Chernela Mount New Year's letter Jan. 1, 2005
This year, for the first time ever, we are breaking with our iconclastic tradition by recognizing the tradition of the New Year's letter. We're even going high tech and posting it online rather than sending it to you (by email or otherwise).
The year 2004 began appropriately with SALSA. In this case, SALSA refers to the Society for the Anthropology of Lowland South Americanists, the latest incarnation of a group that goes back to Janet's days as a graduate student in New York city . It is haunted by the mischievous specters of Robert Murphy, Gertrude Dole, and Brian Burkhalter. To that good company, this year's meeting combined both old-timers with new students, as well as several overseas guests, including John Hemming from London and Eduardo Viveiros de Castro from Rio . This year's meeting location, decided over eighteen months before, was to be Miami , and Janet, as the likely on-site person, was to organize. But Janet had moved to Maryland! She was bailed out by very good friends Bob Meade and friend-and-student, Patricia Pinho who came in from Denver and Davis , respectively, to lend support and skill. Over caipirinhas this planning group agreed the meeting was a great success.
At that meeting, the "shameless self-promotion" table featured Hemming's new book, Die if You Must , the last of his trilogy on the history and survival of South American Indians that includes the well-known Red Gold .
While Janet is sorry to leave friends, colleagues and warm winters behind, she heartily enjoys her new colleagues and students at the University of Maryland. We're feeling too old to commute, are now enjoying what we have missed too much in over 13 years of commuting, first between New York and Miami and then between Washington and Miami.
We were no sooner settling into a domestic routine when, in February, we were surprised by a visit from Mateus Cabral, whom Janet had known as a child in his Amazonian village, Caruru. Mateus became a family member until August, when he returned to the Amazon. During the six months we were privileged to have him live with us, Mateus taught us a great deal about, among other things, consumer electronics, the Wanano language, and our garden. Mateus, who purchased a digital camera with video capabilities, filmed weather events, including a summer hailstorm. In many visits to the capital, he never photographed a federal building or monument. He developed a love for the web and became an avid on-line reader. In our home he had much opportunity to read and correct Janet's publications, based upon her long stay with his uncles, aunts, and cousins. His response was generally good. But on reading Janet's publications containing translations of Wanano women's songs, he said, "The songs are right -- but they're not called that." He was referring to the genre name, which Janet had apparently misunderstood. "It (the practice) is not called Kaya Basa," he said. Since this mistake has been made in print more than a few times, Janet will correct it next time around.
At the end of April Steve surprised Janet with a wonderful birthday present -- a visit to her favorite nearby location: the natural preserve at Chincoteague (photos). There, we spent a wonderful weekend at the Channel Bass Inn owned by our friends Barbara and David. Whatever calories were lost in biking were quickly compensated in Barbara's English-style afternoon Teas, in which everything is freshly made. We still recall, nostalgically, Barbara's fig scones. When Barbara's twin sister Maggie showed up the good conversation doubled.
At the end of May, Steve's colleague Eric Haag married Shizuka Hsieh in Tucson . We had the pleasure of attending their wedding in an 18th century renovated Spanish Church . The ceremony was conducted by a minister who was the disciple of Shizuka's grandfather, and accompanied on the cello by Shizuka's family friend. The setting of the church, with its Spanish colonial beamed ceiling, paintings, and statues, was enhanced by Shizuka's dress, the Japanese kimono in which her grandmother had married. We extended our visit to Arizona by visiting Taliesin West (photos), the winter residence of Wright and the location of his architectural institute. We also visited the Desert Museum and the indigenous San Javier Mission (more Tucson photos).
In June Steve went to Madison, Wisconsin, for the RNA Society meeting where he saw many colleagues and friends with whom he has stayed in touch over many years. The famous UW Rathskeller provided the right mood for this reunion. Janet went in the other direction, starting in Rio. In addition to attending a conference on Brazilian studies, and renewing her love for the city she was reunited with friends she hadn't seen in many years, Andreas and Dulce Valentins and Roberta Salgado.
Steve joined Janet in the Brazilian city of Olinda, founded on the northeastern coast by the Dutch in 1625 and today preserved by UNESCO. (In the 17th and 18th centuries the port of Olinda/Recife was the primary exporter of sugar in the world.) The city is known for its traditional music and puppet processions. We became immersed in both, as we happened upon the "baptism" of new puppet Luis Gonzaga, a puppet in the likeness of the famous rural singer. We were fortunate to meet with impressive puppet-maker Silvio Botelho (see his website), the maker of the newest puppets, as well as the "manager" of the traditional ones. Silvio, for example, recently married two traditional puppets, "Homem da Meia Noite" and "Mulher de Dia," since the son he created for them, "Menino da Tarde" caused an uproar with its illegitimacy. On our last night there, the baptismal procession brought together musicians in homage to the great "bandit" (Gonzaga dressed in the likeness of a northeastern rebel) including Mestre Salustriano (or Mestre “Salu”), whose performance of the rabeca (a short-necked, three-stringed violin ) kept Steve and Janet awake with fascination until dawn. Besides the music and food, our pension, Pousado do Amparo, was a marvelous, preserved building with a courtyard and terrace overlooking the city. (photos from Olinda and Recife)
Janet then proceeded to the Amazon where, with friends Barbara Zimmerman, Diane Pinto, and five Kayapo, she led a course in anthropology and ecology inside the Kayapó reserve. She is pleased to report that the Kayapo now have more sunglasses than they did before, and the nine students have endless stories of snakes and spiders and indigenous performances. In spite of relentless pressure, the Kayapó reserve contains over three million ha of relatively pristine closed-canopy rainforest. It is truly breathtaking to fly in a four-seater over the devastation from mining, logging, and ranching, toward the borders of the reserve where the rainforest begins in what appears to be an endless cover over undulating terrain. The Kayapó are themselves responsible for the preservation of this forest, as they vigilantly monitor the area from twenty-two guardposts (Janet has written about this for the March issue of WorldWatch). The class divided its time between the ecological research station, Pinkaití, which Barbara heads, and the Kayapó village, A'ukre. Barbara led the ecology portion of the course and Janet the anthropology portion. The Kayapó teachers secretly arranged with their families to provide the class with a large traditional ceremony as a send-off (pictures). Janet believes the Kayapó found the visit and visitors bemusing. While in a session with one Kayapó teacher, a student asked, "Do you think your society is male chauvinist?" Janet, who was translating, changed the question to "How do you feel when outsider-women (meaning the speaker and company) enter the men's house?" (The men's house, in the center of the village, is where Kayapo men hang out and make decisions. It's supposedly "off-limits" to women.) The savvy Kayapo teacher answered, "We laugh about it for years." (five pictures from the course or Many (50) pictures from the course)
Janet's arms were still covered with geometric Kayapo body paint when she flew into JFK to meet Steve. They proceeded up the Hudson to a camp where friends Jessi Roemer and Josh Block, had their wedding/weekend/outing. It was officiated at the water's edge by the mother of the bride, our good friend Sue Roemer. (photos from Roemer-Block wedding )
Our small but comfortable house in Maryland has hosted a number of friends who are willing to sleep on a living room sofa. Sheila Dauer, for example, visits whenever she has Amnesty meetings in the District, and our friend Marcia Bernstein visited in September. Marcia heroically obtained much coveted tickets to a performance in which Bernice Reagan Johnson, who founded the group, made what may have been her last public performance with Sweet Honey in the Rock.
Janet continues to be busy with cultural rights and human rights. In addition to running his lab, GEMS and acting as the Associate Director for the Center for Bioinformatics and Computational Biology, Steve is also faculty advisor for the University of Maryland Go Club, for which he organizes two tournaments each year. This year, both Steve and Janet joined the blogging craze on blogspot.
Of Janet's publications this year the one that most pleased her was the invitation to contribute a Forward to Columbia University 's new release of Women of the Forest, written by her friends and mentors Yolanda and Robert Murphy. (Read it here)
In October, we went to New York to remember Janet's mother on the tenth anniversary of her death. The congregants at Temple Shaaray Tefila, where she worked for many years as Temple Administrator, remembered her fondly. While in New York, we saw Janet's old friend Midge Lewin, with whom Janet traveled through Europe in her 20s (in the intervening years Midge worked for the New York City Ballet). We also saw Lillian de Paula, Janet's good friend from Brazil, who now teaches literature and translation and whose daughter Carmen had just received a prize for a play now in production in Rio (Carmen was 10 the last time Janet saw her). That trip also featured one of the finest hours of the year, spent sitting in the New York living room of Verna Gillis and Roswell Rudd, where they played for us the pre-edited recording of Ros playing his trombone with Mongolian string players, throat singers, and vocalist Badma Handa. The group, that was about to perform in New York, was called the "Pentatonics."
In December, our good friends Dalia Ritter and Howard Jacobowitz invited us to their home in Haddonfield, New Jersey for a party with their sons David and Isaac; Sheila Dauer; and Jennifer Brand and Danny Kesler (together with the twins Sammy and Sarah) and their neighbors Richard and Liz. This party is an annual tradition going back at least 20 years, to when Dalia and Jennifer were roommates on 114th St.. We met at one of these parties in 1989 when Sheila invited Janet who was visiting New York from Miami. We don't see this group of friends often enough and it's wonderful to have a regular chance to catch up with them.
We send you our sincerest wishes for a year of good will, both personal and world-wide.