A Folha da Frontera
The Official Newsletter of James Hayes-Bohanan's Rondônia
(The Frontier Page)
Volume I, No. 1 - June 1, 1996
Where I Am
I am in Porto Velho, the growing capital of Rondônia , Brazil's newest
and last state. Port Velho is located on the Madeira River, at about 64W
Why I Am Here
After lo, these many years, I am doing research for my dissertation in
geography at the University of Arizona. I am studying the development of
urban places in Brazil's Amazon frontier. More than half of the population
in this part of the Amazon Basin actually live in towns and cities.
How I Got Here
It wasn't easy. First, Pam, Pablo, and I drove to Corpus Christi, where
we spent a couple of wonderful days together before my trip began. On May
22, I flew from Corpus to Dallas (a transfer at DFW is de riguer for all
my travels, foreign or domestic) and from Dallas on to Miami. At 11:30,
I left Miami on Varig, Brazil's major airline. The service was incredible:
Did Continental or American ever offer you a complimentary Cognac in Coach?
We arrived in Manaus, in the center of the Amazon, at 4:30 the next morning.
I waited for the approach of dawn, and then took a taxi to the National
Institute for Amazon Research, where I met Dr. Philip Fearnside for some
advice on my project. Then I took a taxi to the dock in Manaus, bought
a hammock and mosquito net, and began looking for a boat to Porto Velho.
Alas, I could not get any definite information, nor did I like the looks
of the characters hanging around most of the boats, so I took a taxi back
to the airport and got a ticket for a flight Porto Velho later that night.
(I later learned that even for Brazilians the boat travel is not as easy
or romantic as some of the guidebooks suggest.)
That flight was canceled, so Varig put us in a $170/night hotel for
about 5 hours until the flight early the next morning. I went on to Porto
Velho, where I was met at the airport by Miguel, a professor of English
who had been my primary contact, Walter, another English professor with
whom I would be staying, and Ana, a geography professor who came to meet
me and who also happens to have a car.
Where I Am Staying
I am staying in a simple house about a 10-minute bus ride from downtown
PV, and about 30 minutes from the university (UNIR). My host is Walter,
an English professor who moved here from the Northeast of Brazil about
10 years ago. He is a gracious host and a confirmed bachelor. Friends of
all kinds drop by almost every day, providing many opportunities to practice
my Portuguese. Usually it is quiet, though, giving me plenty of time to
read and write. I also watch some TV and movies, as Jim Keese, a colleague
from Arizona, had suggested this would help with my language. I saw Wayne's
World dubbed and O Dia do Cao (Dogday Afternoon) with
Portuguese subtitles. The sound was not very good, so I actually depended
upon the subtitles, as I would watching any foreign film.
Walter's house is much like the one in which Pam & I stayed during
our visit to Mexico, except that it has a great porch on two sides. I often
hang my hammock out to read (all houses in this part of Brazil are equipped
with hooks for hanging hammocks inside and out).
What I Am Doing
In addition to my own research, I am involved so far in two projects at
UNIR, the Federal University in Rondônia . One is with an economics
professor who is trying to consolidate the economic and demographic data
for the state that are currently available in a variety of incompatible
formats. The other is with a group from the department of letters that
is analyzing the discourse about the Amazon in foreign media. Both of these
projects are helping me to develop contacts and information for my own
Yesterday I bought a copy of O Hobbit, which many of you may
recognize as the Portuguese translation of one of my favorite books. It
is a wonderful edition, with many of Tolkien's own illustrations. I am
finding it surprisingly easy to read.
Some of My Plans
My new friends here have already planned several interesting excursions
for me. At the end of this week, I will take a day trip to one of Rondônia
's newer cities along the famous highway BR-364, which opened this region
to migrants from Brazil's South. Next Sunday we plan to visit a dam and
wildlife preserve, also along BR-364. Later in the month, my host Walter
will go with me to Guajar -Mirim, where he lived in 1991. From there, we
will cross the border into Bolivia for some shopping. I am also planning
to accompany several of the language professors in their rural education
project one weekend. I think that all of these experiences will help me
to learn more about all of the changes that are occurring in various parts
of this frontier region.
What I Eat, Etc.
I eat a lot of rice and beans (thanks, Kathleen, for the Tabasco™), pasta,
some beef, manioc, and coconut juice from Walter's tree. I am observing
the usual traveler's cautions about vegetables, so I take vitamins to compensate.
I drink copious amounts of mineral water, up to 3 gallons/day.
I have encountered very few mosquitoes, but I am taking every precaution,
including garlic, chloroquin, and repellent.
Overall, the trip is going well. Of course, I miss my home, my friends,
my dog, and most of all my wonderful Pam. I look forward to seeing you
all again, and to hearing from you if you get a chance. Until then, Tshau!
The story continues in Folha da Frontera - Volume
I, No. 2
Thanks to Carol Gray for the idea of this newsletter; to Alex Zamora for
lending me the computer on which I wrote it, to Sergio Luiz de Medeiros
Rivero for providing the Internet connection, and especially for Pam Hayes-Bohanan
for distributing this to our friends and family.