Cocktail Anthropology


I studied Anthropology as part of my medical degree a few years ago and part of our course looked at narratives in medicine. We often use military metaphors in the context of the illnesses and diseases that affect us: we ‘fight’ disease; our body has ‘defences’; when someone dies, especially after long illness, they have ‘lost their battle’. I find this stuff absolutely fascinating, and many authors more eloquent than I have written about it.

As part of my own story-telling, in the last couple of weeks, I viewed homesickness as something I had snap out of. Not a big deal, just like a cold – sit it out, plenty of fluids, analgesia and it will go. Except it didn’t: and the symptoms were getting worse. I would wake up feeling sad and despondent and in the same day I’d bounce back, enthusiastic and ready to take on the world, and that in itself was leaving me exhausted and emotional.

Waikiki beach, Hawaii 2009. I took this photo the day a huge wave of homesickness overcame me

I opened up to some of the people in my life and a very wise friend told me to think of homesickness as a chronic illness – it’s not something I can merely purge from my system, but something I must learn to manage. And she’s quite right. Homesickness can be debilitating; its unpredictable nature means I may wake up and have a good day or a bad day, or both. I cannot ‘help’ feeling the way I feel and there are triggers that will set it off. I may go years feeling fine, then an event may take me back to the early stages feeling vulnerable and desperately scrambling for the tools to deal with it.

There’s no easy solution. I can feel the strings of home tugging at me and with the lack of job security, I have to constantly re-evaluate my plans. But the place I call home is constantly changing, even as I speak (my mother is having the bathroom done) trinkets move, books get sold, furniture moves around, so the place I remember is not the same place I’d return to. At this stage, I still have time on my hands and I aim to have something to focus on each day, be it taking photographs, running, cooking or meditating. If circumstances force me out, then I’d like to look back knowing I soaked up every available opportunity in the place I attempted to call home.

The whale photo would suit this post, but here is the Lady Knox geyser instead. Just add soap

Inspired by this post I decided to look at popular Googling trends in New Zealand.

I should explain that when I studied Anthropology, I wrote a 10,000 word dissertation on the subject of fetishism, so my searches relate to that and not my own perversions.

New Zealand’s most popular search term is… New Zealand. In Italy and the UK its Facebook.

New Zealand’s biggest fetish-related search is the foot fetish. The highest number of hits are in the Taranaki region.

Auckland is the only region to search for whale porn.

Worldwide, Tunisia is the number 1 country to do a Google search for Google

Happy hump day!

Bangkok, baby

“The more you travel… I think, the more you realise you’re a product of where you’re from” Elizabeth Gilbert

I grew up in England, raised by my Italian family. If culture is the lens through which we perceive the world, then, like many people, I had two of them. It took me a long time to accept the way both cultures defined me but they both flow well together without one contradicting the other too much… flailing hand gestures meets the ability to form an orderly line.

I lived in Bangkok for a very short while; 2 months exactly, but in a city as manic as Bangkok I think it counts. I worked in one of the big public hospitals and the other students kept me company. My status as a foreigner was pretty obvious; cultural differences were a given, and I found this oddly reassuring when it came to dealing with the contrasting social interactions, conversations and jokes. I managed not to commit any faux pas, and even kept my sense of decorum and politeness when I passed out on the labour ward (I asked the resident in a chirpy voice, ‘Please can you hold my glasses?’ before I hit the floor)

I’m a little apprehensive about the move to NZ in this context. I’m a caucasian person moving to an English-speaking country so on the surface, many people have told me I will have no trouble settling in, but I’m not convinced. There are differences, ever so subtle ones, and no doubt they’ll become clear as I get to grips with living there. I’m not sure if my anxieties about getting everything right as an ex-pat stem from my background in Anthropology, post-colonial paranoia or a mix of the two. From what I can remember from my interactions with people out there: they’re very friendly, eager to help you if you’re in a spot of bother (I couldn’t unlock the flap to fill up my car with fuel. A man named David spent 5 minutes sitting in my car to ‘get a feeling’ about it) and are anxious to know that you’re getting the most out of the country (David recommended a different route to my destination as it had nicer views and was keen to know if I was visiting the South Island)

I did visit the south island. It was awesome

Putting my experimenter glasses on, it’ll be interesting to see how it pans out. And if anyone holds those glasses while I drop to the floor, I’ll be on a roll

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Post title quote: Ralph Waldo Emerson

xkcd: Sheeple

Something very disturbing happened to me on the Tube a few weeks ago: a stranger struck up conversation with me. After I got over my initial shock and repulsion, we had a pleasant exchange on the subject of the Bakerloo line. He thought that Londoners are friendlier than they’re made out to be, and I guess our exchange proved this, although he probably sought me out on an unconscious level to confirm his expectations.

Robert Fisk said that war represents the total failure of the human spirit. I’d suggest trying to get on the northbound blue line at Victoria during rush hour for a contemporary, slightly less traumatic insight into the human condition. When forced to assume the position of nose-to-someone-else’s-armpit, that violation of personal boundaries is more than enough to quell the idea of verbal dialogue.

An individual could of course strike up a conversation about the weather, it’s such a useful ice-breaker embedded in English culture, but the underground for most part removes the opportunity. Despite the negative outlook, there’s an unspoken cohesiveness: the cost, the sour milk stench at Waterloo, the long interchanges, Northern line time, black phelgm and those bloody A4 sized wheelie suitcases: we’re all being taken for a ride. I look forward to not missing it.