Monthly Archives: September 2008

“What languages do you know?”

…asks my Russian-Czech new acquaintance/English tutee.

She, not surprisingly, is well-versed in Russian and Czech, and her English isn’t so bad either. My day, meanwhile, began with stuttering new Chinese phrases and ended with a full-out Chinese 101 quiz, the first of many.

Conversely, this conversation with my new tutee took us to the Czech Republic (I had to try to explain to my new friend why we Americans say the Czech Republic but not the South Korea, etc.) and to a part of Russia I had never heard of, and to marriage customs in both places.  The ability to communicate across language barriers is not unknown to Princeton, and something I cherish about this place.

My new Russian friend tells me she loves Princeton, because the town is not too big, and it has “a spirit of studying.” I am suddenly blessed by her idiosyncratic English. “Can you say that?” she asks me. “Yes, and it’s quite poetic,” I answer.

Perhaps she is the one teaching me today.

On the bus, on the way home, I sat down to read a book about a Morrocan man’s pilgrimage to Mecca. What a blessing to be in a small corner of the world and know at so many moments of one day that the world is not quite so very far away.
Putin, Bush, Hin Tao
(This picture has only a little to do with this post- mostly, it made me laugh…)

“Use me here”

So a lot of you know that I am a closet Christian music fan, and if not, well I’m coming out of the closet. I was praying and thinking tonight and heard this song, and though it’s not the most impressive musical piece, I remember playing it in worship the first year of seminary and remember how meaningful the lyrics were to me back then. They were equally confounding and meaningful tonight when I heard the song. The song is such a difficult prayer, the prayer of our lives, and I wanted to share it. The Christian life is so challenging, but this song brought a lot of things into focus for me tonight. May you be blessed by it, too.

Use Me Here

Use me here, where I am
I’m not gonna pray anymore that You’ll change your plans
Despite my fear, I place my life in Your hands
the future can wait, tomorrow might be too late,
So Jesus use me here

I lay my heart’s desires at Your feet, oh Lord
Take all the plans I’ve made and all my dreams
Blinded by triumphs of tomorrow I’ve let sin control today
So many drowning within reach, Father it’s time
You heard me say…

I tell myself I want to know Your will, oh Lord
Still I confess I’ve had plans of my own
But from now on I plan to listen to Your will and to obey
No matter what the future holds I’m gonna live for You today
Written by Darin McWatters and Tim Brinkman
Copyright 1997 Antimony Music/Lustiminosity Music

First day of school jitters: the good kind

Princeton University- Nassau Hall
I never thought I would return from my blogging hiatus refreshed. The summer began as eventful (graduation from seminary followed by our wedding and honeymoon in Spain) and turned to grueling (6 weeks running a new site for YouthWorks in Louisville which began sadly with the death of my grandmother and ended with not one but two cross-country drives {OKC to WI-WI to NJ}), and I can’t complain about the wealth of experiences in different places, but by the time I got back to NJ, Evan and I were seriously wiped out!

No doubt I could spend the next few weeks blogging the adventures of this summer (and I may), but for now I’m hooked on anthropology again and nervously, but excitedly anticipating the start of fall classes on Thursday. I already have reading assigned for one of my classes, and many of my fears about whether this is the right discipline for me have been cast off gleefully. Reading anthropology has always felt much like reading theology to me–it brings the world into focus in a way in which I am excited to live life.

That sentiment arose as I read an article entitled “Ethnographic Honesty,” in which the author, Luke Eric Lassiter, drawing on anthropologist Renato Rosaldo, affirms that we as anthropologists and ethnographers must move toward honesty and humility in our scholarship. How thankful I am to be studying in a discipline where these are the goals of scholarship (at least for some!) Lassiter asserts,

“Writing about one’s experience as ethnographer, continues Rosaldo, is not writing about Self at the expense of Other. It is about elaborating the intersubjective contexts in which co-understandings emerge. Ultimately the issue is one of honesty, of placing co-interpretation squarely in the world of coexperience, intersubjectivity, and dialogue, rather than distance, objectivity, and authority.”

Maybe this sounds like a bunch of intellectual jargon but to me it rings as true as gospel. I have long loved the discipline of anthropology, for when at its best, it is able to treat the experience of another with unparalleled reverence precisely because anthropologists are allowed to be reverent themselves. Intersubjectivity is not some lofty academic exchange, it’s just what happens between people everyday, it’s human connection, human co-collaboration and creativity, a good conversation over coffee between two people who thought they were so different yet can’t stop connecting in a way they never have before with anyone else! Okay, I’ll stop for now, but what do you think??