Sunday, August 27, 2006

My archeology experience

Once upon a time, I was an archeologist. For those of you who do not know, (I don't even know who you would be, since everyone reading my blog knows me...well...I guess all you potential flat mates who I tell to go to my blog don't really know me and anyone coming over from DesiCritics), my sister is an archeologist and is in the process of writing her dissertation. And it is indeed, a fucking process. Everytime I talk to her (four times a day) I tell her, don't worry, it will get done. When I live with her, I just scream it out to her from my permanent residence on her couch and I try to do so on the hour every hour. I tell her this so that I can believe. I think it is vital that we all keep hope alive. She is putting together all the research she did in India, Rajisthan. That was three short years ago. She is still going through all the stuff and fell upon some photos (no, she does not procrastinate..its research, god dammit!) which she forwarded to me. Posting here since I feel that me and water buffaloes and peacocks are important for you all to know about.

It starts with me and John. John was a student of my sisters who used to be my work study student when I worked at the New School for Social Research. I hooked him up with a job with my sister and it was his first time in India. He was amazed that beer cost a dollar and cigarettes were even less. I think I ruined his health totally by hooking him up with the job. I was amazed that he left India alive since he was constantly going off with kindly strangers who would feed and inebriate him who knows what and sell him who knows what.

I was out in the field with my sister for about five days and it was only working in Sri Lanka were I realized, wow, I learned a bunch in those five days. It was my first field work experience and it turned out to be priceless in the way I observed (and who knew actually retained) the ways in which my sister worked with the communities there. Her work is looking at pottery from that region and the pottery shards she is looking at are WAY old but are mixed in with current stuff that people living there right now are using. It is literally littering the ground but once you get the hang of it, you can tell the difference between the old and the new stuff. One of the types was called OCP (ochre colored pottery) and I would run around colelcting it, singing, OCP, Yeah you know me!

Since I obviosuly love cameras. and after a while even a gazillion year old pottery loses its stagnant charm, my sis took photos of me hanging with the locals. It was the first time that I was hanging out with random livestock that roamed the areas we worked in and I decided we should make friends. John would work like a serious archeologist should and I woudl make friends with sheep. Or goats. Water buffaloes are a dime a dozen there and I woudl run around making horns on my head saying Tatonka! Tatonka! re living one of the only things I retained from Kevin Costners movie Dances with Wolves. I think he was talking about bison but they all look the same to me. I didn't really want to make friends with the Water Buffaloes since some of them are HUGE (even in then rain starved, drought laden Rajisthan) but under pressure of a camera, I thought I should at least attempt and I found the most malnutritioned, anemic, child Water Buffalo and pretended to want to be his/her friend. S/he was more into my sunglasses. Well, to be fair, both of us were.

In all my time in South Asia, I had never really been to the rural parts till this experience. Good thing since then I spent a year in Ampara in Sri Lanka which though a town by some standards was still rural to me. Going out in the field with my sister was...interesting. I didn't think I was the kind of person who could survive a rural life.

I don't knwo what that sentence means anymore. I did survive. And not just survive but have a lovely time. Part of the lovely time was complaining about it. I suppose I got lucky that when I did live in a rural area, I had others there, like me, who were also living it. We all bonded over that (over many things). If I had to be the only person, yeah, not sure if I could hack that. But who knows. Anyhow. Enjoy the photos and send good dissertation vibes to my sister. We need them.

A priceless lesson learnt, by the way on this trip was that getting heat stroke SUCKS ASS. I didn't cover my head one afternoon on a cloudy day and the morning was great, but as soon as the afternoon hit, after lunch, I had a headache that nearly killed me and dehydration that again, nearly killed me. Black hair in hot areas is a bad combination and I might not burn with my dark skin but god damn, that heat stroke was awful. My sister pumped me full of water (she made me drink so much water and salt and sugar in an hour that my veins were popping everywhere) and then she massaged the water into my body somehow. I peed clear water the whole next day...amazing. I don't really know what she did since I felt like death but what ever it was, it sho as hell helped. This is why in Sri Lanka when I was running surveys out in the field and had twenty kids (young adults...we made sure to not let the appearance of a sweat shop come through) to look after, I would badger them to keep their heads covered (hats, scarves, umbrellas, whatever, I didn't care) and to keep drinking water. As I told them, I don't care if you get sick, I care that one of you might not come to work tomorrow and my survey won't get done. Now cover your head, take a sip of water and get back to work!

My sister badgered me to keep my head covered. I ignored her, esp since she is my elder sister. Lesson Learnt.

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