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Russ and Harriet in the Peace Corps, part 5: Stress and brownies
Bar Harbor
Epsiode 5: As 1965 begins, the bloom is definitely off the rose...


1/2/65 - 1/9/65 NO. 29
Saturday, the 2nd we finally managed to procure some eggs. They have two variet of eggs here --those from regular chickens and those from Angola hens. The latter are an African variety and lay small eggs with very tough shells. They taste just the same as regular checken eggs only are smaller and rather difficult to open. I also bought some inexpensive (and sort of flimsy) material for curtains for our house. I'm going to hem and embroider them for cafe curtains. The material is hysterical: it's a special sale type and comes 50 cm wide by 10 meters long. That's almost 40 feet long!! Anyway, it's just the right width for the windows but a bit of a chore to wash before cutting. (Very few materials are Sanforized here.) In the evening the four of us went to see "Onionhead" with Andy Griffith. The acting and the jokes were quite dated and it was pretty cut up and all in all a just so-so movie. We've really cut down on our movie going lately - it just isn't worth it.

Sunday we finally made our brownies but for lack of a proper sized pan it was more a brownie cake. We followed the recipe as best we could without a marked measuring cup and then tasted the batter, adding a little bit more and what we thought it needed. Then Nancy and I debated about whether it was done or not and finally took it out a little too soon. It tasted pretty good and we ate about half of it and gave the other half to Dona Maria. Next time we will leave it in a little bit longer and see how it goes. It tasted like brownies but not exactly--the chocolate here is not the same kind of bitter sweet chocolate we use at home and is in fact marked "dietetic." But it was good, definitely good.

Nothing special happened Monday but Tuesday we had more visitors. The director of PCV's in Mato, Jim Creasman, Dr. Ron and Gene Jeffries (in charge of our agriculture volunteers) stopped by for half an hour. They would have stayed longer but had had some plane trouble on the way. It was sort of a disturbing visit. We have gotten the impression that we are the local half-hour town. No one ever stays any longer than that with us and we can't figure out if they think we're not worth more or that we're so capable we don't need more. Anyway, no one even asked us how our various projects were coming along. Sometimes I get the impression that no one really cares and that our monthly reports go completely unread. Perhaps this will all change when things get more settled down but I doubt it. Jim even had to nerve to refer to all of us as "his children". We certainly don't feel like little kids that have to be looked after. Well, enough for bitching. They bought us all Cokes and replenished our medical kits and provided a welcome break in the monotony. Perhaps someday someone will stay with us for a longer visit.

Wednesday was a holiday--the day the Three Kings visited Jeses - so we had the day off. Dr. Rocha was supposed to come down yesterday but had some difficulties so came today. Someone else was using the jeep he usually borrows so he and his wife came down on the bus. There was some kind of difficulty there and the upshot was they had to stay the night but hadn't brought any clean clothes or anything with them. We went off in the afternoon to visit Sr. Jorge and on the way saw a small street festa in honor of the three kings. There were two men dressed up as Oriental kings and a small band playing a rather hypnotic beat over and over again. That's all that seemed to be going on so we proceeded on our way. At Sr. Jorge's we had bolinhas which are little round balls somewhat like doughnut holes. They are made with flour, eggs and a little baking powder and deep fried. As they fry they blow up and as one side gets done, they flip themselves over so the other side can get done. They are very good and we all ruined our dinner appetites on them. But then dinner is so uninspiring that that is not a very difficult thing to do at all. Nancy and I are going to try to make some bolinhas ourselves one of these days.

Thursday we discovered that there is another new pile of bricks in front of our house. If last time was any indication, that means they should start work again in 10 days or so. Very good news for us. Dr. Rocha was very mad at us today for not having started a big drive with the polio vaccine we recently received. We tried to explain that the yellow fever men had just left and according to his own instructions, polio vaccine has to wait for 21 days after yellow fever vaccine. That didn't please him and he kept on ranting. Later Geronimo explained that the good doctor just wasn't feeling well (had a knot in his gut was the expression used) and not to pay much attention to it. So we didn't.

Friday a man and a lady came by with a truck so Nancy and I could visit her house and authorize her to get powdered milk for her children (this was in the afternoon and Maria doesn't work then). We were picked up about 2:00 and finished visiting the woman and her neighbors by 3:00. By then the truck was gone so we walked about a mile down to the main road to wait for the man to pick us up, the woman accompanying us. We waited in one of the neighbor's houses and had a nice time talking and drinking coffee. About 4:00 I got a little concerned and asked if the man was indeed coming back. Yes, he was but not until 5:00. Nancy and I decided that even though it was a long walk back, we would rather walk it than wait any longer and we thought we could make it home before 5:00 anyway. So we took our leave but just as we did so, a VW passed by and we hitched a ride in with a very nice man. I felt so luxurious sitting in that car and it wasn't until later that I realized that this is the first car other than a jeep or a truck that I have ridden in since we were in New York. Sure is nice--hope I don't have to wait another 3 months now.

Russ has been making visits to the homes he visited before, noting any improvement that may have been made (precious few), and recommending more. Now he will be going back to the same house after a two week interval. He has run across one hotel which is badly in need of a good cleaning as far as the toilets, garbage, and water in the back yard goes. Absolutely filthy. He is trying to find out whether the post has the legal authority to do anything, but so far doesn't know. But there are some improvements, so there is hope.

Saturday we were all going to play bridge despite the fact that Nancy and I know very little about it. Russ tried teaching me a little bit and we decided to delay the game indefinitely. Instead. Saturday night Bob and Nancy taught how how to play O-Hell, a four people game that is really fun. We started at 9:00 and stayed up talking until 1:30 by which time we couldn't keep our eyes open any more.

Sunday needless to say we all slept late. The plans for today are to make another brownie cake and go out and visit Alfranio later. He says there are some wild ducks near his house and thought Russ might like some pictures of them. Let you know how things work out next week.

Russ and Harriet

1/10/65 - 1/18/65 No. 30
HI! all of you out there. Well, Sunday the 10th we spent about 3 hours at the Post writing letters and then got bored so we decided to take a break and take a little walk. Afronio had mentioned some-thing earlier about there being some wild ducks in back of his house that we might like some pictures of so off we went. Well, it turned out he didn't know exactly where they were so we walked and walked and walked out into the country. We saw a new section of houses, wound up very close to his house but in the opposite direction from that in which we had started and never did get to see the ducks. Seems they were out on some small lake and to get there we would have had to go through a rice field which was in itself a small lake. There was something said about a man who has a boat so maybe we will get out there some other day. On our walk we saw lots of new things. There are some very pretty brown nuts which grow in long chains on some of the palm trees here and Russ managed to knock some of them down for us. They are impossibly hard to open and much too hard, even when ripe, to eat. The people use them for decorations in fruit bowls and they are really quite pretty. We also saw our first quince but it wasn't ripe yet so we didn't get to taste it. On our way out we saw a month-old calf penned up and Afronio said it was because if he were with his mother, he would drink too much and get sick. This is a new one on us and we seriously doubt it has too much scientific value but you never know. We saw another interesting fruit on our walk--it's one the Indians used for arrow poison; we gave it a fairly wide berth. Afronio and Russ tried to get some birds with a sling shot as we were walking but neither one of them had any luck. Seems pigeon junting is quite a sport here. We did manage to scare up a quail-like bird but it was a surprise on all of our parts so he got away. Nancy and I made brownies again in the evening but this time we burned them. Maybe next week. We played more O-Hell and got to bed early. Work the next day.

Monday some women came out to take us to their homes so we could see if their kids needed milk. They live very far out and it took about 30-45 minutes to walk there. We visited them and the neighborhood and then started back. On the way, one of the men who is at the hotel a lot drove by and picked us up in his truck. We got back to the Post just as it was starting to rain.

Tuesday we ran into Ercilia (the girl we met during our Cuiaba training who gave us a letter of introduction to her uncle, the Mayor here) and so we spent a little time visiting her. She is just here for a few days visit during her holidays. In the evening we saw "Young Man With a Horn" with Doris Day and Kirk Douglas. It was so old it was hysterical. We enjoyed it but it really wasn't anything great.

Tuesday morning Nancy and I discovered a new superstition. Umbilical tetanus in Brazil goes under the common name of the "7 days sickness" because it usually strikes in the first week of the baby's life. We visited a 7-day old baby but the mother wouldn't let us examine him because "he is 7 days old today and it is very dangerous to do anything with him now". He was not bathed nor his clothes changed that day.

Wednesday morning we went back to visit the above case and got to examine the baby. His day of "confinement" appears to have done him no harm but we explained all about what tetanus is and why the 7th day is no more dangerous than any other and the danger involved in not bathing the baby and keeping him clean every day. I think we got a little across but we will see when she has her 2nd.

Thursday we saw a Charlie Chaplin movie. Actually it was scenes from several movies all cut together and jumbled up. It was fun for awhile but after an hour we reached our slapstick level.

Friday the lights went out for awhile so we said a prayer of thanks to the man who invented the flashlight and looked at slides for awhile. Russ has rigged up a bit with the flashlight and the lens from his camera so we can project slides on the wall. It is far from great but it's a lot better than holding them up to the light and that way we can all look at them at the same time.

Saturday we had a great deal of excitement- we received a Monopoly game!! We rushed home from the Post, rushed through lunch and sat down to a game. We cursed and fought, had a ball and were exhausted when it was over. So we rested, had dinner and played another game. It's just absolutely the greatest!

Sunday was beastly hot so we stayed inside almost all day except for a walk in the morning. We played Monopoly again after lunch and then Nancy and I made brownies again. This time we turned the oven to low (it only has high and low as do the burners) and cooked it longer. The trouble seems to be that our pan is too small and therefore the brownie is too high and doesn't get done in the middle. But the Hotel doesn't have the right size pan so we hoped that by cooking it slowly it would get more done without getting burned. And, glory be, we were right! This time it was still too moist in the middle but not all gooey was so good the four of us finished it then and there. We listened to Aida on the radio ate brownies and drank Crush - what a life! In the evening we saw a Brigitte Bardot movie ("LaVerite") It was very long (Over at 11:00) and also very sexy. The Brazilians really hooted and whistled. We just appreciated it quietly.

Monday we got another package - this one had a safety razor and some Ivory Soap in it. Russ left his razor in the washroom some time ago and of course it was gone when we went back after it. It's crazy too because they don't have injector razors here and the person who took it won't be able to get new blades for it. Oh well!!

Well, that's all for now. Take care and you'll here from us again soon.

Russ and Harriet

[The following is a draft letter, unsigned, and with lots of crossouts. Later references indicate that dad sent some version of such a letter around this time, though this may not quite match what he sent.]

Aparecida do Tabuado, MT
24 Janeiro 1965

Dear Jim,

I don't know what kind of an impression you got of us or of Aparecida on your trip through, but after two and a half months of living here, Harriet and I want out. You might say, both with
reference to our jobs here at the Health Post and with reference to our lives in the town, that we're going stir-crazy.

About the post and my work, there are two major difficulties. For one there just isn't that much for a sanitarian to do in the town, and certainly nothing that the Brazilians at the post can't do themselves. The town doesn't need privies, it doesn't need wwlls, there is a city garbage truck. As far as the rest of the operations of the post go there's no doctor, no supplies or equipment to speak of--just powdered milk and some vaccine. Harriet doesn't mind her job but it's not the sort of thing she can get too excited about. Underneath it all, the fact remains that the health post here doesn't need two Americans. All that we've done is to keep the post open a couple of hours more a day, and for all the business we get then we might as well have stayed home and slept.

The second thing wrong, as far as I am concerned, is this business of being an auxiliar de saneamento. Frankly, the work doesn't interest me, and it's driving me bats. And I'm not accomplishing a damn thing except filling out fichas. This isn't what the Peace Corps is all about, and it isn't what I'm all about. Maybe the job is what you make of it, and I just can't make anything of it, but that's me, and I've got to live with me.and not the job.

As far as the town goes, it couldn't care less about us. Even so simple a matter as finding a house to rent, which would even be bringing money to some of them, they don't want to be bothered. and when we do did manage to locate one, the man in charge of fixing it up so it is habitable seems to have two speeds: snail and stop, and prodding doesn't make any difference. We've made several friends in tow, and we visit with them quite often, but besides that and the movies there isn't a single do. There isn't even a newspaper to read, except maybe one a few days old rom Sao Paulo, on subscription only. There are quite literally no stimuli here, and we're atrophying. Though we've asked for it three or four times, we have yet to see a booklocker —- even somebody else's. Having to fill up a day with sleeping and card-playing is something we can't keep on doing. When you go visiting, for that matter, there is never anything to talk about that you didn't cover yesterday.

By this point, you may have gathered that we are rather unhappy. E! verdade! We wish to request a transfer, to another town and, for myself, another job. It's hard to write all this down, the way we feel it, and it may sound like just a bunch of gripes but we've got a real problem here and we've got to do something about it.

Well, enough, or now. We'll probably arrive in Campo Grande on Wednesday, 3 February, on the train from 3 lagoas, and sometime after then, be for, during, or a ter the conference, we can get
together and talk about this. I do have some ideas about what I would like to do, but there is no need or them right now in this letter. andwe can discuss them then. Until Campo Grande, then,

Anguished PCV

1/18/65 - 1/25/65 No. 31
Something rather amusing has shown up in our bathrooms in the last week and I thought maybe you'd like to hear about it. The toilet paper here is, to say the least, rough-rather like poor quality hand towels. Up until now is has appeared in only one color, a sort of muddy light beige, but now we have the same thing in colors!! It seems the stuff comes in slightly yellow, slightly pink and slightly green. It isn't any softer but it sure does look funny to us. Jeff and Jan gave a roll of American toilet paper to one of their Brazilian friends as part of a birthday present and he decided not to use it all at once least he get spoiled!

Tuesday morning Nancy and Bob Hartl left us. They tried to leave on the early bus but for some reason it had been cancelled so, being as it was only 6:00, we all went back to bed. They finally left at 8:30 ib tge 2nd bus of the day. We tried to get rid of that lonely feeling by taking in a movie in the evening but it was one of those too-predictable westerns and we left early.

Wednesday was nominally a holiday but we opened the Post anyway and did a little business. This is the feast day of St. Sebastion and for the last 9 days there has been an auction at the church every night to raise money for the secondary school here. They auctioned off whole cooked chickens, cake and wine and Wednesday culminated by auctioning off a calf. Everyone told us this "festa" was going to be a big thing and we ought to go but when we asked if they were going, everyone said "No'. It wasn't much of a festa but they raised a good deal of money for the school and I suppose that is what counts Wednesday we also received some letters for Bob and Nancy. Their mail has been slow in catching up to them and at this rate they may never get it, what with all the forwarding that has to be done. In the evening we went to talk to the mayor, Sr. Chama, about finally getting our house fixed up. I don't know if I already told you or not but it turns out that he is in charge of it. He said it would be ready in two months but then came down to 15-20 days. If previous experience is any indication, that means it may be ready by March, late March. We will just have to keep pestering him.

Friday we made the second payment on our bed and saw "Life of Mozart" in the evening. It was incredibly corny and the sound was awful but even that was welcome to our ears. We really enjoyed it very much.

Saturday we had another surprise visit ---Jeff and Jan came up with our pay; seems like they never do intend to deliver it through the bank. They stayed for lunch and we had a couple of hours to talk before we all had to leave, they for Paranaiba and us for Vila Oriente. The latter is a small town near the river and we took the polio vaccine out there to do some innoculating. We got about 170 children, got a chance to drive the Jeep we came out in a little bit, and were treated to pineapple at Dona Maria's brother's home. Sort of an interesting afternoon. In the evening we were going to go to the carnival that is in town now but got talking and didn't realize what time it was until 11:30. Ridiculous!

Sunday was again too hot to exist so we wrote some lttters, took a short walk in the late afternoon and went to see "FBI Code 98". It was a good thriller and we liked it.

Monday was a very busy day, full of both good and bad things. We hadn't heard from Russ's folks in a while and were getting quite worried. Monday we found out that one of his Grandmothers had been very sick but is much better now, and that the other (Nana) died of a heart attack earlier this month. It is really awfully upsetting to be so far away at times like this and not be able to do anything, and besides which it all happened two weeks ago anyway. So the day started our rather depressing. In the evening we went for a walk and saw a shooting star. That's supposed to bring good luck so it cheered us up a bit. When we got back to the Hotel there was a Peace Corps jeep sitting in front (they are all the same, unmistakeable salmon pink) so we ran in to see who was there this time. Our surface freight arrived last week in Tres Lagoas and Jerry, Tony and Cathy from Paranaiba went down to pick it up and were dropping ours off. They stayed for dinner and we caught up on all the local gossip and such. There is no room in the hotel for all our junk so right now it is in the spare room in the Health Post. We're not going to open the boxes until we know what's going to happen to us (next paragraph). We did open the trunk: it's nice to look at all those winter clothes but I really doubt we will ever need much of them. All of us sent ear muffs and fur-lined gloves down and I guess we will have to lug them back unused. Perhaps if we go south in June as we are planning we will need them there. Hope so.

I don't know what sort of impression all you regular readers of this column have of its authors, or of the way its authors are adapting to life in Brasil, but as one of those aforementioned authors, I'd like to say that things have reached an impasse (of sorts). We have tried, God knows we have tried, to join in the life of the town, to make friends, to be good Peace Corps Volunteers (whatever that does mean). But the town doesn't seem to care much for us, for our work at the health post, for much of anything as far as that goes. Other towns (for example Tres Lagoas and Paranaiba, the two nearest us) have welcomed their PCV's with open arms. Furthermore, Aparecida is rather limited in the things one can do to keep one's mind functioning; aside from the movies and visits with people, where you can talk about the same things you talked about yesterday, there isn't anything to do. The Peace Corps doesn't seem to want to send our booklocker to us, though we've been asking for it for the last two months, just as they don't seem to want to send us our settling-in allowance or any other indication that they know there're two volunteers here. That's the second thing. Finally, I (and this is Russ writing, in case you haven't guessed) am fed up to here with my "job" at the health post. There just isn't that much for me to do, the auxiliar (my counterpart) here knows his job fairly well, the town doesn't need privies or wells built, it doesn't need me.

And I can't just leave the post to concentrate on "community development" work because (a) I am, if you will, the sub-responsavel for the post to Dr. Rocha, the chefe in Paranaiba, and (b) there isn't really all that much that might be done in C-D. This town though it doesn't have much to do (at least not if you're an ex-University of Chicago student without books) really has a lot on the ball: the town is pretty well off compared to the average in Mato Grosso, the schools have literacy classes for adults at night, the town has seven (count 'em, seven) schools, a radio station (which has just closed down for lack of a license), and at least three large textile stores. And of course, a cinema and a bus company. But in any case, I just don't dig this business of being a sanitarian. I must admit it never eally excited me in the first place, but I thought I could do it all right. Instead, it's driving me bats. Well, this has been a pretty long paragraph, and so let me bring it all to a conclusion: namely that Harriet and I have asked for a transfer to another town, and for me, another job. We'll discuss it with Jim Creasman, our beloved Chefe during the conference, week after next in Campo Grande. Meanwhile, since we've decided to transfer, it's even harder to live in Aparecida; we just want to leave and get moving. Aside from that, however, we feel great!

In closing, let me wish you all Happy Snow Shovelling.

Harriet and Russ

1/26/65 - 2/1/65 No. 32
Forgive the shortness of this but we are leaving for Campo Grande tomorrow and I wanted to write while we still could use the typewriter.

Tuesday, the 26th, we went to one of the local, small Protestant churches. Some American missionaries were scheduled to arrive there to talk and stay for three days. Well, they never showed up then or later. However, we got caught into staying through a sermon in Portugese. The speaker (I don't know if he is a minister or not) kept calling everyone brethren and talked about how Jesus was the greatest doctor and lawyer that ever lived, "even though he never went to the university". For an example, he used the fact that Winson Churchill's life couldn't be saved last week only he referred to him as a "great and famous Englishman" because probably none of the people there had every heard of W. Churchill. The whole thing was, needless to say, in very simple language so we understood most of it.

Wednesday I dug my knitting kit out of the trunk and started in. I am making a green cardigan out of mohair and it will probably take quite a long time--all I've ever made before is a pair of slippers. Thursday I got a hair cut, even shorter than before, and it looks real cool. It will be nice to let it grow and go to the beauty parlor when we get home but, though they have good beauticians here, I don't feel up to explaining what I want done in Portugese. In the evening we went to see "Pffft" with Judy Holiday and Jack Lemmon. I had wanted to see it when it was first released but never got the chance. So we finally caught it in Brazil and really enjoyed it. I don't know whether the movies are getting better or our taste is going to the dogs.

Friday Russ got a hair cut and shave so now we are all prettied up to go to Campo. Saturday I took a long walk down the road to Paranaiba and on the way saw a vulture feeding on the remains of a small dog and large chicken. They are really quite large birds and I have never seen one so close (from right across the road) but of course I didn't have the camera with me. We played Scrabble all afternoon and I am finally getting so I can win an occasional game from my husband. In the evening we saw "The Three Stooges Meet Hercules". I never saw one of their movies before and we both just roared--they are really quite good slapstick and twice as much fun when everyone in the theater is shouting encouragement and hissing the bad guy.

Sunday we had planned to go to Porto do Tabuado to take some pictures so got up at 5:45 so we could catch the 6:30 bus. Then we discovered we had apparently gone on daylight savings time and it was already 7:15 (at breakfast). So I started some washing and Russ went for a walk and then I found out the bus would leave at 7:30 so I ran out and found Russ. He was able to got but I was still covered with soapsuds and stayed behind. His bus broke down a little ways out of the city so it took longer than expected but the pictures got took. In the evening it poured and the lights went off so we played Rummy by flashlight and went to bed early.

Monday morning we discovered that either there really isn't daylight savings time or that no one is using it because when we opened the Post, nothing else was open. So we are going to check what time the bus is using later. There still is no electricity and this is going to create some problems. Saturday a child was buried who died of diphtheria and many mothers have asked for vaccine. All we have is DPT and I had planned to give that to the younger children Monday but with no electricity, we can't sterilize needles and syringes. I sterilized 5 while we were writing reports Sunday and that is all we have. That and about 37 vials of DPT. Rather pitiful, isn't it?


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