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Russ and Harriet in the Peace Corps, part 4: Holidays
Bar Harbor
Episode 4, going through Christmas and New Years.


November 27 - December 9, 1964 No. 25

From reading Harriet's diary, I have come to the conclusion that toward the end of my little sojourn in Rio, she was getting some small bit worried, and some large bit homesick. She ended up the Friday after writing the last newsletter by, guess what? seeing another movie, "Hell Below Zero" or some such thing. She visited with Ana who has four new kittens in her house. She also managed to give three (count 'em, three) DPT shots in the post. Saturday she spent cleaning her maleta (visitadora's bag ), making Christmas cards (you should have received them by now...aren't they purty?), and doing other busywork.

Sunday, of course, as as was already explained to you all, I returned. 'Nuff for Sunday.

Monday night we attended graduation ceremonies at the Instituto Rondon, a small Grupo which is run by Dr. Silas and Dona Geny. All of five students were graduated. The school isn’t yet accredited by the state, so the diplomas were granted through Ana's school. After the ceremonies, we saw some filmstrips. First there was "Joao and Maria", which was more or less the "Hansel and Gretel" story, then a religious film, and then one detailing the fable of the Grasshopper and the Ants, but here the grasshopper was substituted by a bug called a cigarra, which sings.

The next event of any significance, except for some more DPT shots, happened Wednesday. We visited in the morning with Sr. Jorge, of the Grupo, and explained to him our plans (such as they are) for health classes next year. We asked him how much biology we might expect our students to know, and the answer was none. Oh well! We explained to Sr. Jorge our problem with our 800 kilos of milk being in Tres Lagoas and no way of getting it, and he said he would talk with Paulo Sarra (remember him? - the chief of Police, who doesn't much like us), and they would try and arrange a jeito (untranslateable Portugese word roughly meaning "solution" or "way around". Related in meaning to the English "jury-rig".) In the afternoon, we received a visit at the post by Sr. Jorge and three of his teachers, inviting us to their graduation ceremonies, and to a Grand Ball, at which there will be crowned a Queen of the Grupo. Will be crowned by Harriet, that is. This evening Jerry Teaff (spelling?) from Paranaiba stopped by, on his way home from Tres Lagoas to pick up another volunteer. He brought us our air freight. In case the newsletters from the last one one seem longer or perhaps make better sense, it's because my Mother can now read what we write --our typewriter was in the freight. It survived with only a busted zipper in the carying case. The very heavy duty cardboard box we had packed our stuff in, however, was on its last lap. I don't think it would have lasted for one more ride.

Evenings, Harriet and I have been lately playing Scrabble with the set I brought back from Rio. We tried it in Portugese a couple of times, but it just didn't work out. So now we play it in English, but there are problems. The distribution of the letters is all wrong, as are the point values and there are no K's, W's or Y’s. But there are two A'.s and two C;s worth 7 and 8 points respectively. As I say, it changes the game.

Saturday we priced sheets and sheeting material. We couldn't figure out why sheets ready made were cheaper than the same amount of material, until we went back to the store. "Cr$4.645 for two sheets?" It turns out that he meant one sheet for two people (double bed type). So common sense is once more justified. We visited with Ana and went to see the people who own the house we want to rent. As of now, it is definitely ours. Ana said it would be finished in 15 - 26 days, so maybe by the middle of January ..... We went to a wedding in the evening, one of the teachers from Ana's school. The bride wore the usual white, but had a train which must have been 25 feet long. That was for the religious ceremony. Everyone then retired to her house for the reception and the civil ceremony. This time, the bride wore pink with dark green gloves. The cake was fruitcake, but instead of being built up, as is done in the States, it was built out; must have been 2 1/2 feet in diameter, with a small second layer. We noticed an interesting difference between this weeding and ours. Ours was directed by the piano player, this one by the photographer. So see, Brazil is just as "civilized" as the US.

Sunday. Today was a great event. We finally saw a movie IN COLOR here in Aparecida. The first minute was in black and white, and we had just about lost hope. It was the "Hanging Tree" with Gary Cooper, and was bad, bad, bad. It is so seldom that you see so many cliches in one movie. But unfortunately, bit wasn't bad enough to be really interesting, like, for example, "Plan Nine From Outer Space". Today we also received a visit from a man we had met in Paranaiba, who works for DNER (Departamento Nacional de Epidemias Rurais - rurais is plural for rural, so I'll let you translate for yourselves). They will be in the municipio (corresponds to county) for two weeks giving yellow fever vaccinations, and sundry other medications against worms. Jerry Teaff passed through and left us 118 kilos of milk. We had told him about our plight, and when he was in Tres Lagoas, he had looked for it for us. Well, he couldn't find it, but he did find a minister who had some he could spare. So now we have some milk. I've started making some posters about how to preapre the stuff for babies of different ages.

Monday our Avon things arrived, so now Russell can have some after shave lotion. In the afternoon, we were really busy and Harriet gave 8 DPT shots. What with all the fuss, and things to do, we were at the post until after 5, over 2 hours later than usual. Tuesday was a holiday, a church holiday, and so the post and most of the stores intown were closed. The Yellow Fever men worked, however, and vaccinated 581 people. Harriet and I put on our boots and went for a tramp in the campo behind the town. Getting through the barbed wire was easy enough, only one ripped hem the whole day, but then it got worse. On relatively high ground there were two horses and a foal grazing. The foal was the nicest piece of horse flesh I've seen in Brazil. We soon got onto lower ground, and this was bad. Low ground and high water-table makes for swampy conditions, which is what we encountered. Very uneven ground, hummocky, extremely difficult to keep a footing on, and, unsurprisingly, we both lost same on a number of occasions. I, of course, was worried more about my camera than the state of my appearance, and so I ended up with a rather wet and muddy backside. We walked maybe a hundred yeards through six foot high grass until we could see no point in continuing, whereupon we turned around and stumbled our way back. We came across a little patch of flowers, vaguely like daisies but all colors, and saw two monstrous butterflies...bigger than a lot of birds I've seen. In all we spent only about an hour in the campo, but when we got out I was really exhausted. It might also be noted that the sun was at its fiercest.

We came back to work today, Wednesday, but didn't get too much done. The Yellow Fever men are still here, and the post is swamped with people. The Brazilians will do almost anything for a shot. They've already vaccinated about 300 people so far today (it is 2:30 P.M. as I write this) and are just starting up again for the afternoon. Their technique is rather interesting. They fill a 10 cc syringe with vaccine, and pump it out to the people, 1/2 cc per arm, one arm per person. They use a fresh needle for each person, and since they don't aspirate, there's little danger of Hapatitis from the syringes. They take the needles off a metal wheel, and when they've filled a wheel with used needles, it goes back into the boiling water. The speed with which they work, and the facility of needle jabbing, is really something to see. I am, however, just as glad that I won't need another yellow fever shot for 5 1/2 years.. if then.

Harriet has given a few more DPT's today and seems to be improving with practice. I noticed the same thing when she was giving me my last five rabies shots. But the first one of those.... People have been coming in constantly and asking for milk, but we just can't give it out yet. Formerly it was handed out in 2 kilo boxes, about 4 - 5 weeks supply for a baby, but we are going to do it on a weekly basis now. And Harriet and Maria have to visit each house first to ascertain that they really can't afford to buy it.

Speaking of milk, Dr. Waldemar Rocha Dias, our grand and glorious Medico Chefe (and please observe those capitals - he's important!) stopped by. I asked him where in Tres Lagoas our milk was, and so he told us. It's not in Tres Lagoas at all. It's in Paranaiba. All I'm trying to figure out now is why he didn't drop it off on his way from Tres Lagoas to Paranaiba, because there's only one way to go between the two, and hehad to pass through town. But then I really don’t expect rationality from him. He's sort of nice, in a funny way; I get a kick out of him each time he comes here; so long as he doesn't stay too long.

Well, there has been a circus in town for the last few days. It's about twice as big as the kind of thing kids put on in vacant lots, but is complete with tent, bleachers, reserved seats, and a box for the police. Harriet and I haven't gone to see it, but I rather suspect that we will.

We've rather dropped our plans to go to Sao Paulo for Christmas because of the expense involved and because we have another class in Cuiaba in January and that's sort of a vacation, too. Let you know what we decide.

Russ and Harriet

NO. 26 12/9/64 - 12/18/64
Wednesday, the 9th, we went to the movies. Saw "Billy The Kid and the Law" which was as awful as its title suggests. We also saw end of a horse story that they evidentally couldn't show the night before. That was pretty awful too but the movies do make a nice change.

Thursday we were supposed to go to Paranaiba for our powdered milk but, after waiting all afternoon, we discovered that the truck was broken. Friday morning about 8:30 we finally started on our trip. We arrived about 11:00 and let me tell you, the rains haven't done the road not one little bit of good! Tony is in Caceres right now visiting his girl friend but we were able to sit and visit with Cathy and her visitadora for about an hour. We even got real hot chocolate in the bargain and did that ever taste good! The visitadora there just graduated a few months ago and was first in her class. She is very enthusiastic and very good. Certainly wish we had someone like her down here. It is just fantastic how the scenery changes in the short distance between here and Paranaiba. Although Aparecida is built on the slope of a very gentle hill, most of the land around here is flat or rolling slightly. As you go north, however, things get more hilly and the land more beautiful. More of it is cleared and from the tops of the hills (very low ones) you can see the land rolling away from you, green and shiny to the horizon. We really must remember the camera next time we make that trip. On our trip back home, the fellows with us stopped and tried to find us a certain type of fruit that only grows in the country but no luck. Seems it doesn't much grow near the road.

Saturday we went to Santa Fe to price furniture. It is possible to get a much better selection there and everything is much cheaper. In fact we just may be able to afford the bare essentials right now but the rest will have to wait awhile. It was nice to get away from here, even for just a few hours. It poured on our way back but fortunately not until we had crossed the river. The bus ride from there to here was really hairy for awhile. The windshield wipers didn't work (they never do) and the window got fogged up so for awhile the driver couldn't see anything, but we arrived safe and sound. Oh yes, we had ice cream there. There is a book store in Santa Fe which sells the one brand of Brazilian ice cream that is pasteurized. It isn't the best ice cream in the world by far but it sure tastes good when you haven't had any for a long time.

Saturday night we saw "Sahara" with Humphrey Bogart. For some reason they advertised it as being in color but it wasn't filmed that way. Hardly any reason for filming a war story on the desert in color anyway. It was just great seeing a really good film for a change and for awhile we could imagine we were at the Bogey festival on campus. It makes for kind of a let down though when the lights come on again.

Sunday we just sort of lazed around. The only constructive thing I did all way was to wash and set my hair and get myself all prettied up. It really perked me up.

Monday night was graduation at Sr. Jorge’s school. It started at 8:00 and by 10:00 we just couldn’t bear sitting on the hard wooden benches any more so we left early. Affairs like this are sort of slap-dash here. That is, there is a general plan of activities and a program but nobody really thinks too much about it beforehand. Therefore, there are scads of unnecessary delays and mixups. An efficiency expert would just go crazy here. But everything does manage to get accomplished, albeit a bit sloppily. This school is a primary school and the students graduate after four years. The graduates range in age from about 9 - 14; there doesn't seem to be any strict age when one must start school. in the 4 years they get the equivalent of about up to 6th, maybe 7th grade in the U.S. This seems to prove the theory of many American Educators that we can teach more earlier to our pupils. A typical course of study includes Portugese, Arithmetic, science, a little geometry, history, reading, writing - the usual stuff. However, I think the younger kids get more out of it than the older ones. The older ones don’t seem to be able to settle down to school after 8 or 9 years of freedom. Guess the answer is to start at 5 but get more into a shorter period of time.

Tuesday was the big ball from the school (Sr. Jorge's). The thing started about 10:00 at night. Everything here starts very late. People had to pay to vote for a queen candidate and they made lot's of money for the school. The 4 candidates must have been just about the youngest in their class and the daughter of the vice mayor won. From the looks of her and the other candidates, I’d say it was all pull. The crowing didn't come until 1:30 by which time the little girls and we were very tired. The crown was very ingeniously made of paper cleaners, white leaves and silver sparkle and really looked nice. After I had crowned the queen, I got caught into saying "a few words". All I could manage was to stumble out a thank you for the great honor. The whole thing was being broadcast over the city's radio station and I was really embarrassed over the whole thing but it was fun and awfully exciting.

Tuesday and Wendesday were Christmas for us--we received our Christmas presents. I got a sewing book so at last I can start making some of those dresses I’ve always been talking about. We get 3 calendars, 2 bath sponges complete with Ivory soap (very appreciated in this land of hard water and rough skin), nail clippers, book mark, hankies. The man at the Post Office just kept handing more boxes and more envelopes. It was really great!! We ran right to the Post (this was in the morning) to open them and everybody had to look at everything. Right now we're in the process of raking Christmas cards for our friends here.

Wednesday evening the lights went off about 5:00 and stayed off. Later we found out that one of the light poles near the river had been struck by lightning. As we've only had light in this city for about 9 months everyone still has lanterns so there was no great hardship. After dinner we went for awalk. I never realized how bright a full moon can light up a city - never been anywhere where there weren't street lights all the time before. Anyway, the city was bathed in the soft glow of the moon and was really pretty. Then we went to sit in the town square and watched the lightning in the distance, After awhile Russ went and got the camera and we tried to take some pictures of the moon and the lightning-- they should be really great if they turn out.

Thursday afternoon about 3:30 the lights finally came back on. No electricity really has a lot of implications here. It means electric pumps can’t work and that means no water pumped up and no water pumped up means the toilets can’t be flushed. Fortunately the Hotel still has its old morot driven pump and the water box at the Post was pretty full. It really isn’t a big problem because most people still draw the water from their wells by hand. We visited with Dona Ana. Right now Aparecida's representative to the State Legislature is in town and Ana told us he has some furniture stored here that perhaps we could borrow. So we talked to him in the evening and got real chummy and perhaps tonight (Friday) we can get up the nerve to ask him about it. That would be absolutely great because then we could afford to buy a refrigerator.

Friday morning one of the men at the Post borrowed a jeep for us and Dona Maria and I went way out into the country. Before we can hand out powdered milk to anyone, we have to visit them at home to make sure they need it. Most of the poor people live quite a way's out from the center of the city and this means a lot of walking for us. So today we visited some homes that are too far to walk to. Actually, we are having quite a problem with these visits. Mothers come to the Post and leave their names and addresses for us but usually the address is just "close to " or the name of the street or the number of the house is wrong. Half the time we can't locate the right house. But we don’t have much milk and are limited to giving it to 70 people so this phase of our work shouldn't last very much longer.

Friday we received a telegram. Seems our boss in Cuiaba, Mr. Creasman, is trying anew method of getting PCV’s used to Brazil. Instead of training at Cuiaba, the new group is being farmed out to volunteers already here for amonth for training and orientation. We are getting one and he or she is due to arrive tomorrow. The name did not come through the telegraph lines too well so we don't know if "it" is a boy or a girl. In fact, all we know is that "it" is arriving sometime tomorrow on the bus and not a word about anything specific we are to do in the way of orientating and training. Oh well, guess Brazil is even getting to the Peace Corps!

If I should sould a little discouraged it's only because yesterday we found out it may be several months before we can move into our house --they want to wait to work on it until after the rains are over. We're getting so-o-o-o-o- tired of the food at the hotel and the cramped living quarters. But I guess we'll survive all right. Take care and let us hear from you all.

Russ and Harriet.

December 19 to 28, 1964 No. NO. 27
WHEEEEEE!! We have company; real, honest-to-goodness American English-speaking company. P.C. Mato Grosso is trying a new method of getting new volunteers adjusted to the country and the language- they are being farmed out with us "old timers" for 3-4 weeks. We have with us Bob and Nancy Hartl from the Boston area. They are married a few weeks less than we and trained in Arizona. They will go to Cuiaba after here for some more formal training and then be in their own health post somewhere in the state. We are really enjoying them to the hilt. It is wonderful to have someone to talk to and do things with whom you can really communicate with.

Sunday we all visited with Sr. Jorge and his family. While we were there we tasted goiaba and mangava (fruits). We all liked the former but only Bob and Nancy liked the latter. They gave us a papaya to take home with us. We really had a pleasant visit and just sat talking for about 2 hours. That's how good our Portugese has gotten! While we were there we saw a real chameleon. It was under a log and ran out when we lifted the log (Russ had seen it run under). We also saw something they call a scorpion but looked more like a poisonous centipede. Sr. Jorge killed it immediately. His wife told us she and her neighbor had each killed a snake in the back yard this last week but they live a way out of the city and are surrounded by countryside so don't worry. In the afternoon we listened to the radio and played Scrabble. Our set is in Portugese but we play in English because none of us knows enough Portugese yet. In the evening we saw the "Chapman Report"--Russ says the book was much better and I guess it must have been because the movie was lousy.

Monday Jerry and Allen stopped by on their way from Paranaiba to Campo Grande. They are agriculture workers in Paranaiba and were going on a short vacation. Russ, Bob and I got our hair cut today but not all at the same place. I have sort of a modified pixie cut and am really relieved to get rid of my mop at last. Dona Maria told us about a good bakery today so we had jelly rolls for dessert at dinner. I've had better but these were really good.

Tuesday Russ and I put a down payment on a bed (it comes with a small hassock too). It's a one-piece frame and mattress and costs Cr $55,000. It doesn't look all that comfortable but a mattress alone for a regular bed would cost us Cr$55,000 so we decided this would serve. In the afternoon we visited with Dona Lola and Sr. Ajax and their family. Their house is really lively now that all the kids are home from school. We talked and listened to records and had some marble cake. Today we visited a house quite far out in the country and had to go through a barbed wire fence to get there so this evening I fixed my skirt. C’est la vie!

Wednesday I had a pair of crepe-soled shoes re-heeled. They were upset because they didn't have crepe and could only use neolite rubber. I got the shoes back in the afternoon, polished to within an inch of their lives and looking brand new - all for Cr.$300. Now I have to get unused to walking on a slant again. Labor is ridiculously cheap here. In the afternoon we delivered Christmas cards all around town. Yesterday I admired an aluminum belt a girl was wearing and today her cousin gave me a similar one for a Christmas present. I think the thing we will miss most about Brazil when we leave are the people.

Thursday morning we left for our Christmas holidays in Tres Lagoas. Bob and Nancy stayed behind. We got there about lunch time and had pizza--not the best but good. After lunch we bought some stuff and some magazines. Russ broke one of the lenses in his clip-on sun glasses some weeks ago and we discovered a man who could fix them.

Friday we had ham sandwiches for lunch and were so pleased with them we each had 2 more for dinner. Meat with fat on it is a treat for us and anything besides meat, rice and beans is a feast. In the evening we saw "Samar" with George Montgomery and that is enough said about that.

Saturday we tried to leave on the early bus but it never arrived so we had another pizza for lunch and waited around. We had planned to stay over till Monday but we were bored and lonely for "home". By the time we left it was raining again (as it had been for almost the entire past 2 days). The trip, which usually takes 3-1/2 hours, took us 6 hours. Part of the road was washed out by the rain and the rest wasn’t in terribly good condition either. When it turned dark we really had to creep along and we knew if we got stalled, no one would come looking for us until it got light again. There was not a light to be seen anywhere. Finally the rocking of the bus put us both to sleep and we weren't even aware we had arrived till the lights of the town woke us up. We went to bed without dinner but slept like logs. I must say, we have never taken a trip yet since we arrived in Brazil that hasn’t been an adventure. I think maybe we’ll stay at home for awhile now. The vacation was great for one thing--we appreciate our own town more now and the friends we have made here and it gave us a little perspective on things. But as a vacation in the traditional sense, it was quite a flop.

Sunday we looked at another house that is for rent but it is too big for us and not as nice as the other one. Maybe we can use it as a lever to get them to fix up the other one though. We took a walk out in the country and ran into some new kind of spides--a communal type. They apparently cooperate in the building of the web and there were about 30 in one web we saw. And of good size too. Actually I should say, everyone else saw them and told me about it later. I took one look and started walking back. My favorite animals!! In the evening we saw "Footsteps in the Fog"—pleasant but not much.

While we were gone gone Sabin Oral Polio Vaccine arrived so now we have a new immunization program going. Things at the Post are picking up and, believe it or not, we are actually getting behind in our work. I'm so tired every afternoon I take a nap. It’s great!

Russ and Harriet

December 29, 1964 - January 2, 1965 No. 28
First of all, a very Happy and Healthy New Year to one and all. This is going to be short because we haven't been doing much in the last couple of days.

Tuesday (the 29th) I tried making liquid soap out of solid soap because I need liquid soap to clean thermometers and such. At the Post in Varsea Grande they melt liquid soap bars down and add water so that's what I tried. The soap melted OK but I guess I didn't add enough water because when it cooled it was solid again. I’ll have to try again with more water this time. If that doesn't work I'll have to resort to powdered soap and water.

Russ bought some black and white film a couple of weeks ago and finally used it up. We're having it developed here and he saw the negatives yesterday - most of them came out all right and we can get the pictures in a few days. Dona Maria invited the four of us for a New Year's Day lunch with her family so we decided to bring her some dessert - brownies. So Wednesday we bought flour and chocolate and stuff.

Well------no brownies after all. Thursday I went for the eggs and there wasn't a one to be had in the entire city; guess the chickens are on strike or something. So we put the other ingredients away and will wait for another day when the chickens go back to work.

Thursday Bob ran a very high fever which finally resolved itself into the usual diarrhea but it only lasted the one day and he is all better now.

An example of PC ingenuity--we are paid to the 31st of the month and by Thursday still had heard nothing from Cuiaba about it and were getting not a little concerned. It seems the money got to Cuiaba late from Rio and so Thursday Smitty Dorsey flew from Cuiaba to Campo Grande and from there hired a private plan and flew out to this neck of the woods with all of our funds. I heard him talking in the hall and never was so surprised to hear anyone's voice in my whole life (he is stationed way up north). So we chatted for awhile and caught up on some of the local PCV gossip. Anyway, we are rich again and quite relieved over the whole thing. See how well they take care of us?

According to Smitty, Bob and Nancy should be with us until the 20th and that regional conference we thought would be in January will be about February 8th in Campo Grande or Cuiaba. Either way will be a nice change of scene and we are getting very anxious to see everyone again.

New Year"s evening we went to a party at Sr. Ajax’s and Dona Lola"s. They had cake and fruit and wine and quite a crowd. We left a little before midnight in order to keep Bob company (he was still in bed) and opened a bottle of champagne and a can of cashew nuts. The champagne cost about 50¢ and the nuts about 70¢ - so go figure. Anyway it was fun and we talked to about 1:00.

New Year's day we had the most delicious lunch at Dona Maria's. She had roast pork, stuffed chicken that actually had a lot of meat on it, rice, no beans, potato salad (and it wasn't greasy). She is a great cook and we stuffed ourselves completely. Most of her family was there and we sat at the table with the men (it is a small house and the women and childen and older men sat in another room). We have met most of them before and had a very pleasant time talking. One of the men there was a friend of the family and he brought us a book for Christmas. I think it's about European Cooperatives but I'm not sure yet. We met him our first week here and couldn't talk to him at all but now we just jabber away. He knows quite a few English words and we know lots more Portugese so everything got across all right. They are all really very nice people and we are learning to get along much better now.

Saturday we opened the Post in the morning and Bob decided to wash our windows. He's still working on just one room but it really looks great. Bet his mother would be surprised if she could see him now.

Well, not much excitement this week. Life is just settling down for us. Hope you all had a nice New Years. It's kind of frightening--1965 will be a completely Brazilian year for us. Guess we'll survive all right.

Russ and Harriet


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