By Chip Kishel
April 1, 2014
A story of a young American boy and his family living in Brazil from 1962 to 1964.
Much to my dismay, school started in early August, nearly three weeks earlier than in the States. After all I was below the equator and the season in Brazil was late winter, so I thought.
Escola Graduada de São Paulo
As mentioned in part 1 of this series, the school bus was not like the ones I was accustomed to. The school bus may not have been a school” bus at all, but rather a bus for hire. I recall the interior of the bus being plain, but the front dashboard and windshield was decorated with hanging colorful balls and religious icons and decals. The school was 3 to 4 years old, as I was told, and isolated on a hill about 45 minutes from home. (Note: I Googled my school today, 50 years later, to find it surrounded by a crowded metropolis) My new school had a three tier playground with external hallways. Unlike schools in the states, this school served grades kindergarten to 12th.
What I did not expect was the practice of hazing new kids. Not only was I in culture shock, but now I’m picked on for no apparent reason and always by more than one at a time! Let’s review my thinking to this point in my story. Within four weeks of leaving my home in the USA, I sailed on a Coffee Ship on the Atlantic for two weeks, witnessed the rescue of two people floating in a small boat in the middle of the Florida straits, escaping Cuba, sunburnt red and throwing away their suicide pistol as they were hoisted up the Jacobs ladder and finally disembarking in Santos. Then, transported to a home in Brooklin that was surrounded by broken glass topped walls. I could not speak the language, got swindled out of money and was jumped by three Brazilian kids. (My gifted switchblade saved me.) Now I need to fight in my school… and I’m 10 years old.
Needless to say, the first months in Brazil for me were pretty crappy and I developed a hatred for everything Brazilian. One additional aspect about tropical countries that never crossed my mind was insects, especially fleas.
The Beebe house came with a dog named Blackie. Blackie was an older dachshund who took a liking to me. I vividly recall waking up one morning and itching really bad in my shorts. When I opened up my shorts and gazed down, I was bitten dozens of times… everywhere. I can just imagine how those fleas must have felt to have found a fresh Lilly white boy to feed on. I still recall my mother dosing my crotch with alcohol.
To add to the culture shock, fighting, swindling and getting my crotch washed with alcohol, there was no way to escape boredom. We had TV, but American shows were old and dubbed. There seemed to be more advertisements than programs, but that did not matter as I had no clue what they were selling unless it was Coca Cola. We had radio, but the music was Samba and types I could not relate to, or once in a while, a 50’s rock n roll tune that felt like a minute of home. So I invented my own entertainment.
Streetcar Fruit Toss
The streetcar tracks ran parallel to the walls surrounding the Beebe house. At one corner stood a tree large enough to hold me and overlook the tracks. The streetcars had a loud bell they rang at intersections. This alerted me to be ready to toss. I wish I could apologize to those people who got hit with bananas, watermelon rinds, oranges and apples. My game abruptly ended one day when my aim was off and I broke a window. The street car stopped and the operator came to the gate yelling something in Portuguese. Our maid took the heat and my father paid him 1,000 Cruzeiros, which at the time was worth about US$3.00.
Chip Kishel and his wife Agnes reside in the small town of Sylvania, Georgia. Chip works for Houghton International as a contract Site Manager for Koyo Needle Bearing LLC. Chip’s hobbies include custom vintage Honda Motorcycle Restoration and his wife is an accomplished equestrian trainer specializing in dressage, cross country and stadium jumping.
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