A year later, my family was back in Pennsylvania while I prepared to spend Thanksgiving in Tekohaw. My research was really in full swing by then so I decided to use the occasion to thank my Tembé research colleagues and a few close neighbors with the best dinner I could put together with my limited supply of prime fare. My first sign of warning should have been the tingling of my instinct when I invited the guests out of earshot of others. Having discreetly made the invitations, I returned to the house and started cooking and preparing the house.While setting the biggest table with a tablecloth (a dirty sheet) and candles, I heard someone come in the house. Maku, a deaf mute Ka’apor indian who seemed to have ESP regarding unusual events in my house, walked in, took one look at the spread and walked out without making any attempt to communicate with me. Eventually the invited guests and a few other uninvited ones came in and took a seat at the table or bench on the periphery. I gave my spiel about how special it was to be celebrating Thanksgiving with them since most Americans have long ago forgotten about the Native American connection to the holiday and served the meal. While the guests clearly enjoyed the food, they spoke little, thanked me and left shortly after all plates were empty. I didn’t know what he was really thinking, but I wondered if Lourival, the village headman, felt particularly awkward being at a gathering to which all had not been invited. To say the least, the evening did not resemble my fantasy of recreating the jovial atmosphere of Thanksgiving dinners at home. Several weeks later I was due to celebrate my 45th birthday. Intent on not repeating the Thanksgiving experience, I enlisted the help of my friend Lourdinha to do a Tembé style celebration. I didn’t have much food left on my shelf, but I gave her almost all that I had left to prepare for the feast. I went around to all 25 houses in the village and invited one and all to the village meeting house. At the appointed hour, the open-air structure was full of folks from the village and many visitors who had arrived to help celebrate a one-day festival in honor of Saint Luzia. The headwoman Veronica ladled out the offerings of watery oatmeal, coffee and hot chocolate one third of a cup at a time to a throng of kids jostling in front of the serving table illuminated only by two small kerosene lanterns. Within half an hour, the oatmeal, beverages and three cans of goiabada (guava jelly) were gone. While I wished I’d had twice as much food to serve, I believe everyone had a good time. My wonderful present was sharing a little of my bounty with a hundred fine folks and joining in on the chorus of a traditional Tembe chant being vigorously belted out by two men. The next day I did share a small cake in the forest with my research crew who sang me a Brazilian rendition of Happy Birthday.
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