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Brazil Beyond the Amazon

Thanks to Noel Lateef for his opinion-page portrayal of Brazil in "Lost Decade Behind, Brazil is Definition of Optimism" (Aug. 15).

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Born and raised in Brazil, I have grown accustomed to a lack of knowledge and interest in my home country. When visiting Colorado in 1985, I was shocked to hear my 14-year-old peers ask questions such as, "Do you have VCRs in Brazil?" Or even the more puzzling, "Did you ride a boat to school?" Being from Sao Paulo, I had difficulty understanding their misconceptions. Over time, I realized that my new friends' questions were very legitimate, considering that the only time they heard about Brazil was when the media showed half-naked women dancing during Carnival or deforestation in the Amazon.

I also could have attributed their lack of knowledge to youth, but recently I attended a "How to Do Business in Latin America" seminar. A (now much older) peer asked, "Are computers readily available in Brazil?"

In the eight years I have been in the US, I have met very worldly people. But articles like yours are needed to awaken those who are still in the dark about what resides south of Mexico.

As the article fairly describes, Brazil still faces tough challenges. But leave it to the Brazilians to overcome them.

Karin Wu-Martin

Bothell, Wash.

Lessons in basics lay a foundation

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"As I Sewed, I Ripped," (Sept 10) on the Home Forum page, although intended to be humorous, actually points out a great fault in the mode of teaching today.

I've substitute-taught in several home economics sewing classes, but I found that some home economics teachers permit pupils to make too many choices - whatever pattern and fabric they wish.

This is a terrible injustice to the students! I am grateful that I had a teacher who taught us the basics first. Remember, classes are 45 to 50 minutes long each day. In two weeks, we learned the basics of the sewing machine. In the next two, we learned how to make basic seams - plain, French, flat-felled.

Then we bought cotton material and one of two patterns our teacher had chosen to make an apron, which incorporated the seams we had just learned to make. The project was done in two weeks, and we felt proud of our accomplishment. Next we learned more intricate sewing techniques, making 5-by-8 inch swatches and placing them in a scrapbook with explanations.

Before Easter, we had made our own Easter outfits. The teacher guided us through each step.

In the Home Forum essay, "Mrs. Home Ec Teacher" approves a dress in which the sleeves are sewn in backward. This shows a lack of integrity.

We need more back-to-basics in all fields of education. Sure, kids are in a rush, but what about that adage, "Why is there not enough time to do something right, but always enough time to do the thing over?" Teachers should slow down and teach the basics, whether kids like it or not. Such teachers are not running for office, and they don't have to win any popularity contests.

Sewing is a great joy to me because I learned the basics.

Jocelyn Green

DeKalb, Ill.

A teacher's long-lasting impact

My thanks to John Gould for the Home Forum column "My Teacher Declined to Be Shown or Told" (Sept. 12), a gentle but potent reminder of teachers whose never-forgotten lessons of ignorance and arrogance made us a little less than we might have been. (Then, of course, there was that other group of teachers, who listened and encouraged us and made us far more than we would have been without them.)

Mr. Gould reminds us again that teaching is a humble profession and that some professors have forgotten how small all of us are, and how big knowing makes us feel.

Geoffrey Sottong

Columbia, S.C.

Your letters are welcome. Letters for publication must be signed and include your mailing address and telephone number. All letters are subject to editing. Letters should be mailed to "Readers Write," One Norway St., Boston, MA 02115, faxed to 617-450-2317, or e-mailed to

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