wonderful break in the monotony but must leave Saturday. She will help us with administrative problems and brings news of friends in other cities. It turns out that Sra. Silas was her teacher at Nursing school so we went visiting. While we were there Sra. Silas gave me 2 issues of Life to read (in English). She uses the pictures in her Bible classes. Gold from heaven!

Today is Russ's birthday, I bought him a huge cow's horn which he wanted. It will really look keen in our apartment when we get back. I'll finish this now and let him comment later. Got to catch the mail - it only leaves once a day.

VOL. 1 NO. 23

November 21, 1964 - November 27, 1964
Hi there! Russ was going to write this for me today but you see - well yesterday we were horsing around and I grabbed his hand and it is rather difficult to write with a sprained right thumb. Ah! young love!!

First of all our congratulations to Diane on becoming a Mrs. Sorry we couldn't have been there.

Saturday morning Dona Cecilia and I worked very hard. She decided to stay till Monday in order to get some money for us at the State Financial Office. (it is closed on the week-end). In the afternoon we visited with the Silas' again and had an absolute feast there. I helped make it so I knew everything was washed and clean and could eat it all. We had a salad of tomatoes, cucumbers, peas, pineapple and hot dogs. Then there was chicken - ala-king on rice and cocoanut cake for dessert. Man, how we eat when we get a chance like this? In the evening I took Cecilia to meet Dona Anna and we visited there for awhile.

Oh yes, thank you all for the lovely birthday and Thanksgiving cards. We received a whole bunch of them Monday and really had a time opening them all. Also received our issue of the Volunteer Monday. I never thought I could appreciate an English magazine so much. We really devoured it. But no letters since then - are you still there? I know - it's just the lousy postal system here.

Sunday morning Alfreda Silas (age 9) visited with Cecilia and us. I think he has a little crush on her. I taught him how to play tic tac toe and we also played checkers but he cheats at the latter - mainly because he's all confused about the rules. In the afternoon we returned the visit and were treated to more cake and jello. Dr. Silas took us on a tour of the hospital. His main business is in births and soccer injuries and that's about all he is equipped for. Alfredo taught us a new game - sort of a sophisticated and complicated form of Tic-Tac-Toe. It's fun.

In the evening we saw"Cape Fear"with Gregory Peck and Robert Mitchum. It was very good, very scary. This week they are showing lots of good movies.

Monday Dr. Rocha showed up for a few minutes. There is powdered milk waiting for us in Tres Lagoas and if a way can be found to get it here, we will give it out at the post. Dona Cecilia and I spent the morning shopping - got stuff to demonstrate how to prepare milk, water filter, soap, alcohol, merthiolate, argerol (like silver nitrate) and stuff. We're now set up to give immunizations here and even have a few vials of DPT. Just have to go out and drag in some customers.

Dona Cecilia left in the afternoon but she left enough work to do here for weeks. It's great. Saw "Hangman's Knot" with Randolph Scott in the evening. Simply horrible - they even goofed the credits up.

Wednesday morning I washed my first newborn baby. I don't think I accomplished much as the mother was leary about the whole idea. So was Dona Maria. I was scared to death. After work I went to talk with Dona Lola - she is the head of the "Children' Aid Bureau" in the City. She has ways of obtaining money for food and supplies for the poor here. I am trying to wrangle a baby scale for the Post out of her but she doesn't know if it's possible. Money is hard right now. While I was there, she played some beautiful bird calls for me - birds of the Amazon. Really unusual and beautiful. They also played a Beatle record and I almost cried from home-sickness. Isn't that ridiculous!!!

We visited with Dona Anna before dinner and the silliest thing happened. Though we live right around the corner from her, she insisted on driving us home. We took a drive around the city and then home for us. She is so sweet and we have so much fun with her. Wednesday "Three Musketeers" in the evening = predictably corny but enjoyable. Oh Yes! this is our anniversay - 2 months in Brazil as of the 25th.

Wednesday Dona Maria was sick so I visited by myself. I can really understand pretty well now and it's fun visiting with babies all morning. I'm considered a real expert on babies around here and have to spend a lot of time studying - Dr. Spock and such. I have a feeling that pretty soon they're going to get around to asking some hard questions.

After work visited the family who owns the pharmacy across from the Post - they served us a delicious sweet cold rice pudding covered with cinnamon and biscuits. The biscuits were almost exactly like kichel - a special treat we used to get at the Jewish bakery when I was younger. We're probably going to come home even fatter than when we left! Got to stop visiting so much.

Thursday I washed another baby and things went much better. The parents were really interested and the father sat through the whole thing too. There is a problem here with cradle cap because they insist on dousing the babies' headd with baby oil (Johnson and Johnson, by the way). So I preached about that a little.

I feel the mother's belly's to see if the uterus is firm and their breasts for lumps but I feel like a darn fool when I do it - I'm just not sure what I'm looking for. Hope enough "normals" will teach us to recognize trouble when it comes. Saw "Jet Over The Atlantic" with George Raft and Guy Madison. A really great adventure story complete with passenger jet over the Atlantic, poison gas, crew dead, escaped convict, et al. Russ is rather discouraged with my poor taste in movies but I loved it.

Spent all day trying to think up a good way to celebrate Thanksgiving and finally found one in the evening. There are several huge bugs that live in our closet - bureau and tonight we finally managed to kill one. For all thy gifts, dear Lord, we are thankful.

Friday I discovered my first really filthy baby. The umbilical cord had dropped off yesterday and he was covered with the remains of it and smelled fouly. I cleaned out the belly button with cotton and alcohol (a job in itself) and recommended a bath. Afterwards Dona Maria commented that even though they were poor, they certainly could keep the baby clean. Everyone else manages. Maria is really getting quite hep to things. She knows what is right and is getting enough at ease to sometimes ask questions, correct me, or discuss procedures. Everyday we do a little more and every day it gets a little better.

Russ's survey continues and the city proper should be completed in a week or two. After that he's not sure what he's going to do. Have to wait for the results of the survey to decide on that.

All is well here. The weather has turned hot again but we've had rain clouds 3 afternoons running so it should cool off soon. Take care. Russ says Hi and if I'll leave him be, he'll write you all next week.

Harriet and Russ


November 18 - December 1, 1964 No. 24
Now it can be told. All right everyone, dig out the last issue of the Newsletter (11/21 - 11/27) and reread it. Now, let me tell you, it's all a pack of lies. For one thing, I did not sprain my thumb. For another, I wasn't even here with Harriet.

Wednesday, November 18. A nice quiet afternoon, just closed up the health post for the day and walking home. In front of the post office we saw six to seven little boys, maybe ten years old, standing in a ten meter circle with big rocks in their hands, and in the middle of the circle was a little kitten. I went up to one of the kids and grabbed the rock from him, saying "Nao, nao." I went over to the poor little kitten, who was shaking from fright. I picked it up. Whereupon, it latched with its teeth onto my left thumb and refused to let go for five to six seconds. Talk about ingratitude!!. I freed my bleeding thumb, threw the feline bitch onto the ground, and started to walk away. At this point a little bell started ringing inside my head, saying "that cat is acting pretty funny. Real sick, Partially paralyzed. Trembling all over. And rather inordinately hostile. Maybe it has RABIES.

So, following all proper procedures and our instructions, Harriet and I caught the cat in a towel and searched for a box to keep it in for observation. We ended up with (and it's rather funny when you stop to think about it) a kitten inside a birdcage. We took the little beggar home to our bedroom for the ten day vigil and telegraphed Dr. Ron Castellino, in Rio for instructions. We planned to leave Aparecida the next day for Santa Fe do Sul, a large town across the river in the state of Sao Paulo, where they always have rabies vaccine. The problem, of course was whether we should bring the cat along or not. (It was now refusing to eat or drink - another Rabies symptom).

Thursday, November 19. Well, the cat problem resolved itself.
The cat died during the night. I took the body, already stiff with rigor mortis, into the back yard of the hotel and removed the cat and its towel from the cage. I had to send the cat's head packed in ice, to Rio for examination; so now I had to procure the head. Let me say now, from personal experience that it is not nearly as easy a task as it might seem to decapitate a small kitten with a large, dull axe. It's easy enough to break the spine but cutting through the fur in another matter. You can't take a really good swing for fear you'll miss the neck and mash the brain. And little swings just don't do the job. I finally managed it by using my foot as a hammer and my axe as a chisel and in that way separated the head from the rest of the body- Wrap the head in a plastic bag, and there's just a cat corpse, sem cabeca to dispose of--and I'd better dispose of it because it's potentially full of rabies viri. I doused the cat and towel with kerosene and applied a match.

If you've never seen a funeral pyre before, and I rather doubt: that most people have, it's an impressive thing to watch. And doubly (or perhaps triply) so when you've created it yourself You watch as a little kitten with pretty, tiger-striped grey fur turns into an even smaller mass of blackened, carbon-coated, protoplasm, preserving its shape if not its identity. You know that it was dead to begin with, but there is, nonetheless, an indescribable finality, almost horrible, when you burn the body.

Philosophical musings aside, I still had to bury the body so that none of the neighborhood cats could feast on the cooked meat. I dug a hole about half a meter deep, digging up a dead chicken in the process, and interred both cat and chicken, RIP.

By now it is 5:00 A.M. and the bus to Santa Fe leaves at 6:30 and we still need some ice and a box for the cat's head. Harriet and Afranio, one of the fellows from the post, managed to round up both and so we were on our merry little way. Bus to the Rio Paranaiba, ferry across the river (I was ready to swear it would either sink or capsize), and another onibus to Santa Fe, arriving about 8:30.
Yes, indeed, the health post there did have rabies vaccine, but there were several indications - none of them explicit - that this vaccine was made from horse serum. And while I don't know that I am allergic to it, it is far too easy to become sensitized, and anyway I don't have that much faith in the town doctor to treat anaphylactoid shock. So I sent another message to Rio via police radio telegraph, asking for more instructions. Our only immediate task remained to pack the cat's head well and good in ice, and send it to Rio. We spent several hours walking all over that silly town trying to locate ice and packing, and then we tried to nail the box shut, the top kept splitting off. But the Peace Corps Volunteer
never says "die" so we crated the cat successfully. By now, of course the ice was already melting and dripping, so it was rush, rush, rush to the railroad station. Yes, they could send it. Oh, it would take about four days.

It seemed perfectly obvious to me that five pounds of ice would not last four days in Brazil - not outside a freezer. I was faced with a DECISION: the next train for Sao Paulo left in three hours, and
I would either have to take the cat's head myself, on the train to Sao Paulo, and thence to Rio, or forget about examining the head and take the whole series of shots anyway - quite possibly in Rio.
So, after much soul searching (well, not too much) and a tearful parting, I was on my way to Sao Paulo. It would perhaps be appropriate to mention here that there had not been time to return to Aparecida for clothes or anything such, so I was on my voyage with 1 1/2 liters of mineral water, one box of Papel yes (Kleenex, in Brazil), one book entitled O Falso Planeta, and the clothes on my back. And one cabeca do gato, em gelo (need I translate?)

The train left Santa Fe about four o'clock in the afternoon. It took nearly 17 hours to travel the 600 kilometers (less than 400 miles). I traveled first class, the seats didn't recline, but they were comfortable until sleeping was contemplated. It was a very unsatisfactory night, on the whole. The cat spent the night in the refrigerator, and as far as that went, I might as well have. It would probably have been warmer than the car I was in.

'Long about 8:30 the next morning we pulled into Sao Paulo. I carried my dripping package out to the street and took a cab to the American Consulate - General. This provoked a long involved discussion with the cab driver as to where, indeed, was the American Consulate-General, but we finally found our way there. Suffice it to say that after about ten minutes, Kyle Barnes, the Administrative Assistant to the Consul, bought me a plane ticket to Rio out of his own pocket, and sent one of his assistants to drive me to the airport and stay with me until I got on my plane.

There are, during the day, flights every half hour between Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo. So I suppose I was just unlucky when my plane was delayed for an hour; at 11:30 my 10:30 plane took off. Arrived Rio at 12:20, strolled into the American Embassy and asked for the Peace Corps Doctor.

"He's out to lunch now, he'll be back in an hour. You can wait over there if you like."

"Well then, is there a refrigerator or a freezer on the premises?"

"What do you want it for??

"Ma'am, in this box I have the head of a cat that bit me yesterday. In all probability the cat was rabid, but it has to be examined. The head is packed in what was once ice but, I fear, is no longer; the head is probably rotting at this very moment. If it decomposes beyond a certain point, the necessary tests cannot be made. Is there a refrigerator or a freezer on the premises?"

I found my way to the Embassy Health room where (a) they were expecting me, and (b) they had a refrigerator. I unpacked my pride and joy, discovered that there were several pieces of ice left, and consigned the remaining remains to the nether regions of the freezer.

The rest of the day was spent in getting money, getting the cat's head to a veterinary hospital, and incidentally, getting me some clothes. I managed to borrow shirts, socks, and underwear from one of the PCV's in Rio. I checked in at the Hotel Florida, where we had stayed before, and discovered that prices had risen some 20-25% in the intervening seven weeks.

P.S. Today was my birthday.

The next day I found some books in English, and a roommate. Seventeen new PCV's arrived Saturday morning, including one, Steve Belser who had trained with us but had had to stay behind for a knee operation. Steve and I formed a real Mutt and Jeff team -- Steve is 6'10" tall. With usual Peace Corps efficiency, he had three days' notice to leave the US. I ran into another Steve in Rio, Steve and Betty Ussach. They had had enough of the Mato Grasso and were trying to get a transfer to Rio or resign. They resigned as Warren Fuller wouldn't grant the transfer. I wasn't really surprised they left, but it was rather upsetting. They have to pay their own way back, too. Brazil 12's first casualties.

I took Steve B. out around Rio a little in the afternoon, and it was really something the way he collected stares. Brazilians generally run a little shorter than Americans, but Steve was really startling. Everywhere we went, heads turned, people muttered "Puxa vida!", and gathered around us. As Steve was handing out autographs, the Cariocas shouted "Quantos metros?" and were somewhat stunned when Steve replied in Spanish-accented Portugese, "2 metres, 10 centimetros." "Dois metros" they mumbled to themselves in dis-belief, shaking their heads. . We were. dragged to a nearby bar and pulled into conversation with some rather unpleasant looking characters. We couldn't manage to escape for half an hour, during which time I had to discuss the following topics (quite typical of the things Brazileiros ask Americans about): John F. Kennedy, Racism (yes, that's what they always call it) in the US, Caryl Chessman, the Brazilian Revolution, Fidel Castro, Martin Luther King, Futebol (soccer to those of you who don't speak Portugese) and don't we have it in the US, and why don't we know about any of Brazil's great jogadores de futebol, Basquetbol (which they know we have), and the Alianca Para O Progreso, which I must be a part of. A rather exhausting conversation, but they usually are if they're less than half silence.

The next day Steve, Steve, Betty and I went out to a favela (slum) with Bill Brown, who also trained with us at UW-M. Bill, incidentally is getting along just great in Rio. Since he's negro and speaks perfect Portugese, the people all think he's from Bahia. He tells of one day in a favela when a woman came up to him and said, referring to some PCV's who had been there earlier, "There sure are a lot of foreignors around here today." Anyway, the five of us went to meet a friend of Bill's who would take us to see macumba, that strange religion which is compounded from Roman Catholicism and African Voodoo practices. I, of course couldn't go because I had to report to the Embassy for my daily shot.

The time in Rio passed rather slowly for me. I found it quite strange to be alone with nothing to do each day except eat, sleep and go to the Embassy once a day for another cc of rabies vaccine (duck embryo type). For those of you who might ever want to know, it doesn't hurt nearly so much in the belly as in the arm. And I haven't cried yet! I saw several movies, all for the second time, as there really wasn't much paying then in Rio. At one theater where I went, there had been abomb explosion several days earlier, two people killed, many injured, and 68 people arrested in connection with it. The night I was there, halfway through the picture ,the lights came on, the screen darkened, and there was a big commotion in the balcony, which took about five minutes to quiet down, after which they resumed the film. The first thing that sprang to my mind was that it was related to the bombing but I don't know.

Tuesday I found myself being used as an example of what to do when an animal bites you, to the newly arrived Volunteers. Wednesday morning Steve left for Cuiaba, leaving me alone for the one day until I found another roommate. Things were rather confused, and no one could say how long I was likely to remain in Rio. I wanted them to Bring Harriet in and they were willing to do it, even, but not until they knew how long I would be there myself. It would have been rather silly if our planes had crossed. The first result from the cat's head came in, negative. Dr. Rosenfeld reasoned, and I wasn't going to argue it, that I should take the whole series of 14 shots because he didn't care to hang a life on the basis of one pathologist in a laboratory. The laboratory said that they would have a second result in a couple of days, so Drs. Rosenfeld and Castellino were waiting on that before they would let me return to Aparecida with the rest of the vaccine for Harriet or the local medico to give me. Waiting, waiting, waiting. I did finally get to the top of Corcovado, and it was a revelation. As you may remember, or have gathered, Harriet and I didn't care very much for Rio. It's dirty, smelly, crowded, and although it takes pretty pictures, seems basically not very pretty at all. But the view from the top of Corcovado makes all that seem petty. I will say, after careful consideration that I have never seen anything so breathtakingly beautiful. I wished I had my camera along, but at the same time I realized that it would take something like Cinerama, with maybe a 270° angle of view to begin to do justice to the scene. I don't really know how to describe the vista. The way the city lies among the mountains, reaching partway up the slopes,the ever present clouds that alternately cover and reveal the green and brown peaks. The islands just off the shore that couldn't be real, that look like giant shark's fins, or maybe a series of tremendous roman noses jutting out of the ocean. And finally, the ocean itself, the most mystical blue I have ever seen, with only the barest flecks of white, and it extends without interruption until it turns into the sky, and yet there is no separation, only a hazy, ethereal region where the magic transformation takes place. Before that day I could never understand why anyone would ever want to go to Rio. Now I think I do.

Thursday, November 26, 1964, was, as history has recorded, Thanksgiving. And how does a lonely Peace Corps Volunteer in Rio de Janeiro celebrate? By having a turkey dinner, with all the usual trimmings, thanks to the graciousness of his friendly Peace Corps Representative, Warren Fuller. This graciousness extended to every PC Volunteer and staff member in Rio, it might be noted. When it was over I got my first bonde (streetcar) ride. (The name comes from the fact that the money to build them was raised by a bond issue.) We completely filled the car, and some almost had to walk but everyone did get on allright. Just before the end (or the beginning, depending how you look at it) the end of the line the bonde passes over what looks like a Roman aqueduct, a good 50 yards off the ground. It looks rather exciting from afar, but isn't much when you're on it. Utterly safe.

Friday we discovered that the second result wouldn't be in for another week or two, so Dr. Ron decided to let me go home. So I rushed around Rio, getting plane tickets before the Embassy closed, and then went to the Veterinary hospital to pick up the written report of the first result. That meant that I spent over an hour in a taxicab, running up nearly Cr $4,000 in fare. Everything settled. I just had to wait around. I was to fly to Sao Paulo, and then fly from Sao Paulo to Tres Lagoas , four hours south of Aparecida do Tabuado by bus. The plane to Tres Lagoas left Sao Paulo at 5:30 Sunday morning, and there wasn't time to fly from Rio the same morning. So I spent the night in Sao Paulo's Congonhas airport.
I met a negro couple from Detroit, lawyer Mr. and Doctor Mrs. returning from an internal medicine conference in Buenos Aires. He spent last summer as a civil rights lawyer in Jackson, Miss. He said that he had promised himself that if he managed to get through the summer intact, he would give himself a vaction and get out of the country.

I got into Tres Lagoas, the fourth stop on the line, allright, only a little sick to my stomach. At the airport I ran into Dona Cecilia who was getting on the plane I'd gotten off to go to Cuiaba. We talked for a few minutes, and then she left one way and I the other.

I stopped in on Jeff and Janice Glenn, who were just moving into their new house. It's nice, but horribly expensive (Cr.$50.000
a month - 1/3 their living allowance). Finally the bus left and I was on the last leg of the trip. I arrived in Aparecida about 6:30 to find Harriet not at home. I looked for her without success, so begat to eat dinner. Three minutes later I hear a whoop, look up, and see (Guess Who?) running toward me.

After dinner I offered my gifts (Cr. $16,000 worth of books, magazines. a stuffed dog, and a Portugese Scrabble game) to Har, and then she gave me something------my tenth rabies shot.

The next day, the one after Sunday, was Monday. Back to work, after my forced "vacation" Oh well, that's the way the ball bounces... the cookie crumbles... the cat bites...

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Thanks, Alexx, for this time capsule--it's been fascinating. It's amazing how they threw barely-trained volunteers into dangerous situations and gave them such great responsibilities, public health and civil engineering! For that matter, think how quickly they worked up the training regimen, recruited the psychologists, the other experts. . .

I've heard that today, PCV's are barely allowed out of the capital of wherever they're posted, and that they're mainly teachers or in other "safe" jobs. And still, many countries no longer accept these volunteers. Have you found any studies of the impact made in those first few Peace Corps years?

"Have you found any studies of the impact made in those first few Peace Corps years?"

Haven't looked for any, so no :-)

When I finish putting these up, I do plan on dropping a line to various Peace Corps folks, on the off chance they're interested.

Looks like they do keep archived narratives--with and without videos.

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