Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Thoughts for Today

Survey was less fun than I’d hoped/half expected, but still pretty good. We set a new record for the number of mounds found and measured in one day (21), but I think that was mainly attributable to the fact that the fields we were in haven’t been plowed recently, if ever, so we weren’t losing time picking up artifacts that had been disturbed. The worst part of the day was easily the multiple treks across a fallow cornfield, which for some odd reason was one of the worst hikes of my life. The two best parts of the day were finding two plaza groups, one of which had a mound over six meters tall, and being handed a machete for the first time.

There was apparently a fantastic storm one night over the long weekend that most of us missed. It lasted for hours and was more intense than the one two weeks ago that not only woke me up but kept me awake for a full hour before the thunder subsided enough that I wasn't just listening to it and thinking about the metal roof over my head. Anyway, this storm took out a tree that was literally right outside the window I sleep under, so I'm satisfied with having missed that. It's also flooded the river dramatically. I walked down the street this afternoon to see the bridge that's underwater (which is doubly interesting because normally that's the way from Santa Elena to San Ignacio while the suspension bridge a little bit upstream is the way from San Ignacio to Santa Elena, so now the one-lane suspension bridge has to be both). I also realized halfway there that because the bridge is underwater, I could not actually walk across it to the bakery on the other side of the river. Actually, I could have, because I saw an old man doing exactly that, just wading right across, but I wasn't dressed for it. I considered taking the long way, but the operative word there is long, so I settled for a sad-looking cinnamon bun from the "French" bakery on this side of the river, which was a poor substitute for what I'd envisioned.

Something else I neglected to mention before is that there’s dengue in Cayo (well, all over Belize, but mostly in Cayo). There was an announcement to that effect at dinner along about the second week—pretty much just “There have been a few cases, use bug spray, these are the symptoms, make sure one of the staff knows if you’re not feeling well even if it’s not dengue, blah blah blah.” Well, towards the end of last week I had dinner with Josue, one of the students who’s local, who informed me that there have actually been over a hundred cases, some of which are the hemorrhagic strain, and at least one person has died.

Anyway, to continue catching up, there isn’t much to say about last week’s work. I was with Jill, my favorite staff member, who unfortunately has the most boring excavation in progress, on Monday and Tuesday, and worked with Alette (who’s a historical geographer from the Netherlands) to clear a pretty much empty trench and then to do some pre-excavation measurements on another mound, which I was vaguely disappointed not to work on, since I hadn’t (and still haven’t) actually started an excavation unit. Wednesday was ATM, which I’ll get to shortly, and then Thursday I worked in the lab and cleaned artifacts. The best parts of the week were the things I can’t publicize right now, which I had far less exposure to than I wanted, although I used part of my lunch break on Thursday to steal some time and wound up running across the cow field in the pouring rain to get back to the lab late, which was totally worth it because it was so much fun. Not much happened in the evenings last week other than me and Hope trying to plan our weekend, and a long venting session at and after dinner last night among the handful of us who hadn’t already left.

I’m concerned that I’ve been making this month sound like a blast when it really hasn’t been. I have done a lot of cool things and made some good friends, but there is a giant rant building up about BVAR itself. Was this a worthwhile experience? Yes. Was it what I (and others) expected (and rightfully so)? No. At first we were just annoyed with some things we felt we'd been misled about, and about the quality of instruction and the methodology, but then there started to be real problems with the way things are run that have only gotten more frustrating as time gets shorter. But I don't want to go into all that right now.

But anyway, here's the quote of the day:
Suzan (jokingly, context now forgotten): What is wrong with you Dutch people?
Alette: So many things...

Reminds me of the great conversation that she and Christopher and I had about the ways the Dutch and the Belgians stereotype each other, which was hilarious.

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