The Story From Our Passports

“The best things in life aren’t things.” Anon

Doris just handed me our passports from years gone by and I note this–passports tell the story of where we’ve been. In a way they tell who we are. But one thing is for sure, they don’t tell the truth about looks. The reason I write that is the picture before me in my passport is as ugly as sin. It’s me when I had hair but surely I was not mad at the whole world. But the other passport is of Doris and it has a much prettier picture—of course. In any case the photographer allowed her to smile just a bit; that is why I’m using her passport to stir up memories.

It is amusing that Immigration officials don’t worry much about the page where they stamp a passport at the ports of entry or exit. They open them up and “pow” they leave their mark and an indecipherable signature. It’s strange the first stamp I see in this passport is in Hendaya, France. That happened about five years after other travels were already carimbada in later pages.

Then follows the stamp from January 1961when we disembarqued from the Argentine ship for our 2nd term in Brazil. The port is Santos, where a customs warehouse had kept our car for six years. Our ship was a combination of freight and passengers with excellent accommodations for us considering that was years ago. Our cabin was not large for the four of us but that was not a problem for we spent most of our time in other parts of the ship. The only difficulty we encountered was the hurricane we hit shortly after leaving New York . That storm was severe enough to destroy a U.S. radar site with deaths just a short distance North of us. I recall Monica and Vernon sick in their bunks and Doris not much better. However I never missed a meal but with the tilting of the ship there were times when I had to hold my plate on the table. For a bit of fun I went on deck during the storm and proceeded to the prow that threw up sheets of spray. There are times in life when adventure takes over from common sense.

My such hardships on that voyage! The children had their own swimming pool on the upper deck and a person to take care of them. And she was also available for them in a special play area. In fact our children never had to eat with us for the lady in charge took them to their own dining room. We ate with the other grown-ups. There we could order what we wished, so I decided to try out the system. For one meal, I ordered salmon steak and shortly in was served to our table. During every dinner we were serenaded by a piano/violin duet. Sometimes missionary life is so hard!

After clearing customs in the port of Santos we met Harold Ryckman, one of the mission team. After checking through immigration we all went back on the ship for one more of their great meals.

The next passport page shows a visa from the São Paulo Paraguayan consulate with the consulate information imprinted over a 0.50 dolares stamp. I am sure the visa cost more than just that one stamp. Then on the opposite page is the exit visa needed to get out of Brazil, yes to leave Brazil. A note says the visa is valid also for our daughter  “Monica Leone, who is travelling in the company of her dad…” When we understand the South American culture at that time it becomes clear why the dad is responsible for the child. All this paper work made possible our trip to Paraguay to visit another mission family—the Hustons. (I’ve written about that trip on another posting.)

Then on the overleaf is the visa allowing Doris to return to Brazil, issued by the Embassy of the United States of Brazil in Asuncion. On the same page is another stamp giving the number and date of the issuance in 1955 of Doris’ Brazilian identity card. Those stamps and dates and those identity cards not only bring back memories but they were necessary to do business. You will now have an inkling just how important documents and the related paper work is in Brazil. In fact there is a whole profession dedicated to paper work—the despachantes. Everybody there needs one of them at times to unravel bureaucracy—of course they must be paid for their services.

A whole new life opened up for the four of us with the Brazilian exit visas dated January 1965. You see we left Brazil to travel throough Europe and Egypt with stopovers in Lebanon and the Holy Land. We were a week late in getting out of Brazil because I had an appendix attack and surgery. Something else held us up on that “Friendship Flight” between Brazil and Portugal. Turbo-prop planes and jets were already flying but this flight was on an old DC7C that was powered by propellers driven by the antique piston engines. Why take such a plane? Well, it was cheaper than anything else. This time on the runway the pilot revved up the engines then quickly shut them down. We stayed hours in the plane till they could find another generator and installed it on an engine. An old plane such as that one increases my faith in angels that lend their protection.

The stamp in Doris’ passport on the 19th of February, 1965 is proof we made it to Lisbon. You’ll read about our stay in Europe next week. As for us, we were beginning a new chapter in our lives after ten years in Brazil; the following years were in many ways both challenging and strange.

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