Day 10: May 22

We awoke to the sound of pouring rain in Rorainópolis today. Guillherme and I somehow slept through our alarms, but ended up managing to be ready for our 6am departure for Boa Vista. Our drive back was mostly quiet, save for our driver Ricardo’s excellent playlist that ranged from forró to funk to 1960’s motown music to ballads from the 1980’s. The thought that our field trip has quickly coming to an end hung heavily in our minds — this was our very last full day together in Boa Vista after all.

Once again, we made a stop at Ponto do Pão de Queijo, 90km away from Boa Vista, where we had a small bite and coffee. By around 10.30am, we were back at our hostel, where the three of us helped ourselves to the hostel’s breakfast, before having a more relaxing and pensive few hours. We went for lunch at Trigo’s, followed by dessert at Del Monte, where we had gelato while watching and commenting on Shakira’s music videos. (I’d like to make a note at this point that cupuaçu and tiramisu gelato go very well together) We then returned to the hostel to rest for a few hours.

At 6pm, our team made our way to the UERR campus one final time to present our work on the indigenous languages of Canada once again. The programme was identical to the previous day’s: Suzi presented on indigenous languages of Brazil, Isabella talked about the indigenous languages in Roraima, and then we were up. Unlike the audience from the day before, we had an audience from various disciplines, many of whom were faculty members of UERR. We were also especially thrilled to see that our Taurepang and Ye’kwana consultants, Diene and Josemar, came to watch our presentation! Once again, it was heartening to see how engaged the audience was. We received very positive feedback and some interesting questions during the Q&A session.

Famished after the adrenaline rush of our presentations, our team hopped back into the car and debated about where to eat for dinner: do we go to our favourite tapiocaria (for the 3rd time), or do we revisit Irene’s for more delicious tacacá/picarurú? We had a brief moment of deliberations, until  Suzi made an executive decision: Round 3 of Tapiocaria Cangaço it was! We had a very hearty meal with the usual rounds of cuscuz and tapioca.

And then came the goodbyes — albeit suddenly and dramatically in the rain, and it was quite surreal. Suzi and Guilherme were leaving Boa Vista for São Paolo later that night, while Octavia and I would leave for Manaus only the following afternoon (and spend a good 10 hours of transit time exploring the city!), before a long journey back to Toronto via Miami.

Looking back on the past ten days, I can’t help but feel immensely grateful for the opportunity to work with Macuxi speakers after studying this language as an independent study over the past year. Conducting fieldwork is like working on a huge puzzle — it’s challenging, but definitely rewarding. I arrived in Boa Vista with some questions about the Macuxi language, and I have learnt a lot, but there are certainly still other questions left unanswered. I enjoyed getting to know the Macuxi consultants, and I especially appreciated how enthusiastic both França and Olendina were, sharing their language throughout the entire week. During one session, Olendina suddenly pulled out a USB key from her bag, telling me that she had a catalogue of Macuxi recordings/radio clips that I could and should listen to. França was also telling me about his plans to create more pedagogical materials and a more comprehensive dictionary in Macuxi. At one point, he also brought his Macuxi-Portuguese bilingual bible to show me. Admittedly, I was rather apprehensive and nervous about conducting fieldwork when I’m the only non-Portuguese speaker. Thankfully, I was able to conduct my elicitation sessions with França and Olendina (who are both wonderfully patient), in Spanish. I think I can also safely say that my comprehension of Portuguese has definitely improved! (Now to learn it properly…)

I am also incredibly proud of and grateful for my two companions, Octavia and Guillerme, who have been the best company throughout this field trip. This team has been so awesome and fun to work with, and to think we barely knew each other just two weeks ago!

On behalf of the students, I’d also like to thank our professors Suzi and Isabella for making the entire programme possible over the past two weeks. It is one thing to learn about indigenous languages of Brazil in the classroom, but nothing beats getting firsthand experience learning about them in the field, especially from instructors with such profound experience. We’ve learnt and laughed a lot, and we are grateful and inspired.

Till next time, Roraima!

By Greg Antono

 

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Suzi presenting on Brazilian indigenous languages

 

 

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Isabella during her presentation on indigenous languages spoken in Roraima

 

 

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Octavia, Greg and Guilherme during their presentation on linguistic and cultural aspects of Canada.

 

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Q&A period – Event “Brasil e Canadá: um diálogo sobre diversidade linguística”

 

 

Day 9: May 21

Today we woke up early in order to leave for Rorainópolis, about 300km away from Boa Vista. Our driver arrived at 6am, much earlier than expected (6:30), so we hastily got ready, and in a semi-conscious state we waddled to our truck for our 4-hour drive. Along the way we made a pit stop at the town of Iracema to eat the pão de queijo (cheese bread) that Isabella had talked so much about. They had many delicious looking local snacks, from paçoca, tapioca, cassava cake, cassava biscuits, couscous and much more.

We arrived at Rorainópolis at 10am and had a quick tour of the UERR’s Rorainópolis campus before we went to the lodging where we would spend the night to settle and relax for a bit. We then went to the Rorainópolis campus’ director (Cláudio Delicato’s house) for a feijoada. After much eating, we were treated with the presence of an adorable puppy that brightened up our day. Octavia was especially touched to be able to hold such a tiny puppy just larger than her hands.

 

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Lunch at professor’s Claudio house with UERR professors.
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Our team looking as if we’d never seen a puppy before

While we were just recovering from our feijoada-induced food coma we watched Suzi’s class on field methods, on formal semantics, as a guest lecturer on Isabella’s course on the indigenous languages of Roraima. On the second part of the class, Octavia and Greg served as consultants of English and Mandarin for the students to practice the elicitation methods learned in the class. The students were very enthusiastic and engaged, asking a lot of questions trying to figure quantification of mass and count nouns. Greg remarked at how difficult it was to be a consultant, often being induced to second guess his own intuitions, and that helps a bit to put ourselves in the consultants’ shoes.

 

 

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Greg working as a Mandarin consultant and the students of the course “Indigenous Languages of Roraima”
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Suzi and the students from the course “Indigenous Languages of Roraima”
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Octavia working as an English consultant and the students of the course “Indigenous Languages of Roraima”

After the class ended all the students wanted to have their photo taken with us, and before we noticed we found ourselves in a photo session with each of the students waiting for their turn to take photos with us. While feeling a bit bemused that gave us some good laughs and jokes about being local celebrities. We then proceeded to a local cafe for some tapioca and fresh juice which were delicious, as it has always been the case with other foods we tried at Roraima.

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Students from the course “Línguas de Indígenas de Roraima” taught by professor Isabella Coutinho after the invited class taught by professor Suzi Lima on formal and experimental aspects of fieldwork in semantics.
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Greg, Guilherme and Octavia towards the end of their celebrity moment.

We then went back to the university for our workshop event (“Brasil and Canadá: um diálogo sobre diversidade linguística”). Suzi opened the event with her talk on Brazilian indigenous languages, followed by Isabella’s talk on Roraima’s indigenous languages. Lastly, Octavia, Greg and I gave our presentation on Canada’s Indigenous languages. Greg started with the multilingual state of Canada, with indigenous and immigrant languages, and later he also talked about the revitalization of indigenous languages. Octavia talked about the political and social situation surrounding the indigenous peoples and languages in Canada, and I talked about their diversity and typology.

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Greg, Guilherme and Octavia presenting their talk on Canadian Indigenous Languages. Undergraduate students from UERR asked many questions to the UofT group during a Q&A session that lasted almost 40 minutes. A great success! ❤

After the presentations we were still feeling full from the tapioca we had eating before, so we went to a local pub for some “light” food. Some of us tried some fish sausages, which tasted very good, as it is with all other foods that we had tried so far.

 

 

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The UofT group with UERR professors Isabella Coutinho and Cristiani Dalia de Mello (coordinator of the Letras (Languages, Linguistics, Literatures) course at UERR) and UERR drivers Ricardo and Natercio – a shout-out to Natércio who made sure to show that he was drinking water.

After we returned to our lodging we got to see the starry sky that we rarely get to see, having lived our whole lives in big cities. Everything was so peaceful, standing there under the starry sky to the music of frogs and the insects. That was a lovely way to end our great day at Rorainópolis.

 

By Guilherme Teruya

Day 8: May 20

Today was our last day of elicitation. Greg continued to work with França on reduplication and iterative morphemes Makuxi as Olendina finished her sessions last. Suzi and I finished worked on discerning the use of the certain comparative words, negative comparisons and relative clauses. Josemar was unable to attend in the morning so Akio observed Suzi and I’s session for a portion of the morning and prepared notes for his upcoming afternoon session. In the afternoon Akio and Josemar worked on quotatives.

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Just like that our time with our consultants is over. It feels just like yesterday we were meeting them and learning the basics of their respective languages. In a blink of an eye after becoming comfortable with Diene she is back to regular programming, and we are wrapping up our trip. I am going to miss Diene’s vivacious personality, her style (she had a great outfit every day), learning little bits and pieces about her life, her invaluable knowledge, and taking selfies (haha).  I’m also going to miss everyone’s warmth and welcoming energy each day. Although our time together has been short, it has been nothing but positivity throughout.

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It has been such a joy learning about Taurepang, seeing Suzi’s process as a linguist, and learning more about linguistics as a non-linguist. Unlike my classmates I have not studied linguistics extensively, but rather Human Geography. As a result, throughout this process I have gained a great deal of knowledge, respect and admiration for the important work linguists do in the field. Not all of our questions have been answered as it would take years of consultation, but a clearer picture has been painted. Work like this -even at an undergraduate level- is so important as it gives students a chance to experience a new part of the world and learn about groups that do not generally have high visibility. In academia many of the same narratives are shared repeatedly, but this course along with Suzi’s Brazilian Indigenous Language class during the school year helps break this hegemony.

Tomorrow we travel to the UERR Ronainopolis campus to give a presentation on Indigenous Languages and people in Canada. We have our apprehensions and there is still much memorising to do, but we are excited nonetheless. This is our chance to impart a fraction of the knowledge we have gained this week. In Brazil the socio-political context and language vitality of North American Indigenous languages is not well-known, so our presentations will give the students a glimpse into the similarities and differences between our two countries. We also have the opportunity to act as consultants for the fields method class Suzi is instructing. We are all very excited for this as we have been on the other side for the past week.

At the end of the day we had our daily local food exploration. Today we tried Tacacá, and vapatá.These are dishes made primarily from a broth wild manioc broth with other spices. We all tried a bit of everything and cleared our plates. We also tried Kibe which a small fried handheld snack made from rice and seasoned beef. Everything was delicious as usual, and company was great. Isabella’s family came to join us, and they were so pleased to see we were eating their regional food. Overall, lunch was delicious and yet another gastronomical delight of Brazil.

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Reflecting back on this week of elicitation it has been quite an eventful ride. In the car on the way home the three of us realised that this time last week we were all mildly confused and exhausted from our multi-leg journey to Boa Vista. While we are still quite sleepy come midday, we found energy to learn new things about languages and people. It has been such a transformative week academically and personally. I have learned new things about Brazilian society, Indigenous societies, small language quirks in Portuguese, and most importantly I have had an amazing week with great people. Our next two days will be a whirlwind of presentations and travel, but I am excited to make the most of our last 48hrs.

By Octavia Andrade-Dixon

 

 

Day 7: May 19

After Saturday’s jam-packed schedule, our team took it easy today. Attuned to waking up early, we had our breakfast at our regular time at the hostel, before getting organising data and working on our upcoming presentation. This morning, we were also briefed on our schedule for the rest of this trip. We’ve just been getting into a nice routine, but it seems that our days here are numbered! Monday’s elicitation session is likely to be our last, before our trip to Rorainópolis.

At around noon, the professors picked us up (still a little lethargic and sluggish in general) at our hostel. We were driven to Marina Meu Caso, a rustic waterfront eatery, where we shared tambaqui assado (grilled fish) and baião de dois (rice with black eyed peas). The food, like almost every meal we’ve had so far, was super tasty. After lunch, we hopped back into the car. We drove past the Boa Vista office of Instituto Socioambiental (ISA) (an NGO that works on the protection of Brazilian indigenous peoples’ rights) — we had touched on ISA during our Brazilian Indigenous Languages course, and had made use of their Encyclopedia of Indigenous Peoples in Brazil for our own research at some point, so that was pretty cool!

We then made a short stop at Porto do Babazinho — where we found ourselves on an unused boat with a view of Rio Branco and the Macuxi bridge. After a few photos, we were dropped off back at our hostel, where our food coma set in. All of us dozed off for a little while (Octavia on her hammock, Guilherme on his rocking chair and yours truly horizontally on my bed), before we continued to work on our presentation on the indigenous languages of Canada, that we will be presenting on Tuesday and Wednesday. At 5pm, our team spent some time doing a dry-run of our presentation for Suzi, which turned out quite well! I think I can speak on behalf of the team to say that we’re all excited to be presenting this for the local students later this week.

We then ordered take-out from Verde Mix (salads! because we’ve been over-eating!), and worked a little more for the rest of the night. As I mentioned earlier, tomorrow is going to be our last elicitation session — we can’t believe how quickly this trip is flying by!

By Greg Antono

Day 7

Day 6: May 18

Today was Saturday, so we only had our morning elicitation session. Octavia and I worked on embedded clauses and quotations in Taurepang and Ye’kwana, respectively, while Greg continued on his saga to find instances of reduplication and the iterative morpheme in Macuxi. Unfortunately, today we had to say our final goodbyes to one of the Macuxi consultants, Olendina, as it was her last day working with us.

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We’re getting surprised at how fast the days have gone by! If in the beginning the days felt quite long, now they’re flying by. I get a feeling that there isn’t enough time to do what I would like to. There’s always something more I want to ask and there are new interesting looking phenomena popping up in each session that we won’t have time to investigate.

Once we were done with our fieldwork for the day, we were welcomed by Isabella’s mother and siblings into their lovely house for a feijoada that they had prepared. They were delightful hosts. The food was delicious and we had the greatest time there with their dogs and cats. We were shown to Isabella’s sister’s, Gabriela, extensive knowledge of Brazilian music, especially Northern Brazilian. She showed us different styles of music, the way they are danced, and even Brazilian versions of foreign music.

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Our lunch ended with some cake and coffee, and being very well fed, we headed to a refugee camp for indigenous people from Venezuela. According to Isabella, this is the world’s only refugee camp for indigenous people backed by the UN. It was a remarkable experience getting a glimpse of a refugee camp for the first time. It feels somewhat unsettling coming from a position of privilege, in stark contrast to those refugees who were forced to give up their homes to migrate to a foreign country in order to survive. We were there, however, mainly to take a look at the hand-woven crafts made by Warao women. There were so many lovely options among trays, baskets, purses, handbags, plates and others. It was hard to choose but each of us ended up getting something.

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After that, we went back to our hostel to relax for a bit and get ready to go see the dance performance Anfêmero at the municipal theatre of Boa Vista inspired on the songs of the famous Brazilian singer Elis Regina. The performance made reference to social issues in Brazil, including racism and homophobia. After this long day we ended our evening with some great Arabic food and came back to our hostel to get some much needed rest.

Post by Guilherme Teruya.

 

Day 5: May 17

Today was a full day of elicitation with a session in the morning and afternoon. In the morning there were two groups working on elicitation, Akio continued to work on Ye’kwana and Greg on Macuxi. Diene – the Taurepang consultant – was unable to attend in the morning, so I observed Greg’s session. While observing I also worked on our upcoming presentation that we will be giving at UERR Rorainópolis and Boa Vista. For lunch, we made our second visit to Restaurant Trigo’s, a local restaurant that we all enjoy.

In the afternoon all three elicitation sessions ran. Suzi, Diene and I worked on more complex phrases in Taurepang and learned some features of tense in Taurepang. We make quick progress with each session, and although slightly overwhelming, learning all this new information is such a rewarding process. Diene is incredibly smart and provides us with translation after translation with ease. After a fruitful afternoon session we stopped by Cafe Espresso for a quick coffee and tea. The cafe is like many others, but full of Brazilian goodies and drinks such as tapioca, coxinhas, and guava juice. Afterwards to end the day we visited the local shopping centre Boa Vista Gardens. We ended the mall trip with pictures in front of the Boa Vista sign like the tourists we are.

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Today was equal parts productive and enjoyable. At day 4 of elicitation we all feel as though we are finding a groove in our processes. We are learning more about the languages and adding more pieces to the puzzle. As well, as time goes on our consultants are becoming more comfortable with us, as are we with them. Personally, I look forward to seeing Diene every day, learning new things from her, getting to see more of her personality, and taking selfies! As I mentioned earlier she’s incredibly smart and has such a vivacious personality.

However, we all came to the realisation that we are halfway through our trip! This wonderful experience is quickly coming to an end we are all trying to enjoy every moment of it. This includes taking photos almost everywhere we go, especially of the funny things. Today we saw a school called MapleBear Canadian School that made us all laugh. After a quick google search, I’ve found it is a bilingual English-Portuguese school run similarly to the French immersion system in Canada.

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All in all today was a fruitful day. As we trudge along with our work this evening I am full of gratitude for this experience. Tomorrow brings new challenges, discoveries, and experiences that I am so excited for!

By Octavia Andrade-Dixon

Day 4: May 16th

Our days in Brazil are beginning to follow a familiar routine: our team would be up by 7-8 for breakfast at our hostel, get picked up just past 9am, head to the university campus (located just minutes away), and be ready for our elicitation sessions at 10am. These would last 2 hours in the morning, and 2 hours in the afternoon. This morning, we arrived at UERR much earlier than usual, and spent some time with Suzi discussing our progress researching our respective languages thus far.

As always, we broke into our small groups to continue working through our questionnaires. Guilherme and Josemar worked on adjectives, comparatives and measurements in Ye’kwana, while Octavia, Suzi and Diene did the same in Taurepang. As for my group, we continued exploring where reduplication is possible in different types of Macuxi verbs. For the very first time, (and I was quite excited (but nervous) about this) I had the opportunity to work with both Macuxi consultants, França and Olendina, at the same time. Since they speak slightly different varieties of Macuxi, it was interesting to observe how they would deliberate, agree or disagree on a particular sentence or construction that I bring up.

It’s also quite heartwarming to see that after just a few days, we (our research team and the consultants) are all getting familiar with and warming up to each other. Guilherme, Octavia and I are picking up more and more interesting aspects of our research languages as these elicitation sessions go by, and we’ve been eagerly sharing these patterns with each other during our breaks.

Our fruitful day at the university ended at 3pm, just as the heavy rain finally subsided. We headed back to our hostel, where Octavia set up her new go-to siesta spot: a very inviting hammock just outside our rooms. After a short rest, we were once again picked up and whisked off to revisit Tapiocaria Cangaço to satisfy our tapioca and cuscuz cravings. Our team had a lovely time, bonding over good food and some hearty laughs (about memes, telenovela tropes, and their relevance to the real world).

Our evenings in Brazil follow a certain routine as well: after the post-dinner food coma, we would rest a little bit, before organising our notes and preparing for the next day. We are collecting large amounts of data through these elicitation sessions, and sorting out these notes is crucial to figure out what sorts of questions we’d like to investigate next!

And hence ends Day 4 — we haven’t quite figured out whether it’s the heat/humidity, or the sheer amount of brain-work that makes these days quite tiring, but we’re certainly not complaining!

Here’s looking forward to another rewarding day tomorrow.

By Gregory Antono

 

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Guilherme and Josemar working on Ye’kwana
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The Macuxi group
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Diene and Octavia working on Taurepang
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The Macuxi group