25 April 2009


        In a previous post about Peace Corps Training, I explained how difficult it was for me to learn Portuguese. I had no confidence in my ability to learn the language. I was in the lowest level of language class all through training. I had convinced myself I might never learn to speak Brazilian Portuguese.

* * * * *
        I arrived at my PC site, Glória, barely able to speak Portuguese and not understanding more than a few words. Brunie, the Volunteer who had requested a teacher for her site, was from a Latino-American family. She spoke Spanish and English at home. She had studied Portuguese in college. Portuguese and Spanish are not the same, but there are many similarities, so Brunie spoke Portuguese extremely well when she arrived in Glória and made a concerted effort to improve her language skills. At first, she kept a notebook with new words and made arrangements to sit in on Portuguese language arts classes at the ginásio. She loved learning the local slang. Brunie was determined to earn a 5 on the foreign service language evaluation required at the end of service. A 5 would mean she spoke like a native.
        I, on the other hand, earned B’s and C’s in my Latin and French classes in high school and college. I could barely pronounce the foreign words and certainly understood none when spoken, but I could read and translate enough to pass my courses.

        I moved into Brunie’s house with her. Immediately she set some rules.
        Rule #1: Speak English only if we were alone. If anyone was within earshot, we used nicknames for people. The wall of our house was also the wall of our neighbor. If we had said, in English, “Dona Maria and her husband are marvelous people.” The neighbor might hear Dona Maria and marvelous, but marvelous sounds just tiny bit like malévoios, which means malevolent. Then the neighbor might start the rumor that we said nasty things about Dona Maria, or simply that we were discussing her in our house. So, in the house, we referred to people as the postmistress, the bank manager, the school director, the priest, the seamstress, the bar owner.
        Rule #2: Always speak Portuguese when with Brazilians. If I didn’t know how to say something, I could ask Brunie, in Portuguese, “How do you say...?” inserting one English word. But if I spoke in English, Brunie would not acknowledge that I had even spoken. She thought it was rude to speak English around the Brazilians (and she was right about that.) And also things we said in English might be misinterpreted as in Rule #1.
        Rule #3: Don’t say you understand when you don’t. Brazilians often asked, “Do you understand?” We are all programmed to prevent others from thinking we are stupid, so we often say yes, when we don’t understand at all.
        Rule #4: Continue to learn. Keep a notebook with new words and attend Portuguese classes at the high school. Ask how to say something. Ask someone to explain what a Portuguese word means using different words. Request that people speak more slowly (one of the first phrases I mastered immediately in Portuguese.)
        Rule #5: Get to work. The first night I was in Glória, Brunie took me to the literacy class she taught at night in the elementary school building. She assigned me to delightful cousins Maria and Maria, both around 15 or 16. One Maria was quiet and shy; the other was talkative and laughed a lot. On my first night, we practiced writing their names, writing letters of the alphabet and learning three-letter words. I’m sure they had about as hard a time understanding me as I did them. But I added a few words to my vocabulary, because each word in the literacy text book was accompanied by an illustration. Beside the word ave was a sketch of a bird.

Shy Maria is on the far left. Outgoing Maria is in the red dress in both photos.

The smaller children are the younger children of the family.  

On the left outgoing Maria is stirring a pot of feijão, black beans. 

On the right you can see, hanging behind her, carne do sol, salted sun-dried meat. This was a way of preserving meat without refrigeration.

        That first night at the literacy class, I learned something valuable I had never understood before: a good way to learn is to teach. And by teaching, I continued to learn.
        Within a few days, I was teaching English at the ginásio. The high school had been in existence only 3 years, so there were students who were just out of elementary school and there were adults who had never before had the opportunity to attend high school. My oldest student was 44. One of the students I admired was José Augusto. He was a 26-year-old tailor who supported himself and his mother. We often saw him at night through his window at his sewing machine (powered by foot pedal) with a book propped in front of him, sewing and studying by a kerosene lantern.
        My students were not afraid to tell me when I made mistakes in Portuguese. And when I taught them English vocabulary, the Portuguese meaning was right there on the page, so I was learning Portuguese as I taught the students English. The text books were obviously British because the English words for truck and bus were lorry and omnibus.
        By teaching English as a foreign language, I learned some things about English, that perhaps I knew, but didn’t understand. For example, when I taught the word ‘many’ from the text book, I also told my students they could also use the work ‘much’. When a student asked how to know which word to use, I couldn’t explain it. Obviously, I knew which word to use, but I didn’t consciously know why. I went home that evening and made a list of words with which I would use each ---and then it hit me, ‘many’ is plural while ‘much’ is singular. I would say ‘many cows’ but ‘much milk.”
        After a few weeks, I was learning Portuguese by teaching and having to use the language. But I still struggled.

        About two months after my arrival, Brunie received a letter from a judge’s family in Aracajú inviting us to spend the weekend with them. Besides the luxury of being able to take a civilized shower and sleep on a real mattress, one thing happened that weekend that was a turning point in my understanding of Portuguese. The girls of the family, who spent time with us that weekend, told me I spoke Portuguese very well for only having been in Brazil for a few months. I was shocked. Me? Speaking bem português?
        At first I didn’t understand why they thought I spoke well when many people in Glória couldn’t understand most of what I said. I think one of the reasons was that these girls were well-educated. Living in the capital city, they probably had more experience with foreigners than the people of Glória. So if I used the wrong tense of a verb or mispronounced a word, they were able to make the connection between what I actually said and what I was trying to say.
        Somehow, the vote of confidence from those girls made me think, for the first time, that I might just be able to learn Portuguese ---and from then on it became easier and easier.
        Soon I noticed the people in Glória were having an easier time understanding me, too.

        A few other things made the language easier. Most of the everyday words in Portuguese were much different than English words: chair = cadeira, beer = cerveja, to eat = comer. But once I got beyond those words, many words were similar to English. Sometimes I had to adjust the pronunciation, or add a different ending, but even when I didn’t know a word existed in Portuguese, I often created a word from an English word and was rewarded with total understanding of what I had said. Sometimes, of course, I was understood, but also corrected, because I hadn’t gotten it quite right. At least I was communicating.
        Other words reminded me of English words of similar meaning: green = verde (as in verdant), red = vermelho (as in vermillion), traveler = viajante (as in voyager), alone = (as in solo)
        And even though I knew only a few Spanish words (mostly from western movies) some Portuguese words were the same or similar: house = casa, gentleman = cavalheiro (caballero in Spanish).

        For me, the worst thing to learn in Portuguese were verbs. There are three different verb endings and each is conjugated differently. And then, like in English, there are a zillion irregular verbs. I decided I couldn’t get fancy with all the different conjugated endings, so I learned the present tense (I eat or I am eating) and the past tense (I ate). Instead of learning the future tense (I will eat), I learned to say the present tense of go (I am going) and added the gerund (to eat) after it (I am going to eat.)
        I didn’t even attempt to learn imperative, past perfect, and all those other annoying tenses that roll off my tongue so naturally in English.

        Finally, after eight months or so, one day I realized I was no longer translating everything between Portuguese and English. I was thinking in Portuguese. It had come about gradually, and finally sneaked up on me so slowly, that I didn’t realize it was happening. When I began to think in Portuguese, I knew I had crossed a big hurdle. There was only one more to jump.
        Soon after, I began to dream in Portuguese. Then I knew I was totally absorbed in the language.

        Before leaving Brazil, each PC Volunteer had to take a foreign service language evaluation. The scores ranged from 0 to 5, zero being not able to speak the language at all. A score of 5 was reserved for someone who spoke like an educated native. Miracle of miracles, I earned a 3+. That meant I could speak Portuguese well enough to get along by myself in all normal situations and that I knew some vocabulary in a specialized field.

        In a few months (July 2009) it will be 40 years since I returned from Brazil. I have had the opportunity to use Portuguese occasionally, but I have forgotten a lot. Now, I can understand more than I can speak. Maybe I cannot recall the word for onion, but if someone says ‘cebola’ I remember what it means. But there are words I have completely forgotten. I have forgotten how to use some tenses of some verbs. And, I have to again ask people to speak slowly. I resort to hand gestures and describing something if I can’t remember the exact word. And I’m sure my pronunciation has suffered.
        All the Portuguese I once knew is still in my subconscious mind somewhere. How do I know? Because, occasionally, I still dream in Portuguese. In my dreams, I understand absolutely everything a Brazilian says to me and I speak the language fluently.

        For someone who barely made it out of Peace Corps Training because of my poor language skills, I am still proud that I was eventually able to overcome my language difficulties. I owe most of that to Brunie. She was a hard taskmaster, but that is exactly what I needed.

        So, a big thank you to Brunie ---and a big abraço from me, too.
(©2009, C.J. Peiffer)

20 April 2009


        When I arrived in Glória, my Peace Corps site, Brunie had already been there a year. Kindly, she let me share her small house with her. At first the plan was that I would stay until I got settled in the town, then move to my own house, but I ended up staying with her until she left the following year. We soon got into a routine of shopping at the weekly market and performing other household chores. I hated to clean and Brunie was bored with cooking, so Brunie did most of the cleaning while I usually prepared meals, although Brunie cooked occasionally. There were some things I liked that Brunie didn’t like, so I would cook them when she was in the capital city, or she would cook something she liked (a sheep’s head) that I wouldn’t touch when I prepared fish or liver.
        When she first told me she was going to make ox tail soup, I was doubtful that I would like it, but it was delicious. She cooked the ox tail until it was tender, then added whatever vegetables were readily available at Glória’s market: onions, carrots, potatoes, tomatoes, and cabbage. We could also add rice or break dried spaghetti into short pieces. It was easy to make and we could let it simmer on the stove while we worked through the afternoon. Since ox tail soup was Brunie’s specialty and she was very proud of her soup, she would buy an ox tail or two at the local market on Saturday if we were expecting company the next week. We served her soup with small loaves of fresh pão (each about the size of a sausage bun,) manteiga (butter), and fresh fruit for dessert.
        We didn’t receive many visitors, but occasionally the Peace Corps director would visit from the capital city. The Peace Corps doctor visited from Salvador when we were due for our routine booster vaccine to prevent hepatitis, about every six months. Somehow it seemed slightly obscene for him to ask us to pull down our drawers in our own home, rather than a doctor’s office.
        The doctor had grown up in Africa. I think his parents were working with a medical relief agency there. When he joined the Peace Corps, he noted on his application that he spoke Swahili, thinking the PC would surely send him back to Africa. However, he had been sent to Brazil. He remarked that he could now speak two of the most useless languages on earth. Of course, there were millions of Portuguese speakers around the world, but Portuguese was the official language of only a few countries.
        My friend Barney, a Volunteer from my training group, visited once. Brunie’s friends from her group, Linda and Henry, had visited her. A nurse from Brunie’s group, Helen, stopped in for lunch every Tuesday when she assisted the doctor from her PC site when he saw patients at the medical center in Glória. But that was about it for visitors.

        Brunie’s two-year commitment in the Peace Crops was up about the time I was celebrating the end of my first year there. I never met anyone who loved the Peace Corps and Brazil as much as Brunie, but after two years, she was looking forward to going home to her close-knit family. However, a new group of trainees was arriving in Aracajú, so the director asked Brunie if she would stay to help with the training. She left most of her belongings in Glória and would visit occasionally through the 12-weeks of training. Twice, trainees were sent to spend a few days with us, so they could see what it was like in the field.
        A young married couple, Carroll and Cary visited Glória. They were both very tall and very blond, a curiosity to the locals. The Brazilians thought it was funny that his first name was the same as mine, although spelled differently. Carroll especially liked Glória because, even though the city sat 10 degrees south of the equator, it was on a plateau in the path of cooling breezes most of the time. In the dry summer months, the area was desert-like, hot and dry during the day, but cool at night. I don’t remember ever sleeping without at least a light blanket. Cary told me Carroll often went outdoors in shirt sleeves in the middle of winter at home in New England, so the tropical climate in the capital was uncomfortable to him. 
        For another few days, another trainee joined us in Glória. I don’t remember her name, so I will call her Becky. She, like us, was in her early twenties.

        (In a a previous post about PEACE CORPS TRAINING, I mentioned that it sometimes seemed that trainers would intentionally throw an unusual situation at a trainee, just to see how s/he would react.) 

        Brunie made ox tail soup for dinner the first night Becky stayed with us. We were conversing over our bowls of soup. Brunie was explaining how politics worked in small towns. Becky had stopped eating. She held her spoon in front of her, politely waiting for Brunie to end her rather lengthy explanation. Then Becky asked very calmly, “Do I have to eat the frog?”
        Brunie & I looked at her and asked, “Frog?”
        “The frog in my soup,” Becky added, holding her spoon out for us to see.
        “That’s not a frog, that’s a piece of cabbage,” Brunie said.
        “But it IS a frog,” Becky said.
        Brunie took the spoon from our guest’s hand and lifted the green “cabbage” with her fingers. Then, she suddenly threw it on the floor, and shrieked, “It IS a frog.”

        We surmised that one of the tiny frogs that hopped around everywhere, including our kitchen, must have committed unintentional suicide by hopping into the pot of soup as it simmered on the stove. To no one’s surprise, Becky thought we had planted it there under the direction of the PC psychologist to see how she would react. We assured her we were not a party to such a prank, but if we had been, Becky had stayed calm and cool so she would have passed the psych test with flying colors ---or maybe with flying frogs.
        After removing the frog, which had been well-cooked, we all continued to eat our soup. However, the next day, no one seemed keen on having the leftovers, so we ordered a roasted chicken from a local bar and went there for dinner.

        When we told the story about the soup to a neighbor, the tale was quickly passed from neighbor to neighbor. Within hours, everyone in town knew about the crazy Americans who cooked frogs in their soup. It so happens that the Portuguese word for soup is sopa and the word for toad is sapo, so the Brazilians were soon talking about the new American delicacy called soup of toad ---SOPA DE SAPO in Portuguese. Yum.

(©2009, C.J. Peiffer)

17 April 2009

PEACE CORPS TRAINING - not for the faint of heart

Click on map for larger image.

Peace Crops training is different for every country and every group. Here you will find the saga of my training to become a Peace Corps Volunteer in Brazil.

After filling out a lengthy application during a Peace Corps recruitment event at my college and before I was accepted for training, a background check had been completed. Several of my professors told me they had been visited by FBI agents, asking questions about me.
I received word, several months later, that I had been accepted for a PC “advanced training program” for Chile. I had studied Latin and French in high school and college, but couldn’t speak a word of Spanish. To get a head start, I arranged to meet a Spanish major over coffee once a week for tutoring.
The “advanced training program” meant that we would train for about 10 weeks during the summer between our Junior and Senior years of college, receive language tapes throughout our senior year, then train several more weeks after graduation and eventually become Peace Corps Volunteers.
Soon I received a letter saying I would be in a Brazilian program instead of serving in Chile, so I dropped the Spanish tutoring. In June 1966, I flew to California and checked in at Sacramento State College, a wonderful location for our training.
Training was difficult, very difficult.
Most of us had to learn a language we had never studied. We went through a short battery of tests to determine our ability to learn a language and were grouped with others of similar skill levels. Each week, based on our individual progress, we might stay in our current language group or move to a higher or lower group. I stayed in the lowest group throughout training.
The trainers let us off the hook at breakfast, but we were expected to speak Portuguese at lunch and dinner. Despite being somewhat of a motor mouth in English, I listened but barely spoke a word.
I didn’t seem to have the skill for learning a language. I had been a mediocre Latin and French student. As a child I had frequent and severe ear aches. Although I could hear even very soft speech, I had a hard time distinguishing sounds. One day, a trainer tried over and over to get me to say ‘prazer’ while I kept hearing ‘plazer.’ My biggest problem was that I had no confidence. I thought I would never learn another language ---eventually I found out I was wrong about that ---but in training, I was sure I was hopeless.
For the most part our language trainers were Brazilian university students studying in the U.S. Most were from Rio, São Paulo, or other large modern cities, and most were from the upper crust of Brazilian society. Only later did we realize this was a disadvantage because we were likely to be working, at least part of the time, with poor, uneducated people, who had lost many of their teeth ---rendering them difficult to understand ---and who spoke Portuguese much like someone in Appalachia might speak English, with unusual accents and lots of colloquialisms and regional slang.
We were expected to learn and understand local customs and as much about the history geography, popular culture, religion, social norms, food, and customs of Brazil as could be crammed into our heads. We took a course in group dynamics and another in community organization. We needed a lot of information on health concerns in the areas we would serve, including first aid skills.
In PE classes, we were taught the basics of soccer (long before almost anyone played it in the U.S.) and had to pass a swimming and “drown-proofing” test.
We were supplied with long lists of recommended items or those we needed to take to Brazil, including a two-year supply of tampons since they were unavailable there. We were also told the texture of the toilet paper in Brazil was reminiscent of crepe paper, but that filling our footlockers with toilet paper would be a waste of space.
We spent part of each evening in the college language lab and had a class in which we simply practiced Portuguese sounds. Occasionally we watched a Brazilian movie or learned song lyrics in Portuguese.

Except for mealtimes, we were in classes from early morning until ten o’clock at night. Then, many of us walked to a Shakey’s Pizza parlor to drink beer and let loose after each grueling day. But even there, we played a children's game, singing a Portuguese song called Escravos de Jó, passing beer mugs around the table instead of the traditional match boxes.
Classes continued on Saturday mornings, but we had the rest of the weekend off. We often went into town by bus to catch a movie. One weekend someone organized a trip to Lake Tahoe and Yosemite.

Here I am at Yosemite (age 20).
I think that is my friend Roy (another trainee) driving
the car, but the photo is so dark it is difficult to tell.

We had to learn a lot of DON’Ts. Don’t make the customary OK sign, because, in Brazil, it means the same thing as an extended middle finger does in the U.S. Unmarried women should not be alone with men. Slacks were okay in big cities, resorts, and beaches, but not in small towns. (This changed over the two years I was in Brazil.) Don’t drink water unless it has been boiled twenty minutes, then filtered, yet don’t be rude by refusing coffee one knows hasn’t boiled the required twenty minutes. Don’t flaunt your money or expensive cameras. It was recommended that we not become involved romantically with Brazilians. That was a useless “don’t” ---most of us were single, 22 to 25, and we were likely going to be involved romantically with either another volunteer or a Brazilian.
Training included a battery of psychological tests, lots of interviews with the administrators, trainers, and psychologists, along with frequent evaluations.
Trainees were in jeopardy of being deselected at any time, for any reason. Two guys were let go midway through our summer of training because of racist attitudes that were unacceptable to the PC and would have been problematic in a country as racially diverse as Brazil. At the end of the summer, one guy was let go because it was suspected he was gay. One of my best pals, a wonderfully funny man, was deselected because he made a joke out of nearly everything. He would answer questions on the psychological tests that required one to fill in bubbles and “make no other marks on the answer sheet,” by responding to a question like “Do you always follow directions?” by writing the word ‘YES’ on the paper. He should have known that kind of behavior would not be appreciated.
I’m not sure what all the criteria were for “passing” training, but it often appeared as if the trainers would put banana peels in our paths just to see if we would slip. It seemed rather juvenile to me, but that appeared to be the modus operandi for PC training at that time. The most feared man on the staff was the PC psychologist. I guess it might all have been part of a plan to toughen us up or to see how we would react to stress or the unexpected. A Portuguese word that was bantered about a lot was "flexibilidade" ---flexibility, something we would need a lot of in Brazil.
Some of my Sacramento training is a blur to me now. I'm sure I was sleep deprived. We often went to bed after walking back from Shakey's after 1:00 a.m. and had to be up early for 7:00 a.m. breakfast and our first classes at 8:00. We were in classes or physical activity about twelve hours a day, and even when not in class, we were trying to speak Portuguese or conversing with trainers about Peace Corps and Brazil.
It was probably the most intense and grueling educational experience I ever had.

As part of our training, we each spent three weeks working with a social agency. I worked in Tracy, CA with a VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) worker. My humorous pal worked nearby with a migrant minister.
Our trainers decided that everyone located near Stockton should work on a migrant farm for a day, just to see what migrant workers experienced. We dragged ourselves from bed before dawn and went to the vacant lot in Stockton where trucks or buses arrived to carry workers to the fields. Men would shout out, “Thirty-two cents a crate for tomatoes. Thirty workers needed.” Some of the members of our group picked cucumbers. I was with a small group picking apricots.
We were totally unprepared. We took no water or food with us, wrongly assuming it would be provided. The temperature was close to 100 degrees. The guys picking cucumbers had a rough time. They had to bend over all day in the scorching sun.
Ours was a hot, nasty job, but at least we were in the shade. However, the trees were planted close together so the branches from each tree touched the next tree, holding in the oppressive heat. We could pick apricots from the lower branches of the small trees without much effort. Ladders were available for higher branches. Some of the migrant workers could fill two crates in the time six of us filled one.
Because we had no food or water, we ate apricots ---lots of apricots ---mostly for the moisture. I was very fond of apricots, but after eating a crate of them that day, I could not look at an apricot for many years to come.

Meanwhile, a tragedy happened with another group of trainees working in a different area. They were helping at a summer day camp for impoverished children. One day the scheduled activity was a field trip to a local swimming hole. Sadly, one of the children drowned.
One of my worst fears is that I might be involved in an incident that hurt or killed someone. Even if it were an accident and no fault of my own, I can’t imagine how I would live with that. I empathized with the trainees involved.
We were never informed of the details ---and those involved were instructed not to discuss it ---so I don’t know if someone was negligent or if it were an unavoidable accident. There were rumors of a law suit.
The Peace Corps decided to deselect all the trainees who were present when the drowning incident took place.
It was a sad event, especially for the family of the victim. But is was also sad for the Peace Corps and for those trainees who would not be joining the rest of us in Brazil.

I made it through the summer and returned home full of excitement about the coming year. During my last year of college when I would complete my B.S. degree in Art Education, I was supposed to listen to Portuguese tapes and it was suggested that we become involved in some kind of volunteer work. I had good intentions, but my senior year was hectic. I was taking more than the recommended number of courses during the fall semester. During the spring semester I student taught while taking two required education classes. So I didn’t do volunteer work and only half-heartenedly listened to my language tapes.
My training group met over Christmas break in Chicago, but I had an emergency appendectomy, so I didn’t make it.
In the spring, I started to get my required inoculations. I believe the total was about 18 shots for everything from tetanus to cholera.

After graduation, we met in Philadelphia for a few days near the beginning of July 1967. From there, we flew to Miami where we had a long wait because of a mechanical problem on the plane. Finally we left for a very long and uncomfortable flight. We stopped briefly at the airport in Caracas, then flew on to Rio.
After a few days of orientation and sight seeing in Rio, we were invited to a reception at the American ambassador’s home where we were officially sworn in.
We were divided into three groups for six more weeks of training. One flew to the state of Goiás, another to Espírito Santo, and my group to Bahia. (See map at the top of this post.)
After a few days in Salvador (which became my favorite Brazilian city) the Bahia group was sent to Dias d’Avila, a small town outside of Salvador, where we lived with locals. I stayed with a family consisting of an older couple, their granddaughter, her husband and their small boy Paulo. After about three weeks, I was moved to a pensão because the elderly gentleman was admitted to the hospital and a house guest was too much work when the family would be with him most of the time.
My Portuguese skills didn’t seem to improve with training. The trainers informed me that I would be deselected if I didn't make progress soon.
The trainers still seemed to be trying to trip us up and would question us about the oddest things. I was called to an interview one day because someone (?) said they had seen me flirting with a Brazilian stranger on the Lacerda Elevador (a large public elevator that carries commuters between the upper and lower sections of Salvador.) I had no idea what the psychologist was talking about. Someone may have asked me if I were an American ---a frequent occurrence ---and to be polite, I may have responded. In Salvador, I was always with another trainee ---mainly because I needed someone who could speak Portuguese better than I did ----so I referred him to the people I had spent time with in the city. It was not brought up again.
We made lots of fun of the PC psychologists (when they weren’t around, of course) because they seemed like such small, petty men ---and yes, they were all men ---who had an unnatural interest in everyone’s love life and seemed to get some perverse pleasure from watching us squirm.

Advanced training sounded like a great idea, but there were problems with the program so ours was the last such training group. We started out with about 106 trainees the previous summer. By the time we were ready to go to our PC sites in Brazil, only about 56 remained. During our senior year, some had decided PC was not for them. Some had received job offers or graduate assistantships or fellowships they felt they couldn’t pass up. A few had become romantically involved and didn’t want to leave their new loves. Others were let go by the Peace Corps for a number of reasons. Several dropped out during our in-country training. After flying us to California, putting us up at a college, paying the numerous staff and teachers, flying everyone to Chicago for the Chistmas holiday event, too many people dropped out to continue that type of program.
The Peace Corps has always run on a budget, less than what is allocated for the Army band, so unsuccessful programs had to be trashed for ones that were more cost effective.

Despite my terrible Portuguese language skills, Ralph, the state director for Bahia, fought for me to stay in Brazil. In his experience, anyone who had been trained as a teacher turned out to be an excellent Volunteer. Brunie, who had been in Brazil for about a year, was requesting a teacher ---primarily to teach English as a foreign language ---to be assigned to her town in the state of Sergipe, just north of Bahia along the Atlantic coast.
I suspect that Ralph knew that Brunie, who spoke Portuguese beautifully, would be a good teacher and a hard taskmaster, which was exactly what I needed.

So, sometime in August of 1967, just a few days after turning 22, I arrived in Nossa Senhora da Glória, my Peace Corps site, anxious to begin my two-year commitment, but barely able to speak the language ---and the rest of this story can be found on other posts on this blog.

(©2009, C.J. Peiffer)

Click HERE for a post about how I went from a Portuguese illiterate to earning a 3+ (able to get along in all normal situations with some advanced vocabulary in a specialized field) on my final foreign service Portuguese language evaluation in July 1969. (Scores ranged from 0 to 5.)

14 April 2009

"THE DOORS OF RIO" - Ruby Tuesday #2

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          Several years ago, there was a popular series of posters titled "The Doors of Ireland," "The Doors of London" etc. At the time, I had been taking photos of doors and windows for years. To me, doors represent an opening, a portal, a gate to something new. Of course a door may be closed, but one can open a door to a house, a car, an idea, a perception, an opportunity, an experience, or to the outdoors. One can lock or unlock a door, turn a door knob, win a door prize, ring a doorbell, use a door knocker, wipe one's feet on a door mat, be stuck in a doorjamb. The possibilities are endless.
        I wanted to create my own "The Doors of..." poster, but I didn't want it to be mere photographs of doors like the ones I had seen, so instead I used photos of two doors in Rio de Janeiro, turned them sideways, repeated the images, and created a semi-abstract design from them. I wanted the doors to be recognizable, but not obvious at first glance.
        So here is my entry to this week's Ruby Tuesday photo prompt. Enjoy.

A poster featuring this image can be found HERE.

I post on two different blogs.
        See last week's entry (#1) "Classic Caddy" on 
        my other blog, Pro Artz.
(Image ©2001, Text ©2009, C.J. Peiffer)