Sunday, December 28, 2008

myth (ii) - she reigns!

that august 3rd. it’s funny how i still remember it after 16 years. every august 3rd i’m aware it is august 3rd; quite a special date amongst many special dates. and it strangely felt as if i had been in love with her for ages.
let’s go back a little. since i was seven, when i first started looking at girls differently, i had this very private world i’ve already written about. basically, i had my music. my stuffed animals. and the girl i was in love with. all part of a little, secret and private world. that’s an easy explanation as to why these girls where almost never actually people i talked to or had any kind of relation with. they would just inspire my dreams. i do believe that i didn’t make up their personalities, i was much too much of the observing kind. but it was just better to know them from a distance. and so it was with sarah dumber (at age 7) and those who followed her footsteps: yvonne dobert, birte brettschneider, isabel willkommen, anja beusch and imke beusch. typically, they would have long periods of my full attention and of my little world’s reign; long if you take into account that i was young, and that i didn’t know them. michaela (at age 8) and jana (at age 12) were the exceptions. actually, the jana story (which will deserve it’s own post) divided my personal romantic history into pre (also known as the golden age) and post (the modern age).
when eva came along, it was as if i had found the ultimate girl to be in love with. for me, she was simply perfect. the perfect look, the perfect looks, the prefect way of being, the perfect smile. just perfect. not in an objective, complete kind of way, but in a very personal, private kind of way. a way that i’m sure no one else was seeing her. after quite some time, i even told my friends a little about her, and they didn’t see anything special; which actually pleased me. because, in that one sense, she was mine. in that view of her, she was unique to me.
in the summer, she and her friends would walk around the sports field, and i would normally be out there with a friend, chatting and watching her from a distance. in the winter time, she would hang out in the basement of our school, with her friends (often joined by jana and bärchen). i knew exactly where she was and would pass by at least twice to get a glance at her. but it wasn’t unusual that i just couldn’t look, although she didn’t even know i existed. i mean, to look right at her… it really made my heart start. i’d been as deeply in love with any of those girls before eva, at least as deep as you can be at that age. but this was a new level.
the winter came and i went to brazil for the first time at this time of year. this was the first time that i had spent a semester without having my older brother andre around, so i was glad to meet him there. he had gone to brazil to stay at a boarding school for a year (to get to know the language, culture and family), a fate that was waiting for me only a year later. well, in brazil, something very unusual happened. in a very short amount of time, i really got interested in a girl i got to know there. priscila was her name, and she totally blew me away. by the way, once again, leo was also interested. and a third guy called rafael was absolutely crazy about her. near new year’s, i had to admit that i had fallen in love with her. but when i got on the plane back to germany only a few days later, i knew that eva was back at number one. this was the first time that someone’s “time on the thrown” was interrupted by someone else. but eva was back, and that wouldn’t be the only time!
although priscila did earn a special place in my heart that next semester, it was no comparison to eva in all her glory. she went from using her winter clothes and the bus 1977 from her little town deutsch-evern (77, by the way, is the year i was born) to using a beautiful spring and summer dress and her bike. beauty – so much more than external beauty. i’m guessing that you know what i’m talking about. or do you? today, i went to a region near Interlaken, switzerland, to see the alps. i love the alps, they are the most beautiful natural region i know, i really love them. i didn’t say too much, but i was very excited to see them today and took quite a lot of pictures ( if you want to check them out). a true beauty. and one of the most beautiful sights i’ve ever had. but the most beautiful i have to tell you about in my next post. very special and unforgettable moments, the birth of a true myth.

Friday, December 26, 2008

myth (i) - the feeling begins

in greek, myth simply means story. maybe even a special story, somewhat of a sacred story. i have a story to tell. one of an idealized person i never really had the privilege to know. one who tells me more about myself than about her. i don’t know why she became such a great myth to me. but fact is, she did. and she dominated my little world for quite a while, proving to have quite a great amount of power over me. or was it just me, after all?
it was more than seventeen and a half years ago that i met my myth for the first time. it must have been april of 1991, in the little town of worpswede, north germany, around 30 km away from bremen. i was 13 years old, had overcome my first heartbreak in love, and was mostly listening to tracy chapman and herbert grönemeyer at the time. i was in love with a brunette who studied in a parallel class (she has been mentioned her, anja). my family and me went to worpswede to pick up my youngest brother leo from his musical week. at the time, he still had perfectly straight hair, and as we sat to watch the final concert before leaving for home, he sat right in the center, first row, to play is viola da gamba. right next to him, there was a girl. his age, maybe a little bit taller than him at the time, playing her viola. i remember being mesmerized by her. i couldn’t stop observing her and ignoring leo. even afterwards, when the young kids had a final activity outside, i caught myself looking at this girl the whole time. now, you must know that although i did not know anja, i was always very faithful to the girls at number one. this wouldn’t keep me from staring, but it did keep me from pursuing more interest. of course i did ask leo who that girl was, and found out that he had fallen in love with her that week. good taste! so the one thing i got out of it all was that she was very musical, the daughter of leo’s music teacher, sang very well and was talented on the flute and cembalo (harpsichord) as well. and that her name was eva. what a name!
i remember noticing her as a new student in my school next august. actually, she started going to class with jana and bärchen (their stories will be in here someday), who were my main people in 1990. but at first i was very focused at anja, and then, as already mentioned here, it was imke’s turn on the “throne of my heart” (hahahaha). but it was at another musical event in the spring that eva caught my unrivalled attention for the second time. i was now 14, listening quite a lot to simply red (...). my town’s music school held a yearly event i was more than used to by that time, called “tag der offenen tür” (open door day), where people would visit the school, see class in real time and appreciate musical performances. there was a wooden stage set in the middle of the open garden inside the school, and this was first time that a jazz band organized by my sax teacher bernd reincke performed there. as we played our set, i observed the people who were there to see us. and there she was, leaning on a tree not too far away: eva, now with longer hair than at the beginning of the school year, was watching us – and stayed for most of the set. once again, i couldn’t help but look. just look and admire. i can’t really be exact about the reasons why she just made me look at her. i guess the simplest explanation is beauty. not the kind of beauty that makes everyone and anyone look. a very personal kind of beauty. i mean, she was always good looking. but certainly not the girl widely accepted as a looker. but for me, she seemed to be the most beautiful thing i had ever seen. a feeling similar to one i’d had towards a girl called birte brettschneider when i was still 9 and 10 years old, but stronger. i didn’t actually express the thought at the time, but the feeling was that i had never seen anything with greater beauty than eva tüting.a few months later, imke’s reign came to an end. she just didn’t cut it for me. i was now looking for a new “queen”, and i still remember: it was the first day back at school, august 3, 1992, monday morning. i saw a girl going into the main entrance. it was eva. and then i knew. an era began.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

class of 2010 (vii) - from d to a

finally we arrived at the last post of this series. another very special five members of the class of 2010 to go, concluded at christmas day.
and what a pleasure it is to start with mr. david kim. it is not only a cliché, but an actual fact that girls tend to be more mature than boys at this age, and this is certainly true for this class. i’m not saying that the boys are necessarily immature, or even that it is something bad not to be too mature at this age. but david has a very high level of maturity. he’s not only very intelligent and smart, he is wise. very balanced, very respectful, very thoughtful. he just seems to know. and he is a pleasure both to teach and to hang around.
camila pinto is a very sweet person. she is a very good representative of superior female maturity (hehe), having all the qualities of a strong student: hard work, perseverance, interest, and a lot of extra-curriculars going on. she definetly knows what she wants – to be the best she can be. and i’ll tell you write now: she is great! very empathetic, natural leader, nice sense of humor, good choice of boyfriend – and did i mention her sweetness?
as can be attested by now, i am a not-so-secret fan of this class. if there were a fan club, i would be a member. this is also the case with this next member, audrey. i mean, the name is a starter (as future posts will explain). and this audrey, too, is very rich in the inside. she is persuasive and not afraid to use her charm. she is hard working and willing to get the best out of her. she can be very funny and very serious. she is a very fast thinker, and is bound to be quite a profound one. and she likes people.
arthur is somewhat of a wiz. he is the single student i have taught the most – two classes each year, from day one. and without too much studying effort, he has done very well both in physics and in math. that’s for starters. but the karate kid has a lot more to offer: true kindness sometimes camouflaged in his particular love for irony and sarcasm. loyalty and honesty; a great mind and a great heart. sincerity. and a sense of humor. next year only one class, arthur?
i close this chapter with a person i profoundly admire. i’ve seen her in all her great upbringing. not only polite, but really just nice. i haven’t seen her dancing, but my guess is she is graceful. i’ve seen her mind every time i correct a test or get an interesting question: what a brilliant mind it is, not only organized, but very much eloquent and independent. i’ve seen her jump up and down – a very vivid image showing her always positive ambition. i’ve seen her striving for perfection, and i’d tell her: be as you are, because there is true beauty inside you, ana luiza altaffer.
this concludes the quite long series on a very special bunch of people. i wish them and all of you merry christmas, happy holidays and a great start to 2009.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

class of 2010 (vi) - from h to f

it is incredible. i still have ten to go, and all of them are really special. this is truly an incredible class. for example, there is heewon. a math wiz, no doubt. very independent minded, with strong opinions, high ambitions and expectations. at the same time, she is one to value friendships, has strong personal values and shows that she cares. another very valuable member of the class of 2010.
the next on the list is very passionate. i think that’s the word that describes him best. passionate about corinthians, about his family, about his country, about his heritage, about his friends, about the girl he likes (dunno who, but i have an idea…), basically everything he puts his heart into. hamzah is all about passion. and that’s how we (at least i) like him. huge heart, huge loyalty. ah, and a very curious fellow… .
william barros is also quite a passionate guy. with one of those giant hearts, almost typical of class of 2010. he is one of the students i know best. really truly kind, loyal, honest. has a good sense of justice, as well as a good sense of humor. an overall great guy, very much devoted to his girlfriend. someone you can really count on. that’s guilherme. very likeable.
ms birth is the next on my list. and here i have to say: i am a big fan! fernanda nascimento as a student is extremely dedicated, totally committed to get the best possible results; this is both cause for good questions in class and a certain nervousness before tests. as a person, this trait is quite dominant, too: fernanda seems to me as a person with great perseverance, and is very graceful and polite at the same time. and, yes, she cares for others and has great sensibility.
this post will be closed by a brief description of fernanda pinto. this is a person who is smiling almost all the time! she is quite emotional, never to worried about hiding what she really thinks or feels, which leads me to the conclusion that she has a very positive outlook on life. fernanda, as quite a few of her colleagues, has been at chapel since the beginning of her school career. and i think she represents quite well what the school is about: friendly, familiar, warm, polite, dedicated to do well, and still enough room for laughter.

Friday, December 19, 2008

class of 2010 (v) - from m to j

the next person in the backwards alphabet is another very special one. i got to know marcelo a little during the before mentioned woc trip, and was very happy to see him voted the most improved in the class, last year. now, i have the pleasure to teach him in math hl, and my initial ideas about him have only been confirmed: marcelo is very smart and fast in calculations, but maybe his greater strength is a very sharp sensitivity. he is multi-talented (including the most different kinds of sports, really good in bb too!), has a great sense of humor, is generally ironic without ever being really negative, which is definitely a plus. and i think he’s extremely likeable!
we’ve now reached l for lucas. at first, he might appear to be that kind of silent, solid as a rock kind of person, always polite and friendly. and he is all that, although there’s much more too him. to me, he seems to be one of the most trustworthy persons i have ever encountered, and he has a great passion for overcoming obstacles, pushing himself to be as best as he possibly can, without ever offending anyone. in addition to that, lucas is great at sports and generally in a good mood. he inspires others to take it easy, and i think he has found a very good equilibrium between giving his best and maintaining an objective outlook of life. he is one to be admired, for sure. lucas would!
of course i remember ms. lund since the first week, but it was her presence at the first parent teacher conference that stuck. capable of speaking a little bit of german from earlier schools, julie wouldn’t call math her favorite subject. but she has quite a good and fast understanding of things. in general, julie seems older than her age, somewhat wise. she is loyal to her beliefs and her friends. she likes to be athletic, including her dancing classes. she definitely has something nordic about her, i guess it’s the blood. but, in the end, she is a person that i simply like a lot!
from italy to brazil, this 9th grade addition to the class of 2010 has become vital member of the class. juliana has many assets, that’s for sure. her natural leadership and her incredible will to always do her best are only part of them. i believe that juliana’s great sense of justice and her ability to defend others (and only rarely herself) is one of her greatest features. she is balanced enough to defend without necessarily attacking, and that has to do with her very mature view of herself, others and the world. there’s no doubt: we’ll see great things from her (no pressure!). and milan will be eliminated by werder.
this post is being closed with someone who really likes cars. i mean, really. volkswagen? even better! i think that was his main motivation to join my german club last year, and he was the only one who was actually sad when it was discontinued in the 2nd semester. at least i got to know him better at the woc trip and, this year, in my hl class. and what a person: generous, hard working, honest, polite, critical without being negative, extremely intelligent. and a friend. jayme will become stronger and stronger, he’s on his way! and one of these days, i’ll beat him in a kart race…

Thursday, December 18, 2008

class of 2010 (iv) - from s to m

christmas is getting nearer. and it seems to be a good season to write a little bit about the next person in that class of 2010. the first time i remember talking to mimi, she was asking if she could join my physics class – it was the first week in the school year. it was a pleasure to have her and her uncountable hearts in two classes last year. and she is someone who embodies the typical season spirit during the whole year! she is very authentic, trusts people and isn’t afraid to show affection. by reading this, you must have found out that serami has a gigantic heart.
and the big heart desease seems to have affected other members of this special class. the next one on my list is pietro, and he is even more solid than his name might indicate. the rock is very loyal, extremely trustworthy, honest, sometimes almost naïve. he is always very polite and positive, but he defends the things he believes in with great passion. my guess is that pietro is a kind a friend you want to have, mostly when things are not as good as they could be. ah, and something funny – he kind of reminds you of matt dillon… hahaha.
a really good friend of serami’s is this next one. nicholas… well i don’t even know where to start. are you getting the idea of how much i like this class? this kid is really precious. talented, smart, very reliable, great sense of humor. although he doesn’t say too much, he is not typically shy. in general, he has a good attitude towards people and life, and he was obviously brought up very well. and, of course all of this makes him very well suited to be a great friend.
now the next student is one of the top of his class, in grades. he is also one of the most gifted football players in his class and in the school, and he roots quite heavily for fc barcelona and argentinian players like messi. very viciated in football, he has an incredible knowledge of players all around the world. he works quite well for school, but still finds the balance to do other things that interest him. he is a quiet leader, a kicktipp champion and an all around great guy. he is martin lopez.
now this next student is quite an interesting combination. for one, he is a brilliant mind, top of the class in math, capable of great logical thinking; simply competent. but, on the other hand, he is very helpful, understanding, patient, driven and polite. yes, i’m talking about mark hu. who? (funney!) mark is always looking to be challenged, and he has the right attitude to be both happy and successful. and that’s what i wish him!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

class of 2010 (iii) - from v to s

i was watching her play, right next to her proud mother. one of these friday games, a special one for this team. the female basketball team had yet to win a match this season, and the big 8 competition was coming up. international schools have their competitions spread out in a semester season, and then they have the highlight, which is a one-week event where eight international schools compete for glory in soccer and basketball (in the 1st semester season), male and female. the girls were already viewing this match as a big 8 prep; october 24, home game against graded (the largest american school in são paulo). everyone was focused, and a victory seemed very much possible. and then, finally, the mother besides me can’t contain her enthusiasm: her daughter vickie had scored! a great day for her and the team, a victory, at last. and against graded, always special. of course it’s not the same, but that simple joy in vickie’s eyes could also be seen when she got a math question right. a very dedicated student, she is a warm person with a warm personality. beatle maniac, she has a nice old fashioned way about her, and is definitely a person you can trust. i really hope she will be happy.
i don’t teach vickie any more, but i do teach the next fellow. this is one case of a typical teacher’s joy: when they witness the growth of a student, becoming more mature; at least with his school work! thomas is a talented guitar player and the band leader of “the bunny”, a very fun to watch and good potential teenage rock band. sorry about the teenage. but thomas writes his own music and is also quite a culturally aware person. he is very smart, no doubt. smart enough even to recognize that he needs to put in more effort to get the results he wants; and that’s exactly what he’s doing, at least in my math class. thomas was born in russia, and has roots in st.petersburg. his zenit threw my bayern out of the uefa cup a few months ago (humiliating 4x0 in the semis), but we might get his chelsea in the champions league very soon. anyway, thomas, you are very much appreciated. and a vital member of the class.
silvia is another very smart person in this class. she is very well educated, has a healthy view of the world and the people in it. she shows openness towards new ideas and people, and mostly has a realistic, yet positive outlook at life. in short: she cares, and that’s good. she also seems more mature than her age, but i’m guessing it doesn’t prevent her from having fun. are you getting the picture i have of her? a very diverse person, strong in reasoning and in emotion. a thinker, yes, but also a doer. and, of course, extremely likeable. i guess some of this can be credited to really good parenting and a good older brother, hehe.
now, the next one is the man. shogo man. as some girls at the woc trip would say, “very sweet” personality. seemingly shy at first, and not one to make grand speeches, shogo is actually quite outgoing. he is very intelligent, not only rationally, but also emotionally. he’s practical, always ready to help those who need and ask; he has a great sense of justice. and he loves basketball, which he is really quite good at. i think he has a lot to add to the class, and so does the class to him. and one more thing about shogo: i’m certain that he will leave brazil knowing the language, which i think is great!
to call sergio passionate about basketball is clearly an understatement. he was one of the new guys last year, just like me. and since then, i really have to think a lot to try to find a day where he wasn’t wearing anything basketball related. i’ll just say that when everyone least expects it, the mavs will be in the finals! anyway, sergio is, by nature, a very straight forward person. authenticity sometimes comes with a price, and of course there is a learning curve there, but that’s why i feel that this particular special class has been ideal for sergio. i mean, everyone knows how really great hearted sergio is. if you’re looking for true loyalty, you’ll find it in him. and this next sentence is true for anyone: the more you think of others, the more life will make sense to you. sergio is a great guy, not only in basketball.

class of 2010 (ii) - the lesser known (to me)

there are thirteen members of the class of 2010 that i haven’t taught enough to really know them. actually, i don’t know lívia and caroline at all. hopefully i will get to know them a little bit, i bet they are as special as this group is. there were four more new students, two of which i haven’t taught so far, but somehow know a little: andrea, who seems to be a really great addition to the class; cheerful, kind, funny. and aadarsh, very friendly and polite, a logical reasoning wizard, and just very likeable.
the two other new students i have had the pleasure to know a little more: there is our olympic wonder luiza, youngest brazilian athelete in beijing and best national finisher in the olympic competition, now twice the brazilian champ in her speciality, equestrian dressage. and, of course, our newest addition vaibhav. you just know he’s a good guy, and he will fit in to this class perfectly. i’m not quite sure yet, but it seems to me that he has a great sense of humor.
pamela was my student for a little longer than vaibhav, and i wished it were more. not only because of her obvious dedication and intelligence, but also because she is really great and very rich in the inside. clarissa was also a student for only a brief amount of time; enough, though, to get to know her fun-loving, well humored personality, as well as her grand love for math and physics… . and there is mr gandra, who was in my german club a few times. another good person and one of the many athletes in the class, felipe is one of the veterans of chapel (as far as i know).
to finish this smallest section of the class of 2010 series, i would like to mention three girls i got to know a little in woc 2008. the “world is our classroom”, a one week educational trip in the 2nd semester of every school year, was in minas for last year’s tenth grade. and it became quite clear that renata, luana and beatriz, although quite different from each other, are smart, even wise, and seemingly fun company; and, if i’m not mistaken, they’re friends (in luana and renata’s case, even related). and, finally, there is barbara penney. i know she is friends with quite a lot of her colleagues, but i don't know her too much at all.
there are still twenty-five to go, and these i will write about in greater detail. each five will make one post, so there are still five to go… .

class of 2010 (i) - nooooooot!

ok, let’s get to it. let me present to you the class of 2010.
actually, not quite. because i do have to mention a few students who have already left chapel, and will therefore not be part of the graduating bunch. and, actually, these students are quite particularly special to me.
first, there’s my favorite swede. not that i have met many in my life; but anders has historical importance. he was the first chapel student i ever talked to. when i came in to “audition” for a position as a teacher, he was in the class as i set up things. listening to music, very typical. you see, anders just loves good music, and he has great taste, too… at least in my opinion. he is not the most extrovert person you’ll meet, but that is actually another thing i like about him. very polite, but independent in his opinions. and just extremely likeable. hope to pay him a visit back in sweden sometime.
then, of course, there is tomassito. this is a person that i really enjoyed having in my class, up to 150 minutes every other day. i made him struggle with the concepts of physics and the wonders of math in the classroom (and mostly, he did quite well with both), while he made me fight for victories in the table tennis arena. we played many matches, quite a few of them i would refer to as memorable, and all in all that describes mr vanegas to me – quite memorable.
of course, this leads me to the third “drop-out”, fernanda carmo. she had an interesting relationship to tomás, which was funny, because she seemed to be quite the opposite of him: very outgoing, very very outgoing. both intelligent and smart, she really strived to get the best possible grades. but what i admired about her was the fact that she didn’t try as hard as most people at her age (or almost any age) to conceal her need to be loved and accepted. by the way, i believe that we never really deserve to be loved or accepted; but when we are, we respond to that in a way that makes us at least more worthy. so choose to love, you’ll get the best out of people that way.
one sentence about carlitos, who was never my student but still will be mentioned. i was very glad to see him here at chapel yesterday, we started playing table tennis later in the year. he always seemed to be genuinely good hearted to me. he also left, and he used to hang out a lot with tomás.
before that, though, i think that tomás’ best friend here at chapel was manuel salas. and here i must clarify one thing, at least speaking for me. a teacher does not have favorite students, necessarily. at least, i don’t. i ‘ve always had a few students i felt some kind of a special connection. it doesn’t mean that i prefer those student over others; i guess it’s similar to having a few kids. you love them equally, but you do feel a special connection to one or the other. anyway, manuel was such a student for me. our handshaking ritual before every single class was almost sacred, and i just got the feeling that this kid was really one of a kind. his abrupt departure from chapel took me by surprise, but once again, i was very happy to see him earlier this year.
so i started writing about the class of 2010 beginning by those who won’t be here in 2010. it’s time to talk about those who are here… next post!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

from 2000 to the class of 2010

this is the (quite long) build up post to the next one, which will be entitled "class of 2010".

as a teacher, i’ve had some memorable classes. the first one i ever taught in, which was a 10th grade (1º contabilidade) near porto alegre, south brazil (year 2000). or one in 2001, also 10th grade (1º ensino médio), where i taught religion and english (six classes a week) – really memorable class! of course there was another class in a school in interlagos, são paulo, in the years 2004 and 2005. more recently, i’ve had the pleasure of teaching a math class for three semester at my current school, chapel ( i will have a special entry on them nearer to their graduation, next june.
but today i would like to write about maybe the most extraordinary people that a class has ever put together. this year’s juniors at chapel, whom i got to know as sophomores last year, are one of the main reasons i really enjoy my job. i haven’t taught all of them, which is the reason why i won’t be mentioning all of them in this entry. but i am quite sure that if a knew those others better, i would have similar feelings towards them.
my first encounter with this class was in may of 2007. at the time, i was really hoping for a job at an international school. to fully understand what this class means to me, i am hoping for your patience to have a not-so-quick look at my career so far. you see, since i graduated in high school back in 1995, i knew that i wanted to work in a school environment. for that reason, i chose education as my first graduation, always planning to do two grad schools. during the first and more broad one i would figure out what i would do next: psychology, to further pursue a more guidance-oriented approach to what i wanted to do; history, in order to become a history teacher and teach something with passion, for i really enjoyed history. i might mention, as a side note, that this is the merit of my history teacher in germany, herr neubauer. and the third option was mathematics, which i had always loved totally independent of any teacher. actually, the other three teachers standing out in my “career” as a student taught subjects i never got excited about: frau germer in english, herr holzmann in french and rubens alegria in biology. after concluding my ba in education (1999), i decided to accept a job offer in a boarding school in south brazil, iacs. this was quite an important decision career wise. because i didn’t get a job offer based on my b.a., which allowed me to lead a school, be a guidance counselor or teach subjects like philosophy, psychology and sociology. i was asked to teach saxophone at their music school, besides teaching english in high school. so when i said yes, i was officially starting an unlimited search for my place in school; would i want to be a teacher, or a guidance counselor, or even pursue a career to one day be a school director, headmaster, superintendent.
from the first year on, they asked me to teach religion, too – the only actual part of the job where i was actually using anything included in my b.a.. in my third year there, i finally got to teach the before mentioned three humanistic subjects. this had a negative effect, though; i was starting to do too many different things: teaching six different subjects plus 20 saxophone students, while finally deciding to and actually studying math at the local private university (called faccat). and the choice of math was almost accidental: torn between math and psychology at the time, i chose math because it was on the program of said institution of education, while psychology only entered a semester later.
another choice i made at the end of 2003 was to leave iacs after four years of service. it was time to get more specific about what i was going to do. i did not want to teach english, my least favorite subject. so it was either trying a career as guidance counselor or being a math teacher, maybe even for life. so i accepted a job offer from são paulo to teach english, but only because i heard that there i might have a chance to move up after a few years, depending on my work. i decided to continue studying math, but at a slower pace. financial issues played a role, but i also wanted to be sure of what i would do by the time i concluded my math degree.
so i taught english in two schools, from 5th grade up to senior class. although i preferred teaching at the school in interlagos, the more decisive gig was in the alvorada school. my boss there (educational supervisor) really liked me and my work, and i soon told her that my dream was to be a guidance counselor. in brazilian schools, this is quite odd, because it is a job almost exclusively given to women. but i really wanted to try it out, to see if i would like it, before getting to final decisions about what i would do for a living, for the rest of my life.
not too long after that, nadia (this boss and friend of mine) moved up to coordinating all adventist schools in south são paulo (there were eighteen). by the time nadia called me in august of 2005, i had already ditched the alvorada school and was working reduced hours in interlagos; after all, teaching english was not what i wanted to do, although i still loved the classroom experience. the call was to ask me if i was still interested at a shot as a guidance counselor. i said yes. a week later, i went to her office, and she totally surprised me with her offer: i was to become the “orientador educacional” at the colégio ellen g white, the second largest, oldest and most traditional school of the southern são paulo district. and probably the most problematic. located in the suburb known as capão redondo, it is actually to big a school to jump into that kind of job for the first time. but none of the more experienced guidance counselors wanted to move there, in order for me to take a less demanding position at a smaller school. so it was that or nothing. i said yes and i never regretted it.
in fact, i really loved being a guidance counselor. of course it is something else to be in the administrative team of a school, but it is the personal contact to parents and students that really inspired me. tough job: more responsibility, 600 students and parents you should know, more hours, and incredibly enough, less money than as a teacher (who are paid by the hour in brazil, while the administration is paid a fixed monthly salary often inferior to what some more hard working teachers earn). and, yes, “only” four weeks of vacation a year, compared to double of that for teachers. but finally i was experiencing this new perspective, and i really had a passion for it.
but in the back of my head, there was always this other thing i wanted to try out at least once before deciding what to do with my professional life. i really wanted to experience what it would be like to work for a school that had the means to approximate the teaching experience to an ideal. smaller classes than the average of 35 i was used to, more technology, planning time, and why not mention the higher salary. i definitely had my eyes set on an experience in an international school. at the end of 2003, upon leaving the south of brazil for são paulo, i had two interviews at two different schools of that type. both were only a call in to get to know me, because none of them actually had vacancies for the next school year. but i was still honored to be called, an even taught two test classes in the international school of curitiba. i also visited st paul’s school in são paulo and was interviewed there.
i now knew that i enjoyed being a guidance counselor, but unfortunately i came to realize that it wouldn’t sustain me financially. another door was opening, though. i was seen as a future candidate for a school director position, and was also contemplated as a possible coordinator, a very similar job to the one my ex-boss nadia got. both of those would enable me to sustain myself, but i was very unsure at the prospect of being the head of a school; i didn’t think the job description really fit me, although people were telling me it did. and i didn’t like the idea of giving up too much of my private life in favor of the school, which would inevitably happen. and the position in an office, helping to oversee 18 schools, didn’t seem too appealing to me: too far away from parents and students, the main reason i was in the business for starters. so i decided to resign from my position as guidance counselor at the end of 2006 and focused my efforts to finish my degree in math and finding a job in an international school, the last thing i wanted to try and get a feel of. if it were able to combine the experience of teaching math and doing that in an international school, that would be just ideal to conclude my searching for a place in school.
for 2007, i came up with a little project which i hoped would sustain me during my attempt to get a job at an international school. but things weren’t working out, and for the first time, i felt the pressure. it was becoming a necessity to get a solid job soon, because money was very short, and i was still paying the bills for the math degree, on top of everything. so i was glad when st paul’s called me on the cell phone, inquiring if i would be open to a job offer to teach math. oh man, that was a dream. a real hope. a window for solution. they said they would call me a week later after sorting some things out for next year’s schedule. but when they called me, they said that there was no need for a new teacher after all, as they were able to fix the schedule. i was very disappointed. i mean, really disappointed. i have this thing where i never put my hopes up too much with this kind of stuff, in order to not get too disappointed.
at the end of that same week, a very good friend and cousin, kley feitosa, showed up in town. he had been living in the u.s. for almost a decade, and had just accepted an offer to teach physics in istanbul, turkey. i told him what had happened, and he asked me if i had sent my cv to chapel school. i had never heard of chapel school. he gave me the information, because he had talked to the superintendent in a job fair; they weren’t looking for physics, but they were looking for math. the next day, i sent them my cv, and was surprised to get an answer just a day later. very soon, i was interviewed, and we set a date for me to teach a class. but the offer had an “if” – they needed me to teach physics, too. i checked at my university if i had enough hours of physics in the course to be authorized by mec (brazilian education and culture ministry) to teach. luckily, i did. so i came in and met miss pat may, the head of the math department. she gave me some geometry material, and a weekend later, i was in classroom.
finally back to he class of 2010. because it was exactly part of that class that was in the room. i tried not to feel nervous, but i was. and it showed. it was not a good class. the high school vice principal, the superintendent, the ib coordinator and miss may were all there. and somehow, i had a really bad feeling. which only worsened after the post-interview, which ended with a “we’ll know by the end of may; if we don’t call you, please call us to know.”
another big disappointment, this one much bigger. because this time i had a chance, and i had a feeling that i blew that chance; and, even worse, it could’ve gone much better! i could’ve done so much better. i was down, and that does not happen very often to me. at this point, i should mention the great support i got from my then girlfriend flavia through these difficult times.
how i still got a positive fall in the beginning of june, i still don’t fully understand. but it was a blessing, and has been. what irony then to see that most of my students would be sophomores, some of them surely from that class, that day.
the next post will deal with those students individually. starting with the blond boy i talked to before teaching my “test” class that embarrassing early may day.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

twix in a roll

i wanted to write about someone else today, but then i remembered that it is a special person’s birthday. good enough reason to change my mind. and i think it’s nice to start with why i never forget his birthday.
“this will be easy to remember”, thomas said. “your birthday is 12.11., mine is 11.12!”. when he said that to me, we were on the verge of our twelfth birthday. we had met a few months earlier. after completing the 6th grade in the big village of adendorf (with a population of almost 10,000, it is said to be the biggest village in europe… who knows…), i was moving to what germans called gymnasium. basically a new school, this time in the nearby municipal capital lüneburg. oedeme was the choice for the adventist kids – no school on saturday. so the distance to school went from 200 m to 8 km. in germany, that is considered quite far. and in my new class with new people, there was only one student who came from further. by far. almost 26 km from egestorf to oedeme, where thomas scholz came from every single day. we sat beside each other on the very first day, and we became friends almost immediately. there are very few people as pleasant as thomas on this planet. just easy to be around, and loyal as a rock. and one of the few people you can truly say is your friend, although you haven’t seen and hardly talked to him for ten years.
there are some habits i still have today from hanging out with this unique thinker. chocolate bars in rolls, for example. or a unusually high affection towards mentos or even fanta. a twix, two mentos, two rolls and a fanta – that was thomas’ daily bread in breaks at school.
one day, thomas invited me to stay at his place for a few days. there i met his older brother johannes, and we played quite a lot of table tennis tennis (very interesting variation of table tennis). we also played at oedeme’s school big band, both playing the clarinet. well, a year later i switched to saxophone, but still.
thomas and i continued to be good friends throughout my four years at oedeme. one of the best moments was a bike tour we took together with hannes and another special person, oliver. this story (one of my all time favorites!) will be told at a different time, right here.
i’ve seen thomas both in 95 and in 98, but since then, our contact has been reduced to, a german website. thomas is now married, probably quite successful, and, as i mentioned before, i don’t know too much about his current life. but he does remember my birthday every single year, and i remember his.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

life changes (iii)

final part.
although we were still very good friends, we started having these stupid little competitions, without even declaring it a competition. but God knows that sometimes, from bad comes good. one of those was kind of a mini-competition for the friendship of the new girl in “the block”. she had just moved to town; i’d met her in summer camp 1991, but i didn’t actually get to know her there. and now there she was, seemingly very unique and nice. i liked her right away, and raphael, too. and because he was less shy in nature, he actually got to talking to her first. but i am really proud to say that she is my friend until today, the best one at that. there will be a series of posts on inga bendig, for sure.
when time came for me to go to brazil in the summer of 1993, with the plan of staying at a boarding school for a full year to learn language and culture, raphael and me were at one of those points of our friendship where we wouldn’t have almost any contact. we were simply growing tired of getting on each other’s nerves, something that we would inevitably do. i never liked theses pauses too much, but since the summer of 92 i had gone back into the direction of being more social. not social in the kind of person who likes to hang out in big groups (which i will never like), but in the sense of having quite a few friendships i would describe as meaningful. at that time, mostly friends from my class in school were becoming closer and closer. not only jan bahtel, with whom i had an interesting connection right before going to brazil; or immo meyer-christian, with whom i played tennis a few times. but mostly christian bassen (postworthy) and the trio johannes scholz, thomas scholz and oliver dietze, with whom i went on a bike tour in the fall of 92. the imke issue was long over, too. a myth had been the queen of my heart (haha) for a full school year at the time i was leaving for brazil. and i had a very valuable friendship in its beginning stages: inga and i exchanged some letters, although we lived less than 1 km apart.
so i went to brazil without even saying goodbye to raphael, who had gone to spain. we know we still were friends, but this was definitely going to be a test. and it took quite long since we first exchanged letters. yes, good old letters. at that time, that was the way to communicate, and i guess i’m on of those who misses those days. in my first year in brazil, i wrote and received over a hundred letters. raphael’s first one came around my 16th birthday in november. typically, it was as if we had never ceased to communicate. and it went on in a high frequency until the summer of 94, when i was supposed to come back to germany. i had a lot to talk about, lots of stuff going on in brazil, while he had some very interesting things to say, some of them with people unknown to me; others, about people very familiar to me. one week, i got five letters from him; all talking about the newest development with a certain girl. you can say that we were back to being as good friends as in 91, distance had been good.
and although that was certainly true, i was sad to find out that i wouldn’t see raphael in my summer visit to germany. i had decided to complete high school in brazil, only to return to germany and finish up high school over there, too. the year in this now more familiar country had been to eventful to just say goodbye after a year, even though i never had a doubt in my mind that the place i wanted to live was germany. raphael had gone to spain, which was okay; but i did wish we’d had some time to talk face to face about the events in the letters. so i saw practically everyone i wanted to see, from school friends to church friends to michaela (as mentioned before); but i did not see the two people i had wanted to see the most: raphael and the myth. a story involving these two around christmas 93 will follow when i write about… the myth.
although less intense in terms of letter frequency, the second year in brazil still had quite a lot of stories – from here and from there – to be read. and there was an unpleasant surprise, presented in a pleasant way. you know, my older brother andre went to brazil in 92 and was supposed to stay for a year, but decided to finish high school and then go back to germany in december of 94. i had taken the same decision a year later. and my younger brother leo was supposed to come to brazil in 96, for the one year experience. but when he woke me up in rio, october of 94, i was very surprised to see him in brazil – out of nowhere. but he was there to tell me that my parents were moving to brazil in 95, and that he had arrived early for adaptation. i was very disappointed by that.
this changed my return to germany in the summer of 95 to the first of three visits i have been able to pay the country and its people up to now. i’m glad to visit again at the end of this year, by the way. now that my parents were in brazil, i made arrangements to stay at raphael’s. he himself was going through a similar experience that we were, as he had decided to go to boarding school in sagunto, near valencia, spain, to be in spain and learn spanish. when i arrived at his parent’s place, he was still in spain, and even though i was there, he prolonged his stay for another week. now, that disappointed me quite a lot. i mean, this guy is my best friend. he had spent his vacation of 94 in spain and i hadn’t seen him for two years, for that reason. now i was at his place, basically alone, and he was still there. i have to be honest, i started to doubt this friendship. after all, i wasn’t going to stay or come back in half a year, this was kind of my goodbye to germany. quite a lot was going on in my life, including the love life, and i hadn’t told him anything yet. it was a little frustrating, to say the least.
finally, raphael did arrive. and although he has spanish blood in his veins, he also has german blood, and this was the dominant side. meaning that it is very unusual for a german to express his positive feelings towards another person, be it through a hug or, even worse, through words. this might sound harsh, but i do believe it to be true. this is why i was very impacted by the statement he made the first day he arrived. that he still saw me as his best friend.
i mean, being a best friend is not that big a deal for a guy. sometimes you just know, but normally you don’t say it. and the situation was different: we were not to see each other frequently at all, ever, and i did make great friends in brazil, as he certainly did in spain. it caught me by surprise, and it took the frustration away. considering our history when i still lived in germany, this is something you would not expect raphael to say, or should i say, admit. as i mentioned, we were getting on each other’s nerves, showing how much we knew the other by hurting his feelings. this is not abnormal masculine behavior at all, but it went to far often enough in 92 and 93.
when my brother andre arrived, everything changed, though. andre and raphael had become friendly in the 93/94 winter (remember, they had been friends in the eighties, but then had some kind of stress); in this summer of 95, the roles seemed clear. raphael wanted to please andre, whom he’d always admired, and starting going back to the habit of getting on my back. but in my view, i had matured during the time in brazil. i wasn’t going back to that again, even less so after not seeing him for two years. i was really disappointed, sad is the word. not even mad. it was a sad situation. and it got worse.
until today i don’t know what happened exactly; i may have my theories, but i don’t know if they’re right. anyway, in those weeks, we went from his statement in day one to a very very lousy goodbye. “see you in two years maybe, whatever” he said and left.
it would be three years. no contact whatsoever. i saw him once, for five minutes in 98. and that was it.
as i said at the beginning of these posts about raphael: friendships might not be forever at all. i don’t know what the future holds. i got hold of his email recently and we’ve been in superficial contact. maybe the opportunity arises to talk to him in germany, this january. i guess i would like to. but it does seem that sometimes, some friendships change your life… and then life simply changes.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

life changes (ii)


raphael failed the school year in the summer of 1991, and because i was always the youngest in my grade level, we would be in the same grade level in 9th grade, in spite of the two and a half year age difference. he went to a parallel class, the same as marco zücker’s, and, yes, anja beusch. raphael finally became good buddies with marco (they hadn’t liked each other at all) and also had quite a lot of contact with anja. but i still did not get to know her, neither did i want to. and i had the bad idea of telling marco about my feelings for anja; he got me her birthday (i don’t know why, but i always used to like all sorts of dates) but found it kind of funny that i liked her. a month later he confessed that he himself had fallen in love with her. i was kind of mad, not because anything would ever materialize, but because it felt a little like an invasion into my little world. raphael would have never “done” anything like that. anyway, later that year, raphael finally settled on someone to like. it was anja’s younger sister, imke. no doubt we were an influence to each other, i guess not always the best influence, but still. 1991 was over, and i had survived it thanks to raphael and his great loyalty. 1991 was the year i grew too much, started with a quite impressive pimple career, started using glasses, lost friends i believed to be for real, and went from being popular to… not being popular. it might have been the year i learned most about myself. because i had opened up to someone, because that someone was reflecting things back – approval, disapproval, but overall, loyalty. i had always been okay with being who i was, but this made it more real. by getting to know raphael extremely well, i was getting to know myself extremely well.
1992 came. i was at raphael’s. it was february, the month of anja’s birthday. we decided to call her… and tape the conversation. i was kind of excited. i mean, here she was, actually someone who was friendly to raphael, actually friendliness was in her nature. and me, the outsider, but the one in love with her for over a year now. i was 14, raphael almost 17. he called her, taping the conversation. normal but pleasant small talk… and then, suddenly, she said that she had to go because her “boyfriend andreas” had just arrived. andreas? who the heck was andreas? i’ll get into that a little more when i write about anja, but it was a shock to me. and not totally unimportant to the future of my friendship to raphael.
this day was the beginning of the end of anja’s reigning in my little world. and the next girl i fell in love in was… yes, it was her younger sister imke. incredible, actually. raphael was in love with her, possibly even a little inspired by the fact that i was so faithful to the girls i liked. and here i was falling for the same girl. very cliché, and it happened. it took me quite a while to tell him, and when i did, he was shocked.
we went a month without talking to each other.
now this was significant. because it had become a little bit of a… well… sickness? we rode the same bus to school in the winter or biked to school in the summer; we would spend our breaks together; we would get home and sometimes call each other right away. there was certainly a dependence going on that bordered what you would call a healthy friendship. but who wants healthy in the teen years? it was kind of automatic, and it had been like that for quite a long time now.
and then this month.
of course it did not end our friendship. but it was the first sign of what was to come: we knew each other almost too well, and out of boredom maybe, or other reasons, we started getting on each others nerves. on purpose sometimes, others without thinking. but the fact was that we knew exactly how to hurt the other. and we would start making use of this from time to time. and communication interruptions were more and more frequent.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

life changes (i)

this post is getting too long, so i will publish a first part now, and the latter parts when they get ready.

i don’t know how it was with you, but since i broadened by social circle to outside of the family, i’ve basically always had someone that i considered my best friend. i remember that the first in that string of “bf”s (not “bff”s, because it’s just not like that normally, hehe) was tobias tscheuschner, whom i met in the before mentioned French isle summer trip 1986. others to follow were felix jagusch, raphael sanz, marco zücker, thomas scholz, frederico branco, rodrigo streithorst, douglas leal and rafael streithorst.
people say that relationships can end, but friendships shouldn’t. and although i do want to believe this and have known it to be true most of the time, it is exactly my strongest friendship to date that seems to have ended. but let’s start from the beginning.
i arrived in germany (in company of tio ita and tio tania, right after the shaddap episode) for my parents civil wedding. of course, neither me nor any of my brothers talked any german, so we didn’t communicate with the other people who were present at that day. but one of the families present that day was to become important in our lives: a spaniard, his german wife and their son raphael sanz.
over the years, raphael became friends with the gonçalves kids, mostly with andre (the oldest one). i think we were quite fascinated by him, in some way: he was educated following a totally different philosophy than we were, basically much less strict. not that we were brought up in an extremely strict regime, but somehow things seemed much more laissez-faire with him.
in the first semester of 1987, i had been in love with a girl called yvonne dobert for quite some time. as typical for me at that age (9), i hade never spoken to her, nor was she aware of my existence. untypically, though, she was a full 3 years older than me, basically raphael’s age. well, yvonne is worth a post for herself, certainly. anyway, i had this girl well locked up in my secret world, when raphael surprised me twice. first, with a revelation. that was surprising, because we were friends, but not that intimate. he was more my brother andre’s friend at the time, but for some reason he wanted to show me this letter he received from a girl. one of those love letters, much more typical in the eighties than nowadays. and not that a great a letter, by the way. kind of funny. asking him to kiss her on a tuesday afternoon. signed: yvonne dobert. i couldn’t believe my eyes. she seemed to be so much part of my own particular world, known just to me, and thus, somehow kind of mine, in a way. but reality was quite different: she had her eyes on raphael. but strangely i wasn’t disappointed or sad at all, i was actually quite excited about the situation. this was the real yvonne, and she was “in love” with a friend of the family, who was now rapidly becoming my friend. of course, i didn’t tell raphael anything, and of course, he did kiss her on said tuesday afternoon.
anyway, with time passing, i was becoming more and more friends with raphael. in 1990, a great year for me, our friendship peaked for the first time. but i was still more on the receiving side of information than on the giving side. and i was becoming more and more social; marco zücker, newly arrived from the ex-eastern germany, was my best friend then, and lots was going on in the romantic arena. but after a great 1990, a terrible 1991 arrived. and that’s when raphael and me really became friends. and this time, it was totally open.
you see, i’d had really great friends in my life up to that year, people who really made the difference in my day-to-day life. but this was ground-breaking for me, a first. because i always protected my personal life, it was very natural to me to have my own proper world. a place i would go to when i was by myself, very safe and very nice. normally, there was a girl that i liked. a team (bayern münchen). music, lots of music, always very special to me. and, yes, i must admit, my stuffed animals. i really don’t know if this was an indirect result my parents breaking up at early age, no idea. i do know that it was a part of my life for a long time, and to some extent still is. but it was my friendship with raphael that changed things. he was invited, and he did not take the invitation lightly. because, at the end, these were the main topics in our sometimes endless conversations: girls (we had totally different outlooks but learned quickly to respect each others), music (really listening to it), but no sports (raphael was never a big fan). as i mentioned earlier, 1990 had been a great year socially, and 1991 was being horrible. maybe it was the disappointment that led me to open up, although one would think that the opposite would be the consequence. but it was in a way, i went back to being reclusive and shy, but this just seemed to make this old new friendship with raphael more imortant. musicwise, radio music of the time (like shanice’s “i love your smile” or charles & eddie’s “would i lie to you?”) was only shadowed by vangelis’ chariots of fire (my first favorite piece of music, not the title track, but other themes on that album) and michael jackson in general. with the girls, raphael was very, lets say, moody. he would fall in love almost every week, which was kind of funny, and he was not too shy about it. i was still in my old mode, and for some reason it took me a while to tell him who i was in love in at the time: her name was anja beusch, once again a girl who hardly knew who i was, from school. yep, once again, that’s quite a long entry for the future.

Sunday, November 30, 2008


today is a myth's birthday.
soon i will write about this person.

Monday, November 24, 2008


relationships are like second lives. i’ll explain: when you first meet someone, no matter how early or late in your life, it is almost as if that person was born at exactly that moment for you. and, in some way, when that happens, you are born again. you see that person in a light that probably no one has seen before, and the same thing happens to you, if the relationship is mutual in any way.
i don’t remember the exact time when the creator or uncle ita were born to me; i do know that, in both cases, i was born to them earlier than they were born to me. tio ita since the beginning of my life, and Jesus even before that. with michi, we were born to each other at the exact same time, as i recently confirmed. and, in this sense, i was never born to lyle mays (who knows maybe one day), but he was born to me at the end of 1996.
i know, this stuff with born and being born is kind of strange, but i was thinking of it today, while remembering someone special’s birthday. and this is the person i want to write about today. there are people like lyle mays whom i’ve never known and quite possibly never will; then there are people like tio ita, whom i’ve known quite well over the years. then there are people like michi, who i got to know better only years and years after “birth”. and, yes, there are people who i know somewhat, but nonetheless i admire and really like a lot in spite of never really being a vital part of their life.
this is such a person. she was born to me in october of 1994, and it was quite an impressing birth! yes, i still remember the first impression i had of ronísia marinho. it was right after a concert that the group i participated in at the time gave at her church (tom de vida at velho iae, now unasp são paulo). her younger sister rosiley and her were in the back of the church, even a long time after the concert was over. their father (robson) was the pastor of that church at the time, so i guess they were used to being the last ones to leave. but i couldn’t stop looking at her! there are three things that i have tradicionally liked about girls: smile, eyes and hair. and, yeah! what big dark eyes! what an incredible smile (if you know her, you know what i’m talking about)! and that short, dark, straight hair that i like a lot. that was quite a first impression.
now, i’ve haven’t had too many impacting first impressions like this one, and when that happened, i normally never saw the person again. this was different with rô, though. i saw her once later that year, and these two sightings somehow were enough to get my interest in her to a high level. in 1995, beginning of the year, she was the title girl of a denominational magazine, and strangely enough, i became convinced that i was in love with this stranger. although this didn’t last for long, it was still kind of a strange and nice feeling.
it was even nicer, though, to actually get to know ronísia, more than a year later. we lived in the same little community for a short while, and i loved going over to her place to pay a visit to that family i really love (including mother rozenia and once again, sister rosiley, who will deserve a blog entry of her own). we have seen each other a few times a year since then, although now it has been quite a while. she now lives in the states and seems to be on her way to a happy life.
i know her as a person filled with emotions, really alive. she really enjoys helping others and making her friends happy, has time and a great ear - she knows how to listen. through her strong emotions, it seems that she celebrates life; and, thus, people tend to really like her and enjoy her presence.
on this day, her birthday (which i remember since 1995), i get reminded of how you can love different people in different ways, and how they all are so unique. i can’t say that i know too much about ronísia’s life now, neither that we are particularly close. but i do know that she is special to me, one of those people you just root for at anytime. so, happy birthday, rô!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

it's great!

“if you hit my car i’m gonna punch you!” i heard this sentence probably in 1985, and i still remember it so well… . we were in a car, parking in one of those ferries that take you from great britain to europe. we, that was my two brothers, aunt tania and uncle ita. and now, outside of the car, this man was yelling at my uncle.
now, you have to know that my uncle is a very patient person. you’ll never meet anyone as helpful and selfless as “tio ita”, uncle to us and to basically everyone else he knows. he is the kind of person whom you ask for a lift, and he will take you to your home, even if he wasn’t going in that direction.
so there we are, on the ferry. tio ita calmly asks the aggressor: “did i touch your car?”. the man seemed surprised at the calm and smoothe reaction, and couldn’t do anything but answer: “no.” then, tio ita took us all by surprise, by screaming with all his might and power: “then shaaaaaaaadaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaappppppppp!!!”
my parents split up when i was 4, and before my mother remarried, there were a few years where we were by ourselves – my mother and her three little kiddos. she decided to continue her studies at newbold, about an hour out of london, england. her sister tania was living there, and tania’s husband itamar soon became the chief entertainer for his nephews (a role he hasn’t given up yet, J). i will dedicate a future post to tia tania, but today i want to write about the great ita.
his great gift has always been service. he loves to help, no questions asked. if he can be useful, he will be. it is natural to him that people in need should be helped, and without considering his own conditions, he will help as far as possible – or even further.
he’s also a very authentic human being, not ashamed of what he thinks and who he is. this is a very powerful communication tool, evidenced by the fact that he used to be a hell of a salesman in his day. imagine this: in summer vacation, he would sell books in iceland, and come back with enough money to pay tuition for the whole next school year, plus even by some new stuff, occasionally even a car. and it is this authenticity, willingness to serve and typical tio ita sense of humor that describe him best until today, over 20 years later. and yes, he is still very patient – but don’t bother him when he’s on a wheel of a car; that hasn’t changed either.
this is my special thanks to graaaande tio ita for all he has done for us, specifically for me, and for being an uncle everyone would want to have in their family. he have known me all his life (tia tania too, of course), more than the rest of my family, and i know that he will continue to be very important throughout it. uncle ita, uncle of all, is first and foremost my uncle!!


up to now i have only written about people i have never seen. although i do hope to meet them someday, i am very thankful for the people i have the privilege to know.
friendship comes in different shapes, forms and colors. even more so, if it is a friendship between a boy and a girl, a man and a woman. thinking back, i’ve had some friends that were pretty important to me at the time; and i will write about these special people in the following weeks and months. but there is one person outside of any family bonds that i have known the longest.
summer of 1986. i had been in germany for a full year. 3rd grade was over, i was 8 years old. i had been in love before, believe it or not. in england, over a year earlier; but that is another story, another special person. my family, my father’s brother’s family, his sister-in-law’s sister’s family and a family friends to my father’s sister-in-law (ufa!) went to ile d’oleron, a small island in the atlantic ocean around two hours from bordeaux, france. the kids in those four families numbered ten: the three tscheuschners (mareike, tobias and benjamin), the two witzigs (marcus and sebastian), the three gonçalves (andré, me and leo) and the two pieschkas (michaela and susie). in fact, this was a special summer for me and a memorable one for all these kids, i would guess. but the most memorable thing about those three weeks was… a girl, of course. michaela was one year younger than me. and it seemed that every time we met, there was a definite sense of electricity in the air. we would do stuff together, like playing badminton or looking for stones on the beach, but we wouldn’t talk much. i’ve always been shy, and so was she. but i do remember us looking for each other’s presence, and appreciating it with a quiet feeling of bliss.
this was a strange situation for me. normally, before and after that summer, i would fall for complete strangers, girls i never even talked to. it took four full years (a lot for a young boy) for me to like a girl that i actually spoke to again. but here we were, spending some time together. quietly. with lots of smiles and timid looks.
the summer was over, and my family and me went back to northern germany. we lived in a big village (not big enough to be considered a little town) about an hour from hamburg. michi lived near ludwigsburg, in south germany, where my father’s family comes from. the 650 km distance was enough to damp the summer “affair”, but in some way, the memory was always brought back to life every time we went to visit the family in south germany. normally, the pieschkas would come over, and the kids would be reunited. and, as always in the very quiet, unofficial electricity-in-the-air manner, michi and me would feel connected. at least i felt connected to her, and i’m almost certain it went both ways.
by the time i left germany in the summer of 1993, we still weren’t friends. many things happened during my first full year in brazil, and i admit i had almost forgot about my “old non-friend” when i came back for vacation in the summer of 1994. towards the end of july, though, i was headed to ludwigsburg to visit my family, and in the car on the way to the south, i caught myself thinking of good ol’ michi. there is a big difference from being 8 years old to being 16. i was excited about seeing her again. how would it feel? how would it be?
i was a little surprised to see that it felt… good! really good. the air was still electric, i might even say more than ever. it was only a weekend, with “freibad” (public swimming pool), church and grand prix of hockenheim, but it took me by surprise. michaela had done it again, i found myself very interested in her, thinking about her.
but soon enough, the summer was over, and the distance this time was around 10,000 km. an attempt was made to create a friendship over letters (yep, no emails yet), but somehow things didn’t survive the distance at all. actually, it had changed things. next time we saw each other, in the summer of 1995, there was no electricity in the air for the first time since 1986. only a certain uneasiness. it was kind of sad.
it took another three years for me to visit germany again. my parents had now moved to brazil, and at age 20, i was now responsible for my own plane ticket… . once again, i headed back to south germany, and as it had been since i was eight, i knew that i was going to see michi. now 19 (her birthday is one day after mine), she had been dating a guy for a couple of years. of course this didn’t bother me, because i had no romantic interest in her any more. those interests had been special in the past, but short and far between. i just hoped to be able to have any kind of contact with her; she already was a truly special person to me. and, one day, the opportunity came. i was still shy at that time, but much less than in past years. nevertheless, i had to overcome some fear to approach her. first of all, you never know how things are, what the other person is thinking, if the is even thinking anything. if the history i had with her resembled in any way the history that she had with me. after all, we had never gotten to be friends, even if we had known each other for 12 years by then.
i don’t remember too much of our little talk, as i rarely do. but it is still one of the talks that are most memorable to me, i still can see her, the situation, the emotions. not romantic ones, this time, but really deep friendly ones – almost better than those old romantic ones. electricity in the air, definitely yes. talking to her that evening was very special, and i hoped that we could find a way to somehow remain friends. because, after so many years, that’s what it was seeming we were becoming – really good old friends, in a new friendship. once again, great feeling!
after that, economics (brazil’s and my own) made it impossible to visit germany for quite a while. but it was exactly at this time when michi and me became what we are today – really good and true friends, bound by a strong mutual feeling of wishing the other person well. i can now be glad to say that there is a total trust atmosphere between us, and i am just thankful that our long history has come to the place it is now. it took another three years after our talk in germany for us to really open up as friends do, it was before the summer of 2001, i was 23.
michi is a person that i was in love with when i was eight, that moved me romantically whenever i saw her until i was 16, and now has become one of my most loyal friends. she is very strong, determined, disciplined, caring, unselfish, christian. born in the former czechoslovakia, she is married for quite a few years now and still lives near ludwigsburg. i’ve had the pleasure to see her in my last visit to germany, in 2006. and i hope that i’ll see her every time i go back there. but even if i were never to see her again, i know that i have found an eternal friend in her. and she knows that i will always be there for her, too.
i’ve changed quite a lot over the years, and so has my perception of michaela pieschka. but the positive feelings i’ve always had towards her since the first time we met, they are bound to become stronger and stronger over the years; this is a friendship where time has not taken its toll. that’s why it’s obvious that michi is a very special person to me, and she will always have played a special role in my life.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

close to home

have you ever experienced one of those moments were you feel fully understood? when someone just captured the essence of what you think or feel about something? if you have, you will know that these moments make us feel alive, really there, just simply satisfied, sometimes accompanied by a somewhat funny looking smile on your face, impossible to swipe away. now, let’s push this idea a little further: do you know how it feels when someone says something about life, or love, or you, that you would have never been able to express but that you couldn’t agree more with, almost as if it were your idea in the first place? this feeling is even more special to me than the first one, because at that moment, someone is not only “getting” you, but creating a new dimension of something that you are, think or feel. now, last question: do you believe that this is possible without that person even knowing you?
my answer is yes. and this is the mystery of music. a language that helps define who i am in a way that words couldn’t. when it is used as truthful expression, when it sounds so true to you that you might even catch yourself thinking that you would have put it exactly the same way; this is truth without words, it goes very deep into your heart, and it tells you a lot about who you are – you just can’t put it into words. i am not saying that you can or even should judge people by the music they love; for two reasons: first of all, it’s far too personal for those who actually take music seriously and don’t see it as mere entertainment. and, secondly, what would you be able to say? the language is musical and, in my opinion, any attempt to translate it diminishes it.
around 12 years ago, i was introduced to a guitarist by the name of pat metheny by my older brother andre, who had borrowed a video tape (good ol’ days) from a good friend called saulo. pat will be mentioned later on in this blog for sure, but it was through him that i “met” the one i consider to be my very personal musical soul mate. after the metheny discovery (album “secret story”), i started buying his work, as i usually do when i “find” a musician who speaks to me. one of those first albums goes by the name of “watercolors”, a 1977 pat metheny album, with three musicians collaborating: eberhard weber (bass), from nearby stuttgart (germany, nearby because the album was recorded in ludwigsburg, where my family lives), dan gottlieb (drums) and piano player lyle mays. now, you have to know that piano has always been my favorite instrument. i play the saxophone, which is an instrument i consider quite boring if not used in a meaningful context. but i really admire anyone who has a special gift for piano, which is the richest musical instrument i can think of. and this lyle mays was special. not only because of his incredible technique, but mostly because of his musical sensibility. and once again, not because it was superior, but because it just rang true to me – as if it were my ideas, my opinions, my feelings played by someone else, someone who didn’t even know who i was – but someone definitely special to me. lyle mays solos, and in that album more specifically his interpretation in the last track, “sea song”, reached me at a very personal level. soon, i sought to by his first solo album “lyle mays”, from 1984. i found it in a small music store in rio de janeiro at the end of 1997. for some reason, i’ve always loved the “sus” harmony, it just sounds… i mean, good is not even the word, it’s just kind of me. and that album begins with four “sus” chords. do you remember that smile i was talking about earlier? it was there when i first heard the beginning of that album, and it is there every time i even think of it, even right know writing this.
only many years later would i learn some details of his life. he is, no doubt, a musical genius, never studying the piano and having developed an own, personal technique and touch. he is also somewhat of a math genius, has a family he seems very devoted to, and collaborates with his co-genial musical buddy pat metheny in a way that it makes music critics compare them to the greatest collaborators in music history. lyle mays, his music with the pat metheny group or in other projects, and specially that 1984 solo album have been with me for these last almost 12 years, in very important moments of my life, even in the darkest hours. when i listen to him, it strangely feels like i am understood; it feels like home to me. or at least “close to home”, the last track of that solo album.

number one

ok. i am a math teacher after all, and probability has always been fascinating to me. what is the chance of this or that happening? what is the chance of me getting to know and meeting the exact people that i have met in my life. what are even the odds of being born into my family? well, you might say, you would have known a certain amount of people anyway, and you had to be born into some family, that’s for sure. you had to grow up somewhere, live somewhere, and there you would have to meet people, talk to them, interact with them. not that impossible, is it?
and still i wonder. 6 billion + people on the planet, I might have seen millions of them in my lifetime, noticed maybe almost a hundred thousand, talked to quite a few of them, maybe a few ten thousand. but i can’t say that too many of them have touched me in some way, impacted me, made any kind of difference. some of them are famous, even celebrities. people i’ve never seen or met, but still impacted me somehow. and some of them i’ve known all my life. when talking about them, i will be basically talking about myself, because all of these people had some say in what i have become as a person, and what i will become in future. does that sound as if i am influenced by what other people think? those who know me well will find that strange, since i do tend to be independent in my actions, not caring too much about conventional opinion. but i say that it is impossible to be without influencing others and without being influenced. you just can’t allow yourself to see others as a possible threat or even judge, but as a vital part of your life, an addition; a major addition. people want to be able to be sincere, which is actually just the freedom to be accepted, no matter what you say or do. this need to communicate and to be accepted is proof that we are all connected to each other, and that we need each other. which also means that every day, we have to choose to either help or harm others. because we will be doing one or the other, even if it seems that our actions don’t affect others. and as soon as you choose to be positive about your interactions to others, you will feel how that affects your own happiness – once again, it’s all connected.
that’s why the first person i want to mention in this blog is actually someone i have never seen, but i have often met. he is the greatest celebrity to ever walk the planet, but he still takes a personal interest in me. he has been there for me all my life, and even though i have disappointed him often enough, he has never even considered abandoning me. i owe him big time, and i will never be able to repay him. but that’s okay with him, he’s just waiting for me to love him back. he’s all about interaction and connection, about happiness comes through service, about love to be loved. and because all of this, all there is, all these unwritten rules of life are his idea in the first place, he is most definitely the number one person around. does that sound to good to be true? a personal friend, more loyal and loving than anyone you’ll ever know, being the governor and creator of the universe and everything in it? is that too far away from reality? to mathematically improbable? well, i defy you to try it out – i mean, what is there to lose? i can speak for myself: he is many things, has many nicknames, does the greatest deeds. but for me, my favorite part about my faithful friend is that he is the great connector, the one responsible for me knowing the people i know, loving and being loved by many of those, being defied and challenged by others – he knows this all too well, and he really hopes that i appreciate the opportunity he has given me – to live and to be impacted by others, and to impact them.
that’s why this little blog is an homage to him and the people he has given me; to live my life has been an extremely fascinating experience, thanks to the people i am going to mention in days to come. but let it be said that it is all thanks to the prince of peace. because i am certain that the family i was born into, the people i have met in the places i have been – it is not a mathematical coincidence, it is a gift. and i can’t do anything, i can just say: from the bottom of my heart, thank you. for every day and every moment made special by… special people.

Monday, November 17, 2008


this blog has one main idea: to talk about people that have been important in my life: known or unknown, close to me or people i've never spoken to, family, friends and non-friends.
i trully believe that people are the main source of joy, growth and reason to live, and this is my little homage some of them.

i have chosen to write in english because of my background (having grown up in germnay, lived in brazil for the past 13 years and teaching at an american school). i don't know if anyone will read any of this, but if they do, it should be in the most international language possible.

okay, so here we go...