to Ecuador i go in 6 days

February 7, 2011 at 6:43 pm 2 comments

In less than a week i’m going to Ecuador! The purpose of my trip is to study Spanish intensively so that i could finally be fluent in the language i started studying haphazardly 16 years ago (in 6th grade). The school is in Quito and i’ll be taking private lessons 5 times a week 4 hours a day for a month. But i am not sure about what to do afterwards. Options are:

– look for work in Quito (NGO, teaching)
– look for volunteer/ethnographic work in rural Ecuador
– just travel around Ecuador, write more and see what comes

I feel nervous. Did i feel this way when i was leaving to Southeast Asia 2.5 years ago, or to Azerbaijan 10 months ago? I can’t recall… I have everything that i need, which is really just my backpack, passport, a good pair of sandals and the few cosmetic items i prefer. Every other item can be obtained elsewhere or not obtained at all. I’ve been in a disconcerting state lately, fleeting periods of insecurity about every aspect of myself (my intelligence, worthiness as a friend, place in society, prospects) along with periods of ambition when i feel i can do so many interesting things if only i apply myself…

I’d like to:

– Improve my memory by writing about what i learn and read, summarizing it for someone else, rather than just going on to the next interesting lecture, book, article
– Not withdraw from intellectual arguments as readily as i do because either i “don’t know enough” or have little interest in many current socio-political issues

 

I’m listening to some talks by Wade Davis, a Harvard educated Canadian anthropologist of the liberal persuasion, discussing the decline of cultural, linguistic, and ethnic diversity in the world. His insights into the people and rituals he’s studied over the past 30+ years of his career are fascinating and i am overwhelmed with delight that there is so much more than what i can see through my sheltered life. He’s keen to point out the difference between real indigenous people and the overly simplified concepts of them such as Rousseau’s noble savage or Thoreau’s contemplative native, yet he maintains that all indigenous cultures have something to offer the realm of human experience. His ultimate conclusion is that multiculturalism is the way towards a better life for us all.

I’m skeptical of this conclusion and the viability of co-existence amongst societies obsessed with technology, material possessions, and lifestyle oriented towards individualism and instant gratification (generally the same societies that maintain a large army to ensure this “progress”) and societies oriented towards some other value. My hypothesis is that the former will supersede the latter one day. The loss of cultural diversity is inevitable (either people will be attracted to the flashy gadgets and humanistic values of Euro/America or the demise of traditional livelihoods by deforestation or globalization will coerce them to pursue occupations that entangle them in Euro/America). Whether this is a bleak future or a progressive one is debatable…

So what can i do as a traveler and (poorly trained) anthropologist in Ecuador that will contribute positively?

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Finally UKRAINE ! Quito, first days

2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. chris  |  February 9, 2011 at 1:00 pm

    you don’t sound as poorly trained as you say, you sound interested in what you will likely to dive right into.

    I heard about a shrinking culture the other day, on news radio, due to more and more gadgets/urbanization. I agree with you on your theories. It’s so sad. study it and help inform the world.

    Reply
  • 2. Krysta  |  February 11, 2011 at 2:22 am

    Hey Yelena! Yes, in case you were wondering, I check your blog regularly to see if you’ve updated. If all of my friends would just keep blogs, I would opt out of Facebook completely. This is a much more valuable way of keeping in touch. Anyhow. Maybe your formal education poorly prepared you, but I think you’ve had lots of training through all of your experience traveling.

    I just joined a Spanish conversation group with the same goal, that being fluency.

    And! Being the naive idealist that I am, I like to think (well, I guess I don’t really think so, I just hope) that multiculturalism can somehow help bring the values of traditional and indigenous cultures to modern society, and somehow diminish our materialism and mass consumption. This is maybe just a pipe dream, but I’m hoping that exposure and more awareness of cultures like this will make us evaluate our own. And maybe as a WELL-trained anthropologist, you can ensure that the people in these cultures recognize that their values are actually NEEDED by consumer culture, not the other way around.

    Good luck to you in your travels, my dear sweet friend! Tell me what you learn.

    Reply

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