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