Sunday, 23 November 2008

Rollercoaster of...?

Love? Emotions? Ideas? Events? Weather?

Any of these could describe the past two weeks of my life.

Lets go in order, shall we?


No, I'm not IN love with some new, dashing Highlander who has come and swept me off my feet. Sorry guys. HAHA, by "love", I mean that I have come to appreciate certain people a lot more, both in the US and here in Edinburgh. My parents, super supportive as always; my Brother, steady and helpful as always; my extended family, sending the occasional e-mail, letter, and phone call my way to make my day special; my friends, keeping me up to date on the happenings in their respective lives, scheming trips to the UK, and still showing interest in MY life; and my friends and colleagues here, who have been the biggest system of support through the past few weeks, keeping me sane, and reinforcing my backbone when stuff gets too hard to sift through on my own...

These people remind me why humans are such an amazing species. I found a quote a few weeks ago that really sums up humanity to the core:

"The remarkable thing about man is not that he is an 'upright' ape, but that he 'stands' for some things and not for others" -Anonymous

If you think about this, it is incredibly true in all aspects of what we as humans call life. We stand for some ideals of what "life" is and not others, some preferences over others, some tastes, some passions, some religious views, some political views, some roads through life and not others.

It is our cognate ability to differentiate and choose which makes us unique, and it is that ability and the action taken from it that allows ME to have a future career as someone studying HUMANS and their similarities and differences on varied levels.

Sometimes, being surrounded by PEOPLE all the time is wearing. Especially when you are an observer to the bone, like I am. I see things and interpret things and contextualize things without consciously trying, and having your brain "on" like that continuously can lead to serious meltdown. If I didn't have the people I LOVE in my life to keep me from falling, or failing, or running away, I think life would be a lot harder to wade through.

Segueing into Emotions:

As you may have noticed, it has been an EMOTIONAL last few weeks. After being sick, returning from London, watching the world's reaction to the next US president, and realizing that my first term at the University of Edinburgh was quickly coming to an end, I had a serious crisis of representation in relation to my research and my future...

LONG story short, I am changing my research project. If I am going to spend the next four years of my life on one project, it needs to be something that I really, really enjoy and can realistically accomplish. I am thinking of something along the lines of Food and Identity, especially from an international, immigrant perspective.

I love food, I love looking at how identity is reinforced or altered through the symbolic act of cooking, eating, and food rituals. So there you go, new topic! (Plus I really have NO desire to do the traditional anthropological rite of passage in which I live in a mud hut in some jungle, learning the language of some unknown [albeit fascinating] indigenous group for two years)

Deciding to do a complete 180 turn from my old topic was HARD, and emotional, and scary! This was literally me saying:

"I am not that person, I am this person, and this is what I may well be known for for the rest of my life" Bit intimidating, yes?

If not for the support from my family and some key people in my program (Kudos to Lucy L., Siobhan, and Richard B.) I may have just ran off into the wilds of Europe to be a beatnik writer for the rest of my life! (which, really, is still possible, but that reality can wait until I have a PhD HAHA)


This was really summed up in the "emotions" section, with my new research proposal. Although with that shift, I begin to look at the things in my everyday life more closely in relation to food. Living in an international residence is really a much richer, complex, dramatic, inspiring situation that I would have ever thought. The people I live with give me ideas, thoughts, and random anecdotal happenstances everyday.

If you want to know what life is like in a university residence hall, just imagine a season of "The Real World" on MTV. My life would be "The Real World: Richmond Place". It would get top ratings, no question about it!

Events and Weather:

Its been a busy few weeks, probably only get worse now that finals and the holidays are here. Last weekend was the second event for the Mediterranean Gastronomic Society. I was leader of team France, we made a veggie cassoulet, Goat cheese and tomato tart, and cinnamon palmiers. good stuff.

Then there was the Death Cab for Cutie concert, which was awesome! I saw them in Cali over the summer, but in a smaller venue, they were even better! And I loved seeing how Scots reacted differently to songs than we would have in the US. Shows how deeply ingrained the importance we place on specific things really is. We may be very similar, but we still are from cultures with very different pasts and different moral and idealistic groundings.PhotobucketBen Gibbard...amazing lyricist!

Last weekend was also the Scotland vs. South Africa National Rugby game. we walked 2.5 miles to the stadium for the game, along with thousands of other fans. the game was great (S.A. won) then we all walked home, and proceeded to party well into the next morning. fun!
Photobucket Jessie and I
Photobucket The girls going to the game sporting our colors!
Photobucket walking to the game
Photobucket RUGBY!
Photobucket! I love Rugby!

Then there was the Mediterranean Night we had as a society fundraiser. hours of Mediterranean music, dancing, and revelry. I got some dance lessons and met a lot of fun people. Some of them invited me to a birthday this last Friday at the VooDoo Rooms, a great restaurant/bar/club here. the Ambiance is very Moulin Rouge-meets 19th century New Orleans with some Caribbean style thrown in. The aesthetics alone made the place worth it, and I (again) got to meet some fab new people from all over.

And it snowed. on Friday. Twice. yes, it has already begun. the past week has been wicked cold and the high next week is a balmy 44 degrees. HAHA. Its funny having a real fall season... at least i'm getting use out of my sweaters!

Tonight my house had an American Thanksgiving potluck. I made a pecan pie and a sweet potato pie from scratch (crust and all...a first for me)! It was fun, and everything was good. Turns out you can't buy canned pumpkin in the UK. They just don't carry it. Who would have thought?!?!

I also got to attend to opera today! La was AMAZING! There is a theatre literally 2 minutes (walking) from my building, and students get great deals! Needless to say, I plan on taking advantage of teh arts as much as I can while I'm here!

Photobucket Sunset out my window

(Disclaimer: for some reason Blogger won't resize half of my pics, just open them in a new window to view the entire pic)


Saturday, 8 November 2008

The Wackness of Britain and Wisdom Partners

The past two weeks have been really interesting, for various reasons. A lot has happened, and it feels like I haven't written in forever...

After being sick almost continually for two weeks, I headed down south for a 4 day London ROFL-fest with Darleen. I took the bus, which was an overnighter (i don't recommend this form of travel unless you want to inflict some self-punishment). On the way to the bus station I saw this sign:

So who do you follow? the man or the arrow? Without going to philosophically extremist, (which I could do...some sort of nature vs. culture symbolic interpretation a la Victor Turner and the French theories of agency, power, and Marxian praxis?) I just say "Oh, someone is confused in Scotland" and keep walking. HAHA, I mean, really, who approves these sort of signs for public use? There are many less intelligent people running around Edinburgh who probably won't understand that they should follow the arrow (which was the intended message of the sign).

Anyways, this sign made me start thinking of some of the other things here that seem to make no sense, but which amuse me in their quirkyness...such as:

Soooo...if you have reduced the sodium in my salt, which is a chemical compound of SODIUM and CHLORIDE then what exactly makes it salt? Am I now ingesting an overabundance of chloride ions when I season my food?

And on the website for my local Tesco (grocery store) I was filling out my profile to set up my account and I see this:

so funny...I can't wait until questionnaires in the US start asking people if they are teetotallers!

Those are just a few examples of the funny random things I see here on a regular basis...on to London

I had a lot of fun with Dar...We got to experience the Brit version of Halloween, (much less trick or treating, much more costume-themed party events) the British Museum including the Rosetta Stone (so freakin cool) and an amazing South Asia art collection, which included the Dakinis, which we couldn't get enough of:
Dakinis: fierce minor goddesses, more revered than their male counterparts, the Dakas. Their Tibetan name translates to "walking in the sky" which indicates their sphere of activity. Their fearsome weapons are the skull-cup filled with blood, and the skull necklace. Her hair is usually wild and hanging down her back, and her face often wrathful in expression, as she dances on top of a corpse, which represents her complete mastery over ego and ignorance.

Needless to say, these are the coolest female deities that I have ever seen...and the fact that they are stomping all over male corpses, which as stated above shows mastery over ego and ignorance is a great example of how feminism was alive and well long before it became active in the west. So if anyone is in Tibet anytime soon, feel free to pick up a few Dakinis and send them to Dar and myself, we would greatly appreciate it!

Also at the museum, we came across the term "Wisdom Partner" as a synonym for a sexual partner within Hindu religion...I think that this is a much better term to embody the person one chooses to share their life and body with. In my mind, this connotes an acceptance and celebration of the mind, body, and spirit of a chosen partner, and how this acceptance and celebration can bring wisdom, pleasure, and completion to both halves of the pair. Much more sophisticated than just sleeping with someone for the raw physicality of the act, isn't it?

Seeing as this was the weekend before the US election, everyone in Britain was talking about the upcoming event (which is interesting in itself...when was the last time there was large coverage of an election from Britain in the US?) Some Londoners showed the tone of the election in a demonstration at Trafalgar Square:

I love seeing outsider views on events that I as an American view in a specific culturally constructed gives you perspective that you may not have considered before.

Overall, London was great...and I'm SO glad that Dar is here so close (in relation to everyone else from home) and I have her to understand the crazy, silly, weird, amusing, and annoying aspects of life in Britain with me!

THis last week saw me having my first exam here. Statistics. ew. I got a 76...which apparently here is really good, like an "A" me, 76 is average, and I feel like a high school math student again...but all of my Scottish friends assured me that anything above 72 is "first class" so who am I to argue with that? I have also been thinking a lot about the direction I want my thesis to go in, and right now things are very up in the air...the double edged sword of research degrees is that you GET to discover things for yourself and motivate yourself to work towards a goal...but you also HAVE to motivate yourself, and work through discoveries on your own...which can be REALLY annoying when you have no direction and have a very wide interest base...Oh, Anthropology!

Went on a long walk yesterday and happened upon this street:
Fall here is so pretty, and I love finding random streets like this on the edge of random parks!

So life keeps on going, through politics, holidays, trips, and tests...

La vie c'est belle...