Sunday, April 1, 2007

The Anthropologists

Got into the beige car with his Aunt in the back seat, who did not speak a word of English, and I not a word of Spanish. His mother, who had astonishingly petite hands, was in the front and in the drivers seat this wonderfully nice professor who offered to give me a ride and who is just as shy as I am. We rode in uncomfortable silence for about 45 minutes until I decided I didn't want the silence to feel this way anymore, so I made it relaxing silence instead and I closed my eyes and rapidly began diving into strange dreams. Opened my eyes and we had arrived in Philadelphia for the Anthropology conference.

I was dropped off at the Bed and Breakfast that I was staying at. It was creaky and intensely Colonial and a little bit creepy. I walked up the rugged steps to my dark pink painted room got under the flowered quilt and I slept. Woke from my nap and made my way to the conference, two cobble stoned streets away. On my way to the first lecture I ran straight into the woman from the University that I decided not to go to. I didn't see her name tag, but I didn't have to, I recognized her from her pictures on the web. In a rare I-just-woke-up-from-a-nap hazy moment of bravery I introduced myself. We talked for a few steady moments and then we went into the lecture.

Lecture after lecture, slides of graphs and charts and pictures, little geeky jokes sprinkled here and there. I sat in the dim lighting of the conference room thankful that, aside from my name tag, I was almost anonymous, but also a little sad and scared that I was.

As the weekend progressed I learned less about peoples research and more about living breathing humans. The group of students that I will be studying with took me in. I ate with them and talked to them, they asked me all sorts of questions that I answered. Someone who was interested in Primate Behaviour but who has to take a required genetics course said to me, “If an Art person can do genetics then there is hope for me.” I froze in amazement, but didn't say a thing. Then someone else made a comment about how I must have gotten accepted because of my advisor, who is currently my boss. And so what if I did, every damn thing I have done at work has been on my own merit so why cant I use that when I apply to school. I curtly reminded them that I had also gotten into another school where no one knew me at all.

And I had to ask myself why I want to study Anthropology when there are so many humans out there who I dont like.

I learned the importance of being able to give a good lecture, I also learned that some people have strange and lame research questions but they go on working as if they were finding a cure for AIDS. I guess you have to find something that moves you even if it is something as obscure as primate milk composition.

But most of all, in the midst of all these important sounding lectures and chuckling old men standing in circles, I learned that Anthropology is most about the Anthropologists.

1 comment:

  1. I am sorry to hear about your experience with awkward and socially-inept anthropologists. Maybe next year, when things are more settle here, we'll meet up at the next one.