P. G. Hurh
January 1, 1994 01:31:56
This New Year's eve was, except for the locale, rather uneventful. I heard fireworks or gunfire in the distance, muffled and faint, drifting from down river. I naively assumed the noise to be from Leticia or Iquitos although both those villages are over two hundred miles from here. I looked from my small porch, but could see nothing. I thought about climbing to the roof, but the canopy of trees was too thick to see through, even this close to the river. It was most likely gunfire and probably from Bolognesi just upstream. I thought about trying to walk up to Bolognesi then to see if any celebrations were underway, but I couldn't muster the courage needed to make that trip in the dark. Of course I am sure that the FUNAI house was probably just as dark and empty as it has been for the past five days. Except for sleeping loggers and druggers, Bolognesi is lifeless after the sun goes down.
I sat out on the porch most of the remaining evening sipping from a small bottle of whiskey I negotiated from one of the river port hands in Leticia. I'll have to remember to try and haggle a larger bottle next time I'm in Leticia, although that could be awhile; that twenty-eight hours of bug-slapping, sweat-reeking, and idle staring into swirling brown water was more than I could take--at least more than I can take just for a bottle of whiskey. Still, this bottle has almost run dry. Perhaps without the booze I wouldn't become so melancholy (and then angry) when I think of you... or perhaps I wouldn't even think of you so much in the first place. No matter, tonight, with the cheap whiskey trailing hot into my chest, I was caught in the endless circle, thinking of you.
Partly because of this night's drunken reveries, and partly because I need to make writing this journal feel not so conspicuously like talking to myself, I have decided to address this journal in your name. At first I wasn't sure if this was a good idea; I saw myself, months from now, stifling an emotional hiccup every time I wrote in this book. But now, looking back at the other sparse journal entries, I realize that this is what I need to do to keep writing and documenting my thoughts while here in the Amazon. No one has yet been assigned to replace you or the other researchers called back to work on the SETI project. Although I write and take notes everyday on my experiences here on Rio Javari and, hopefully in the future, with the neighboring Mayoruna villagers, I think this private journal will be crucial to my understanding of those experiences. This will be my scratch pad for my thoughts onto until they take on enough shape to formalize and send upline to UIC. I want to do more than be a glorified caretaker of the equipment left here. Since the research station has been entrusted to me for the time being, I want to ensure my time here is put to some useful purpose.
So, without knowing how I really feel about you anymore... or without even just being able to know you ... I start this new year by writing your name.
January 13 1993 20:21:11
The first two weeks of the year have been extremely busy. My delayed luggage containing several pieces of needed equipment, including the radio antennae, arrived yesterday. I spent that day assembling the equipment and trying to raise the FUNAI contact in Leticia but didn't have any luck. I took a quick walk over to Bolognesi, but the FUNAI house is still empty. At least the doors are locked and the place hasn't been ransacked. It would be encouraging, though, to use their radio to contact Leticia and help troubleshoot my own. Ah well, I missed the packet transmission last week so I guess if I miss tomorrow's it won't matter too much. Still, I had such an experience this morning that I feel I should immediately communicate it to my peers (if only the damned radio would work!).
I made contact with a Mayoruna Indian today! He was walking through the main dirt road in Bolognesi as I was standing by the lumber dock. I was waiting for a good opportunity to talk to the loggers loading the boat and ask to borrow their radio for a moment. I admit I was nervous, my Portuguese is not as good as yours, you know, and I was put off by the loggers' brutal handling of the ripe-smelling wood. I turned, giving up, when I saw a bouncing head covered with straight shiny black hair disappear behind a stack of the huge tires used by the logging trucks. Instantly realizing that this could be exactly what you and the research station were here to study, I ran around the stack of tires and almost tripped over the young, naked man.
He was crouched, with knees splayed wide, over a piece of a truck's transmission. His dark elbows rested on the inside flesh of his thighs while his hands forcefully fiddled with grease-covered gears. As I began to fall over him, he sprang up and turned to face me solemnly. He was not afraid... and I, within the relatively familiar context of the lumber dock, showed no fear either. Thinking back, I probably expressed extreme pleasure and curiosity on the paleness of my face, much like the naïve white scientists we have both seen on late night television as they approached some alien race.
The Indian immediately strode by me, bouncing slightly as I had witnessed before and, if I hadn't stopped him, would probably have strode out of the town of shacks without a pause. I'm not sure what I said; it might have been "Hey!" or "You!" or more likely some grunt that in any language said, "Hold on there!" But I must have said something, since he stopped and turned toward me slowly on the balls of his feet. His face presented a slight scowl and, when he spoke, his head moved sharply forward like a dog's head barking.
"What!" he coughed, pronouncing it as `wat.' His held his hands out to the sides of his body. His fingers were poised stiffly like the whisker-spikes that bobbed from the small bulbs of his nostrils. "Wat you want?"
I couldn't believe it. Did this Mayoruna actually speak English? "You speak English?" I exclaimed, not being able to think of anything else. "Where..." I pointed at him. "Where did you learn English?"
He seemed to smile at that and said something to the effect of "I learn English at the fork of Javari." Besides the characteristic needles jutting from his nostrils, his face also wore the dark blue tattooed line that united his ears in a toothy grin.
"At Leticia? The town there?"
"Yes, Letisha... I learn at that place and make much money." His English was broken and heavily accented but wasn't too bad. "Now, I go... this boat has no parts." He started to turn, again quite slowly as if waiting for me to stop him.
"What do you mean, `no parts'? What parts are you looking for? I have some parts you might want." I spoke the last sentence quickly, not knowing if I really wanted him to understand.
He looked back at me and smiled widely this time. The blue stain surrounding his lips accentuated the lines of his stained teeth. "I find parts for our gun." He took a step toward me. "You have gun parts?"
I hesitated. I had a small pistol hidden under my hammock cushion, but I knew I could not admit that.
"No," I stuttered, hoping that this wouldn't be the end of the conversation. "But I would like to talk with you anyway." My hand, half folded, unconsciously slapped my chest as I referred to myself, just as I'd seen him do earlier.
"Now, I go," he repeated as he walked away with his bouncing gait. "But I think you very smart," he called over his shoulder. "I think you very holy man. I maybe see you on a new sun." He broke into a quick trot and darted into the thick undergrowth of the forest.
I followed him to his point of departure from the road. I was amazed that he was able to run so quickly and without fear among the poison brush and dangerous wildlife that surrounded us. But when I inspected more closely I realized that where he stepped off the road was a path of trampled spine grass--prickly, but tolerable with callused feet. I wanted to follow but where would that have got me? Most likely, lost.
I realize now, in talking to you as a person, Catherine, that I have described this event much more vividly than my record in the official log. I will have to go back and cut and paste this more descriptive perspective into the log; this event deserves no less. This is exactly what motivated you/us in the first place. The nomadic Mayoruna tribe settling into a camp near a logging port and interacting with the relatively technologically advanced and "more civilized" community of industrialized loggers. It is unheard of! As I watched that small brown man, clothed only in a fibrous cloth wound about his waist, strings dangling to his crotch in a mess of ritual knots about the foreskin, nostril spikes shaking as he spoke in English--English for God's sake!-- about `gun parts' and `much money,' I felt so much like an outsider, a foreigner bearing the guilt of corrupting his pure soul. Why has his tribe come to this small spot of western industry to make their camp? Am I witnessing the effects of civilization on his culture? Or am I, just by being here and observing, really just studying my own effect on his life?
I now wish I hadn't drank the last of that whiskey three nights ago.
January 24, 1994 22:39:26
I reached Leticia today via my radio. The S/N was not too bad and I talked to a fellow at the FUNAI house there. He said he was sorry that the house at Bolognesi was shut and boarded, but with the lack of money this year to fund what is now considered highbrow cultural research, FUNAI and the surrounding countries in general are having to scale back their support operations. I protested this `scaling back' and wondered aloud how the preservation of the indigenous cultures of the Basin could be considered "highbrow." The speaker on the other end did not offer much in reply, but only agreed with me and said something to the effect of "But what are you gonna do?" Good question.
The radio contact's name is Mohammed. Funny name for a FUNAI worker in the middle of the Amazon. A convert? I wonder. It seems strange that a native of this land so rich in tradition and mystique would embrace another land's religion as his own. Perhaps not--after all, I was brought up in the Midwest of America and still, to this day, am heavily influenced by the doctrine and catechism of the Roman Catholic church, whether I want to be or not.
Mohammed told me that he would arrange for a radio packet transmission in a week. I will transmit the data I have so far plus some e-mail messages that should be able to reach you at the SETI Institute via the Internet in a few days. He will also relay a digital packet to my workstation consisting of any e-mail messages I might have received in the past three weeks plus a download of the Usenet newsgroups I asked for. I'm not sure if the UIC news-server has set up the sci.seti.anthro newsgroup yet, but I requested it anyway. Mohammed seems to be a nice guy. I hope he is reliable also.
Not much news on the Indian front, I'm afraid. I waited daily by the docks, expecting to meet Tantu there. I know his name is Tantu because I finally was able to get the attention of the dock loggers and I asked them about the strange Indian I had met. They laughed and told me about Tantu. Apparently he lived in Leticia for some time and had just recently returned to the tribe's village. When I asked about the village, the loggers just shrugged their shoulders and pointed to the east. They said it had been there for almost two years. One small gnarled man burst out laughing and whispered something in Portuguese to another that I couldn't catch. When I asked the foreman what was so funny, he replied that a lot of the men didn't mind having the village so close and he turned back to smile at the small laughing man. I pressed him for an explanation and he simply said, "The women wear little clothes--the old ones are not so good, but the young ones..." His face smiled with clenched teeth and he snorted inwards through his thick, flat nose. The other loggers began to chuckle and I turned away, trying to smile and make light of the lewd noises I heard erupt behind me.
Tantu, obviously, never showed up--at least not during the daylight hours. I amused myself by throwing rocks at the shut FUNAI house. Somehow the activity seemed to cool me off from the hot midday temperature. Eventually I came back to the cabin and sat in the shade of its thick mosquito netting. I wondered about Tantu and what he meant by "I maybe see you on a new sun." To me that meant `tomorrow' or `in the morning,' but it obviously must mean something else to him. Or perhaps his perception of time and a day's passing is different than mine. I remember you telling me that the Mayoruna tribe often defined the passage of time by the coming and going of the days and nights, but also that they seemed not to place these passings within the contexts of a larger season or calendar... but I can't remember what else you had said on the matter.
I wish you were here now, not just because of what you meant to me in a romantic sense, but also because of what you could tell me about these people and how I should approach them. I still don't understand the purpose of sending me here alone, even for just an interim period. The entire research proposal hinged upon the team of us--anthropologists, sociologists and research staff--studying the changing relationships of this taciturn and nomadic tribe of Indians with encroaching pockets of industrialization. I was prepared to help project the fundamentals of societal theory upon this interaction of Indian village and logger town, the depth of the moral contract, the absorption and adaptation of the indigenous culture. The culture that your group were supposed to help make clear to me!
I guess I am bitter about the choices you had to make. I understand your motives: why wouldn't you choose to this "mop-up" research study for the grand adventure of discovery that the nova transmissions have to offer? I, too, felt pride when I learned you had been chosen to help decipher the culture of an alien race from the signals that spiked through the EM universe, as reality for that distant intelligent species.... But when I realized that it would mean not the end of our Mayoruna project but the mutation of it into a one-eyed, blunted stab into a deep and rich culture, I wilted. I think you sensed that weakness in me. It drove you further from me. Even before you had to leave for Colorado, I felt like slinking away from your shining example. I did slink away... I holed myself with self-pity and hid myself with anger.
I didn't think the Foundation would fund the Amazon expedition without you or the others, but still I asked. When my workstation arrived at my office two weeks later, I still couldn't believe they were so stupid as to let a Chicago-bred sociology research assistant continue with this crippled agenda. Don't get me wrong: I really think you're an asset to the team studying the nova transmissions, but I find it odd that you would embark on a mission to study such a distant society when on this planet, less than a half-mile from where I lay my head at night, lives and breathes a culture that we understand less than we comprehend our own: one whose comparison to our own "modern" society will yield more fruit than the fanciful conjectures of how an alien race might have lived eight hundred years earlier.
I know this is a harsh accusation, and that is why I will make no mention of it when I write to you via e-mail next week. Yet, I realize when I go back and reread this entry I am no longer filled with self-pity and the longing to be with you. I believe I have inspired myself (how's that for a recovered ego?). While you decipher the secrets of an alien race I will be here attempting to understand a living, mysterious society and its role in teaching the rest of us why we are here.
February 19, 1994 08:14:48
Finally, after the boredom of the past weeks, Tantu visited again. I was almost ready to have the loggers show me the way to the Mayoruna village to seek him out, when he sauntered into town again yesterday afternoon. After a brief talk near the docks, I convinced him to follow me to the cabin where I could show him some of the gifts that I had brought to ease my acceptance into the hidden tribe. Tantu followed, again without fear. I think his times in Leticia must have put him relatively at ease with Western strangeness.
I stepped on my small porch and was surprised not to hear his hollow footstep directly behind me. I turned to find that he was waiting below in front of the first step. I opened my arms in acceptance and tried to urge him in. He balked and shook his head slightly. "I have no gifts for you," he called out.
I replied, "Yes, you do, Tantu. Just your presence here is a gift to me."
He looked at me perplexed and I spoke again, more slowly. "Tantu, you can wait here and I will bring out my gifts--my parts--for you to see."
His face smiled and he replied in true Western fashion. "Okay."
I ran inside and grabbed a few of the items I had set out earlier in anticipation of just this circumstance. I picked up a mirror, a small pen light and a sheathed machete, then returned outside.
Without stepping off the porch, I handed the items to Tantu. He placed them on the ground at his feet and squatted to inspect them one by one. He looked very much like he did when I almost tripped over him a few weeks ago.
I sat on a nylon chair at one end of the porch and watched him. I occasionally offered advice to him, naïvely forgetting that he had probably seen most of these items during his time in Leticia and his exposure to the logging communities. His face was expressionless, yet I felt as if he were seriously considering his next words to me rather than investigating my bribes.
After a few minutes, Tantu looked up at me and said, "Thank you."
"I think these gifts may be very useful to you in your village," I said.
He shook his head once, sharply. "I know these things. These things are... nice." His eyes never left mine as he raised his arm to point with all of his fingers at the small radio tower at the side of my cabin. "That is... more nice."
"Do you know what that is?" I asked glancing at the antennae.
"Yes. That is radio tongue. You talk to many others with it." He lowered his eyes to the items between his feet and then stood upright.
"Tantu," I said, "would you like to come inside and see the radio?"
Without a vocalized sound, Tantu nodded and stepped on the porch. I stood and guided him into the small one room cabin.
What followed inside is both logical and fantastic to me now. I showed Tantu the radio transmitter equipment and demonstrated its use, trying to raise Mohammed in Leticia. Mohammed didn't answer, but another strange voice did. After a few moments of trying to explain to the person on the other end of the radio waves that he was talking to a genuine Mayoruna Indian, the FUNAI operator asked us to change frequencies because we were broadcasting on a reserved band for FUNAI official communication. I was a bit irritated, but Tantu did not seem disturbed. In fact he was more interested in the computer equipment and jumble of cables that littered my work area. He went to the table and began to finger some of the components carefully. After a few moments he looked at me inquisitively, I switched off the radio and proceeded to show my workstation to the Indian with the flair of a magician.
Tantu remained mesmerized by the computer's display and the whirring, clicking hard drive for over an hour. I eventually had to shut it down because the bank of batteries was almost depleted. Tantu then stayed at the cabin for another hour, following me as I went outside to start the generator up and back inside as I checked on the charging batteries. The entire time he asked strange questions about the computers and the display--he even pointed to the cables that connected the computer to the radio and questioned me about that. Most of his questions were simple: What did I use the equipment for? What did the clicking sounds mean? What language did the computer speak? But after I gave him very rudimentary lectures on the benefits of computers and how I used them to communicate and record information, he also asked questions of a spiritual and supernatural nature: What did I feed the computer? Which spirits did I talk to? What tribe was I a shaman for? And others, which confused me almost as much as my answers seemed to confuse him. I tried to explain to him again the basic concepts of a computer as a tool and stressed that humans had built--invented--this machine.
Tantu truly seemed to grasp the basic functions of some of the components (keyboard, monitor, etc.), but he did so by personifying them. For instance, at one point I let him press some keys on the keyboard and watch the corresponding letters appear on the screen. He was able to understand the cause and effect relationship and even recognized that the picture of the letter on a pressed key matched that which was displayed on the monitor. However, when I unplugged the keyboard to demonstrate the flow of information from the input device to the computer, Tantu did not understand why the letters would not still appear on screen. I tried to explain, and he nodded knowingly then and said something to the effect of, "Yes, the voice of Keyboard is very quiet and Keyboard must pull on the tail of Computer to make Monitor listen." He pulled on the unplugged keyboard cable to demonstrate. In spite of the metaphorical (and zoological) overtones, I told him he was basically right. I was too tired of explaining the operation of the computer and too amazed at the general situation to try to convince him otherwise.
Finally, he made his way towards the open cabin door as the day turned to dusk. He looked back at me and told me that he would come back tomorrow with gifts if I would let him talk to the spirits. He pointed vaguely at the computer and the radio. I reminded him that they were not spirits and that he would probably have to learn to write and read English to use my equipment. He asked me if I would teach him. I said yes without thinking.
I wish I would have taken a picture of Tantu while he was here in the cabin. The sight was so odd. Tantu has shoulder-length dark hair, trimmed to straight bangs at his eyebrows, but otherwise unstyled. There is no sign of a beard on his brown chin, but I know he is well past puberty from the thin growth of pubic hair (it seems this may be trimmed periodically) and the way he handles himself.
I've grown used to his "cat whiskers" in one afternoon. They consist of six- to seven-inch-long stalks or spines of some dried plant similar to the spine grass that is so prevalent around the river. The spines seem to cause Tantu little pain although they look to me to be forcefully stuck into the soft tissue of each nostril. They truly give his round face a catlike appearance.
The characteristic blue tattoo around Tantu's lips is actually the easiest feature to overlook. Its lines flow naturally along the contours of his lips and sport smaller perpendicular lines about a quarter of an inch long which give the impression of a large mouth lined with square teeth. I suppose a simple picture couldn't capture these facial details, the awed and curious expression on his face, plus his nearly naked body leaning over the glowing computer monitor, but it certainly could convey the entirely strange image of an Indian confronting a modern computer in a darkened room. Incredible.
I spent the rest of the evening writing the day's events in my official journals and eating a cold supper. I was too tired to write in this journal until this morning. Now, I sit here sipping scalded coffee, listening to the generator, and wondering if I should have agreed to teach Tantu about computers or reading English. I'm not sure what impact this could have on his culture. Would it be more than what Tantu's Leticia experiences might have already brought to the tribe? I guess that if Western culture and technology is going to be assimilated by the Mayoruna, then my teachings would perhaps accelerate that acculturation by a degree, not spark it initially. The spark has already been created by Indians such as Tantu. Besides, maybe it is better that Tantu learn from me than from the disgusting, exploitative loggers in Bolognesi.
So I guess I will attempt to teach Tantu. I'll have to remember to tone down my showmanship as I teach, however, and try to dispel the computer's mystique. Plus I'm going to have to teach him to say my name correctly; he pronounces it "Kane" rather than "Ken." Teaching him will be a long process but hopefully one that will yield an open invitation to their village, which will be useful when more researchers are assigned here. I would much rather we were invited and welcomed in Tantu's community than having to barge in on our own.
In two days I'll receive a radio digital packet transmission from the outside world. I'm eager to hear up-to-date news from a perspective other than the Armed Forces network, and to find out what is going on with the nova transmission studies. I'm also suffering slight anxiety attacks thinking about receiving e-mail from you. I'd like to hear from you, but afraid of what I might read. I have composed an e-mail message to you and saved it with the other materials I will transmit on Tuesday. When I read over the message it strikes me as a bit cold and unfeeling. I do still feel for you, but after what you said when we parted, it may be best to try to carry on without that emotional baggage.
February 24, 1994 21:48:01
Mohammed stood good to his word and relayed a digital package to me a few days ago. However, nowhere in that package was a message from you. I guess my anxieties will have another week to fortify their ramparts in my ego. Their main battle plan seems to revolve about my ignorance of the reason for your message's absence. I'm sure that in all the excitement of the nova transmissions you may have forgotten to send a note to me; however, my darker half tells me that you have purposefully ignored me. There could have been a technical error in the communication process, of course, but my family's birthday wishes came through unimpeded, and I gave them the same information I gave you.
I spent most of the day pouring over the package. My family is well and sends their best. My father is incredibly proud of me and my "gumption" to stick it out alone in the Amazon Basin. Mother claims that he can't shut up about it, even in casual conversation to mere acquaintances and fellow churchgoers. He's even bought a subscription to National Geographic again. I hope he reads them this time around. When I gave him a subscription four years ago for his birthday, the inside pages never saw anything but their facing neighbors as the issues accumulated in a fanned stack on the low coffee table by the settee.
I spent a good deal of time following arcane threads in the newsgroups that I requested. Most were just flame wars elevated to a seemingly intelligent level, but it was fun to read the newsgroups in this isolated environment. It will be a while before that novelty wears off.
The sci.seti.anthro group was indeed included in the package. I didn't see any posts or references about you however. What I did see was a bunch of messages all complaining that the anthropology and sociology couldn't start until the semiotics and semanticists figured out the alien pictographs a little better. I'm going to post a note there to you next week, just in case there is a problem with your e-mail.
Tantu came by again today, as usual. Today he brought me some sort of dried gourd that rattles lightly. He said that it was a "keyboard" from his village. I placed it next to the howler monkey paw that he had brought the day before. When he saw the dried and burnt paw, he asked me why I had not eaten it yet. I told him the truth; that even had I known I was supposed to eat the paw, I probably wouldn't have. Tantu looked at me oddly then and crossed to the table on which I had laid out his gifts to me. In a sudden darting motion he grabbed the paw and threw it out an open window. When he turned to face me again I was afraid he was angry, and I'm sure that fear showed on my face. However he just walked by me and sat down at the computer for another lesson.
Tantu's three English lessons have followed a consistent pattern. I begin with the alphabet and after about ten minutes he becomes obviously confused and begins to ask questions about the computer and the radio. I had planned to try to teach Tantu how to read phonetically, but he doesn't seem to want to get past the alphabet. He can recognize letters and pronounce them, but he seems to lack the motivation to continue. It is as if he doesn't understand that the letters are the building blocks, even though I have shown him how I can assemble words from the letters. I guess the greatest breakthrough is that he can now recognize his name when typed on the computer and even type in the password to the partition I have created for him on the hard drive.
The biggest surprise of Tantu's training is that he can actually manipulate the computer quite easily, without being able to read! He understands directories and folders and can steer himself to picture files that he likes to view. He likes to zoom in and out of images, watching how the image is made up of individual pixels. I have not shown him games yet--I don't want to be known as the sociologist who enslaved naïve cultures with the shackles of Tetris!
I am very concerned, however, that Tantu will never surpass the spiritual fraud that I seem to have perpetuated by shock-treating him with the computer the first time. For instance, I read aloud to him the mail messages I received from my family and even some of the newsgroup messages. He was completely enthused with the idea of mass communication and I felt a sense of elation that perhaps here was a way I could motivate Tantu to learn how to read and write English. However, he immediately asked how the computer could talk to shamen so far away, and how those shamen could know where we were. I explained that the shamen were just people and that we communicated via the radio (slight lie, but close to the truth). He looked at the radio and smiled knowingly. He said, "The spirit of the monkey is in your radio."
I asked him what he meant but he would only reply that monkeys talk the same way my computer does; therefore the monkey spirit is in my radio. I began to explain that the radio worked on principles of science, but I had to halt when he asked me to talk about those principles. I must confess I don't know much beyond the basics about those electromagnetic principles. Tantu then smiled again, his whiskers pointing at the cabin's loose rafters. I realized then how much like a religion my "science" must sound to him.
March 6, 1994 14:11:48
Tantu just left the cabin suddenly and without warning. He was sitting at the computer staring at the screen when his back stiffened slightly. Then he simply got up and left. I called out to him from the porch but he had disappeared. I wouldn't be surprised except that, from the way he suddenly jumped to attention, he seemed to have heard something or someone call his name. I wonder if his hearing is more acute than mine; I wouldn't doubt it.
I am looking at the screen Tantu was staring at just moments ago. It's just a jumble of characters... ah, perhaps they are a jumble because they are meant to be a jumble--indecipherable. Tantu must have been engaged in what seems to be one of his favorite past times, composing a very crude sentence, or sometimes just a word, and using a cipher to encrypt it. He appears to derive some sort of meaning from the encrypted letters and symbols; I have witnessed him pondering an encrypted sentence for minutes or more, sometimes tracing his fingers over the glass. Just the other day I saw him encrypt an entire Usenet message and then scroll through it several times, as if looking for something. I've asked him why he does it, but his answers are vague and he seems surprised that I should ask. Luckily, I have access to his partition and can run the cipher in reverse.
The line of letters decrypts as, "It is mine."
I wonder if I am teaching him about greed and envy as well as English and computers.
Earlier today I upgraded the memory in the computer with chips that arrived by boat yesterday from Leticia. Tantu watched my every move as if I were performing a ritual. He seemed particularly intrigued by the grounding wrist strap. I took the opportunity to try to show him that the computer was really a machine and not a spirit manifestation, but I think I failed. I'm beginning to think it doesn't matter if he believes that spirits of nature drive the machine rather than human-guided electrons; in a way, I guess they are the same sort of force. At least he seemed to understand that, by replacing the chips, the computer now could hold more "thoughts" in its "fast brain" without having to resort to the "slow brain." I demonstrated by showing him how much faster the computer could switch back and forth between two full-color images of the Chicago skyline. He seemed elated.
Still no word from you, Catherine. My mail message didn't bounce back, nor did you respond to my post on sci.seti.anthro. I don't know what to think. I know you are still with SETI because I have seen your name mentioned many times in the newsgroup now, although I have yet to see a message there from you. I am pleased at the success your team has had deciphering the transmissions, but why are you ignoring me?
I think I'm better off just not thinking of you. But without any friends in this place except for Tantu, I have a hard time of thinking of anything but you. I am going to have to push Tantu to introduce me to his village. I have hesitated so far--I'm actually afraid of following Tantu into the forest--but I need to see a family again, I need to see humans interacting with each other. A once-a-week feed of flame wars from Usenet is not enough.
I just noticed that the static wrist band and my old memory chips are missing. Maybe that is what Tantu meant by, "It is mine."
Follow "Little Sun"...InterText Copyright © 1991-1999 Jason Snell. This story may only be distributed as part of the collected whole of Volume 4, Number 3 of InterText. This story Copyright © 1994 P. G. Hurh.