26 May 2009


Overland, a former student,
is now a meteorologist in Sergipe.

Alegria! Alegria!

Making contact:
        In my post Alegria! Alegria! Part 1, I explained that I had been trying to contact my former students from my work as a teacher in the Peace Corp in Brazil. After many years of trying, I finally was contacted by several people I knew when I lived there.

        Sadly I learned a few people had died. 
        But I was so thrilled to learn of the lives of my former students that I actually cried with joy when I read about their successes.

        When I left Glória, 40 years ago, I was proud to be a part of the first ginásio  (high school) in the town. It had been established only a few years earlier. When I arrived, no one had graduated yet, but would soon. As proud as I was to be teaching these wonderful students ---I am a firm believer that education can open doors for everyone ---I admit I worried that there would be no opportunities for high school graduates in Glória.
        The town had no industry. Except for local farms and small businesses that served the town (bars, bakeries, a fabric shop, cabinet makers, etc.) there were several government agencies. DNOCS was a federal agency fighting droughts. ANCARSE provided a home economist and an agronomist to help farmers and homemakers and to teach students practical skills at one-room schools in the interior. Also there was a Brazilian Legion of Assistance that was in Glória to create chicken cooperatives. Most of the people working in these agencies were not from Glória. They had come from the capital city Aracajú and most would move back there or to another larger city if the opportunity arose.
        There was also a branch of the Bank of Brazil which had an all-male work force. Most of the bankers were also from other cities, with only two local employees with low-level jobs. And most of the men had submitted requests to move to larger cities when there were openings for them.
        Opportunities for women were almost non-existant, except for teaching. But there wasn’t a need for more than a few teachers, and most teaching jobs were part-time.
        Those who wanted to continue their educations would have to live in Aracajú or another larger city to attend a colégio, which was somewhat like the last two years of high school in the U.S. That meant staying with relatives or paying room and board in addition to tuition. Some students’ families already struggled to pay for tuition, uniforms, books and other supplies for the ginásio. The good thing was that if students completed courses at a colégio, university tuition would be free.
        I feared it would take decades for any progress in the town to permit the graduates to branch into new fields or to build better lives for themselves, their families, and their community.

        I am so happy that I was wrong.

        My former student Idalécio told me he is a chemical engineer and a professor. Other former students are a meteorologist, a bank manager, a federal police officer, a lawyer, a doctor, a secretary of agriculture, and a social worker. Several are teachers.
Idalécio at about age 16 in a detail of a larger photo (see below ) is now an chemical engineer and a professor.

        Wow! I feel like a proud parent who wants to brag about her children. But, of course, 40 years have passed and none of my former students are children. In fact, some are older than I am. I had just turned 22 when I arrived and not quite 24 when I left Glória. Some adults who had never before had the opportunity to attend high school, were my students. The oldest was 44. The youngest was 12 and would be 52 now.
        I am so proud that I played even the tiniest part in their educations. Apparently, at least for some, the doors of opportunity were opened. I’m sure it took much hard work and sacrifice for many of them to continue learning and to achieve success in their chosen fields, but they did.
        Knowing this, is the best gift I have received in many years.


When I wanted to take a final photo of Glória
before leaving in 1969, Idalecinho posed on a
bench in the praça in front of the church.
(©2009, C.J. Peiffer)


  1. another great post. don't you love the Praça with the Português style church - really lovely.

  2. I found myself reading very fast so I could see what happened next!

    Wow!!! soooo exciting!!!!