A Year in Brazil: Marian Irwin's letters home, 1965-1966
(transcribed and edited by Dorothy Irwin)
One goal of my father, Howard Irwin, in heading the Planalto expeditions was to collect plant specimens over a longer period than the three-month field trips
he'd undertaken on prior projects. He thus arranged for a one-time extension of an expedition to a full twelve months-August 1965 through July 1966-and he brought
the family to Brazil with him. We were based in Brasília, the new capital city, then still very much under construction, where we were eventually able to move into
the promised apartment in the recently completed faculty housing complex at the Universidade de Brasília. My mother, Marian Irwin, stepped in to teach English and
social studies to fifth- through eighth-graders at the school for American children in Brasília, most of whom were missionaries' or diplomats' kids. My sister, Liz,
the school's sole eighth-grader, was its eldest student; I was one of five in the fifth grade.
Mom wrote to her parents in Tacoma, Washington, every week, and her letters record details about the minutiae of daily life that made that year in Brazil unforgettable
for us all. The following excerpts focus on Dad's work and crew and the behind-the-scenes turmoil that came with arranging the field trips.-Dorothy Irwin
Tuesday, August 31, 1965: We are here, well and happy and somewhat rested. The girls and I are here at the hotel while Howard tracks down the man to see
regarding our apartment [in faculty housing on the campus of the Universidade de Brasília]. The buildings here are amazing. Great contrasts-elegant new office
buildings with shacks next to them.
Howard is dying to get out into the field. I know he will settle us as soon as possible so that he can get out. His two field men, the tree climber [Souza] and the
cook [Reis], met us at the airport with Dr. Pires [João Murça Pires, head of the Universidade's Botânica, or botany department]. They were so happy to see him; they
have been collecting around Brasília since their arrival here two weeks ago from Belém.
September 11: We are still in the hotel, getting tired of it but suffering from nothing more serious than irritation at the slowness of the maid service. I
met the woman whose apartment we are supposed to move into; she is apparently as uncomfortable there as we are here, for there is little in the way of furniture or
furnishings, and she'd hoped to wait until they moved into their permanent home before buying things. Howard talked to someone at the Universidade who said unofficially
that there is a waiting list of people who need apartments; those with the greatest priority get them soonest. We will get into one, but only after the Barros have moved
into a new one.
Howard's attitude is very simple. Since the U. is paying our hotel bill, we have (at this point) no reason to complain. He is officially a visiting professor, but this
was mostly a courtesy in order to ease various plentiful red tape-in actuality, his connection with the Universidade is tenuous and he is loath to gripe. He has been busy
lately-he leaves each morning before eight, meets his two workmen and goes out north of the city to collect until two or so. The rest of the afternoon they spend
pressing the plants and going over the previous day's collection, and he comes back to the hotel around six. There are certain plants in flower now, of course, and the
men are anxious to get them before they go. Raimundo and Raimundinho apparently live for their work. On Sunday last week we four took the VW and found a picnic spot not
too far away, but Howard left the Jeep for Raimundo so they could keep working. Last week the U. decided to hire them as of the first of next year, so in December they
will go home to Belém, pack up their families and rent their houses, and come back to Brasília for good. There are no botanists in the area to train new men as these two
have been trained; Raimundinho, the tree climber, is Howard's age and rapidly growing too old for his profession. All the visiting botanists greatly appreciate well-trained
men, but a staggering proportion of the few Brazilian botanists have died or been killed in the past five years, so no new supply of trained men is possible.
September 18: Another Saturday, and here we are still in the hotel, and the only word we've had of the apartment this week is that the workmen have been out on
strike and nothing's been done to further the faculty housing. Some of the faculty have been here since the first of August, and some are paying their own hotel bills.
Howard has been fit to be tied this week. When he left Brasília last year, he left a great deal of equipment (tents, new tires, pots and pans, clothing, etc.) in a locked
storehouse with the understanding that it would be kept safely for his return. He found it moved to a different location, mixed up with Universidade gear, about half of
it missing. He raised a fuss, which he hates to do, and the Universidade is replacing most of it for him-but many things are just not to be had here. If he'd known they
would be "borrowed" he could have requested funds from NSF to cover the replacement. Howard is fairly philosophical about it all but bothered by the inconvenience and
wondering now what to do with his equipment at the end of this year.
He heard a few days ago that our shipment from New York [of family items as well as expedition supplies] is in Rio and being held as contraband. The necessary papers which
were sent from New York apparently were lost somewhere, and in the absence of documents, a shipment is automatically contraband. Howard went to his friend in the anatomy
department, who was shocked and distressed to think that anything addressed to the Universidade should be held as contraband; they in turn went to see a woman who has a
position at the University and a great deal of influence. She phoned the right person in Rio and (we hope) got it all straightened out; the things will be sent up, and
the papers forwarded when they arrive here. We are now hoping that the shipment will arrive about the time the apartment is ready, which Howard was told would be in two
weeks. Needless to say, we aren't holding our breath.
September 25: It is now nearly 3:00. The girls and I went over to the hotel's restaurant for lunch, and with Elizabeth's help I managed just fine with the ordering.
She seems to have Howard's good ear for hearing and understanding Portuguese. The restaurant plays records during the dinner hour, and lately has been playing Christmas
carols. We don't understand this at all, but nobody seems to pay much attention to it. We had carols at lunch today, too. After lunch we went to the supermarket for a few
items, then out to inspect Howard's working quarters. These consist of a shed whose main virtues are space and location (it is just behind the university apartment
blocks); it has electricity but this has not been connected yet. Raimundo quickly offered me a cafezinho from his thermos; Raimundinho is shy and hardly looked at us until
I said good-bye.
October 2: The documents authorizing our personal goods were received early this week, and duly forwarded to Rio; the things should be on their way here now.
October 10: This has been a very depressing week. From one day to the next, we thought we might be able to move into the apartment, but each day brought another
obstacle. Much of the delay is caused by a political crisis at the university. Anxious as we are to be in an apartment and out of the hotel, our chief thought is
thankfulness that we aren't in a situation like the one that faces the professors here.
When the current president took office, he said he would clean up the universities. He started in Rio, at the Universidade do Brasil, and had a lot of supposedly leftist
faculty members fired. This was not done without a struggle, but he persevered and went on to the Universidade de São Paulo. More protests, disruption, etc. Now he has
turned his attention to Brasília. Each dean was required to draw up a list of professors he felt were leftist; the professors had already agreed that if any were fired,
the others would leave. Toward midweek it was discovered that one of the deans had made up a list of twenty or so names; the list was made public, and the protests began.
Many professors just left town. Many are not dependent on their U. salaries; they have other good jobs. Only the young and rising teachers are dependent on their U.
income, and some of them haven't been paid for two months.
Howard says students have gone to classes all week. Yesterday when we drove through the campus we saw signs of student displeasure with the administration. Today those
signs were gone, and army guards were patrolling around some of the administration buildings. Last Sunday elections were held for state governors; many who were elected
are not aligned with the current president, and we're not just sure how this will affect things. The faculty strike which was called for Friday and Saturday is supposed
to be over tomorrow, so perhaps Howard will be able to see the man in charge of the apartments and find out something.
October 17: We are more or less settled in our apartment. We moved in Tuesday, despite army guards all over the area; I'm glad we went ahead because the guards
show no signs of leaving, but they aren't especially difficult about letting people in and out of the grounds now.
Howard goes off tomorrow for a week of collecting. He and the men have collected here in the Federal District all these weeks while we waited to get into the apartment.
Our shipment of belongings still hasn't appeared; it will probably come this week while Howard is not here to accept it. We know it is as far as Rio, and the things may
well be on their way up to Brasília by now. Howard still has heard nothing about his bus, so yesterday he typed several letters which he hopes will stir things up.
Communications are very bad. If you send us a telegram, for example, it will go to Rio and then be sent by mail on to Brasília. We have had very little mail of any kind
this week, due to the university's crisis. Hope that lets up.
October 23: Howard got back yesterday afternoon from a little town 200 miles northeast of Brasília; he was tired after the eight-hour drive on bad roads, but happy
with the collection.
He had the most marvelous experience on the way back. About a year ago he published a short paper on a certain section of the Cassias, in which he named a new species for
a Brazilian botanist, A. P. Duarte, who had a brilliant future but who ran afoul of the political bigwigs and in consequence has had a worthwhile but unspectacular career
as a field collector. Yesterday, on the way home, Howard noticed a car parked by the side of the road and a couple of men outside, with plant presses. He backed up, got
out and introduced himself to the leader of the other threesome, an Englishman working on the staff of the department of pharmacology at the Universidade do Brasil in Rio.
They chatted a minute, and then the Englishman introduced the members of his group, one of whom was Duarte. Howard said Duarte was quite emotional about the whole thing-
the naming of the plant, the chance meeting-and was most touchingly grateful. In this enormous country, it is a striking coincidence for two groups of botanists to come
across each other; but for two men to meet each other under the circumstances Howard and Duarte did is simply astounding.
Some of Howard's missing equipment has turned up. One of the young men in the department was sent off to another site several months ago when an opportunity arose for him
to collect with another party. While he (his name is Romeo) was there, the University found itself unable to support him any longer; fortunately, a botanist there was able
to take him on for a spell, and there poor Romeo was stuck. He had taken quite a bit of Howard's equipment, and I don't know who told him to take it but it is very possible
that all concerned were sure he would return well before Howard's arrival. Howard is still missing a tent, among other things. Our shipment is still not here-what a bore
waiting for it! Tomorrow H. will talk to one of the influential women at the university, and I guess they will try to track it down. His bus hasn't even left New York yet,
which frosts him completely; he chose GM in the first place because he thought they could follow through. I guess he would have had an ulcer long ago if he hadn't learned
to accept these delays as part of the job.
The girls and I got through the week in good shape. I was quite nervous about it, since the idea of armed guards is a frightening one. People who were very glum about the
Universidade's future early in the week seem a little more optimistic now. The university's president spoke before Congress on Thursday and Friday, and apparently the
congressmen chewed him up one side and down the other. Everyone here hopes a new president will be installed, and the 200 professors asked to continue. (Almost 200 had
resigned in protest of the firing of several professors accused of being leftist in their views.) The students are still out on strike; there are very few people working
at the university, and the guards are still around.
There are two or three at every entrance to the university grounds. Sometimes they stop me on the way out, usually we are stopped on the way in. Usually all they want to
know is who I am and have I a right to enter; if they want to know more than this, I am at a loss to answer [because of limited knowledge of Portuguese], and usually it
ends with a smile and a shrug. There is a dirt road at the opposite end of the university area which has never been closed; this makes the whole thing ridiculous, because
even two weeks ago, at the height of all the checking, it was possible for people to go in and out by the back way.
October 31: Howard has just finished washing the car and is on his way over to his shack to help the men finish loading the Jeep wagon. They leave tomorrow morning,
to be gone until Saturday. Things seem a bit calmer around the university, thank heavens. During the past week the president of Brazil took over direct control of the
university himself; he also sent the congressmen home until January because he was tired of their dillydallying around. Things were quite tense, rumors flew-there were
supposed to be government troops massing at points around Brasília, ready to seal off the Federal District; Howard was advised not to go on his planned trip because he
might not be able to get back into the Federal District; housewives stormed the stores buying quantities of rice and beans and sugar to tide them over if a real crisis
developed. But as far as we know, nothing happened. The guards disappeared from the university; supposedly it is opened again, but the students who had gone don't seem
to have returned yet. The faculty is still finding jobs elsewhere-but we have little access to such information and try deliberately to stay uninvolved.
Still no shipment and no bus. All of the university's confusion has slowed things considerably. Howard is beginning to grit his teeth a bit, and I'm glad there are
places he can go to collect without the necessary equipment that is still en route.
November 7: On Wednesday we received some sort of document necessary for Howard to get his bus into the country. I took it to the person who was supposed to
forward it, and tomorrow Howard will check to see if it was handled properly. If so, the bus should be here soon. He is going to apply a little pressure to see if we
can't find out where our shipment is-it is no doubt sitting in Rio-and see if that can't be dislodged. It will only take a couple of days to get it up here, once the
red tape is unsnarled.
Howard had a good trip, aside from freezing the first night and suffering from chigger bites. The second night, he took one of the plant press drying racks (the plants
are dried by the heat of a kerosene stove) into his tent, and Raimundo and Raimundinho took the other into their tent, and they all were cozy. Although they couldn't
get all the plants they wanted because spring hasn't advanced far enough in that location, they got plenty-a satisfying collection-and plan to go back in January. Spring
depends on the amount of rainfall, not warmth; during the days, the sun is very hot, but Cristalina is 500 feet higher than Brasília, and very windy, and hence chilly at
November 15: Things have quieted down here-too much, really. Last week Howard saw eight moving vans taking things from these apartments; yesterday the people below
us left. The university had attracted some of the very finest people, and now they are so disillusioned that they are going elsewhere. The man below us was a geneticist
with a worldwide reputation; his department here employed over twenty workers. He and his assistants are going back to the institution he'd left in order to come to
Brasília. The entire psych. department has gone to the U. of Texas-so we are told.
Howard is waiting to speak with Murça Pires, who left early in September to meet Bassett Maguire for a collecting trip in the northern part of Brazil. Howard finds it hard
to believe that Murça knows what has gone on here, for surely he would have returned had he known. The question is whether or not he will want to stay in Brasília when he
sees the situation. Possibly he will want to go back to Belém [to the Instituto Agronômico do Norte, or IAN]. If so, this will leave Howard without the collaboration
necessary for his project here in Brasília. He's not too happy about the collaboration he's had so far-his working space is not really adequate and certainly isn't secure,
and financially the University has done nothing much more than service the Jeep for him. The location is better than Belém, however, and I think he would rather stick out
this year here, if possible, since the girls and I are well settled in the school. It is rather doubtful that he would return here for another trip. But of course, the
situation may change rapidly for the better.
November 21: During the week we learned that the exchange rate has suddenly gone from 1800 cruzeiros per dollar to 2200. Howard will have to find out what
happened-it's nice for us while it lasts. Also, there will be a money reform of sorts taking place on January 1. All notes worth CR$5000 will become worth CR$5, and so
on down; the country will go back to centavos, which had been worthless for several years. And just when I was learning not to blanch at grocery bills of CR$30,000!
November 28: Wednesday night, when I was about ready to wash dishes, our water dwindled away; it didn't come back until Friday morning. Everyone was out hunting
water Thursday morning, for the entire university area was dry. It may sound silly, but our life at school seems so normal, and shopping is tiresome but commonplace-but
this constant wondering about the water supply is the most exotic thing about living here!
Howard badly needs his equipment, but is making do. He was told last week that all during the university's crisis, which boiled up to include more than just the
Universidade, no one of the government employees in Rio would take the responsibility to approve our shipment, or anything else coming up here. Everyone wanted to wait
until the crisis had blown over. Howard was assured that by the end of last week the red tape was to be completed, charges paid, and the stuff on its way the first of
this week. None of us gets very excited at these words anymore. Howard says Brazil's customs code is the most complicated of any country's; that there is a book as
thick as the Manhattan telephone directory with rules and regulations. This sounds reasonable, as no two people at the university have given him the same directions for
avoiding this type of delay in the future.
Murça Pires is due back any day, and H. thinks it doubtful that Murça will stay here, with so many professors gone. Howard's chief worry is the future of his program here. No other institution is as well located for his work. We saw an interesting magazine article about the Institute of Rural Economics at Viçosa, where Howard spent several months in 1960-this seems to be a flourishing place, and he may look into Viçosa as a possible base, if necessary.
December 12: Howard is typing the fourth page of a stern letter to the university rector (head man), who has consistently refused to see him, saying in effect that if the Universidade doesn't want his program here, he'll leave, and if the Universidade does want the program, for heaven's sake do something. He has collected 3,500 different specimens but is now just about out of equipment and definitely out of patience.
December 20: On Monday Howard delivered his message to the University's president. In it he had said that he could detect no real desire on the part of the university to have his program continue here; no effort had been made to expedite the shipment of equipment from Rio; U.S. federal funds were being wasted; and could he please have a statement concerning the new U. administration's feeling about the continuing of this program. On Wednesday he had a note saying that the shipment had already left Rio; also, a man stopped him in the hall and said he was the one responsible for assigning furniture to the apartment and what did we need. Howard told him about our water problem, and the man said he'd take care of that right away. "Right away" turned out to be Saturday, and the furniture still hasn't appeared, but that still is pretty quick service.
December 27: Last Monday Howard heard that the crates had arrived in Brasília on Saturday, but nothing was heard beyond that. On Tuesday we went to the proper university office to inquire, and although the man spent about twenty minutes trying to reach the trucking firm by phone (we had cafezinho served us along with the office staff), he had no luck at all, a not uncommon happening in a city where people frequently decide to do business in person rather than waste time on the overburdened telephone system. Howard and an office flunky went out to the trucking firm's office (in a university vehicle that wouldn't start and had to be pushed) and learned that the truck carrying our belongings had broken down "somewhere" between Rio and Brasília, and that a second truck had been sent out to take on its load. Rather naturally, we spent the rest of Tuesday wondering if we ever would see our things; actually the truck did reach Brasília that night, and because we had made such a ruckus about immediate delivery, the load was left at the university warehouse, much to the displeasure of the night watchman who had to help unload the stuff. We got the boxes on Wednesday.
We still plan to get to Belo Horizonte during our long school vacation, but have put it off until Howard's bus is here. Murça Pires was astounded to learn how far things had gone here and is still sizing up the situation. He has an appointment with the university president tomorrow, and will discuss things further with Howard after that. He plans now to go to Rio himself to get the bus.
Understandably, we still feel up in the air, but keep hoping that we'll be able to stay here in the apartment. The housing situation is such that without this apartment, we'd be homeless. Howard's two men are home for the holidays and will not be bringing their families back as they'd hoped to do, for Murça says the situation here is absolutely impossible. Raimundo and Raimundinho will probably have to return to the work they dislike in Belém after Howard leaves.
January 3, 1966: I just have to let off steam! It is 4:30, and once again, the furniture promised us has not been delivered. The man to fix the refrigerator has not shown up. The bus is still in Rio. The man in charge at the IAN, where Raimundo and Raimundinho are based, says he isn't sure he wants them to return to Brasília. (They were due back yesterday.) Everything, at the moment, seems unbearably inefficient, dense, and difficult. The water supply is back to a trickle, though I managed to get some laundry done this morning before it dwindled away.
I am busily engaged in typing up the descriptions of the 3,500 plants so far collected, so that a typist at NYBG can start cutting stencils for labels. My typing goes something like this: "(2) 8333, Creeping herb. Co white, the corona white with violet zones. Cerrado." Or "(1) 8309, Caespitose, the culms ca. 50 cm tall. Unicate." I have about 3,000 more to go.
We still have high hopes of going out with Howard into the field, but until the bus is here he is loath to go and give the impression that he doesn't really need it. Murça was to talk to Rio today and try to find out what the delay is. Murça also thinks that the man at the IAN may be trying a little blackmail-making sure that his institution gets something from Howard (a set of specimens, perhaps) before he willingly lets the men return. Howard thought they were clear to work here the entire year, and so did they; if he has to break in two new men he will be most unhappy.
January 9: Well, some of our problems are solved, but not all. By the middle of last week we had received a sofa, two chairs, a coffee table, dining table and six chairs. These pieces, with the desk that arrived before Christmas, complete our living room. Thank heavens!
Raimundinho came back from Belém last Monday, but Raimundo was not allowed to leave. The head of the botany section at the IAN says he had no knowledge that R. and R. were to be here with Howard for the entire year, and he intended to detain both men until Murça sent a telegram confirming the previously made arrangements. But they talked him into letting Raimundinho come; Raimundo is, we hope, en route by bus, following the receipt of a long letter from Murça explaining the deal all over again. Poor Howard is burned up because it is he who is paying Raimundo's salary as he sits in Belém waiting to be released. The men went to Belém to visit their families for the holidays, and had just gone to the IAN to say good-bye when the head put in his monkey wrench. The very sad thing is that these two men are such excellent field men and know quite a bit about plants and collecting technique, but when they are working in Belém all they do is cut grass, wash windows, fix coffee-just plain labor. The botany dept. head has already said that he won't let a third man go out on any more field expeditions; reason not stated. Howard fears that he may not let R. and R. work with him again. Raimundinho is the one who doesn't read or write, so Howard has to go out with him in the field each morning and collect with him, so that R. will have work to do in the afternoon (pressing what has been collected). We are desperately hoping that Raimundo will return soon.
If Howard were free and clear and ready to go out on an extended trip he would be suffering more from this delay than he is. For one thing, the bus still hasn't appeared, although Murça has a feeling it's on its way. So we are stalled here in Brasília: H. doing a little field work with Raimundinho, the girls working at all sorts of ingenious and ever more elaborate imaginative games, and I still typing my way through Howard's field book-I've done the first thousand entries now. Our hoped-for two-week trip into the field is probably going to be shortened, if we get it at all; our trip to Belo Horizonte is probably out completely. From the 23rd to the 30th of January there will be the Botanical Congress of Brazil meeting here at the Universidade; Murça has asked Howard to give a paper on this program, so he will have to be here one of those days. Howard's graduate student, John Grear, arrives on the 31st, and as soon as John is here Howard intends to take off for a month of solid collecting. I do hope John has been prepared for their 18-hour-day and seven-day-a-week schedule!
January 16: Not much news, except for the happy fact that tomorrow morning we are leaving for a week in the field with Howard and his crew. We had hoped for more than a week, but at this point are happy to be going at all. Howard still doesn't have the bus, which now is stuck in Rio because of the dreadful road conditions caused by the rains and flooding. He is borrowing another Jeep wagon, however, and the only string attached to it is the young man who goes along as driver and who will be collecting plants for another project. The girls and I bought food on Friday (30 lbs. of rice!) and Howard and the men have spent this morning loading up the cars; I still have to pack my clothes and gather up a few things in the kitchen. I will teach Raimundo how to make corn bread and biscuits, as Howard agreed with me that any yeast breads would take too much of his time. The girls are terribly excited and glad, as I am, to be getting a change of scenery. I don't know when I will next mail a letter, so don't worry if one is a little late. We are going northwest of Brasília, about a six-hour drive, and all but 40 km of the road is paved-which is lovely, because the Jeep wagons aren't the smoothest-riding cars.
Things have been a mess here all week long because we have had no water. We ran dry Monday after lunch, and aside from a trickle today have had none. Most of the time there has been water downstairs at the outdoor faucets, but carrying up water gets to be a real chore. Howard carried up about 50 gallons on Thursday so I could do a washing; yesterday the girls and I went to the Wilsons for shampoos and showers, and I did a load of wash there. Today there are some men working on the water line; Howard says they are installing a pump. When the water lines were put in here at the Colina ["colony" of faculty housing], they were apparently an afterthought-or at least they were put in in the cheapest way possible, using only a 2½-inch pipe to serve the four buildings. We have felt every slight drop in the city water pressure and are always the first to go dry. I do hope the pump improves the situation.
The Sunday paper is full of pictures of Rio's flood victims, and other pictures of Brasília residents donating clothing, food, etc. Murça came over to Howard's little shed this morning, where H. was helping the men load up, and said that on a TV panel show concerning the help which could be sent to Rio, someone spoke up and said that there were lots of cardboard cartons at the Universidade which could be used to ship stuff down to Rio. Howard and Raimundinho beat it over to the botany building and rescued all but twenty or so of his unused, flat cartons; now they are stacked in our unused maid's room. It seemed entirely too likely that in our absence this week, someone might commandeer the 350 boxes; after waiting all these months to receive them, H. wanted none of that! They are just the right size for storing and shipping his specimens, and not at all available here.
January 30: We have been home a week, and it has been a busy week or I would have written sooner. We left here in a drizzle about 8 a.m. and went on into the city to pick up Ian Wilson, the enthusiastic seventh-grader son of the man who is in charge of the Summer Institute of Linguistics group here in Brasília. He had a rather large bag, a knapsack and several loaves of bread to contribute to the already heavily laden Jeep, but we squeezed it in, with the youngsters in the backseat resting their knees against a bag of onions and oranges, the bread occasionally falling onto their heads, and a dishpan full of odds and ends on the front seat between Howard and me. As we drove the overcast lifted, and when we stopped for lunch at about the halfway point, it was hot. The three men [Reis, Souza, Sidney Fonsêca] in the other Jeep arrived, took out the Primus stove, dishes and food, and in about half an hour we had eaten and were on the way again. We reached the end of the pavement around 3:30 in the afternoon, and knowing we had another 40 kilometers to do, we were quite pleased to think we'd arrive at our campsite by about 5 p.m.
We drove on, over increasingly rough roads, for an hour, and then another hour; at this point Howard signaled to Sidney to stop (Sidney is the young man who went along to collect seeds for the International Research Institute, and more important for us, to drive the second Jeep). Sidney was the only one who had been over the road before, and he had assured Howard that he knew of a good camping spot. Again he reassured us that it was only a little farther, so with renewed confidence we drove on. The road continued to get worse, now going up into the mountains in great sudden dips and slopes as we crossed streams on rather insignificant-looking bridges, or by driving right through as we did at one place where the bridge was out. The hills got more and more spectacular, and the vista the same; without the four-wheel drive and low range of the Jeeps we would not have made the last few hills. Very steep, gravel.
About 6:30 we finally got to the top of the mountain and proceeded to set up camp. The tents went up quickly-Howard's two men work so very well, and what Sidney lacked in experience he made up in willingness. We (the girls, Ian and I) wandered off to find a stream in which to wash the still-dirty lunch dishes, while the men used brute force and the second Jeep to pull Number One out of a muddy hole; Howard dismissed this as mere routine. After dinner we were all tired and went to bed, leaving the dishes, since by then it was pitch dark and awkward to mess around with them.
Tuesday morning Raimundinho and Sidney went out to cut poles needed to support the tarps used for the kitchen shelter and the work area. This took several hours, as there are few tall trees up at the top of the mountains. Howard and Raimundo strolled around the area, collecting some plants. I washed the breakfast dishes (the deal with Raimundo was that he would fix breakfast and I would do the other meals; by washing the breakfast dishes I freed him to get busy collecting plants. He was grateful) and then began pulling lunch together. By the time we were ready to eat, the tarps were up. The children found a prettier part of the stream for bathing and playing; after lunch all the men went out to collect. By evening the routine was quite well established.
Ian gave us all a great deal of pleasure; he speaks Portuguese fluently, and was able to have a lot of fun with the men, who had never before met an American youngster who could speak Portuguese as well as, if not better than, they. He spent some time playing with the girls-swimming, hunting polliwogs, playing cards-and some time hunting for interesting rocks, and he went out with the men a few times to help collect plants. He spent a lot of time digging a men's latrine, which H. dutifully used, but the other three men, who were extremely discreet, never went in that direction at all since it passed our tents. The tents were all in a line, with the girls at one end, Howard and me next, then Ian all alone except for the supplies, and the three men in the last tent. Ian had never camped before, but he certainly took everything in stride.
So while the men worked steadily, we hangers-on puttered about with domestic duties, the insect collection, swimming, etc. We had no rain at all. The only people we saw in camp were some road construction workers who insisted on coming around to visit now and then, with radio turned up as loud as possible. Howard assured me that if it weren't curious people, it was always dogs or cattle or pigs or roosters crowing all through the night.
We ate oatmeal every morning for breakfast, and for the first half of the week we all thought it delicious. The last two mornings, it was all we could do to eat it. We ate rice at all the other meals, with corned beef or creamed tuna or beans or something to go with it. Everything tasted good, but we were a bit tired of rice toward the end of the week.
The views were just lovely. From one rise near us, we would see the lights of the village of Goiás Velho, which until 1930 or so was the capital of the state of Goiás. It looks like a tiny place. There were a few houses visible from our hilltop, but not more than half a dozen all together. There were hills and more hills, punctuated with the deep green foliage of the gallery forests which crowd each side of the little streams running through the hills. Our own little stream, where we bathed, was as close to perfect as it might be. It ran from one little pool down into another, with little waterfalls making the coolest noises; it was shaded from the hot sun by the thick branches above, and had pools deep enough for very comfortable dunking. The sunrise and sunset each day were beautiful; the sun was hot, hot, hot-we were glad to have the large tarps to provide shade.
Sunday morning we were ready to start for home shortly after 9:00. We got to Ian's house about 7:30, and burst in while the Wilsons were finishing dinner with guests.
Tomorrow John Grear arrives from New York. The bus is still in Rio, why no one knows. Howard is beginning to figure out ways he can get his work done this year without the bus. If Sidney can go along to drive, and if they can borrow another Jeep somewhere for John to drive, they can manage.
February 7: Howard and John left this morning at 7:30 for a two-week trip; I have been busy typing up the last of one of Howard's papers which will go into the Universidade's science publication. A few nights ago while I was typing plant descriptions, I heard the two of them discussing John's dissertation. John said that now he was here, he was quite excited about his group of legumes. Howard just lit up and told John how excited he had been when working on the revision of one section of his Cassias; how he had been so eager to go to the Garden each morning to get back to work; and how excited he was becoming now about getting back to work on the next section, after this period of fieldwork. His voice was so full of animation and enthusiasm. I have always known that Howard thoroughly likes his work, but haven't heard that much emotion in his voice before.
February 10: No word from Howard since they left last Monday, but I don't ever expect to hear when they are out, and in this case particularly, no news is good news. They are due back on Saturday the 19th, or Sunday if the roads are bad.
February 26: Howard and John had hoped to go away again last Thursday, but various things happened to keep them here. For one thing, the bus arrived from Rio on February 14, while the men were away, and has since been sitting waiting to be registered and licensed. They plan to leave on Tuesday for two weeks at Cristalina, which isn't very far away; it will be the equivalent of a shake-down cruise, so that they can detect any flaws or omissions before they take off for faraway places. The spare wheel and extra tire, and jack and other tools, all of which arrived in Rio bolted to the floor of the bus, were not in it upon arrival here. Conclusion: Someone took them during the weeks the bus was in the government storage bond in Rio.
Howard is quite stunned this evening, after the events of today which were not as placid as he had anticipated. He met with the man who is the new coordinator for the science department at the Universidade, and Murça, and a brash New Yorker who is head of the AID program here; the new man, Dr. [Friedrich Gustav] Brieger, is an experienced executive, a respected geneticist, and apparently doesn't care whose feelings he hurts. The result, according to Howard, was like a breath of fresh air. After months of fuzzy dealings with Murça, whose filing system consists of little scraps of paper in his pockets, it appears that a change is coming up. Brieger was shocked that no one knew who drove the bus up from Rio, or where the bus's documents are at the present; the U. lawyer who was also present at the meeting said that the bus is a nationally known incident and that the National Science Council's president was instrumental in getting it released from Rio-although at the same time as this was done (at Murça's request), the university rector had made similar arrangements which resulted in gross confusion and the payment of the tax fee although it wasn't really necessary. Dr. Brieger had all sorts of files and papers pertaining to the botany department, and to the NYBG agreement with the Universidade concerning Howard's program-it was all very efficient and businesslike, and Howard is both amazed and so pleased.
[February 27] Sunday a.m.: If John and Howard were going to be here all the time, I'd hire a maid-almost any maid-quickly. Our housekeeping arrangements are just barely adequate (six plates, six forks, etc.; really inadequate washing machine [small, with hand wringer] that gets clothes clean but takes a lot of time; bare minimum of sheets that requires advance planning for changes; etc. etc.) and since cooking takes a lot more preparation time here, I'm too busy when everybody is home. However, they are going to be gone a lot. I shall insist that Howard and John send the bulk of their dirty clothes to the laundry next time they get back and only do the desperately needed items myself. The laundry takes at least a week, and none of us have wanted to have things held up that long. Howard's fragile pants wouldn't stand up under the laundry, I'm sure-I keep patching them, and do hope they'll last the next few months. Way back in October, when we moved into the apartment, two of the three new pairs he'd brought disappeared mysteriously. He can't find any ready-made ones here that fit, and to have them made would be awfully expensive for just plain old work pants. So I patch, and Raimundo and Raimundinho are very impressed, and Howard is grateful because at the same time as I reinforce the knees of the pants, I am reinforcing all his efforts to be economical. His men know him quite well after all these years, but the tendency to equate "American" with "wealthy" is terribly strong; if patches help to convince them that he isn't kidding, I'll keep patching-although one of these days the whole garments are going to collapse!
March 4: Howard and John had hoped to leave on Thursday of last week, but at the last minute, when John went to retrieve his passport (which had been grabbed at the airport because they thought he was someone else), he was told that he would have to get an identity card, and so would Howard. In theory, the Brazilian consul in the U.S. is supposed to give each applicant for a visa the proper forms to fill out; the New York consul had said nothing about this. They had to have photos taken; this they did on Saturday morning, and were to pick them up Monday at noon. At noon the photographer was not there; at 1:00 he was not yet back; at 2:00 he was just strolling back from lunch-but the pictures were not ready. At 3:45 Howard got them, and after dropping the girls and me here he and John went back to the ministry to get their cards. But no! At the ministry they were told that the photos must be taken with tie and jacket on. John (very dark beard) was told to shave. It is the law in the Federal District that all identification card pictures of men must be taken with coat and tie; heaven only knows what the women have to wear. Howard blew his stack, and the official finally agreed to give them temporary cards provided they would go back that same evening and have new pictures taken. It took the man an hour to type out two little notes, emboss them with the proper seals, attach the illegal, tieless photos, etc. They did go back to have the pictures taken, but both were so irked that although John did shave and put on a tie and his suit coat, he left on his dirty khaki field pants, and so did Howard. They got back around 7:30. The photographer should have told them about the regulations; other states in Brazil don't care if a man wears a tie or not for the official picture. Apparently the Federal District wants everyone to appear well dressed and prosperous.
March 12: Howard and John came back on Thursday after another successful trip, during which they accumulated 660 more plants. Before John came, Howard and his two men planned on getting 300 a week. Now, with John and Sidney, who went along to drive the bus, they are doing much better than that. Sidney is the one who went with us to Serra Dourada. Howard hopes to work out a deal of some sort so that Sidney can go along on the next two long trips. He is responsible, hardworking, a pleasant fellow to have along-and a good mechanic, too. The only snarl on this past trip was the matter of the bus's documents. Howard asked Murça before they left if the documents were in order; Murça said they were. On the day they left, they came to the police station near the Federal District-State of Goiás line, and were stopped; Sidney asked Howard for the documents, which Howard didn't have because he assumed they were in the bus where they belonged. The policeman said at first that they couldn't go on, that the bus would have to be confiscated, that they weren't carrying the proper flares, jack (it had been stolen in Rio), and had brake lights of the wrong color, etc. etc. Finally, after some negotiating, Howard agreed to pay a fine, which turned out to be the equivalent of 8¢! They agreed not to go into Goiás, but each day as they drove past the police station they waved to the man, who didn't even bother to stop them on their way home. The bus works just fine; Howard says it is just what they needed.
March 20: We slept late this morning-nearly 8:00, and enjoyed a leisurely breakfast before John went over to the shack to take the dried plants out of the presses, and Howard to the Botânica building to write letters. He is writing to a British botanist to see what it is he wants to do here; Howard has been asked to cooperate with a group of three Englishmen who are coming in about a month to work along the newly opened "highway" in Mato Grosso. He hopes they have specific interests and is happy to work them into the trip he and John had planned for that area, if they can reach some agreement about how long to stay where.
Howard learned that Murça has decided to get a three-month leave of absence and go back to Belém; H. seriously doubts that he will return. This necessitated instant action on a number of items that have never been put in writing: the limits of cooperation between Howard and Murça, the use of certain rooms and equipment, etc. Raimundinho had to go back to Belém to be reinstated in his job there, a mess which got started at Christmas, and Howard bargained that he would be glad to help Murça out with the English botanists if Murça would insure Raimundinho's plane ticket to and from Belém and his quick return with no hitches in the supposedly simple signature that is required of him. Murça got the Universidade to buy the plane ticket (Belém is a four-day bus ride each way, or a ten-hour plane trip, from Brasília. It is a huge country!) and now we all have fingers crossed to see if he gets back on Wednesday or is detained on some technicality.
Murça and Howard will get all their agreements in order so that we can finish out the year here; Howard anticipates shifting his program from the University to another, preferably national institution. There is something here equivalent to our National Science Foundation, and Murça is only too happy to see if he can arrange something for Howard with it. The University will probably be unable to get another taxonomist to take Murça's place, and Howard fears that another botanist with leanings in another, even one equally important, direction wouldn't care too much about accommodating Howard and his program. Besides, things are still pretty disorganized here despite encouraging signs here and there.
John and Howard plan to leave by the end of next week for what they hope will be a monthlong trip into Bahia. They have heard conflicting reports on the condition of the road, however, so they may not get very far on it.
April 3: We saw John off today with Raimundo and Sidney; they are heading for Bahia and will spend a week at one collecting site before Howard catches up with them. Raimundinho is still sweating it out in Belém; Howard can do nothing but sit and wait to see if Raimundinho comes in on next Wednesday's plane. It is all very messy. Sidney is doing quite a bit of work for other Americans here-AID mostly, and he is trying to learn a bit of English.
After lunch today Howard has to meet with Dr. Brieger; yesterday there was another meeting of the science faculty with Dr. Brieger, and new men, on loan from other institutions, were introduced as the professors of several different pre-med courses. Howard is impressed with what Dr. Brieger has accomplished in the last two weeks. Murça will be leaving tomorrow for Belém.
April 10: Howard left this morning after breakfast to catch up with his crew. Still no Raimundinho. Howard expects to return next Saturday, Sunday or Monday, maybe with the other three and maybe not, depending on how the collecting is coming.
April 16: Somehow or other Howard has accepted a certain amount of responsibility for the Englishmen who are coming, and has had to make little trips to the British Embassy to make sure that it will provide housing here in Brasília, and that the British Consul in Rio would take care of the visitors there. I think Howard is doing this as a favor to Dr. Brieger.
April 23: John and Howard got back yesterday afternoon. They collected nearly 1,000 plants in the three weeks, despite the fact that Howard was here for more than a week of that time. Sidney is learning very fast-what to look for, how to prepare the plants. Howard is delighted with him in all respects.
May 1: Raimundinho finally appeared from Belém, much to Howard's relief. Dr. Brieger returned from his visit to Belém, and now knows the score up there, which involves personal animosities, much petty wrangling, and a lot of state employment rules. He will do his best to see that Raimundo and Raimundinho get sent down here on a permanent loan basis; if it won't work out, they might work all year long for Howard, continuing his program even in his absence-this would be marvelous. As Dr. Brieger has already accomplished some wonders, we have the feeling that if anyone can straighten out the mess with Belém, he can. Howard's complaint about things being stolen from his work room in Botânica was answered by partitioning off a corridor, installing two doors-one into Howard's section and the other into the corridor leading to another room, so that the people who had been wandering through Howard's area to get to their room, and presumably helping themselves on the way, now don't go into his section at all. This was done quickly, which is amazing; an unasked-for sink was also installed, which is very convenient.
The English botanist and his cohorts are arriving this weekend in Rio. Howard and Brieger agreed that May 10 would be the deadline: If the Englishmen want to go along with
Howard's group, they will have to be ready by then. The Englishmen declined the offer of a University vehicle in favor of buying their own, but they didn't investigate this
early enough to learn that it takes several weeks to get a four-wheel-drive Jeep here. Most of their equipment they plan to buy here, which can take a long time. All
Howard wants is to get off before the dry season progresses much further. He feels his time here rapidly dwindling away, and this last long trip is important.
May 8: The Englishmen are due to arrive here tonight or tomorrow morning, and a conference between them, Dr. Brieger and Howard is scheduled for tomorrow afternoon.
Then Howard and the men will leave on Wednesday morning. Howard very much hopes that [David] Hunt, the botanist from Kew, will go with them. Howard has hired a new cook
to go along, freeing Raimundo for the fieldwork which he much prefers to do. The cook will do the laundry and be the camp guard when the others are out collecting. If
Hunt goes along, they will also take Raimundinho's nephew, Jose, who is 19 or so and a tree climber like his uncle. Howard is anxious to have him come because there are
so few men learning this profession, and Raimundinho doesn't have many climbing years left. (He is 38, but the tree climber has a hard job!) Sidney got the bus all taken
care of, and the Jeep is almost ready to go. The cook gave Howard a grocery list which contains items like 60 kilos of rice (130 lbs), 5 kilos of salt, 16 large cans of
oatmeal, 30 kilos of sugar. The rice works out to a reasonable amount for a group eating mostly rice twice a day, but I can't quite understand so much salt.
Howard anticipates a good collection, and with so many good people along to help, it should go smoothly. This week he received galley proof for two articles which have
been scheduled for publication in the NYBG "Memoirs"; he is so glad that he was here to check them and get them in the mail. He also received a half-inch-thick memorandum
from Dr. [William] Steere, which was the rough draft of a money-raising message soon to be sent out to the Garden's Board and anyone else with interest and money. All
staff members were urged to make comments, so this morning Howard is closeted in his Botânica office, reading and commenting so he can get that off in the mail.
May 14 The Englishmen arrived on Monday as scheduled, but their belongings were delayed somewhere along the line. The gear is expected this weekend, and plans call
for them to leave Tuesday morning. It has been a terribly hectic week for Howard. The older man of the trio turned out to be the Mr. McKenzie [Alistair MacKenzie] who
was head of British Guiana's Agriculture Department the last two years we were in Georgetown. He and Howard have renewed their old acquaintance, and Howard finds him the
easiest of the three to get along with. The main reason is McKenzie's understanding of all the problems involved in this kind of undertaking, and his appreciation of the
effort that has so far gone into all preparations. The other two men, Hunt and Ian Bishop, are not yet 30 and have never been involved in any extensive collecting trips.
Hunt was rather shocked when Howard told him that the field men were not learning English, and that the effort to bridge the gap would have to come from him; he had
assumed that all would be speaking English. He came to get 3,000 specimens for Kew, but brought along scant equipment; Howard had to talk him into getting all sorts of
stuff so that, in the field, Howard's equipment wouldn't have to be given to Hunt. Their tent is one that was made for Antarctica but never taken there; why they thought
this climate required an Antarctic tent, we can't quite figure out. They brought lots of heavy clothing; Howard raises his eyebrow and wonders why, inasmuch as Bishop is
here under the auspices of the Royal Geographic Society. They assumed that tea would be served at four o'clock, and Howard had to explain that he and his men are always
out in the field at that time, making their second collection of the day; and that furthermore the cook was up at 5:30 in the morning and couldn't be expected to wait
dinner until eight or nine o'clock. They have their own Jeep and will be collecting on their own most of the time. Things shouldn't be too strained, since they will all
be together only for meals.
May 20: Howard and John finally left this morning (Friday), after days and days of delays and frustrations. The baggage belonging to the three Englishmen turned up yesterday; it had been put on a very old truck in São Paulo (where it shouldn't have been in the first place) and the driver had had bad luck along the way. A fuel injector gave out, forcing him back to São Paulo for repairs, and a wait over last weekend; then, when he got on the road again, his brakes gave out and he had to have them repaired. Howard and Sidney had spent so much time at the outfit's office this week that all hands turned out to unload the 18 crates and get them into Howard's bus. I'm sure the trucking company was as happy to get Howard off its back as he was happy to have the stuff arrive. Howard plans to be back sometime during the first week of July; John will fly back on or about June 20, in time to get his flight out June 27.
Tomorrow, if there is time, I will begin to type the next 4,000 plant descriptions. Today I bought three new typewriter ribbons-they are very poor quality here-so I'm all set.
June 4: Wednesday when we got home from school we were startled to pieces when John opened the door. The arrangements made here in Brasília to fly him back here on the 20th looked a lot less firm from that end of the road; the men met the head of the Federal District Peace Corps in Xavantina, who told them he had been waiting six days for a plane. Arrangements for the Englishmen to go to the Xingu Park fell through, so they decided to fly back to Brasília earlier than planned. Howard told John it would be safer for him to come early, too, than to wait and perhaps miss his flight to New York. [According to the London Daily Mirror of 16 May 1966 (as described in John A. Keel's book The Complete Guide to Mysterious Beings), the men were to visit the Park in order to investigate reports of an indigenous, uncontacted tribe of giant people, the Krem-Akarore, who were said to be terrorizing other tribes in the Xingu area of Mato Grosso.]
In a letter John brought me from Howard, H. wrote that the dry season is farther advanced than they had anticipated, and therefore there are fewer things for them to collect. He thought they would head back this way earlier, stopping at another mountain where he, Iain [Prance], and Tom Soderstrom (Smithsonian) spent a very lucrative five weeks in 1964. Since they have supplies to stay through the end of the month, I'm sure they won't come back early unless something drastic happens. He had been having a bad time with tires-an average of a flat every other day, and two tires utterly ruined. He had radioed Brasília to have two new ones sent out by air. John reported that the new cook (hired to free Raimundo) provided veritable banquets at each meal, except for breakfast, which continued to be oatmeal, oatmeal, and once again, more oatmeal. The British group had brought along some freeze-dried carrots and green beans, which added a welcome variety.
June 19: No word from Howard. As far as I know, he still hasn't received the tires he needs so urgently. I am counting on the fact that he is good at finding a way out of a bad situation, and may have traded supplies for tires. They haven't been sent because the helpful man at the Universidade had to go through channels to get the money for them; this is very slow. If Howard had thought, or if I had known, I would have given him the money for them. It's a mess, like so many things.
We got John off to New York. Mary Martin was going on the same plane; she has a fazenda (ranch) not far from Brasília. She had on a rather wild, hooded outfit, and I didn't recognize her until John pointed her out.
July 3: Howard is back! On Friday afternoon I was greatly cheered to be told that his two tires would be flown to Xavantina either that day or Saturday; but about 10:30 Friday evening, right after I had turned out my light, there came a scraping at the front door as of someone putting the wrong key in the lock. I assumed it was a tipsy student from the floor above, and just as I got into the hall to investigate, Howard succeeded in finding the right key and opening the door. So . . . the three weeks remaining for the girls and me, which had seemed like a fairly long stretch, now look short. Early next week we will make our plane reservations.
Howard is very pleased with the results of this last trip-he came back with 2,100 more plant numbers, or 21,000 plants. After the early bad luck with tires, they had no more trouble-and drove all the way back with nine tires between the two Jeeps. He had radioed two different messages to Brasília, one to send the tires to a different place, and then finally to forget the whole thing. Neither was passed on. Fortunately, the tires did not go out yesterday, so Howard will reimburse the University and store them until he returns.
This afternoon he sees Dr. Brieger, and will try to get a safe storage place to leave his equipment. This is a tall order. While he was gone someone went into his workroom in the University to clean up, and thoroughly messed things up. He will also see what the U. can do to facilitate getting our crates on a ship at Rio. He's got hundreds of cardboard cartons to crate up and send-it will take a couple of weeks at least to get it all ready to go. Brieger won't be here at all during July after today, so I hope Howard gets some satisfaction.
July 13: We have packing crates in the living room, and nearly everything packable has been packed. Most of my spare time now is taken up with typing the 2,100 new
descriptions that Howard brought back from Xavantina, and of course he is busy with the sorting and packing of all 21,000. You should see the impressive stacks of some 300
cartons all ready to be crated up. Have I written that the Universidade has agreed to take care of the details regarding the shipment? Their man in Rio will take care of
the paperwork (after I type lists of contents, ten copies of each). This will allow Howard to skip the visit to Rio, which he didn't want to make, and let him fly home on
or about August 8. I hope it works out this way-he could use a week or so to putter at home before going back to work.
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