December 15th-30th, 1990
It would be the first Christmas without Dad. I had already set up my flight itinerary to visit my new friend Murilo Moretti and his family in Brazil. I took that as a god-send because it would be decided it best to simply honor the trip as planned, not to mention the fact it would become a relieving distraction to the void we would be feeling over those holidays.
The local neighborhood, São Bernardo do Campo, Brazil
We had talked about myself coming to Brazil, Murilo and I, and I always knew if I did not follow up on the idea soon it would never happen. I was very excited all the way up to the time I was to leave when I developed a heavy pit in my stomach. It was just something out of my control. I had not one second thought about going and was a little perplexed at my sudden reaction but there was the real me coming out from the inside. I was scared.
There was no question this is the way I would love to see any country outside of the United States. To be honored by a friendly family such as the Morettis, to be able to stay at their home and become a part of there family. It beats any 'guided tour' in my opinion.
Knowing this would be an event of my lifetime, I attempted to write a journal. I ultimately failed in properly documenting my trip, which is okay in the long run. I still keep in touch with Murilo and wife Rose and the rest of my Brazilian family today and when I look at many of these images 20+ years later, I can relive the feeling of being there. In many ways I would like to return and perhaps even stay there for the rest of my life.
Before traveling I spent some time actually trying to learn some Portuguese. I do wish I would have continued learning. Maybe I will yet.
Recently I uncovered my aborted attempt to document my adventure. It is fascinating because it does bring up memories I had forgotten.
Apparently I left Michigan on a Saturday, December 15, 1990. To start things off and add to my already gloomy feeling, there was fog. It was so bad the airport was shut down and my flight delayed three hours.
First stop was in New York City where I met a person named Charles. His destination was Paris but he had missed his connecting flight because of the fog delay in Detroit. (I was more fortunate because the delay did not affect me. I do remember it was initially a long three hour wait, however!)
Above: I was never certain (or cared) exactly where Murilo would be taking me. This reminds me of a kind of hotel area, but I just can't remember. It was one of the first locations he took me to. I never really asked, just trusted that whatever we would do would be enjoyable.
My flight would take me into Sunday when on board I remember now listening to more Portuguese language tapes and had a good sleep. I was lucky because I had a whole row of seats I could stretch out on. So what was a long trip to São Paulo became a short trip. My neighbor passenger, I wrote "has a destination to Buenos Aires."
I have it in my head these two folks were maybe the proprietors of the building.
My arrival in São Paulo was good. The police were easy to deal with and Customs, although a long wait went well. It was Murilo and his sister Maria (whom everyone called 'Bebé') that collected me at the airport and "Bebé" drove us to their home in São Bernardo where Murilo, Rose, Mirela and all the family lived. (Note: Within two years there would arrive another member of the family, Danilo Viola Moretti. I had the pleasure of not too long ago chatting with Danilo on Facebook. Although I have not yet met Danilo in person, he told me he knew of stories about his "Uncle John's" visit. How wonderful!)
The sign reads: Feliz Natal e Prospero Ano Novo!
I wrote: Bebé knows some english but is shy. Same for Rose (Murilo's wife). Rose believes that she can not speak english but I understand her very well. (Note: I really wanted to make the effort to speak Portuguese. I failed, yet sometimes I would say something in Portuguese and at least make the attempt to try, which I learned was very much appreciated. One rare moment I actually understood a conversation that was going on which had something to do with a worker's strike happening somewhere and I responded with some Brazilian words which took everyone by surprise. I was so proud!)
Mirela Viola Moretti, not quite two years old yet.
Murilo holding Mirela
Uncle Johnny, Murilo, Mirela & Rose
Mirela, Murilo & Rose
I simply loved the fact it was so warm and Christmas! I did not miss the snow at all. In fact I could really get used to Christmas in the Summer time.
Murilo & Mirela at home I believe.
The only photo I recorded of 'night life' in Brazil.
The big trip Murilo and his family took me to, I just do not know of the exact location.
What I wrote in my 'journal' was that when Rose and I picked Murilo up from work one day he was so happy. "Great News!" I wrote. "Murilo had worked out an arrangement with his boss that he would be allowed a day off work so that he and his family could take me to a beautiful 'honeymoon' beach."
"My good man will have to work and extra day to make up this time. All this for me," I wrote.
Mirela, Murilo and myself. (Photo taken by Rose Viola Moretti)
Please select this link to enhance this panorama:
A cave in the area of which I did not enter.
The Moretti family and friends. [Evaldo Meneghel & his family!]
There was a little wall on the beach and this was behind it.
Mirela and Murilo
On Monday, December 17th (my first full day in Brazil) I slept half of it away not getting up until almost Noon! I was fortunate that I was able to take a shower just in time before the water stopped. I never quite understood what happened but felt terrible I might have used up all their water for the day but was assured that wasn't a problem. (I was to learn later that maybe it had been an inconvenience to them after all as they had saved their water for me. Oh, but I did need a clean up!)
Rose made lunch which was very good. It was rice with another dish of potatoes and beef in layers. I also had Mango for the first time.
Evaldo Meneghel & Murilo Moretti
Murilo had to take the afternoon to explain to the government why he did not participate in the last election. I'm not certain I recorded the story correctly but I believe he was out-of-town on business at the time. The office we went to together had a staff of very nice people who were all curious about me.
Grilouco Guilherme Rimbano Meneghel & Mirela Viola Moretti [foreground]
Grilouco & Mirela
The Meneghel Family
That afternoon Rose took me shopping and, of course, I bought a few things. I think I picked up some jewelry for my mother that looked very Brazilian to me.
That evening I was taken to a place where I could 'sample' a typical Brazilian meal. That was a lot of fun. There were first many breads and jams followed up by a course of fried fish and cheese and bread. Then I had what was called a 'fish pie'. It looked like pumpkin pie to me but was fish. Murilo told me he liked it better when they used chicken instead of fish.
I was always so happy this photo turned out OK. It's my misfortune that I hadn't a flash bulb for my camera at this time so I always used the light that was available. Unfortunately it required people to stand very still for the in-door pictures. Yet for this very special Christmas I got this shot of myself and my Brazilian family.
In front is Rose's father. Behind him is Mirela, Murilo & myself. Behind us are Rose and her sister Regina and their mother. In the back left is Regina's husband Igor holding their child Caio Andrew Viola Pires and on the right, Rosana and Marcelo holding their child Fabricio Armelin Moretti.
Igor Pires, Regina Viola Pires and Maria Moretti
I wrote that when I met Murilo's mother (shown above with Maria) that she "liked me and was very friendly. We had a different kind of Brazilian coffee when we visited her and she kissed me like my own mother before we left to go shopping."
Only one word, "Pinga!"
Murilo and Maria
The neighborhood was curious about me. One day I was looking out from Murilo's porch as some people were walking by and I think everyone knew of this foreigner staying in their midst. Unable to hold back I shook the bars I was behind saying loudly, "Heeeeyy, come see the Americano! Look at the Americano!" That got some smiles from the locals and I was very pleased to show a sense of humor with them.
Another photo of the Moretti family at Christmas which did not really turn out because of the low-light, however, I still kind of like it. Behind me are all the siblings with Marcos, Maria, Mario, Marcelo, Murilo and Rose.
The one that did turn out well can be found here:
Upon my arrival in Brazil the first people I met outside of Murilo, Rose, Mirela and sister Maria were Murilo's brother Marcelo and his wife Rosana.
Rosana (background) was very friendly and so was Marcelo (foreground) but like a lot of people I would met they did not quite know how to react to meeting an Americano.
I felt dirty. My hair was greasy and although I had arrived well rested I soon began to get tired.
Rose, Rosana, Murilo and Marcelo
Rosana made some coffee for us. It was really cute because it seemed the thing to do. Like all Brazilian coffee I would have it was served in a small 'tea cup' but, of course, very strong. (No one said the word "espresso".) I liked it and in fact all the food I had in Brazil I liked.
The joke about the coffee is that although it is so connected to the country I didn't meet one Brazilian while I was there that really liked the stuff!
Murilo and Marcelo
Marcelo said he liked the Beatles very much (knowing as he must have learned from Murilo how much I liked them) and later that night coincidentally we watched on television a "Tribute to John Lennon" most likely remembering the then 10th anniversary of his murder.
Murilo, I wrote, told me he believed most artists attending the event were in it more for self promotion than as a tribute. I agreed.
Rose then made a wonderful dinner for us that evening of "rice, peas and other vegetables. A creamed vegetable of some sort and (salty) fish."
I recall earlier, the first full day I was in Brazil and after I had been treated to a sample of Brazilian food Marcelo offered me what I believe was a cocoanut but unlike any I'd ever seen. It was green colored and I'm sure I must have enjoyed it.
You may recall earlier we'd tasted what I called a 'fish pie'. Rosana said she wanted to make me one with chicken instead, as Murilo had suggested was a good substitute for fish. We'd continue to eat mango and I remember Rosana saying how much she liked mango.
We began to joke about myself possibly getting a job in Brazil selling fruit. I could just see myself yelling, "Mango! Mango! Cocoanut! Banana!" It was a good laugh. Hey, maybe someday...(!)
On Tuesday, December 18th we had water (thank goodness!) I'd felt bad I'd used up all that they had the day before.
Rose made breakfast with watermelon, hot cocoa, cheese and crackers with strawberry jam and two other types of melon.
I would meet another friend of Murilo's from Autolatina, Jesus Almeida. The three of us went out and had a good talk. Jesus also made us a dinner later that evening.
While we were out we went to an establishment where I learned a new idea in bartending. It concerned the waiter continually bringing you more beer even if you haven't finished what you are currently drinking. This wouldn't stop until you put a coaster on top of your glass.
We had a great joke together with the confusion of words in different languages. There was confusion between the phrase "two ways" and the word "towards". If a person is driving down a 'one-way' street, for example, one could say they are heading "towards" their one destination; but if you are on a 'two-way' street how can that be when you have "two-wards" now instead of one?
It was a good laugh and Murilo tried to explain. I couldn't by that time!
I went with Murilo to where he worked at Autolatina (shown above) on the second full day I was in Brazil. There I met his boss who was very nice to me and made me feel right at home. Murilo was even able to get the visitor parking because, after all, he had with him a visitor from the "EUA" (USA).
I met a lot of people at Autolatina. One lady, who spoke english very well, talked a lot with me. She was so kind she asked if I could come to her home town after Christmas.
The people were so friendly. They were just so much more intimate in presence than I'd ever seen in the United States.
I would talk with two more people and we discussed the Ford Motor CAD/CAM department where I worked. One person was of Japanese descent and it seemed so striking to me to hear him speak such strong Brazilian Portuguese. He spoke english very well also, but did not know any Japanese!
There was talk of myself traveling to Rio De Janeiro but I never was seriously worried whether or not I saw the city. It would have been fun, I suppose, but I simply enjoyed so much just being with Murilo and his family. To me that was the best, experiencing daily life with them.
Murilo did want me to maximize my trip, however, and did what he could to secure an itinerary for me. It didn't work out though as for some reason all 'structured' trips were canceled. Plane travel would be unreliable and he worried for my safety if I decided to drive there by myself.
I did pass through Rio on my way back to the States. It was a stop my flight made and waiting in the airport for my next destination was as close as I got to seeing the city. That was fine for me as I'd been overwhelmed already with the best most loving people I could know. To this day I'm so very grateful to everyone in Murilo's family for making me so welcome. That was the best.
In a way it is too bad I did not continue my journal while I was in Brazil, but I knew at the time everything was just falling into a relaxed routine so well that after a while it became something that was not trying to record so much as just taking in what you had. So details, I suppose were lost, but the strong feeling about what I experienced remains.
Brazil became home to me and the people there my family.
Please select this link to enhance this panorama:
The Moretti brothers and sister: Mario, Maria, Marcos, Murilo & Marcelo.
Thanks to everyone from my home in Brazil.
A special thanks to Rosemeire Viola Moretti & Flavia Moretti for supplying myself with names of folks I did not have!