Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Alice Stein

Other than my immediate family, no other person has contributed so greatly to Bosque Santa Lúcia as Alice Stein, journalist, photographer and editor from Buffalo, New York. Alice and her husband, Robert Stein (now retired professor of biology at New York State University), joined me for a three-day riverboat tour in the Santarém region in the late 1980s, or early 90s. So long ago, as a matter of fact, I can't remember the year. After picking them up at the airport we went directly to our leased riverboat, B/M Lajana, waiting for us in front of the city. I'll never forget their expression of surprise when they discovered that it was a private tour just for them. The trip must have whetted their appetite for the Amazon because the next year they were back, this time for a tour of 7 days. So it went over the next 3-4 years, every trip becoming more of an expedition. Regular crew members on these outings were Captain Domingos and Sebastião Santos (Sabá), who later became Alice's right hand man at Bosque. Eventually, we moved our base of operation to the Bosque, mainly because we had explored everything on the regional river system. There was also the question of increasing fuel costs and boat rentals, which have made private tours rather expensive. Although Robert was unable to join us very often at the Bosque, Alice continued to return for several years in a row. She always stayed with Raimundo and Filha Teixeira at their modest abode across the road from the Bosque land. Sleeping was in a hammock, the same that she had always used on the riverboat. Her room was so small, she could easily reach out from the hammock for any object in the room. Her electric blanket was the family cat, which never missed the opportunity for companionship. Electricity was unheard of in this village, so she sacked out early, as we say, with the chickens. Likewise, she and Sabá were up early with the hungry chickens and the family parrots. After a meager breakfast they were off to explore the forest, where the primary objective was that of photography. For a woman in her 70s, there was nothing too difficult to photograph, even if it meant crawling like a snake through the brush. Over several visits, Alice amassed a fantastic collection of slides of flora and fauna, including an untold variety of butterflies. Several collections were donated to ICBS (Instituto Cultural Boanerges Sena) here in Santarém. Cristovam Sena has transferred most of them to digitalized images, which are available to researchers and the public in general. Alice also provided a grant to ICBS for the publication of a booklet entitled Bosque Santa Lúcia. Between visits to Santarém, Alice is as busy as a bee conducting environmental education lectures and slide shows on the Amazon to private and public schools in the Buffalo school district. Taking advantage of these contacts, she receives boxes of nearly new tennis shoes, which are donated to the kids at the Pastoral do Menor program here. There have also been some right-out money donations from the school kids in New York to help build a new school at Poço Branco, the village next to Bosque Santa Lúcia. Even though age and difficult traveling conditions have prevented Alice Stein from returning to Santarém over the last three years, she continues to support the cause of a surviving Amazon. Let's hear it for a friend, Alice Stein.

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