from Sandy Needham

Friday, January 5, 2018

2018 New Year's Dispatch

Our 2017 was a “war of the worlds:” the Third and the First. In truth, we called the Northeast of Brazil “the third-and-a-half world” because it does not have the sophistication of the South. While we’re quibbling, the USA is edging towards Third each day, though our new city, San Diego, is beautifully organized and feels plenty First.

At the end of May 2017, we said good-bye to our dear remaining friends in the city of Natal, our beautiful, restful house, the ever-changing light on the ocean, the iguanas, the long-stretching dollar and the bad roads.

Moon from our bedroom window

Graceful mosquito net
Do you see the iguana?

Cotovelo Beach, our paradise
Our varied group of expats, locals, macho men, girly-girls, the wise, the crazy, the young, the rich, the intellectuals, the superstitious, the rascals…and six stranded African fishermen…taught us that if you get to know people well enough, you love them. Believe this. It is my favorite gift from Brazil.

Our African fishermen with Mary & Glades
My story about The Nigerian Fishermen 

Some of our friends returned to Europe over the past four years, so we’ve already had reunions with them in Majorca, London and Lisbon. 

September reunion in Portugal
Our hilarious friends closing up the Ericeira, Portugal town square this Christmas

For those precious friends remaining in our city of Natal, we feel the untranslatable “saudades:” missing them with love and sadness:

Our brilliant biologists & soul-mates, Ali & Priscila

Graceful, accomplished, loving: Alicia & Ernesto ("wild man")

...and their fantastic children, Carlos & Alicita

Elegant, sophisticated, down-to-earth, heart of gold: Carmen & Pascal
A complete original: Flavia

A woman from whom I learned so much and her fearless husband: Rita & Fred

Saudades, indeed (sniff).

Lizard playground
Our house on Cotovelo Beach gave me such a strong sense of place, even in a foreign land. I was clearly meant to rest there after working and raising children. I loved every room. My unexpected bonus: the 'medicine' of the natural world. We left the house furnished for rental and moved with suitcases only. 

Another lizard playground

My sacred balcony

What a kick it was deciding just who, exactly, should get which clothes, shoes, craft supplies, games, books, and doodads. I remain satisfied with my choices. Betania, our cook/cleaning woman, wanted to keep the photos of children from the NY school where I had worked in the frames I was offering her! She loved hearing my story about each of them. Our caretaker, Marcos’ teenage daughter wrote us a lovely (and literate!) letter from the interior to thank us for the bounty she and her sisters received, including our Christmas decorations. Newton sold his squash racket and all electronics to friends or through an ad. 

Our suitcases were bursting, anyway.

San Diego, California is near our daughter in Los Angeles, not too far from our son and daughter-in-law in Las Vegas, and his in-laws live here! The weather is temperate. I am still longing for some rain to give meaning to all these sunny days. Apparently, rain is expected over the winter. The people are friendly and kind. The roads and highways are carefully planned (we’re wondering if anything inside the city limits is more than 11 minutes away?), and I love the way everybody signals and drives in their traffic lanes!

Our move started with one week to find a rental in San Diego. Bingo! A cozy adobe house with apple, orange, lime, tangerine, kumquat, persimmon, fig, cherimoya, and macadamia nut trees, plus blackberries and grapes.


Next came New York, culling our most prized possessions that had been in storage for eleven years for packing into a moving van. Most everything about storage was a fiasco: the unit was filthy and had been infiltrated with insects and rodents; our six rolled up Kilim rugs were decimated; falling rain and dirt in 2007, when the facility installed a new roof that leaked over our unit, left the furniture in dreadful condition. Insects/rodents are not covered by insurance. The $2,000 possible coverage would certainly help with furniture cleaning and restoration, but in the end, the insurers informed us that the statute of limitations had passed in 2010. ZERO. If you need to store anything, better you live on the same street as the storage company.

Six months after the moving van’s arrival in our North Park neighborhood of San Diego, we are happy to say that our back-breaking work to restore fine walnut and teak pieces with steel wool, garnet paper and the proper oils turned out pretty well. Even though the packed storage boxes looked damaged, most everything inside survived. Unpacking our treasures after eleven years was better than Christmas in July!

We find picking fruit out of the garden endlessly amusing.

I found the best yoga studio imaginable four minutes away, so my sacred balcony in Brazil has been replaced with transcendent teachers! The city offers a big catalogue of free Continuing Education courses. I have four weeks to go in my fantastic Creative Writing Workshop, and there may even be a friend or two resulting.

One evening when we returned faithfully to our favorite Mexican Cantina Mayahuel around the corner, our friend Miles, the bartender, asked if we had any friends coming, in order to help us find seats. We said, “Miles, you and Jorge are our only friends in the city…except for our grandniece Emily!” It turns out Miles knows Emily, who used to sell tequila! Making friends is definitely the hard part and takes time, as we already discovered in Japan and Brazil. Newton is seeking out soccer, tennis and poker connections via the “Meetup” site we joined (we’ve both signed up for the San Diego Boomers!), so we’re hoping that will speed up the process. An old high school friend recommended a lovely guy to help us house-hunt, and the rousing Christmas party he and his wife threw added more possibilities. Patience.

In truth, the transition from Brazil back to the US seemed more of a known entity - despite the political and weather-related disasters - than the transition from our prior 29 years in New York to the West Coast. That is a thing! But I’m definitely on board with kale. We go to two street markets per week for organic produce, grass-fed anything and Newton’s favorite African, Turkish and Argentine dishes to supplement our loss of Betania’s cooking. The city has rich arts offerings. It’s just that there’s only one New York…and those winters that go with it.

We agree that we have precisely the right dose of ‘urban’ in San Diego. These city neighborhoods around the extraordinary Balboa Park have mostly one-story Arts and Craft bungalows and adobe Spanish Revival houses from the ‘30’s and ‘40’s, along with properties converted into two-story apartment complexes. Each neighborhood has its little center of bars, shops and restaurants. This offers a small town feel within the city. Most neighborhood businesses are locally owned, like the actual, real hardware store that sells nails by the handful! Seven minutes by highway gets us to the mall and the chain stores, but we usually avoid that scene.

Balboa Park Botanical Gardens

Balboa Park trail

Elise, Jake and Larissa came for the holidays, decorating the tree with those long-missed ornaments from their childhood. 

We played lots of games, though the funniest was this moment at a little bar:

And now to the business at hand: 2018. More new beginnings for all of us, or at least fine-tuning of previous beginnings! Health, natural beauty, love…we wish you the big ones that make all else better.

Our best,

Sandra and Newton

The Nigerian Fishermen

A fishing boat was turning to rust, beached on the northeastern coast of Brazil; six lost men were being deported back to Africa, and there I was on Broadway, thrilling to the mesmerizing musical production of “Fela!”. Fela who? A Nigerian icon and hero to the poor, Fela Kuti was a musician who brought to the “African Beat” his synthesis of jazz picked up in the US and UK, anti-government songs he wrote in Nigerian patois, and traditional African rhythms. He was a fearless political activist who wrote music against one corrupt regime after another, each in turn jailing and beating him repeatedly. Government thugs threw his mother out a window to her death. Fela Kuti was legendary for his inexhaustible courage, his Lagos music club where his 27 wives performed as singers and dancers, and his gigantic, ubiquitous joint of marijuana. Supposedly, he died of AIDS in the mid-nineties. Our Nigerian fishermen suspect not.
My husband, Newton, and I were visiting Salvador, Bahia – five states south of our home on the northeastern Brazilian coast – when we heard the news report: a fishing boat had lost its power and drifted from Africa to our state of Rio Grande do Norte. It was early October 2009.
Our caretaker told us upon our return home to the city of Natal that a Nigerian fishing boat was stranded on Buzios Beach – two beaches south of us.
A few days later we drove to Buzios to check out this story. There it was: a large, rusting metal fishing boat stuck in the sand. Only curious local onlookers were around. We decided to visit our American friend, Mary, on Pirangi Beach en route home. She told us an amazing story about her friend Glades (Gladys), a local English-speaking travel agent from the South of Brazil. Glades, in her 40’s, had visited the fishing boat three days after it beached and was the first English-speaking person the six stranded Nigerian fishermen met. Glades had recently told-off her insufferable boss and was newly unemployed. After translating a local newspaper article detailing their plight and becoming the fishermen’s fast friend, Glades became their official interpreter regarding status with the Navy, the bank, the Brazilian government at its various levels, and the local community. This petite, spritely redhead caught plenty of self-important officials off-guard with her quick-witted brain and low tolerance for bureaucratic run-around. There were only three actual Nigerian fishermen; two were from Ghana and one from Benin – all working for a Nigerian fishing company. Glades became their hero and they called her “Mama.”
Mary and her husband had organized an elaborate breakfast for the fishermen. The story she told us was what the six had recounted to them. Though the men were still feeling baffled and unanchored, that breakfast brought the first smiles to their faces in a long while!
The month adrift from the waters of Nigeria to our shore was harrowing and hypnotic. After the engine blew and the generator stopped working, the GPS went kaput, as well. There were plenty of fish to eat, but scarcely any water. Ocean storms tossed the boat to the crests of waves where the men hung on with all their strength before the crashing plunge to the trough. Two whales, larger than the boat, traveled protectively alongside the fishermen for a spell. Finally, the men spotted land one night around midnight. They could not determine if the boat would run into rocks and capsize, so when it was nearing the beach they jumped in the rough ocean and swam. The impact injured one of the fishermen, who was put into a rubber lifeboat after spitting up blood.
A local beach house caretaker happened to be on Buzios Beach at midnight and could see what was taking place, dark as it was. The dehydrated and disoriented fishermen did not actually know where they were. Was this man speaking Portuguese because they had drifted to a Portuguese-speaking African island? They understood “Brasil.” With sign language and gestures the kind caretaker got them to the currently unoccupied beach house he was tending.
By the time of Mary’s story, the absentee owner of the Buzios beach house had turned the six fishermen out. They were all staying at Glades’ apartment, using the bunk beds and extra room! Everything they had left unguarded on the boat, except the broken generator and motor, was lost to thieves: compass, GPS, clothes, pots and pans, DVD player. They were wearing local clothing donations. At Glades’ savvy insistence, higher authorities had commanded a bank on strike to open so the fishermen could receive the funds their company wired to help them until solutions could be arranged. Would the boat get towed out of the sand and to the port of Natal for repairs? Would the company decide to sell it and fly the fishermen home?
IBAMA, Brazil’s EPA, had already ordered the draining of oil and dirty water from the boat’s hull.
I was lying in bed one morning in a half-sleep soon after hearing Mary’s account. What could we do for the fishermen? It occurred to me that the Skype phone on Newton’s computer in his home office might be valuable to them. I got Glades’ number from Mary and called.
The first arrivals at our house were Glades and the Nigerian, Williams (his first name). He was the assistant engineer on the boat and limped from a gunshot wound in the leg delivered a year prior by pirates in Nigerian waters. That did not prevent this handsome young man in his 30’s from managing a swagger! He had become Glades’ boyfriend and was sporting the ‘cool’ shirt, shorts and baseball cap she had bought him; not donations. Williams reached his brother via Skype, who surely must have thought he was dead by then. Next, he called the boss of the fishing company, pleading for more money. The company had basically abandoned the fishermen after that initial money wire, and the fishermen were desperately wondering what would become of them. Williams emailed Newton’s photo of the grounded boat to the boss. Then I put on African musician Richard Bona out on the veranda. Williams taught me the ‘high life’ style of dance that is popular in West Africa. I loved the economy of his moves.
No one could budge the boat. The Brazilian government was typically slow to provide solutions. Five out of the six fishermen lost their passports during the rough swim ashore, so were officially in Brazil illegally. 
Glades was able to negotiate a good deal on a rental beach house for the fishermen near their boat in Buzios. It was necessary for them to guard the boat from thieves who could steal the motor. Glades said that while the six of them were staying at her apartment, they had kept the place spotless and “ship-shape,” cooking most meals themselves. Williams stayed on with Glades.
The next to show up to use our Skype phone were Glades, Williams and the other two Nigerians, “Captain” – the boat’s captain – and “Indian,” – the boat’s engineer. Indian was the son of a tribal chief with three wives and the one injured from the impact of the midnight swim ashore. Fortunately, the free local hospital had treated him and he was greatly improved. Indian seemed vulnerable, but very sweet and appreciative.
Captain, the oldest of the six in his 40’s, had a gently dignified bearing. He had not been able to reach his wife because her cell number had changed, but he did reach her brother that day and left a number for his wife. His face reflected incredible relief and joy when he hung up; his wife knew he was alive and she would be calling soon. Captain had two older sons studying banking in Ghana and a small boy and baby girl by his second wife. Indian, in his mid-30’s, had a wife (“just one wife in my generation!”) and four daughters. He also had not reached anyone to report his fate. Knowing his family had no income, he was particularly forlorn and homesick. After reaching his wife’s brother and reporting his surprising whereabouts and a contact number, Indian’s face was also transformed from tension to relief. Newton was showing the fishermen how Google Earth worked on the computer, but they seemed reticent about our seeing their neighborhood in the city of Lagos.
Captain said that all the beach cafés on Buzios Beach closed at 6:00pm when it got dark, so the fishermen were just stuck in their house all evening with no place to go. We sent some playing cards, a twelve-pack of beer and a stack of DVD’s home with them.
Newton and I soon invited the fishermen for an evening out at our favorite local bar. The owner always played a great range of world music in the sylvan setting of the courtyard. We requested African music. When only Glades, Williams and Indian showed up, we began to suspect that the six were not getting along well. Apparently, there was tension over leadership and the strains of the fishermen’s circumstances. Indian was coughing up blood again and worried sick about his family back home, so he was also staying with Glades. After some tunes played, which Williams and Indian identified as music from their neighboring Cameroon, they asked the bar owner if he had any Fela Kuti music. Of course, he did! They just lit up hearing their Nigerian idol. This was the first we had ever heard of him. The two of them described for us the political turmoil, the complete adoration of the populace, and the eccentricities that defined Fela Kuti’s outsized life.
I later asked Newton at home how to spell the name of that famous Nigerian musician we heard at the bar. He spelled out “F-E-L-A…K-U-T-I.” It’s the truth: two hours later I saw a photo of jubilant African dancers with a caption of “Fela!” on the front page of the online New York Times. A Broadway show about Fela Kuti had just opened!
We met the three remaining fishermen after seeing Glades, Williams and Indian at a bus stop and giving them a ride to the Buzios beach house. Charlie, a Ghanaian, was a charming, funny, ladies’ man in his late 30’s with a boy, 10, and a girl, 8, back home. It was his passport that survived the swim ashore. He wore a knit winter hat and an orange one-piece suit reminiscent of a racecar driver. His countryman, Francisco, was the youngest at 23 and the most beautiful. He was shy and spoke the least English, but his classic features broke from seriousness into a stunning smile. Francisco was separated with a 5-year-old boy. Leandre from Benin, amazingly pitch-black, tall, lean and gracious, was a former farmer and French teacher in his 40’s with two sets of boy/girl twins, ages 10 and 7. He was very straight arrow and the most religious, attending Catholic masses in Portuguese regularly. He longed to be back with his family.         
Eventually, the men managed to lug the boat’s broken motor all the way to their living room. They wanted to repair it and sell it since they were getting no help from their company.
It was hard to ascertain if the government of Brazil, of Nigeria, of Ghana or of Benin was the slowest to resolve the issues of temporary passports. Then there was the rusting boat. The men were just biding their time, some falling in love with Brazil or with Brazilian women, some pining away for their home and families.
The Natal police chief became the most helpful in the end, and efforts were finally successful to replace the lost passports with temporary ones from the respective governments in Africa. There was talk of sending Charley home early with his original passport to try to coordinate efforts with the company to salvage the boat, but Glades thought the police wanted to wait till all of them could fly back together. Police escorts to São Paulo (from where the flight to South Africa and then their West African countries would originate) would be required because their unusual/illegal status actually meant “deportation.”
Finally, we were able to give all the fishermen and Glades a night out! They joined us in our beach town at a bar with acarajé – a spicy African-Brazilian dish from Bahia, where African slaves had disembarked. Mary also joined us. Williams led a prayer before we ate, as they were all Christians and had taken to praying together throughout their ordeal. What they liked best about Brazil were the people they had met. When the subject of thieves came up, they mentioned that thievery was also prevalent in their countries, even the theft of items – including Bibles – at church! A discussion ensued about when God forgives the theft of a Bible and when he does not! The fishermen found the extra spicy acarajé too mild by their standards. They loved my story about the Fela Kuti Broadway show, for which I had nabbed two tickets for January when we would be in NY. The bar played some good recorded samba, so I coaxed the Africans to try out the dance of Brazil. Glades and Mary helped me pull them to their samba fate!
There was still no resolution for the stranded boat or a date for the fishermen’s passage home. The initiative to tow the boat seemed to have evaporated after the lowest tide of the season did not prove low enough to dislodge it. An industrious guy materialized to repair the boat’s engine, but with no money forthcoming, his creditors providing the supplies were beginning to threaten.
Newton arranged to meet the guys on the beach by the boat where they played a lot of soccer. They were tired from the pick-up game they played for hours the day before with a revolving cast of players that showed up, but Captain, Indian, Francisco and Charlie came over from the house bearing cans of cold beer. They took great pleasure in presenting these to us. Leandre was at church in nearby Tabatinga. The fishermen told us that since the Brazilian government was paying for their plane tickets back to Africa as a deportation, they would be unable to return to Brazil unless they reimbursed the government, including the fares of their police escorts. By now Francisco wanted to stay in Brazil, too! Charlie had previously told me that he would like to return to Brazil to study at a maritime college and had asked if I could get any information from the Internet. He was thrilled to get the print-outs about the two branches in Rio and Belem, complete with courses and application. There was a program for foreigners with free room and board. Charlie said his brother in Dubai could sponsor his tuition!
Later, the fishermen invited us to their beach house for an African meal. We arrived at the beach for another proposed soccer game, but the tide was too high, so the guys were waiting for us at the house. Only the lovely Francisco, no longer shy with us, was waiting at the beach. The memory of joining hands to run down the dune together for a photo beside the boat is the sweetest! We went to the house with a cooler of beer. Captain was cooking in the kitchen. Williams wanted a ride to a lake in Tabatinga, so we drove him and met Eugenio, the Brazilian caretaker who had rescued them on that midnight beach. He ran a little bar at the lake, and Williams was proud to buy us beers. Leandre was in the yard beside the bar shelling shrimp for Eugenio after church. Williams had just heard from the boss in Nigeria, who finally realized how expensive it would be to replace the boat. They were hoping he would now enable them financially to get the boat towed and repaired to return home or sell.
Back at the house, Captain’s African Sunday lunch began on the veranda with a shot of scotch to open the gullet. There were pieces of grilled chicken and a mash of beans, coconut and manioc (cassava – yucca root) to which was added the blend of tomatoes, peppers and onions sautéed in dendé (coconut oil). This was eaten with the hand: first worked all together into a ball, then held and nibbled from red-stained fingers. A bowl of water sat nearby for finger-dipping. IT WAS DELICIOUS. The beer came after to inflate the bulk of food in the stomach. Very satisfying.
I commented about the fishermen’s perfect teeth. Charlie showed us the “chewing stick” that is commonly used in West Africa, following the toothbrush. It may be a root. No one had stolen these sticks from the boat! They seemed more effective than flossing, even if they did not account for how straight the men’s teeth were. Indian mentioned also that people do not consume much sugar in West Africa. I suggested a chewing stick export business when they returned!
Captain had an invitation from a “girlfriend” who owned a bar at the other end of Buzios Beach. Captain, Indian and Williams piled into our car and we ended up under a thatch umbrella by the water, drinking beer after beer. Williams, Captain and Indian shared the shrimp and fish the woman served up. Newton and I were too full! We conversed about Nigeria, theology, and Pidgin English.
We invited the fishermen to come to our house for some holiday spicy chicken wings and Fela Kuti music. In the meantime, I had decided that what was needed were some gifts for the fishermen to give their wives and children when they returned to Africa. It was possible they might even make it home by Christmas. I had some great paper dolls and scissors I had brought from the US, including Obama family paper dolls. The fishermen had assured us that everybody in Africa, including children, knew who Obama was! I found some girly hair accessories for the younger girls. Combining Brazilian beads and African beads, I strung necklaces for the wives/girlfriends. I found soccer shirts of the Brazilian national team for boys 23, 19, 10 (two), 8, 7 and 5. It took a grueling long while and tough negotiating, but the tourist store finally found all the right sizes and made me a deal. This project put me decidedly in the Christmas spirit!
The coconut trees in our front yard were wound with red and green tube lights. The Africans and Glades were approaching down the road from the bus stop. Newton clicked the button on the iPod, recently loaded with Fela Kuti songs, just in time for the music to start as they reached our gate. The next hour-and-a-half was spent with all nine of us dancing on the veranda: beaming smiles, juice/beers-in-hand, singing along to the Fela Kuti lyrics (enthusiastically explained/translated for us). The men were transformed. Graceful, funny, butt-bumping, floating, dancing in earthbound moving mantras…I was trying to mimic all of it! Francisco made dancing look like rhythmic tai chi; utterly elegant, evocative of animals and birds. I decided I was adding him to my Fred Astaire/ Baryshnikov top dancers list! When dancing, Francisco was not shy; Captain’s swollen, dislocated knee did not impede motion; Williams did not limp; Indian’s joyful animation was not limited by his lung injury or worry; and even the staid, teetotaler Leandre, the only one who had sat down since arriving, intermittently got up and carefully stepped to the beat. No matter how relaxed I tried to be copying their moves, I could see how much more effort I was making. Captain said “release”…and there was the story of my Northern Hemisphere’s version of earnest effort! No pain, no gain, and so on. Their seamless finesse and “release” were the story of a certain elusive freedom.
At last we collapsed onto sofa and chairs. Out came the chicken wings, rice and beans, and malageta hot peppers. We had a wonderful time eating and gabbing. I handed out the bags with presents for the men to take back. Their beautiful faces fixed in gratitude are indelible in my mind’s eye. Williams led them in singing for us; their voices answered his sung phrases in chant-like responses. The sound was exquisite. I may not be religious, but I definitely know when a sublime blessing is engulfing me.
Finally, we said our farewells. We had no idea whether or not any of them would be in Brazil when we returned in January.
Glades emailed us during our holiday travels that the Natal Chief of Police had sent all of the fishermen back to Africa. Charlie and Francisco – the two Ghanaians – and Leandre from Benin left on December 22nd. The three Nigerians - Williams, Captain and Indian – left on December 30th. We felt both a pang of sadness and some relief, for their sakes. 
Once back in Natal, we met Glades at the neighborhood bar to hear the whole story: Four days ahead of departure, Glades was informed by the Chief of Police that Leandre, Charlie and Francisco would be flying back. Glades could not get the information about what airline, flight and time, but arrangements were made to pick up the three, plus Williams and Glades to see them off, at 11:00pm for a 2am flight to São Paulo. Glades had reminded the police that they were not dealing with the deportation of criminals, just fishermen, so there were not the usual two police escorts per deportee, but four total. Lufthansa would not honor the existing reservation when they learned it was a deportation, so an Emirates flight was arranged. Leandre, who always wanted only to get home to his family, was just beaming at the airport. Glades got a call from Leandre that he made it to his family in time for Christmas Day!
Captain and Indian, remaining in the rental house at Buzios Beach, were properly feted over the holidays with lots of invitations and contributions of beer and food from their Buzios friends. Captain continued his fling with the owner of the shrimp beach bar. Indian wanted to get home to his struggling family. Williams was still living at Glades’ and celebrated Christmas Eve with Mary and family.
Glades got the call that the Nigerians would fly out on December 30th. She and Williams had been running around desperately trying to find a legal way for Williams to stay, but it was necessary for him to go back to Nigeria and get an official passport before returning to establish legal residency. Glades and Williams cried most of the time as departure neared. This time four different police officers would be accompanying Captain, Indian, and Williams. The officers tried to make things convenient for themselves by announcing at the last minute that they would pick the fishermen up in Buzios at 6:00pm for the 2:00am flight…saying that the Nigerians could “relax” at the police station and order dinner (while the police went home and rested). Glades, always on her toes, said that timing would be impossible, as she had no way to contact all of them immediately and that there would not be enough time to close up the rental house properly. The pick-up would need to be at 11:00pm. Actually, Williams, who had recently been working for a Brazilian on a tourist fishing boat - though not legal to work - was still not home from that job!
After very tearful good-byes at the airport, the three flew off with their escorts to São Paulo and then caught an Air France connection through Paris. They arrived in Lagos, Nigeria in the middle of the night on New Year's Eve/Day. Indian did make it to his family at last; Captain was, once again, a husband and father; and Williams would possibly make it back to Brazil in a relatively short time! We had a baseball hat waiting for Williams, who had requested a present from the US.
Since the long-lost Nigerian boss had decided that he wanted his boat, he was arranging for Williams to accompany him back to Brazil as the assistant engineer to oversee its repair. The boss had been working to get Williams’ official passport and was paying for his flight back. Glades would be the boss’ interpreter in Brazil for all negotiations with the government and Navy. Williams would still have to come up with the money to reimburse the Brazilian government for his flights home with escorts to reverse his status. Then he and Glades planned to marry.
Williams could not raise enough money to allow his return. The boss arrived alone. Glades realized while sitting around a table with the boss and Brazilian officials that the officials were all corrupt and demanding outrageous fees for de-rusting and moving the boat: US$50,000. She knew they would pocket most of the money. The boss sat at the table and cried.

The desperate calls between Williams and Glades gradually became more infrequent. Eventually, the two just gave up. Charlie never made it back to study.

Newton and I monitored the rusted hulk of the boat. It was still aground six years later. Only on our last venture to the far end of Buzios Beach in 2016 did no trace of the boat remain. What remained was the memory of that uncomplicated friendship with six enchanting souls who drifted into our lives from afar. And the memory will always feel like love…and release.

Fela Kuti is still on our playlist.





Eating African

Glades with the boat

The fishermen with Mary & Glades

Click on left arrows below for Archive Dispatch titles.

Blog Archive