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August 20th, 2006

of archaeology students and saudi arabia

I spent most of last week without internet access at our apartment, and a fair part of my evenings were passed at the university's anthropology lounge with my laptop as a result. After repeated meetings with a few of the graduate students in the department it seemed like nobody would have minded had I added a sign to the door reading "Anthropology Lounge & Paul's Office". One grad student commented on how he feared for my social skills given how often he saw me in the lounge; fortunately we crossed paths later that night at a local bar, so at least he knows I don't sleep there.

Friday night was spent with a few of the anthropology graduate students and I was introduced by two of my former instructors as "the brightest undergrad in the department" - which was both flattering and embarrassing at the same time. The highlight of the evening came when a [drunk] girl tried to criticize my decision to pursue research in Uzbekistan because I can't claim to be an Islamic scholar. I pointed out how Central Asia is generally more liberal than Saudi Arabia when it comes to religion and she then tried to argue how that was a completely different matter altogether, "because Saudi Arabia isn't even in Asia!" Funny, it shows up on all the maps I've consulted. Questioning her on what continent one would find Saudi Arabia brought forth a lengthy speech on how continents are a western construction that should never be applied to other cultures.

Now, while there's every chance that I could be wrong, my guess is that most cultures have a classification system that involves taking geographic locations and putting them into categories based on increasing magnitudes. If you look at the Gulf States and North Africa through history you can find competing emirates, caliphates, and dynasties - which sure looks like an ascending pattern based on geography and family ties. By that point she had consumed enough alcohol to assume she was right no matter what, so rather than argue with her I tried to change the subject as tactfully as possible. I hope she isn't like that when sober.

Overall it feels like archaeology students are quite eager to talk about their work and how wonderful it is that they can go out and actually make a difference. Yeah guys, digging up an old fort is much more valuable than recording the cultural history of a pastoral society or researching the patterns of infection associated with diseases like diabetes. It's a shame they can't be equally as important.

fall semester

Oh yeah, before I forget to mention it I should probably point out how tomorrow is the first day of the semester here. One year in Pullman and one year to go. I'm finally starting to find my place here and before long I'll be gone and on my way to something new. One consolation to this is that most of the veterinarian students I spend time around will be graduating at the end of the year as well - we're all roughly the same age and moving in similar directions, even if in different fields. And none of us has any idea what comes next.

I made a schedule of my classes and decided to post it here for anyone who cares enough to look. My hours at the vet hospital aren't included, as my supervisor didn't realize that classes resumed so soon, but at least I know how much I'll work in a week. I've also agreed to spend more time on Centrafrique research, although it's anybody's guess when that will take place.

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