Back when the Beatles were the new kids on the block, the British School of Teresópolis was popular among British and American expatriates and Brazilian parents eager to delegate the learning of English to their offspring. Also new at the time was a movie titled “The Great Escape,” which pretty well summed up the way a lot of us offspring viewed the arrangement. We even had a stern and unforgiving German nurse, a British math teacher, a headmaster and a physical education teacher both of whom were eager to see how many of us could be trained to win metals for the Vaterland in athletic competition.
A normal day started with lineup and roll-call followed immediately by steeplechase race up a treacherous clay slope embedded with angular lumps of chert, then back down an equally steep and slippery goat trail to arrive, gasping and panting, at the main torture grounds. Divide and conquer was the motto as we lined up into freebooter and militaristic Drake, Churchill and Nelson “houses” to be broiled under the tropical sun seeking to outdo one another at the physical jerks popularized in Orwell’s totalitarian dystopias.
The physical jerks weren’t so bad compared to the torture of being five millimeters taller than Suzy Ludwig, the most gorgeous heartbreaker there, and thus having to watch her muscular butt-cheeks ripple beneath a tiny pair of gym shorts throughout the entire ordeal. For a skinny adolescent with no girlfriend, it was Hell!
Like Steve McQueen, I dreamt of escaping over the hill—this when I wasn’t wishing the Fraulein would notice my pathetic existence. Then it happened! I was wandering aimlessly when Robyn de Roo sidled up alongside and announced his intention of making a break for it. I was awash in friendship and sympathy as I handed him all the cash I had on me, plus half a stick of gum and a useful-looking piece of string. This altruistic camaraderie was of course seasoned with the very practical realization that with one of the handsome and roguish DeRoo brothers out of the county I might have a better shot at obtruding upon the notice of the pretty German girl.
Don't miss Part 2: The Plot Thickens