Unity In Ecuador, Part 3: Community

Communities in the United States are not as close as they could be, not as willing to come together for a cause unless it’s something they consider to be big, and I get it, I’m part of a community like that. Many communities are like that, no matter how big or small we are. This happens in many levels, from the biggest one, the entire community as a whole, to the smallest one, a single family. It’s a common societal issue, discussed quite a bit, from how we are more likely to put our elderly in assisted living homes than keep them at home, to a town issue such a burglary or a predator like a mountain lion lurking in the neighborhoods. (That last one is a current issue in my town, and not uncommon enough for it to be entirely shocking. I live in a small town in the mountains, what can I say?) That’s not to say these communities never come together. Natural and man made disasters have a way of bringing people together in ways they didn’t bother with before. But when considering all this, it is a bit sad that it takes something like a disaster to bring people together. This is not always the case though, not everywhere. There are plenty of places where taking care of one’s community and coming together to help a neighbor build a house or pave/fix a road that’s in need, are done without question. It is such an important part of their culture and community, that it is only natural. The unification of these communities is something beautiful to hear about and see, and is something everyone should experience, as it would be a big step in making the world a better place.

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Unity In Ecuador Part 2: Ceremony/Ritual

There’s an old running joke in archaeology, when presented with an artifact we aren’t entirely sure about the use of, we  sometimes say “When it doubt, ritual.”. It’s a joke because at the end of the day, when it comes to some artifacts and some historical rituals, we aren’t always able to pinpoint every item used and how. However, it is a very different set of questions when these ceremonies and rituals are still being practiced in parts of the world, and is a reason why the different forms of anthropology are so vital to understanding what is being produced at archaeological sites.

If you are lucky enough to be able to witness one of these old ceremonies or rituals in person, it provides valuable insight into further understanding a culture and people much better than before. If you are lucky enough to be a part of a ceremony or ritual, the understanding and connection to the process, often lengthy, goes even deeper, and you not only have a slightly better understanding, but also a better appreciation for the ceremony, ritual, culture, and people. If you are an anthropologist, you look at things from the etic, or outsider view, and you can learn a lot, don’t worry about that, but the opportunity to do research and be able to understand from the emic, or insider view, whether it be living in another country as the citizens there do, having in depth conversations with locals, or both, that information will provide something that is missing in so many texts: a human connection.

Which is how I shall start off this entry in Unity In Ecuador, with the insight gained from being a part of rituals and ceremonies performed by native Ecuadorians, who graciously honored the group of students I was traveling with, by allowing us to be a part of these ceremonies and rituals.

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Unity In Ecuador, Part 1: Music

Recently I had the opportunity and the honor to go on a three week long medical anthropology research trip in Ecuador along with people from the university I attend (California State University, San Marcos) and an educational institute located in Quito, Ecuador, called Fundación Cimas del Ecuador, or , as we called it for the majority of our time there, Cimas. (If you would like to learn more about the lovely foundation, here is their website.) At the risk of sounding cliche, I can honestly say the trip changed my life, and I’m so humbled by the experiences I had and the things I saw on that journey.

I learned how to live like an Ecuadorian in Quito, figuring out bus routes, taxis, learning about boiling tap water and that aji, a special sauce that was everywhere we went in the country, is one of the best sauces ever, and the United States is missing out. But one thing that stood out to me the most in my three week stay in the country was the sense of community, most importantly the over-arching sense of unity among the people, that is just not seen at such a level in the United States. In this three part series, I will discuss music, ceremonies/rituals, and community, all with their own unique attributes, but with one important, over-arching theme: unity. It was overwhelming to hear about, see, and participate in these communities and how that take care of each other. While not without it’s faults, politics are politics all over the world, there was a wonderful feeling of connection in Ecuador that I wish could be brought here to the United States.

I shall start with one of the most universal forms of communication and community: Music.

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Update on Life

Hello to the three people who read this blog!

First off, I’m not dead, life just got incredibly crazy.

I’m a year off from graduating with a BA in Indigenous Anthropology! I am so close to joining the work force, I can just smell the sandy dirt, Gatorade, and sunscreen.

I didn’t mean for this to fall by the wayside, it just happened. This year has been both kind and horrible to me, but hey, what are you going to do? Stop trying? Nope. That’s not really on my radar at the moment. Ironically, all the awful things that have happened to me lately, that could have easily sent me on a downward spiral, have inspired me to keep pushing forward and do well, life is too short, and some opportunities only happen once.

I’m still a bit broken, but I’m on the mend. My friends, family, and teachers have all been wonderful. I consider myself to be very lucky.

If you’re still reading this, thank you. If not, then I say to you “Did you know that there’s a Faceless Old Woman who secretly lives in your home? She’s always there, always right there. No, not there. Not there either. Look, you looking up is just going to make yourself look silly. She’ll just shake her head in disappointment. Don’t do that.”.

(I’ve been re-listening to Welcome To Night Vale, can you tell?)

Oh my word, I didn’t think it’d been that long since I posted but it has. Not that many people follow this anyway, but to anyone who does, I’m still alive. Life got busy sorry.

Hamilton, History, And The Importance of Perception.

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Lin-Manuel Miranda as Alexander Hamilton and the real Alexander Hamilton.

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The original cast of Hamilton: An American Musical, at curtain call.

 

By now you’ve probably, at the very least, heard the name of the newest musical to sweep the world and capture practically everyone’s attention. I remember hearing about it back when it made it’s Broadway debut at the Richard Rodgers Theatre in New York. I saw gifsets on Tumblr, obvious references to the play, images, stories. When it debuted on Broadway it took the world by storm. Admittedly, it took me a month or two to jump on the bandwagon so to speak. I listened to the musical’s album in December, and suddenly, oh, I thought, this is why everyone is raving about it. It’s brilliant. From the lyrics, to composition, to the cast and how they throw themselves into the music and the roles, I found myself remembering why I was so in love with Broadway and musicals and theatre. (I did theatre when I was younger.) But even then, Hamilton: An American Musical, (Or just Hamilton, as I will be referring to it in the rest of this entry.)  is unique. There has never been a musical quite like it, although I hope there will be more in the future, because it’s approach is brilliant. And I will add my name to the list of people calling Lin-Manuel Miranda, the musical’s  writer/composer, a genius. It’s a modern musical that manages to combine old and new, and bring newer (ish) music styles, such as using hip-hop, R&B, rap (HELLO THERE DAVEED DIGGS, A TRUE MVP.), and pure soul and love of music,  to a competitive and epic platform, and pull it off in such a way that the audience is left, if you will excuse the first of the NUMEROUS Hamilton related puns/references in this entry, helpless, when it comes to falling under it’s spell. Add to all of this the absolutely stunning (in every sense of the word and it’s faucets) cast and crew ,(The chorus of this musical is amazing as well.) who threw their hearts and souls into their roles and the play, (HI THERE 16 TONY NOMINATIONS AND 11 TONY WINS! Plus, 3 of the 4 main acting awards went to the play. Daveed Diggs for Lafayette/Thomas Jefferson, Leslie Odom Jr. for Aaron Burr {sir), and Renee Elise Goldsberry for Angelica Schuyler-Church.) and you have an easy understanding as to why this play took the world over.

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What’s that haters? I’m sorry, they can’t hear you over the sound of ELEVEN TONY WINS.

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An Un-Boas Opinion On Humanity

“It is our task to inquire into the causes that have brought about the observed differentiation, and to investigate the sequence of events that have led to the establishment of the multifarious forms of human life.” 
-Franz Boas

Anthropology and archaeology take on similar but different forms all around the world. The type of anthropological/archaeological practices you’d see in the United States would be a bit different than what you would see in say Egypt or England. In the United States, archaeology falls under the sort of umbrella subject of anthropology. The Four Fields of Anthropology, as they are known, include linguistics, biological/physical anthropology, cultural anthropology, and archaeology. In college/university departments, these subject all usually fall within the Anthropology Department, although some colleges/universities do not offer a specifically archaeology based degree, often specializing on a certain type of cultural anthropology with a background of archaeology and other subjects. It is believed, and rightly so, that in order to even start to understand a culture, you cannot simply rely on one study to get the full picture. You can excavate a site, find artifacts, features, and even remains, to your heart’s content, you can interpret it all as much as you want, but what of the language left behind (If language is present in writing.)? What about the biological components? What of the culture, since faded away or still going on in a different location? Artifacts and features can only tell a person so much. It was of this thought process that a physicist/geographer from Minden, Westphalia, Germany who fell in love with the study of humanity in the United States, founded the Four Fields of Anthropology, Franz Boas.

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Boas in 1895.

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What Certain Words Mean To Normal People vs. What They Mean To Archaeologists/Anthropologists

Inspired by similar posts on BuzzFeed, here are What Certain Words Mean To Normal People vs. What They Mean To Archaeologists/Anthropologists.

Clay

What It Means To Normal People: Something that comes from the earth, used for masks/creams/lotions or in pottery class.

What It Means To Archaeologists/Anthropologists (Maybe more archaeologists): That stuff that gets everywhere. Bane of our existence when it’s hard and packed in the ground. Of which it is a lot in San Diego. Excavating here can be a nightmare sometimes. Better bring your heavy bars.

Bathtub/Shower

What It Means To Normal People: Places to bathe in order to get clean or just relax and soak achy muscles.

What It Means To Archaeologists/Anthropologists: A place to soak achy muscles. Also: That place you go to wash off the dirt, clay, pollen, tree sap, pollution from the air, ash, spit from that random llama from the neighboring plot that the owner swore never spit, blood (stuff happens in the field and in the lab), the dust from several artifacts that may or may not have something deadly in it, pond/lake water gunk, and several more. Also: That thing we turn weird colors like dark grey , black, and mutant green.

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Archaeology and a Life Long Love

I’ve said it before, archaeology draws certain types of people, although I don’t think I’ve ever elaborated on that topic. When I say  certain types of people, I don’t mean that in a bad way. I just mean that of all the people I have met in my time in the archaeology/anthropology world, there seems to be a quality to all of them that isn’t entirely able to be pin-pointed, but feels familiar, because I feel like I have that quality as well. (Nor am I implying that it is anything that makes us superior to everyone else, because it isn’t. Despite what seems to be a rather popular opinion, we are not all stuck up.) If I were to attempt to describe the quality, it would be pure curiosity. Curiosity about the world, about history, about mankind and how we got to where we are now, how our ancestors lived and died, with a keen interest, specifically, on the day to day life. We’re undeniably curious about humanity and how it connects, both to us and the  world at large.

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RIP David Bowie. You, Ziggy, and King Jareth (Especially Jareth for me.) will live on forever in our hearts.

Taking an off topic moment to acknowledge and mourn the passing of a true pop culture and just all around legend.  David Bowie passed away January 10th, after a battle with cancer. I am completely blindsided with this. I didn’t even know he had cancer to be honest. I hadn’t read up on him lately. He was so many things to so many people, but to me, personally, I will always remember him as King Jareth. And the world without King Jareth seems rather bleak to me. At least for awhile. The world lost a legend today, and the world is indeed in mourning.

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So long King Jareth, and know you will be missed dearly.